Who Can Wear a Kimono?

Understanding the History of the Traditional Kimono

When our founders, sisters Renee and Tiffany Tam, created KIM+ONO, it came from their own family history, heritage, and their personal experiences with kimono from childhood. So creating modern kimono robes was a natural extension of their own lived experiences. But that doesn’t mean there’s a limit on who can enjoy and fall in love with the modern kimono robe. Our team has often been asked — is it cultural appropriation for anyone other than people with Japanese heritage to wear these modern silk robes? For us, there’s a big difference between appropriation and appreciation. And an important element in our mission of inclusivity has to do with nodding toward the culture and history of the traditional Japanese kimono. To learn how to wear a kimono respectfully, you should begin by understanding the history of the garment. The historical context of this clothing makes it obvious that the kimono is a beautiful garment for everyone.

The hanfu is the traditional garment of China, the hanbok is the traditional garment of Korea, and the kimono is the traditional garment of Japan — however, the influences between these distinctive Asian countries have been felt in all cultures over the centuries. There has always been a sartorial conversation between cultures, where they would borrow and build off of each other to create new and unique garments particular to each culture. It’s this cross-cultural appreciation that has created the modern kimono as we know it today.

A Garment for Everyday People

Kimono fashion, while it’s historical and classic, is also having a modern moment where it’s coming back into modern fashion trends as well. Even in Portugal, Spain, and Europe, quimonos are more and more likely to be seen in modern dress. Quimonos are incredibly popular, with entire Facebook groups dedicated to loving and celebrating these pieces. According to BBC.com, “Kumiko Ishioka has a Facebook page on which kimono wearers from all over the world can connect to share their enthusiasm.” She tells BBC.com, “We can look at people who enjoy kimono freely, classically or traditionally, as they like,” she says. BBC comments: “Those elements, together with a new, edgy breed of kimono designer have succeeded in putting the kimono back where it belongs – on the street, not on a pedestal.” 

At KIM+ONO, we love to see people celebrating the history of the traditional garment and bringing it into their everyday wardrobe. While wearing it like a costume can come across the wrong way, simply integrating these rich historical designs into modern dress is exciting and heart-warming to us. Our modern kimono robes are designed for every body, so that everyone can add these heritage-rich pieces to their everyday style.

Is it okay for me to wear a kimono?

In USA Today, Dr. Neal Lester, the founding director of Project Humanities at Arizona State University, said appropriation is "stealing something from a culture that is not one's own and reaping the benefits or profits from it”, saying that appropriation "reduces something to a kind of performance."

But we believe, when the wearer is seeking to understand and learn about the cultural item they’re wearing, this can be an enriching experience. We love to share our cultural background and heritage with folks of different backgrounds, and connecting over our shared love of this beautiful, traditional garment brings us great joy. We believe it’s a wonderful thing to appreciate and wear kimono, no matter who you are. 

Heritage Kimono Style Minimalism Silk Kimono Robes

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