Friday, August 7, 2009

Japan's National Dress

I saw this photo in the newspaper this morning. I'm not Japanese, I don't know a lot about Japanese culture, but this article got me thinking.
Miss Universe Japan's all leather cut-off Kimono national costume for the Miss Universe Pageant. When I first saw it I thought it was amazing. I'm no cultural expert, but to me it combines elements of old, traditional kimono dress, and new Japanese pop culture Harajuku that Gwen Stefani brought to our attention a few years ago. Sure, the pink underwear thing could be slightly pornographic, but this costume received so many complaints that they are going to scrap it and design a new one. Miss Universe costumes always cause controversy because how can an outfit represent the historical and pop cultural aspects of a whole country? But I don't understand why people can get so worked up about something that to me is an example of amazing creative fusion. I think it should have gone ahead, just like it is, if not slightly longer to cover the underwear but show the garters.
The only comment I thought gave a valid reason for scrapping this outfit was that the kimono is supposed to represent the traditional, modest, quiet Japanese woman. This is true, but I dont think the costume makes a mockery of the kimono, I think it represents a change in representation of Japanese women, and change takes place. English women don't wear corsets like pre-1900. The kimono is a very old tradition, but why shouldn't it be open to new interpretation. Maybe if it wasn't called a kimono it wouldn't be a problem because it would then not conflict with the traditional interpretation of a kimono.

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