Between Tradition and Innovation: The Reinvention of the Kimono in Japanese Consumer Culture
Author: Assmann, Stephanie
Source: Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, 1 September 2008, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 359-376(18)
Abstract:The kimono plays a marginalized role in contemporary society, but continues to be worn on festive occasions. In this article I explore the role of the kimono from several angles. Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews with members of two organizations, I examine two diametrically opposed approaches towards the kimono in order to provide an insight on how differently it is being reinvented in Japanese society.
I will identify four areas in which the kimono is being kept alive in Japan. First, I argue that the kimono is related to consumption. Not only does the purchase of the garment itself involve consumption, but the training of how to wear a kimono is also related to consumption of education and experience. Conventional approaches towards the kimono that emphasize manners and etiquette coexist with innovative approaches that experiment with age and gender boundaries. Secondly, mastering the art of the kimono can be interpreted as a form of cultural capital whereby the kimono fulfills a role in social distinction. Thirdly, I argue that wearing a kimono has become an expression of collective individualism that is often embedded in group activities. I conclude that the kimono has become a communicative symbol to convey an individual attitude towards societal conventions and national identity.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2008