In a bit of a fit of whimsy today, I found myself wondering what it would be like to go out and about wearing something designed to call great attention to myself. Or, more accurately, wearing something with the intention of calling attention to myself. Would I be uncomfortable? Would people stare? Would they try to avoid staring?
Grant you, I’m not a khakis and white shirt kind of a gal. I like wearing clothes meant to be looked at, but appreciatively. I’ll rock a vintage dress, or a floral wedge, or a cloche hat. But I wear that stuff because I like it and I think it looks nice on me. I don’t wear it with the express intention of standing out in a crowd.
So, with the goal of just being strange and out there, I decided to venture out for the afternoon in my kimono (or the kimono-like dressing gown I bought in Chinatown in Montreal a dozen years ago).
Crap, that sounded racist, didn’t it? Okay, look, I don’t mean to be calling kimonos weird. I think they’re lovely. And if anyone wants to wear any aspect of their culture’s traditional garb, God bless. But I’m a frizzy Casper little white girl. For me to go out in a kimono is a tad off.
Which leads me to something else I wondered: Would I be considered to be committing “cultural appropriation.,” that growing issue that seems to be concerning privileged white twenty-somethings who have kanji tattoos and practice kundalini yoga at Lululemon?
And…. out I went. In the rain. In my kimono-type thing First, I passed a couple on my street. The man gave me a little bit of a side eye. Then the guy behind me in Starbucks had a bit of the “please don’t feed the animals” look. The woman I passed going out the door gave me a bit of a “bless your heart” glance, and the two girls who walked by me in front of Dunkin’ Donuts looked at me and then started giggling to each other.
I found myself having to walk slow, due to the rain making the streets slippery, and a lot of material around my legs. I decided to walk as though I felt a great deal of confidence: “Yes, here I am in my gorgeous kimono.” In truth, I was feeling a little bit like a combination of Jeff Lebowski
and being the only one to wear a Halloween costume to the office
The first person to actually make a comment was a girl who wanted me to donate money to an anti-bullying cause, so a compliment was a good conversation starter.
About an hour into my experiment, I was feeling surprised that I hadn’t actually gotten more looks, questions or comments. I figure this is for one of two reasons: 1) People are more polite than I give them credit for. 2) Being a Caucasian woman wearing a kimono in public is not actually as weird as it feels.
To be clear, I wouldn’t anticipate anyone shouting “weirdo” at me, I just thought there might be a few more wondering glances, or even that someone in a store might strike up a conversation, probably in an attempt to be friendly and make a commission.
The strongest reaction I got was in Whole Foods, from a gentleman working there. He told me the kimono was beautiful and asked if I’d gotten it in Japan, where he said he was from. I couldn’t tell if he was being facetious, but he seemed like a sincere guy. Upon further (polite) inspection, he noted that traditional kimonos have longer sleeves. Considering that, again, I bought the thing in Canada, I have no objections.
I’m not a person who likes looking silly or foolish. I only like standing out if I know it’s going to be for positive reasons, or for something that makes me happy enough to not care what others think. People singing “Happy Birthday” at me is one of my nightmares. I don’t dance on bars, do karaoke… you get it.
And, as I’ve mentioned before, that’s one of the goals of this project — to stretch the boundaries of my comfort zone, even if that includes ridiculousness. And yes, I am fully aware that I’m ridiculous. But I generally think people who are unable to laugh at themselves are fairly useless, so I must strive to be more useful in this world.
Oh, and in response to the burning question on your mind: Yes, I was wearing clothes underneath the robe.