An Autoethnography of Kin-aesthetics: Retrieving Family Folklore Through the Wearing of Used Kimonos


Ayako Yoshimura

PhD defended at: 

University of Wisconsin-Madison



This is an autoethnographic study of used-kimono-wearing as experienced by a folklorist who ventured into the world of kimono culture after inheriting a piece that had belonged to her maternal grandmother. In the course of studying the art of kimono-wearing and kimono fashions in the midst of the current kimono revival (which began in the late 1990s), the folklorist recognizes that she has been enacting “kin-aesthetics”: the kinesthetically-acquired aesthetics of behavior and fashion bequeathed to her by her mother and maternal grandmother.

In exploring kimono culture, the author studies the history of clothing and of used kimonos, and the ways in which hobbyist-wearers of antique and used kimonos express their personhoods in contemporary Japan. Treating the practice of kimono-wearing as an aspect of family folklore and material behavior, the author discusses the meaning of the garment in her own personal life, and in the lives of others. Through detailed investigation and analysis of her participation in kimono culture, the author unravels the reasons that some people take an interest in wearing this cumbersome national garment that ceased some decades ago to function as everyday clothing in Japan.

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