What Are You Wearing? | What Are You Wearing? | Chicago Reader

What Are You Wearing? 

This Is Not a Kimono

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

Kris Ercums, 35, is working toward a PhD in East Asian art history at the University of Chicago. He leaves for China on a Fulbright-Hays fellowship at the end of the month.

That's a nice kimono.

Actually it's a yukata.

What's a yukata?

It's a light cotton kimono meant to be worn during the summer.

Where'd you get it?

This summer I was in Japan, studying the language and doing research in Osaka. We had a yukata class, where you could try one on--this older woman tied them for us and showed us how to wear them. So the people I was in the class with decided that we would go buy one for Gion Matsuri, which is a big festival in Kyoto. People usually wear their traditional yukatas to these kind of events. It's a strange feeling of, are you being an orientalist, someone who's fetishizing the East? But I think people for the most part are quite happy for you to participate in Japanese culture.

What attracted you to this particular yukata?

I bought this one largely because it has such a painterly quality about it. It looks like painted bamboo. The bamboo is kind of symbolic because it's hollow in the middle but it bends, so it has this gentlemanly quality--man has principles that keep him upright, but not so inflexible. It also has this great group connotation, because bamboo always grows together.

Have you picked up other Asian-style clothing in your travels?

I have a whole Chinese wardrobe, I have beautiful clothes from Thailand. I love all of this stuff. Here I wear it mostly at dinner parties. Sometimes I wear my Chinese outfits to work. I don't think the yukata would be as easy to mix in with--it's such a grand outfit.

And you wear it with the traditional sandals too.

They're really uncomfortable. When I stayed out all night in Kyoto at Gion my feet were just killing me. --Heather Kenny

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Saverio Truglia.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Heather Kenny

Popular Stories