Katy Perry At The AMAs: If It’s Asian, It Must Be Geisha

November 22nd, 2011 | 14 comments | Posted by Jen

Katy Perry wore a gown printed with East Asian calligraphy to Sunday’s American Music Awards, which garnered her all kinds of comparisons to a “geisha.” HuffPo and Celebuzz called her look “geisha-inspired,” the SF Chronicle called it “glam geisha,” My Fashion Life put their thang down, flipped it and reversed it to “geisha glam,” and another site said the dress was in the style of “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

Ever see a geisha with her boobs pushed up under her chin? Didn't think so

Only problem is, the Vivienne Westwood-designed gown Perry wore has nothing to do with geishas, and was actually “inspired” by a Chinese flower painting. The calligraphy on the dress Perry wore is Chinese, not Japanese. The dress is from Westwood’s Spring 2012 Gold Label collection, which drew from “Chinese calligraphy, Mao jackets, Berber dress, and 17th century corsets as influences.”

This isn’t the first time Katy Perry wore something Asian-looking that writers lazily labeled “geisha.” Back in August, Perry attended the VMAs carrying a parasol, dressed in an Atelier Versace cheongsam mini, which was also dubbed “geisha-inspired.” The cheongsam, however, is Chinese. Perry’s look was lifted directly from 1920′s-30′s Shanghai, a look immortalized later in the 20th century by home decor posters printed from vintage Chinese ads:

So, what, any women’s garb with Asian references is “geisha”? Or is it that even all Asian dresses–like people–look alike?

[Celebuzz: Katy Perry Rocks Cleavage in Geisha-Inspired Gown at AMAs]

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14 Responses to “Katy Perry At The AMAs: If It’s Asian, It Must Be Geisha”

  1. BusyDad says:

    She’s about as geisha as my twitter avatar. Reminds me of how all Asian food was “Polynesian” back in the 70′s. Throw some pineapples in it for a real taste of the orient!

  2. erikakharada says:

    One would hope that people who apparently write about fashion on a regular basis would know elementary-level facts about different types of dresses, but…nope.

  3. luminum says:

    Agreed. I can’t believe how stupid people are about this. The next time someone wears a kilt, I’m going to describe it as “Country/Western”.

  4. Cindy says:

    Weren’t as many posts filed under “Boobs” as I expected.

  5. AndyWilliam says:

    Jen, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. In mainstream media, anything remotely Asian gets Orientalized and the stereotypes just start unfurling. Likewise, Asian sartorial design is a poorly understood field (another area Orientalism subsumes). When different cultures start appropriating Asian culture and remixing it to their fancy, the results run the risk of perpetuating tired tropes. Keep up the good work!

    On a side note: the Chinese feminist Jin Tianyu said, “European women cinch their waist in order to lift up their bosom…. I don’t know whether this promotes health or not, but as a mark of [a superior] civilization it seems suspect.” Considering Jin wrote this in 1903, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the first picture’s subtitle. The quote is out of context here, but the 17th century corset design “inspiration” recalled all those years of women studies courses.

  6. Jen says:

    @BusyDad Also: “Hawaiian.”

    @Cindy Clearly we’re not working hard enough.

  7. turkfontaine says:

    “Niece Kelly not home. go with Uncle Bentley to return dishonorable dress to store”

    having had the flu for two weeks and watching uncountable episodes of Bachelor Father, Creepy Uncle Turk has morphed into Peter, The Houseboy, who solves all family problems with wisdom and kindness. ok, he’s still basically a slave.

  8. Hello Kitty says:

    According to the “Daily Fail”, I mean “Daily Mail” the front panel calligraphy is the Chinese communist party’s current favorite slogan: ” Lu Se Jing Ji (Green Economy)”

  9. @luminum I agree! I’m sick and tired of western society trying to claim what they think belongs to certain races. Not only do they claim what belongs with which, but they also name such factions in a negative manner. Oh well. : /

  10. aptkane says:

    *sigh*…she has pink hair now?

  11. V_V says:

    Ugh, those girls in the vintage ads were gorgeous as hell, Katy Perry shouldn’t have even tried, she wouldn’t be able to do them justice…

  12. edenmlk says:

    Kind of late to this, and this has nothing to do with Katy Perry, but pineapples aren’t Hawaiian or Polynesian. They’re just grown there. Considering the fruit Hawaiian or Polynesian would be one of those annoying stereotypes.

  13. Jinju says:

    Geisha glam? GEISHA GLAM? Are u f***ing kidding me? Does that look like a kimono? Is her face painted white? Is she Japanese? NO!! Then she is not sporting any thing geisha at all! And what the heck is geisha glam anyway?

  14. [...] More Reading on Cultural Appropriation My Culture is Not a Trend Racist Halloween Costumes Asian-Inspired is not the same as Geisha-Inspired Racism is not Crafty Beware Racist Images for Graphic Designers Gwen Stefani and Harajuku Girls [...]

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