It’s officially October, which means pumpkin-spice everything, cozy knits, and — inevitably — problematic costumes. From ill-advised “Border Babe” costumes inspired by the uniforms of U.S. Border Patrol agents to the continued use of despite its well-documented offensiveness, this time of year can bring out some seriously questionable decision-making. The latest culprit? Fashion Nova, which recently launched a collection of costumes that includes a black “Geshia Costume” — and yes, geisha is misspelled in the retailer’s listing of the product.
The costume costs $49.99 and includes hair sticks, a kimono, a skirt, and an obi — a sash often worn with traditional Japanese clothing. But Fashion Nova isn’t the only company selling geisha costumes. Spirit Halloween and HalloweenCostumes.com are two of the many other retailers that are attempting to cash in on these culturally appropriative outfits.
In Japan, geishas were traditionally assistants to “high-class and expensive Japanese courtesans.” Over time, they became known as “vital providers of hospitality and entertainment at dinner events for large companies and government officials.” But during and after World War II, American soldiers stationed in Japan helped cause a mass misunderstanding of the traditional roles that geishas fill, ultimately contributing to the creation of the myth that geishas were sex workers. In the time since, geishas continue to be exoticized and misunderstood by Western culture, especially around Halloween. Wearing these costumes perpetuates the misguided belief about what the tradition means.
Regardless, geishas are an important part of Japanese culture and their attire is not a costume.
Teen Vogue has reached out to Fashion Nova for comment and we’ll update this story if we hear back.
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