Is Kigurumi a Costume, Pajamas or Clothing?

Part of what makes the kigurumi trend so much fun to follow is that these animal onesies are used in so many unique ways. In other words, there’s not one “right” way to wear them. Some people view them as the softer, cuddlier version of Halloween costumes. Some view them as warm, fleecy pajamas. And yet still others view them as clothing. 

If you take a look at Instagram and search for the hashtag #kigurumi, you’ll see exactly what we mean. There will be photos of people lounging around a ski lodge dressed as their favorite winter animals, there will be photos of people attending outdoor music festivals, and there will be photos of people just hanging out with friends at home or in dorm rooms. 

Where things get tricky, however, is when people actually have to describe what they are to others. In the Western media, for example, journalists who know nothing about the history and provenance of the kigurumi commonly refer to them as “onesies” or “adult pajamas.” And in the world of official bureaucracy – like the world of international customs, kigus are treated just like any other piece of clothing. If you’re trying to import kigurumi into a nation like Canada or the United States, get ready to refer to kigurumi as clothing when you’re filling out your official documents! 

We’ve done a bit of thinking about this (while dressed in a kigu, of course), and have concluded that a lot of the confusion about what a kigurumi is – costume, pajamas or clothing – really stems from the unique history of the kigurumi. The first kigurumi appeared in the mid-1990’s in Japan, and they were originally designed as a form of cosplay costume. So that’s where the whole “kigurumi as costume” comes from. And then, sometime around that same time, trendy hipsters and fashion-forward teens in Tokyo totally appropriated the trend and turned the “costume” into a piece of everyday clothing that you’d wear walking around the busy streets of Tokyo’s hippest and most fashion-forward districts (i.e. Shibuya and Harajuku).

And, finally, the idea of kigurumi as pajamas probably comes from the whole Westernization of the trend in the mid-2000s. In cities across America, for example, the dress code is uniformly casual – everything from baggy jeans to baggy sweatshirts. It’s no longer shocking to see people shopping at the supermarket in their pajamas (oh, hey, they probably just woke up!), or to see people wearing everyday clothing – like sweatpants and sweatshirts – to bed.

Even on airplanes, where people used to wear suits and fancy dresses, most people dress up in the equivalent of pajamas and slippers. Taking a giant, big, anthropological look at the situation, you have to admit that clothing has become way more lax in just the past decade, and the kigurumi fit very nicely into that whole trend. 

At the end of the day, you might just say that the kigurumi is “in between.” You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, right? So people who try to categorize the kigurumi into one category or another are only doing themselves a disservice. Part of the fun of today’s kigurumi is that it can be anything you would like it to be!