Thanks for asking! There is a seemingly subtle but functionally pretty significant difference between the outfit Lady Gaga wore last month outside of her hotel in London, and Katy Perry’s performance of Unconditionally at the AMAs last night, and I’ll try to do my best to explain it for you, since I think it’s important to understand.
Lady Gaga’s London Outfit
This is an outfit Gaga wore at the end of October during her promotions for ARTPOP in London. The outfit was seen on Gaga as she exited her hotel, met briefly with fans, and then left in her vehicle.
Gaga has made a habit, even from the very beginning of her career, of treating these candid appearances as a chance to showcase fashion design. In the early stretches of her career these were often Haus of Gaga designs, outfits that she and her friends (her creative team) conceived and fabricated themselves. Now, while Gaga occasionally still wears Haus designs (almost exclusively technically-oriented pieces like the 2013 bubble dress), she most often uses these appearances to showcase clothing given to her by designers, both established or up-and-coming.
Though I was unable to find a specific name, what I can tell you is that this kimono and the accompanying speudo-geta are, based both on the contemporary design and the quality of the fabric work, designs that were gifted to her. If I had to guess, the only Haus of Gaga element of this appearance is the seashell umbrella, which is a symbolic continuation of the Birth of Venus seashell girl imagery she had been incorporating into many similar appearances for the two months preceding the above.
It is important for contrast reason to note that she is wearing almost nude makeup, a little color on her lips but in no way attempting to imitate stereotypically Japanese features via yellowface.
At its core, this is Lady Gaga displaying the work of a designer and respectfully referencing authentic Japanese influences while making a nod to the thematic Venus narrative of her current work, to a small audience of fans and photographers outside her hotel.
Katy Perry’s American Music Awards Performance
This is an outfit Katy Perry during a stage performance of the song “Unconditionally” at the AMAs on November 24th. The performance was based on the Puccini’ Madame Butterfly, an opera widely criticized for its subservient portrayal of East Asian women.
I will defer mostly to these two posts for the thorough dissection of what happened onstage, but the key points are:
- the performance depicted a highly-sexualized image of the geisha
- Katy Perry and her backup dancers appeared in yellowface, which is historically a tool used to both exclude East Asian actors from the places of prominence in popular culture, and to misrepresent the characteristics of the people and cultures of East Asia
- the costumes, props, and imagery of the performance were supposedly of Japanese inspiration but are actually an indiscriminate blend of imagery from Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, and a number of other East Asian cultures with no regard to historical period
- Katy Perry herself has a repeated history of dehumanizing, mocking, or fetishizing Japanese culture
And the bottom line is that Katy’s performance presented an offensive caricature of the exotic, obedient Japanese geisha “unconditionally” in love (with a Western hero, if the Madame Butterfly allusion is to be taken seriously), while presenting a disrespectfully-conceived collage of multiple East Asian cultures, on a nationally-televised public event.