Fun fact: in the west there is a commonly held idea of what women look like from Japan based on the images provided by woodblock prints. These prints, which include houkusai’s great wave, were thought fantastic in places like America but were considered low class in Japan. This is because most of them were advertisements for prostitutes. So the common image of a Japanese woman with a bunch of shit in her hair is an image of a call girl. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, when you try to imitate a culture without actually understanding the culture, you find yourself dressed as an edo period prostitute.
Oh wow, even more misunderstanding being spread by half-truths. Katy Perry was not dressed up as an Edo-jidai prostitute. Even if woodblock prints may have depicted them often, how many European artists also used prostitutes as models? Apart from the ones who used young boys or their wives, that is. Where else you gonna find a lady who will be naked for pay?
Woodblock prints tended to depict “Beauties” both real and fictional, and often historical who the artist had never seen. If artists drew from life, it would have been someone who either worked in public (like a waitress) or a prostitute/courtesan/geisha. See the movie “Utamaro o meguru gonin no onna" for more on this. But to assume every ukiyo-e beauty is a prostitute is totally wrong.
Now as for “Japanese woman with a bunch of shit in her hair”, Japanese hairstyles (nihongami) have always been that elaborate, and always had kanzashi (hair ornaments) in them. Yes, the highest ranking courtesans had the most, but every day women wore them too. The kind Katy Perry is wearing in her performance are for a young girl. Historically all Japanese women (except farmers) had their hair up in elaborate styles, so it’s annoying to see every drawing or painting of them labelled as “geisha” when they are usually just normal people. These days it is worn for ceremonial occasions by laypeople, and most rarely by a small group of geisha and maiko around Kyoto.
If you want to point to one thing that this performance was based on, look no further than The Mikado. A silly racist opera that was written at the height of Japonism when there was little translated knowledge of Japanese culture. Due to the great popularity of this opera, the bastardised costumes that came with it have been passed down from theatre company to high school performances, and has become a go-to reference for what it means to wear “Japanese” costume.
With the age of the internet and plenty of English books about Japanese fashion being available, you would expect better of costume designers who work for super famous stars. And yet… again we just get The Mikado. So sad.