HelenDressing Robe, Pattern News17 Comments

Dressing Robe Pattern Update

I have decided to remove the Suki Robe from our pattern collection. The use of the word ‘Suki’ is cultural appropriation and I am sorry for using a Japanese word to name the pattern and for not removing the name sooner. I previously called this pattern a ‘Kimono’ and I am deeply sorry for that as well. I am committed to learning and changing my behaviour when I realize I’ve made a mistake. 

Why using a Japanese name for my pattern is wrong for me:

I am a white woman without a personal connection to Japan, and there were no Japanese people involved in the design or naming of this pattern. I thought this name suited the design because it was inspired by the beauty of Japanese Kimono, but I did not dig deeper to learn about its cultural significance. 

I did not realize that using a Japanese word to name this dressing robe pattern plays into harmful stereotypes that perpetuate the fetishization of Asian women.

My admiration for this traditional garment was based primarily on aesthetics. I saw something beautiful and I wanted to reflect its beauty in my own design – to “appropriate it” as my own. 

What I’ve learned:

I still have a lot to learn on this subject but I want to share what I now know. 

Cultural appropriation dehumanizes people from that culture by taking their language, traditions, and cultural practices out of a meaningful context. While designers like myself may think we are paying homage, being ‘inspired’, or respectfully ‘borrowing’ from other cultures, our actions contribute to the long history of dominant colonial cultures stealing from and oppressing others. This behaviour can unwittingly perpetuate hateful stereotypes and the kinds of violence that continues unabated today. 

Over the last week, we heard from many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) members of our community about their personal experiences in which they are made to feel unsafe or like an outsider. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time and energy to talk openly, share resources, and reached out to me about this issue. Thank you.

Next steps:

I am discontinuing this pattern and removing it from our shop. 

For those who have already purchased the robe, we have updated the pattern files and changed the name. You can access your Helen’s Closet Dressing Robe in the My Downloads area of your account. If you have not set up an account or are having difficulties with access,  please email us at support@helensclosetpatterns.com.

One more thing:

If you decide to share your make of this pattern, please use the name Helen’s Closet Dressing Robe or tag it #HCdressingrobe. If you have previously shared your version of this pattern, please consider updating the name and/or hashtag on your post. 

At Helen’s Closet Patterns, we will continue to do our best to be actively anti-racist and support members of our community through our ongoing work creating patterns and celebrating sewing.

We are making monetary donations to Elimin8hate and CCNC-SJ

Thanks for reading,

About the author


Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

17 Comments on “Dressing Robe Pattern Update”

  1. I fully support the reason for the name change but I’m sad the pattern is gone because I was planning a new robe for a Mother’s Day gift this spring! Is there any chance the pattern will come back under the new name?

    1. Hi! At this time, we don’t plan on bringing back our dressing robe pattern. We may design a new pattern in the future, but in the meantime, we recommend the unisex Lahja Dressing Gown by Named Clothing as a great pattern alternative. Thanks so much for understanding!

  2. You’ve absolutely made the right decision and handled this well. Thank you for letting the AAPI community have a voice in this, and listening to them, and doing the absolute right thing. So proud of your humility, may we all respond as you have when faced with something like this.

  3. Wow. As a mixed-race Japanese American, this made me tear up. Thank you for seeing us and hearing us. I love the robe pattern and am glad I own a copy. I wonder if it might feel right to continue to sell it, under its new name, will all profits going to a non-profit that supports AAPI? That way your beautiful pattern can still exist in the world, morphed from something harmful to something supportive and beautiful? Just a thought. Thank you for your continued learning and integrity. It really means so much.

    1. Hi Kendra!

      Thank you so much for your comment and for your support. I did consider this route and it is something we may do in the future. I am taking time right now to reflect and continue to learn. I really appreciate you taking the time to make the suggestion and read the post!

  4. That is a brave and honourable thing to do. Correcting our courses gracefully when we’re aware that we’ve hurt someone else is hard and you have done an admirable job.

  5. Helen, is there a way you’d like this pattern to be tagged now that you’re not using “suki robe” or would you rather it not be tagged at all?

    1. Hi Lisa! If you decide to share your make of this pattern, please use the name Helen’s Closet Dressing Robe or tag it #HCdressingrobe. If you have previously shared your version of this pattern, please consider updating the name and/or hashtag on your post.

  6. That’s why it’s gone! Makes sense. Just an FYI, Blackbird Fabrics has linked to it (in the ‘We Recommend’ section) in a few of their viscose fabric options.

  7. I am new to your patterns and came across the dressing robe but not the pattern. Then I found this post you made about why the pattern was removed. I appreciate your sincerity in sharing your explanation and the reflection you have taken. It really makes me glad that I found your website.

  8. I was directed to your website by a fabric distributor using the description ‘dressing robe’; having read your reason for discontinuing the pattern I fully understand and applaud your decision. Such a shame as the pattern sounded wonderful! I’ll look at alternatives.

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