In June 2015, a small strange protest erupted in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, around a sumptuous red kimono, provided to visitors to try on and emulate the 1876 painting La Japonaise, by Claude Monet. Protesters named themselves Decolonize Our Museums and took to the gallery and social media with strident messages condemning the Kimono Wednesdays try-on activity as racist, orientalist appropriation; soon after, counterprotesters faced off, defending the programme for sharing Japanese culture with the community. In this article, I consider the kimono protests as part of a history of kimono, internationally created yet indelibly marked as Japanese. In this context, the kimono protests provide an occasion to consider the ramifications of contemporary debates about cultural appropriation and appreciation. Through a performance-theory inflected analysis I propose a theatrical ethic of ‘inappropriation’ as a means of moving discourse and public performances of culture beyond the stultifying binaries of right/wrong or appreciation/appropriation.