November 13, 2014

The Kimono - A Modern History


The Arts of Japan Galleries have been transformed into a dazzling fashion show of kimono from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Translated literally as "thing to wear," the kimono has gone through major transformations throughout history: in the Edo period (1615–1868) it was an everyday garment, and now it is worn mainly on special occasions and collected as "traditional Japanese art."

 Its design, function, and meaning have shifted dramatically in the last one hundred and fifty years, shaped by the dialogue of Japanese traditions, modern inventions, and Western ideas. Featuring more than fifty spectacular robes, this exhibition tells a story about the Japanese garment whose designs mirror trends in pictorial and decorative arts of every era. Both sumptuous garments custom-made for wealthy patrons and everyday wear available for sale to the general public are represented. Highlights also include three examples of contemporary kimono created by designers designated by the Japanese government as Living National Treasures.

Some twenty-five robes on loan from private and public collections, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the John C. Weber Collection, Julia Meech Collection, and others complement examples from the Metropolitan's Asian Art and Costume Institute collections; they are exhibited together with paintings, prints, and illustrated books, as well as lacquerware and ceramics, that share common design patterns with kimono.

 These T-shaped robes, decorated with a seemingly infinite variety of designs, not only reflect fashion trends but reveal much about Japanese culture, history, and society if we unlock the circumstances of their manufacture, sale, and ownership.

With thanks to The Met.

And from You Tube:

The kimono is the traditional costume of Japan. Yet even the most sumptuous kimono is constructed quite simply: just a few strips of fabric sewn together.

With their wide variety of seasonal designs, kimonos reflect Japan's rich natural beauty. And the obi - the sash - makes a kimono even more gorgeous. Typically more than three meters long, the obi is tied in a beautiful and often elaborate knot.

The origin of the kimono as we know it today is an undergarment worn by ancient Japanese nobles. Later, during the days of the samurai, authorities tried to ban extravagant kimonos; they unwittingly inspired a kimono fashion revolution.

In the early 20th century, mass-produced kimonos with bold new designs appeared. They look fresh even today and are now enjoying popularity with a new generation of young women.

On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, we look at kimonos, which fully embody the Japanese sense of beauty.


Related:Katsushika Hokusai: Japanese Artist

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