Fashioning Kimono: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan

July 31, 2010 - October 10, 2010

The kimono is iconic in Japanese fashion and for good reason. Far from being a mere robe, the kimono is a symbol of culture and fashion which represents not only times of social change, but an evolution in the self-image of Japanese women.  Fashioning Kimono: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan chronicles the increasing importance of kimono and demonstrates, through a wide-range of beautiful, one-of-a-kind examples and photographs, why kimono is an art form which resonates within the culture that created it, and far beyond.

Fashioning Kimono: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan presents kimono from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The exhibition shows not only the changing role of traditional kimono designs, but also displays kimono worn by modern-minded, independent, urbanized young Japanese women of the day. Many are enlivened by Art Deco patterns that heralded the emergence of the “New Women” of Japan, those who for the first time entered the workforce and challenged the traditional view of women in Japanese Society. This was a dramatic break from kimono tradition, reflecting the modernization, or Westernization, of Japan in the early 20th century.

The kimono was the daily dress of choice for Japanese, particularly women, well into the 1950s. Western styles of dress replaced the kimono soon thereafter, with the kimono assuming a more or less formal role. This exhibition shows how the incredible industrial and social change of this time produced innovative fashion. Included are 97 kimono from the Montgomery Collection in Lugano, Switzerland, and 50 framed archival photographs from the Hukusai Research Centre in Milan, Italy, that show how kimono like these expressed the tastes and interests of almost three generations of the men, women, and children of Japan who wore them. The exhibition is organized and
circulated by Art Services International, Alexandria, Virginia.

Besides showing a fascinating collection of kimono, Fashioning Kimono touches off a great selection of Japanese themed activities at the Museum for the coming months. Lectures, a festival of groundbreaking, classic Japanese films, a shibori-dyeing workshop, which will teach a time-honored method used to dye kimono, and kimono related programs throughout the Museum – everywhere from Art On The Rocks to Oscar’s café – will make the Birmingham Museum of Art an epicenter of Japanese culture.