Kimono Crazed

As fashion’s inspirational clock turns ever backwards [goodbye, 70s, hello 30s…40s, and even 20s], one of the early 20th century’s most seductive garments is making a notable comeback– the Kimono. To say nothing of its ancient origins as a bastion of traditional Japanese dress, the kimono first entered the Western consciousness with the advent of Japonisme in the late 19th century, as artists like Claude Monet and later Gustav Klimt [in the early 20th century] famously painted portraits of women in these languid, ornate garments.

Designers Fortuny and Paul Poiret adopted the languid, almost shapeless cut for outerwear in the 1910s, anticipating the kimono’s widespread acceptance in the roaring 20s as women’s liberation accelerated full-speed ahead, and the advent of cinema and film idols began to hold sway over record audiences– with stars like Louise Brooks, Marion Davies, and later Marlene Dietrich herself wearing kimonos both on and off-screen.

WWII brought about fabric restrictions and a general disdain of Japanese [and Japanese-inspired] products, unfortunately, and the kimono disappeared, emerging later in the 70s and 80s. Designers reprised this subtly subversive, seductive garment for S/S and F/W 11 in an exciting array of styles, contributing to the Return of the Rounded Shoulder and evolving the long and languid looks of recent seasons.

Below, a selection of the inspirational photos, alongside runway styles from the current and coming seasons.

Japanese geishas circa 1920s; Paul Poiret evening coat circa 1922

French postcard circa 1920s courtesy of Identical Eye; Louise Brooks circa late 20s

Sears Catalogue 1930; John Galliano F/W 11

Portrait by Weiner Werkstätte photographer Madame d’Ora, 1923; VPL F/W 11

Josephus Thimister F/W 11; Marion Davies in Show People,  1928

Albert Vargas illustration, 1933; Guy Laroche F/W 11

Japanese geisha circa 1930s; Marlene Dietrich, publicity photo for The Devil is a Woman, 1935  

Kenzo S/S 11; Japanese geishas, 1945 Special thanks to Joan Kiplinger of Fabrics.net for the fantastic historical account of Kimonos in the west.


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