Exhibition Dates: June 7, 2022–February 20, 2023
Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Arts of Japan, The Sackler Wing Galleries, Galleries 223–232
Opening June 7, 2022, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection will trace the transformation of the kimono from the late 18th century through the early 20th century, as the T-shaped garment was adapted to suit the lifestyle of modern Japanese women. The exhibition will feature a remarkable selection of works, including a promised gift of numerous modern kimonos, from the renowned John C. Weber Collection of Japanese art that explore the mutual artistic exchanges between the kimono and Western fashion, as well as highlights from The Costume Institute’s collection. Over 60 kimonos will be displayed alongside Western garments, paintings, prints, and decorative art objects.
The exhibition is made possible by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation Fund, 2015.
The weaving, dyeing, and embroidery techniques for which Japan is famed reached their peak of artistic sophistication during the Edo period (1615–1868). Members of the ruling military class were the primary consumers of sumptuous kimono, each one being custom-made. At the same time, a dynamic urban culture emerged, and the merchant class used its wealth to acquire material luxuries. Kimono, one of the most visible art forms, provided a way for the townspeople to proclaim their aesthetic sensibility. The kimono-pattern books and ukiyo-e woodblock prints used during that time are comparable to modern fashion magazines and provide evidence of a sophisticated system of production, distribution, and consumption. Depictions of kimono in Japanese woodblock prints were widely studied by Western couturiers in the late 19th century, who were inspired by the garment’s decorative motifs, as well as its form and structure. The kimono’s comparatively loose, enveloping silhouette and its rectilinear cut would have the most profound and lasting influence on Western fashion, with couturiers like Madeleine Vionnet and Cristóbal Balenciaga taking inspiration from the kimono for their avant-garde creations.
In the Meiji period (1868–1912), Western clothing was introduced to Japan. Simultaneously, modernization and social changes enabled more women to gain access to silk kimonos than ever before. Later, some of the kimono motifs were even inspired by Western art. Around the 1920s, affordable ready-to-wear kimono (meisen) became very popular and reflected a more Westernized lifestyle. These were sold in department stores modelled on Western retailers, following Western-style marketing strategies.
Credits and Related Content
Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection is curated by Monika Bincsik, Diane and Arthur Abbey Associate Curator for Japanese Decorative Arts, with guest co-curator Karen Van Godtsenhoven.
A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, it will be available for purchase from The Met Store.
The catalogue is made possible by the Florence and Herbert Irving Fund for Asian Art Publications. Additional support is provided by the Richard and Geneva Hofheimer Memorial Fund.