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Kimono (Japan)

This is a Kimono. It was designed by Unknown. It is dated Taisho period, 1926–45 and we acquired it in 2013. Its medium is silk, lined in cotton and rayon and its technique is plain weave, stencil-printed in warp and weft (meisen). It is a part of the Textiles department.

The Jazz Age flapper had a counterpart in Japan: the moga (modern girl). Industrial development during the Taishō period (1912–26), spurred by World War I, brought women into the workplace for the first time. Economic opportunity led to rapid urbanization and a new cosmopolitan lifestyle that revolved around café culture, the cinema, and the new department store. Western-style clothing and kimono intermingled in the streets of 1920s Tokyo. When this confident, newly-independent young woman wore a kimono, however, she preferred one with a bold graphic statement.
Traditionally, kimono were custom-made from the finest silk fabrics and were handed down through generations. Nineteenth-century industrial innovation made possible the idea of a fashion kimono—a ready-to-wear garment that was affordable enough to be changed with some frequency. Unlike Western fashion, the silhouette and form of the garments did not change but the fabrics became exuberant indicators of style. Motifs were dramatically enlarged and color palettes were vivid.
One agent of this change was the introduction of industrial spinning technology. This allowed for the production of spun silk, which was made from short lengths of fiber salvaged from damaged cocoons (reeled silk uses the continuous filament from carefully unwound cocoons). The other catalyst was the mechanization of the traditional kasuri technique, in which the warp or weft yarns are tie-dyed by hand prior to weaving. In the mechanized version, called meisen, stencils and chemical paste dyes are used to print the warp and weft yarns. The softly blurred effect of kasuri is maintained, but meisen could be produced much more quickly and cheaply.
This piece, with its rough, hand-drawn feel and unusual color combination, bears a strong resemblance to the work of French artist Sonia Delaunay. In both her paintings and textile designs, Delaunay explored an idea she called “simultaneity”—the sense of movement and vibration caused by the juxtaposition of warm and cool colors. Delaunay’s fashion work was not focused on clever cutting, but rather on the treatment of the body as a pattern surface. In this way, its resonance with meisen is striking. The influence of the Italian Futurists is also felt in the sweeping arcs of color and overall feeling of movement.

It is credited Museum purchase from Friends of Textiles and General Acquisitions Endowment Funds.

  • Kimono (Japan)
  • silk, lined in rayon and cotton.
  • Museum purchase from Friends of Textiles and General Acquisitions Endowment....
  • 2013-15-2
  • Kimono (Japan)
  • silk embroidery, silk foundation.
  • Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt, from the textile collection of Mrs. Abram....
  • 1931-4-65
  • Kimono (Japan)
  • silk and gilded paper thread embroidery on cotton foundation.
  • Gift of Mary T. Cockcroft.
  • 1941-46-1

Our curators have highlighted 5 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Textile, Yuki Tsumugi
  • warp: hand-spun silk (tsumugi) wrapped with reeled silk; weft: hand-spun silk....
  • Gift of Jun Okuzawa, Representative of Yuki Tsumugi Producers Association.
  • 1989-99-1

Its dimensions are

H x W: 147.3 x 123.2 cm (58 x 48 1/2 in.)

Cite this object as

Kimono (Japan); Designed by Unknown; silk, lined in cotton and rayon; H x W: 147.3 x 123.2 cm (58 x 48 1/2 in.); Museum purchase from Friends of Textiles and General Acquisitions Endowment Funds; 2013-15-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Making Design.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Kimono (Japan) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=1 April 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>