The Kimono in 1920s Fashion

The V&A Museum has been so kind as to create a video curator tour of their currently closed exhibition, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk.


Image Credit: Mantle, designed by Paul Poiret, about 1913, Paris. Museum no. T.165-1967. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The five part video series is short, beautiful, and brimming with both historical knowledge, and visual inspiration.

Part one discusses kimono fashion, the haute couture of the day, in the 16th century and the Edo period. It features beautiful examples of kimono owned by the Samurai or ruling class. 

Part two delves deeper into the merchant class influence and how popular actors of the period greatly influenced kimono fabric patterns.

Part three follows the Dutch trade relationship with Japan, as well as the introduction of the kimono to Europe and the transformation of the kimono as it made its way west as the "Kimono for foreigners”, with an emphasis on the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Part four looks at kimono in the early 20th century with a brief look at 1920s and 1930s fashions, and how both Japanese fashion was influenced by the west, as well as how Kimono influenced western fashions.

Lastly, part five looks at Kimono in the later half of the 20th century and its influence on film, the cat-walk, and even fast fashion.

Of particular interest to myself as a 1920s sewing pattern collector is the great influence of the Kimono in 1920s fashion.

The western fashion movement of Orientalism mostly attributed to Poiret in the early 20th century is well exhibited in sewing patterns of the 1920s.

In addition to an emphasis on the kimono sleeve and wrap front in early 1920s dresses and blouses, pattern catalogs and periodicals of the time often included a page of lingerie and loungewear. Each nearly always included a kimono-like robe often described as a negligee. 

McCall Fashion Book/ Quarterly Fall 1920.

The designs slowly become more and more kimono-like as the 1920s progress and even make an appearance in children’s fashions.


McCall Quarterly Fall 1923.

 girl's kimono cc 1928 273

McCall Counter Catalog March 1928.

217. mcc 1928

McCall Counter Catalog March 1928.

Fabrics recommended for these varied in price range and included silk shantung, Crepe de Chine, flat crepe, crepe satin, rayons, Celanese weaves, cotton challis, cotton crepe, as well as brocades and silk velvets to make many of these as evening coats  rather than intimate apparel.

We have a selection of these patterns available here, should you wish to add a 1920s style kimono to your wardrobe.

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