Kimono: Refashioning Contemporary Style at the Cincinnati Art Museum

CINCINNATI — In Kimono: Refashioning Contemporary Style, on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum from June 28–September 15, 2019, visitors can experience more than 50 ensembles by Japanese, European and American designers including Coco Chanel, Christian Louboutin, John Galliano, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Rei Kawakubo, Iris van Herpen and Issey Miyake.

Organized by the Kyoto Costume Institute in Japan and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the exhibition features fashion from the 1870s to the present day along with kimono, Japanese prints, paintings and textiles.

Kimono—literally translated “thing to wear”—has impacted international fashion since Japan opened its ports to the world in the mid-1850s. The form and silhouette of kimono, its two-dimensional structure and motifs used as surface embellishment, have all been refashioned into a wide array of garments. Kimono revealed new possibilities in clothing design and helped lay the foundation for contemporary fashion design.

The exhibition explores these themes in four sections. The first explores the influence of Japanese aesthetics, called Japonsim, on artists, specifically painters, of the late nineteenth century, who depicted kimono in many of their works. The second section examines kimono’s influence on fashion from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, when couture designs were inspired by the shape and cut of kimono and incorporated Japanesque motifs in their surface decoration. Two of the pieces included in this section address the use of kimono by Westerners as dressing gowns with a Cincinnati connection. The third section examines contemporary fashion and the continued use of variations on the kimono silhouette along with traditional weaving, dyeing and decorative techniques. The final section demonstrates how Japan continues to inspire the world of fashion through popular design, including manga and anime.

From a nineteenth century gown decorated with Japanese-inspired floral motifs to a 1960s dress tied with an obi-like sash to couture designs as recent as 2016, Kimono: Refashioning Contemporary Style, is a product of international collaboration between Japanese and American institutions. It makes clear that kimono has had a strong presence in fashion and continues to be an inspiration for designers worldwide.

“We are excited to partner with Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI) and Asian Art Museum to tell the story of the influence of kimono on contemporary fashions. KCI is renowned for their collection of Western dress and more than 15 exceptional examples of traditional and contemporary fashion have been added to the exhibition from our own permanent collection. We have also supplemented the show with paintings, works on paper and examples of Rookwood pottery that help tell this story. From the 1870s to today, the kimono has continued to be a touchstone for fashion couturiers on a global scale,” said Cynthia Amnéus, Cincinnati Art Museum’s Chief Curator and Curator of Fashion Arts and Textiles.

The Cincinnati Art Museum is the third of three venues in the United States to present this exhibition. It was previously on view under the title Kimono Refashioned at the Newark Museum in New Jersey and is currently on view at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (February 8–May 5, 2019).

This exhibition’s Cincinnati presentation is organized with the generous support of Huntington Bank and Toyota of Cincinnati. Kimono: Refashioning Contemporary Style will be on view in the Western & Southern galleries (galleries 232 and 233).

The exhibition was initiated by Akiko Fukai of the Kyoto Costume Institute, and was jointly curated by Rie Nii of the Kyoto Costume Institute, Yuki Morishima and Karin Grace Oen of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Katherine Anne Paul of the Newark Museum, and Cynthia Amnéus of the Cincinnati Art Museum—all of whom contributed to the exhibition and exhibition catalogue.

Tickets for Kimono: Refashioning Contemporary Style are free for museum members. Tickets will soon be available for purchase by the general public at the Cincinnati Art Museum front desk and online at Photography is permitted, but no flash. #CAMfashionImage credit: Toshiko Yamawaki (1887–1960), Japan, Evening Dress with Wave Motif, 1956, silk taffeta with gold-thread embroidery, Collection of The Kyoto Costume Institute, Inv. AC12555 2011-8-35AB, Gift from Yamawaki Fashion Art College, photo by Takashi Hatakeyama

SF Annual Kimono Fashion Show

Who doesn’t love a fashion show? On March 10th, 2019 there will be a kimono fashion show hosted in Japan Town, this annual event showcases traditional fashion and is open to all ages.

Date: March 10, 2019 @2pm
Location: Plaza Area 2nd Floor of eKinokuniya Building in Japantown, San Francisco California

Chicago Kimono Meet-Up Monthly

Are you new to wearing Japanese kimono and would like to learn how to wear them in a traditional style? Kujira Japanese Art & Craft Community is hosting a kimono dressing workshop for women. Attendees are to bring their own kimono and supplies.

Date: March 31, 2019

Address: Bujinkan Roselle Dojo 173 W Irving Park Rd, Roselle, Illinois 60172

Facebook Event:

Kimono Day November 2018

Monthly kimono dressing and gathering events happen in San Francisco, California. This event is are free to attend, and idea for all age groups. People are encouraged to wear their own kimono to these outings. A full range of different types of kimono for all ages and genders can be seen worn to these events.

Here are some of the photos shared from the November 2018 Kimono Day.


Kitsuke Aids and Collars.

Generally we think of kimono as having changed little since the Edo period so I always get a little excited when new dressing gadgets come out (or are newly discovered) The basics haven’t changed much, but elastic has made a pretty big impact along with synthetic fibers. I noticed in this kitsuke mai (literally kimono dressing dance) the ladies are using what looks like a korin belt and a datejime had a baby and my eye balls very nearly popped out of my face. Maybe I’m just behind in the times, but this was the first time I’d seen this bit of gear! I wondered if maybe it was specific to a certain school of kitsuke, but was able to find it easily enough on Rakuten. I hope this is the general direction that kimono dressing is headed towards even though I’m not a huge fan of the whole ‘you NEED this thing to dress properly’ trend (you can call me old school; in my opinion you don’t need more than himo to hold your collars together unless you’re working with a kimono that doesn’t fit you). But if you’re the type that wants the extra support or you’re dressing for something formal… you’ve got a plenty of toys to invest in.

image from the rakuten listing

A little back ground info for terms; the datejime is a band about 10 centimeters wide that is often worn under the obi, but over the himo holding your collars shut. These were usually made of a thin hakata (woven) which was well known for gripping and staying in place, but you’ll often find ‘magic’ datejime made of a thick elastic and with velcro at the ends. A lot of these that I’ve ended up with were second hand and old so the elastic was quite brittle not to mention they’re often not long enough to stretch over anyone of a more… substantial build. The cheap modern ones are usually of a thin synthetic fabric with a section of reinforcement at the ‘front’ where it will best support the obi to lay nice and flat (but it does not replace an obi stiffener). If you splurge for a kitsuke kit, you’ll get the datejime, the obi ita (stiffener) and obi makura (pillow) all in the same pattern; these matching kits are pretty chic! I’ve seen some DIY’d sets out of very fun bold fabrics too (the mass produced ones are usually a soft pink color).

A korin belt is a length of adjustable elastic (like a thick bra strap) with two grippy alligator clips. They can be used on the juban collar, the kimono collar, or both (using two or like in this lovely video, 2 at once!) and can help keep your collars stay crossed, a common issue for us busty types trying to wrangle a too narrow kimono into submission. To use one, you clip one end to the right collar edge, run it counter clock wise under the left (outer panel), pulling it out from under the left sleeve to wrap around your back and attach to the edge of the left collar. It does not replace a himo, especially when you have a collar strap to pull the back of your collar down from your neck. Also something to consider is the depth of angle of your collars. A very wide, obtuse angle is appropriate for younger folks, but I think also helps balance someone like myself with a round face. A very narrow collar (by which I mean a very long skinny V)  is more appropriate for much older ladies, along with a narrower strip of haneri (juban collar) showing. When I see someone under 80 with narrowly angled collars, I assume their kimono doesn’t fit quite right, not that they’re intentionally dressing ‘elderly’. Check out this newly turned Geiko compared to the lady walking with her (possibly her Okaasan?) The Geiko’s collar is of course very exaggerated compared to how we would normally wear, but you can really see the difference.

The ‘datejime with clips’ as Microsoft translate calls it on the Rakuten listing combines the collar clipping action of the korin belt and the smoothing/securing action of the datejime, with clips at the right and left sides. I suspect there’s not enough give at the front where the elastic is to allow you to pull the clips far enough to give someone like myself enough cross pull on the collars. The more I think about it, the more this thing addresses a problem that doesn’t really exist… at least not for the people who really struggle with collar placement. Maybe I’m wrong and there’s a lot of ‘give’ in that elastic, but this thing doesn’t measure much different than the non-elastic version I use occasionally which I can barely get a decent knot out of. If you’re small busted and average/smaller built and wearing an ‘average’ size kimono, you’ll get a very nice clean look, but honestly it’s not necessary. Would I use it? Absolutely, I love these sorts of kitsuke tools especially when it’s part of a matching set and I’m giving a dressing demonstration. That stuff just looks cool and professional compared to a hodgepodge of self-made and mismatched items. I hope more of these fancy new dressing aids become available. But as a plus sized enthusiast I have my doubts I’ll be able to make use of this particular item. We do see more LL and larger sized kimono becoming available, hopefully it’s only a matter of time before obi and dressing aids will follow.

Fingers (collars) crossed!!

Columbus Kimono