USC Pacific Asia Museum

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Kimono in the 20th Century


March 30, 2012 - March 10, 2013
In the Frank and Toshie Mosher Gallery of Japanese Art

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Press release [PDF: 107KB]
Related Programs

This exhibition features a gift in 2008 from the June Tsukamoto-Lyon collection, which provided breadth and further quality to USC Pacific Asia Museum’s already substantial collection. Kimono in the exhibition run from the most formal type reserved for very special occasions to children’s clothing, undergarments and light summer wear. Fabric patterns in the kimono range from deep black with reserve details in white, to Op-art that dazzles the eyes, with each garment giving a strong sense of the wearer’s taste, the modes of contemporary fashion, or requirements of the season in which the kimono was worn.

The “thing to wear”, a kimono, is for Japan a signal of native culture, and indicates to the world that its wearer has dignity, class and an artistic sense. In the pre-modern era, up to 1868, when all well-heeled city dwellers, male and female, wore kimono—which then went by other names dependent upon sleeve length and whether it was inner or outer wear—there was great variety in ways of wearing. Layering, length, textile design and the way the obi sash would be tied, were all manners of denoting a specific occasion, season, or level of formality, also revealing fashion and personal taste. By the dawn of the 20th century, with most men wearing kimono only at home or for artistic occasions, styles for women began to regularize. The shape became standard, the manner of tying the obi was more or less set, and specific sleeve lengths, fabric weaves or colors would indicate age, season, occasion and level of formality. Longer sleeves or brighter tones indicate a younger wearer, while more grayed tones, small patterns and short sleeves denote someone of maturity. From the end of the first decade of the 20th century, kimono style became most dependent upon the textiles from which the kimono would be made, ranging from bold, strongly colored patterns to stylish repeat motifs.

The most common type of kimono purchased by women in the latter half of the 20th century to the present is the homongi (kimono for formal visits), which are often decorated with patterns that flow down from the shoulder. One sees the homongi kimono often at the New Year’s visit to a local Shinto shrine. Formal kimono such as these are worn to life occasions such as the first presentation of a baby to a Shinto shrine, a graduation, wedding, retirement party or funeral, and to artistic occasions such as a meeting for tea, displays of flower arranging, musical or theatrical performance of native style. The exhibition features examples of all these types in a year-long rotation to reflect the seasons and delight the eye.

The exhibition is guest-curated by Hollis Goodall and supported by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and Sid and Betsey Tyler.

Related Programs

Curator's Tour
April 14, 2 p.m.
Join Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art at LACMA and guest curator of this exhibition, for an inside look at this tradition.

Free Family Festival
April 22, 12-4 p.m.
Enjoy free admission to all the galleries, crafts, demonstrations and performances celebrating Japanese art and culture.

Demonstration and Workshop
May 20 and September 16, 2-5 p.m.
Setsuko Hayashi demonstrates the yūzen and shibori dyeing techniques followed by a chance to make your own shibori silk scarf. $5 materials fee, RSVP to ext. 19.

Kimono Demonstration
June 10, 2 p.m.
Following a presentation on the basics of kimono, Naomi Onizuka dresses on-stage models in a variety of styles. Audience members may be selected to model with advance reservation, RSVP to ext. 19.

Curator's Lecture: The Evolving Surface of 20th Century Kimono
August 19, 2 p.m.
Curator Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art at LACMA and guest curator of this exhibition, gives a talk in partnership with the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California and supported by the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles.