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Traditional/Transitional Kimono
Black Floral Kimono
Young Woman's Formal Kimono (furisode)
Japan, 1920s (late Taishō–early Shōwa periods)
Silk crepe plain weave with hand-painted, rice-paste resist outlining (yūzen); gold paint; couched gold and silk thread embroidery
The Montgomery Collection, Lugano, Switzerland

The first section in the exhibition focuses on kimono styles that reflect Japan’s longstanding tradition of simple, elegant designs. Examples of formal kimono on exhibition include the long-sleeved furisode worn by single women, the shorter-sleeved tomesode worn by married women, and uchikake, the unbelted outer robes worn for ceremonial occasions including bridal wear. These kimono are hand-painted or stencil-painted onto handspun and hand-woven fabrics, and delicately dyed with soft, plant-based colors. Striped kimono were worn by young women for less formal occasions—in cafés, department stores, factories, and other places of business—and also as casual everyday wear for school or play. While commoners in the Edo period (1615-1868) had been prohibited from wearing garments dyed with the shibori tie-dyeing technique, by the early twentieth century these were extremely popular, as illustrated by two examples in the exhibition.

Children's Kimono Styles

Kimono 4
Young Boy’s Kimono
Japan, 1930s–40s (early Shōwa period)
Wool plain weave with stencil-printing on fabric surface, direct-dye method (kata-yūzen)
The Montgomery Collection, Lugano, Switzerland

The children’s garments in the exhibition include several casual kimono and jacket haori ensembles, one of which exemplifies the typical boy’s school uniform of the early twentieth century. There are also several extraordinary formal kimonos, including examples of the miyamairi kimono draped over infant boys on the occasion of their first visit to the family's Shinto shrine. Also on view are young boys' kimono and under-kimono decorated with graphically explicit military designs or other symbols of modern times, such as cars, trains and airplanes. Young girls’ kimono, in contrast, range from a charming long-sleeved furisode with delicate, hand-painted floral motifs to those with bold designs inspired by nature to a kimono and vest ensemble that uses traditional shibori tie-dyeing in a modern way.
Men's Kimono Styles

Man’s Formal Jacket (haori) (shown inside out)
Japan, 1930s–40s (early Shōwa period)
Silk plain weave; lining of silk plain weave with hand-painted ink and brushwork (sumi-e)
The Montgomery Collection, Lugano, Switzerland

Men's kimono in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were extremely conservative, typically of solid colors or decorated with small motifs in dark colors. Men's under-kimono (juban), in contrast, recall the earlier, eighteenth-century "iki" fashion trend that expressed a preference for hidden beauty. While this trend originated in the latter part of the Edo period (1615-1868) in reaction to government edicts outlawing the outward display of wealth by the merchant classes, it continued to influence men’s kimono styles well into the twentieth century. The exhibition features several examples of exquisitely hand-painted and calligraphed kimono and linings for men’s jackets and under-kimono, with images relating to a wide range of subjects, including folk and religious deities, traditional Nō theater, famous Japanese sites such as the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, and Christian icons.

Women's Kimono Styles

Kimono 1
Woman’s Kimono
Japan, 1910s (late Meiji–early Taishō periods)
Machine-spun silk plain weave with stencil-printed warp and weft threads (meisen)
The Montgomery Collection, Lugano, Switzerland

The most visually dynamic garments in the exhibition are the fashionable women’s kimono dating from the 1910s through the 1940s, from the Taishō (1912-1926) and early Shōwa (1926-1989) periods. Known in Japan as "Taishō Modo" (a general term used for kimono fashion of the Taishō-period) and "Taishō Roman" (shortened from the English word "romantic"), these include women’s ready-made, casual, everyday wear. Worn by independent, urbanized, and modern-minded young women, these kimono reflect the modernization—or Westernization—of Japan in the early to mid-twentieth century.

The designers of these kimono pushed their talents to the limit, reinventing local techniques while incorporating new influences. Japanese department stores were at the forefront of this modern kimono movement; when they released their new line of kimono each spring and fall, eager young women flocked to the stores to buy them. As new kimono styles emerged, earlier ones soon became outdated and were retired to the bottom of the kimono chest and often not worn again. It is for this reason that so many of these kimono remain for our enjoyment and appreciation today.

After Japan's defeat in the Second World War and the destruction of so many major urban centers, the kimono was quickly replaced by Western-style clothes, which were considered more affordable and conducive to the new post-war lifestyle. Kimono eventually took on a purely ceremonial or formal role, worn for the tea ceremony, funerals, and weddings. Today, however, the kimono is experiencing a kind of revival, and young women in urban centers like Tokyo have begun to wear vintage kimono in creative new ways.