Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, the exhibition to see right now

Some kimonos from the ancient Japan history. A costume created by Alexander McQueen for Björk for ‘Homogenic’. And some original Star Wars costumes inspired by – of course – kimono. The major exhibition from Victoria & Albert Museum is a gorgeous display of one of the most loved item in the history of fashion: the kimono – Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, the exhibition to see right now.

The exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum from February 29 to June 21, 2020 –
There will be an accompanying book, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, with chapters on various periods and aspects of kimono. 

Fashionable brocade patterns of the Imperial Palace, woodblock print, made by Utagawa Kunisada, 1847-1852, Japan. Museum no. Circ.636 to Circ. 638– 1962. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 

Covering 350 years of kimono, curator Anna Jackson has taken underlined the fact that the kimono has never been a traditional, unchanging costume. Rather, it has always been part of a thriving fashion culture. 

Demonstrating how the garment has evolved since 1660 to the present day, this exhibition includes stunning examples from the museum’s own collection plus significant loans from across the globe. 

Outer-kimono for a young woman. Probably Kyoto, 1800-1830. Image Courtesy of the Joshibi Art Museum // Christian Dior, Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2007 © Getty Images

Rare 17th and 18th century kimono will be displayed, together with fashions by major designers and iconic film and performance costumes. Over 315 works will be featured, including paintings, prints, film, dress accessories and kimono especially made for the show.

The first section of the exhibition will explore 17th century designs. This is followed by the beginning of western interest in the kimono as a collectable in the 18th century and then the start of a world-wide craze for Japanese art and design in the 19th century. The kimono’s biggest impact on western fashion came in the early 20th century, when designers such as Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet abandoned tightly corseted styles in favour of loose layers of fabric that draped the body.

The final section of the exhibition will show how the kimono has continued to inspire fashion designers around the world. 

Kimono for a young woman (furisode), 1905–20, probably Kyoto, Japan. © Khalili Collection, K106 // ted wrap coat, designed by Duro Olowu, Autumn/Winter 2015, England. © Duro Olowu

The display will include the outfit worn by Toshirō Mifune in Sanjūrō, Oscar-winning costumes from Memoirs of a Geisha, the original Star Wars costumes (modelled on kimono), and the Jean Paul Gautier ensemble worn by Madonna in her video Nothing Really Matters.

‘Kaidan’ ( staircase) by Kobayakawa Kiyoshi (1899-1948), hanging scroll, ink and colours on paper // Madonna, Nothing Really Matters video, 1999. Photo by Frank Micelotta © Getty Images

Photography: courtesy of V&A Museum –


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