Vogue in Japan: Edo Fashion Through Japanese Prints

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July 30, 2008 - October 19, 2008
Gallery 14

Exhibition Overview

During the two-and-a half century Edo period (1615-1868) Japan, only aristocrats and members of the high-ranking warrior class took part in highbrow traditions such as the tea ceremony, ikebana, reading classical literature and art appreciation. However that changed with the rise of the Edo shogunate. A newly stable society and environment enabled wealthy commoners to also dabble in the arts. It was the birth of a dynamic, popular culture.

Until Western ideas of art and science were introduced to Japan in the late 19th century, the country had na dynamic and popular culture developed on a scale previously unknown in Japan. Before the periodthis time, traditional cultural activitiesactivities such as the  tea ceremonyies, flower- arrangingements, reading classical literature, and appreciating art appreciation were were only enjoyed only by aristocrats and members of the high-ranking warrior classes. However, in thisthe stable society formed by the of the Edo sshogunate, created an environment that enabled many wealthy commoners began to experience and appreciate these art formsm.

Unlike in the Western countries, there was no specific categories of artcategorization in art such as fine arts or decorative arts in the late nineteenth century. WWorks now categorizedcategorized  today as as crafts (such as ceramics, lacquer works, and textiles) were appreciated on the same level as the “ a high” arts of  (painting, drawing, and sculpture etc.). For example, Kimono is a great example in which many well-known painters, such as Ogata Körin (1658-1716), also made kimono designs. And it was through fashion that the group with the lowest social status—merchants—flaunted their financial success. The wives of wealthy merchants wore Among wealthy merchants, their sumptuous kimono, wearing their worth on their sleeves, so to speak, flouting their social ranking, which was  established by the government according toin accordance with the Confucianus doctrine.

Vogue in Japan focuses on several thematic groups: the fFashion of married women, the fashion of people from different social statuses classes (women of the warrior class, of wealthy merchants, high-ranking courtesans, and townspeople), the fashion of lingerie, and, finally, men’s fashion.  men’s fashion etc. What emerges through the ukiyo-e on view is the rich culture and style from the 1600s to the 1800s. culture of the Edo fashion would amaze you.

In Edo-period Japan, however, fextravagances in ashionable extravagance were was often a target of criticism, leading to the government’sgovernmental prohibition of luxuries for commoners. However,Yet themerchants y werewere skilled at finding various ways of enjoying fashion.other ways to enjoy fashion. For example, under plain cotton kimono they would might secretly wear luxurious silk linings under plain cotton kimono. Although the sAlthough the sumptuary laws were would eventually be more strictly enforced, , the the initial response of outcome by the urban commoners was to create a new aesthetic of fashioninnovative styles marked by the such asaesthetics of iki (chic) or of shibui (a subdued or restrained (tasteful sombernesselegance)). They used designs of that included stripes and checks in indigo or other natural dark colors such as (gray, brown, or dark green. etc.).

Like a precursor to today’s glossy fashion magazines, ukiyo-e had aOne of major roles as the disseminator of fashion trendsing vogues. Many famous courtesans, kabuki actors, and teahouse waitresses at teahouses were depicted as celebrities. Through the medium of color woodblock prints, the general public could see their clothingfashion and hairstyles. -SAWAKO CHANGJapanese art imaging project manager & research assistant