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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A flurry of colors and designs ranging from cartoon floral prints to men on fishing boats adorn the kimonos now on display at the Harn Museum. One "little boy kimono" is embellished with images of battle ships and airplanes flying over water, which signifies the mark of World War II. Many of the women's kimonos display vibrant colors and geometric shapes. These were to mimic the idea of "art deco," influenced from Western culture. Fashioning Kimono, the exhibit flaunting numerous types of kimonos, dates from the late 19th century to early 20th century.

Kimonos, long dress-like multi-purpose garments, were used since the 16th century in Japan and are still worn today. The exhibit includes men's, women's and children's kimonos. Those with a keen eye for intricacy will enjoy the elaborate detail displayed within the seams and cloth. Not only do the kimonos stand as a piece of fashion and self-expression, but they are also historical artifacts. They define an era of culture and its influential intake from other traditions.

A lot can be said based on the design and pattern of the kimono. The styles and designs differ based on the season. The summer kimono, katabira, displays images of water and birds, reminding the wearer of the breeze and cooling effect of rain. In the winter, the kimonos are layered with extra fabric, such as fur, and conversely display images of pine trees and bamboo.

It is easy to spot the difference between the furisodes (kimonos with long sleeves worn by single women) and tomesodes (short sleeved kimonos worn by married women). The centerpiece of the exhibit consists of two lengthy ornate kimonos specified for special ceremonies, which were often worn by the elite.

At first, the exhibit is intimidating, as years of Japanese culture explodes into one room. The t-shaped bars holding up the pieces of art make way for a grand display of the mint condition robes. It is as if they contain every bit of life and pride as its previous wearer.

The collection is borrowed from the Montgomery Collection of Lugano, in Switzerland. The exhibit is open from March 8 through May 17 at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art.

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