European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Exhibitions

Les Objets Etrangers

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Tumblr Exhibition Highlight

The objects described in this post are part of the selection made by sudents of the course ‘Curating Fashion: History, Theory & Practice’ at The New School – Parsons Paris. These objects – a pair of kimonos hold in the collection of the Stichting Nationaal Museum Van Wereldculturen, are part of the capsule curation ‘Les Objects Etrangers.’ Check out the whole exhibition on our tumblr:

The Kimono is a traditional Japanese garment – the literal translation – “a thing (mono) to wear (ki).” The traditional kimono is a T shape, with straight lines, wrapped front, long wide sleeves, and ankle length. There is an opening under the sleeve inset, which allows the wearer to easily glide the arms in or out. Kimono are traditional for both men and women, and are always worn with the left side over the right, secured by an obi (sash). Both garments selected are silk, one richly embroidered with golden thread. Kimono have always been a symbol of nationhood and a projection of Japan’s self-image. During the mid-1800s, Japan itself was complicit in encouraging tacit Orientalism by making the kimono a symbol of the unified national identity it created after opening its borders to the West in 1853.

These kimono are conserved in the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam Tropical Museum), an ethnographic museum, one of the members of Stichting nationaal Museum Van Wereldculturen (Dutch Museum of World Cultures) in Amsterdam. The conservation of Japanese kimonos not only shows how fashion is considered an essential part of everyday life, but also indicates how European ethnographic museums document non-european cultures in order to tell the story of humankind.

Text by Julie Mahdavi, Anqi Ni, Melany Telleen