Japan's Effect on Fashion in Western Dress

by Kristeen Cherney

Kimono sleeves, V-neck shirts and wide waistbands are all commonplace in Western dress. These styles are actually inspired by Japanese fashions that date back to the late 19th century. While Western nations have adopted many Japanese trends, Asian inspirations didn't become a fashion staple until the 20th century. Now as one of the world's fashion epicenters, Japan continues to spawn new styles adopted by many Westerners.

Fashion and Japonisme

The first Japanese influences on fashion were seen during Japonisme. According to the University of Delaware, Japonisme started in 1856 in France. It was an era in which Japanese style and art was merged with Western versions. The movement spread throughout Western Europe and eventually made its way to the United States. During the 1890s, Chinese styles were also merged with fashion trends in a movement called Sino-Japanism.

Late 19th Century Effects

During the late 19th century, women’s fashion was based heavily on tight styles that framed an hourglass silhouette. Japanese fashion was incorporated into this trend through V-necklines and wide waistbands that emphasized small waistlines. Kimono-inspired styles from Japan were also adopted in certain Western apparel during this era. Such styles were mostly seen in bathrobes, house gowns and intimate apparel.

20th Century Influences

During the early 20th century, Japan was the front-runner in terms of oriental-inspired fashions. V-necklines and wider kimono sleeves were all the rage in Western dress, as well as narrow hems. Styles were more baggy and relaxed in reflection of prominent styles in Japan at the time. In fact, the University of Delaware reports that the majority of women’s clothing was inspired by Japanese fashion during this era. Chinese styles enjoyed more popularity over those from Japan between 1915 and 1927, but Japan’s effects on fashion were certainly not forgotten. As wars increased awareness about the region, clothing styles from Asia were regarded as a luxury.

Modern Inspirations

Japan continues to influence Western dress in the 21st century. In fact, some of the world’s elite designers set trends in the Tokyo districts of Harajuku and Shibuya. This has been ongoing since the 1980s. Culturally, the Japanese are fans of bright colors and are not afraid to match varying garments to create trendy outfits. Aside from seasonal trends, Japan is also known for producing high-end denim apparel.

Photo Credits

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