East Meets West: Oriental Influence

Of course, the much shorter pleated skirt we now associate with modern Japanese school girls is also a chic look, and the carrying over of this simple design into a popular and often fetish-linked fashion for Western girls of modern times is an important note of timelessness.

Court” Fashion for Japanese Males, Asuka Period (593-710):

Eastern influence is not reserved for Westerners alone, as one can see in Asuka and Nara period clothing designs from Japan. Chinese influence was strong during this time period for clothing styles in Japan between 593 to 794 AD. Buddhism and Chinese culture design was popularized by the imperial court members that wore clothing of this kind. The hakama trousers remained intact, but without the binding ties below the knee that earlier periods had emphasized. The upper garment of this period, the “ho” (“Japanese Dress in Former Times…”) was less form fitting than previous designs, sporting loose-fitting sleeves that allowed the wearer to clasp hands together completely engulfed in the fabric. This covered hand fabric enclosure style would be all the rage throughout Europe many centuries later, when proper ladies would warm their hands within the fuzzy confines of the stole accessory, which are still seen occasionally today in retro-fashion chic.

Japanese “Soukutai” Ceremonial Court Dress for Males, Heian period (794-1185):

Japanese Ceremonial Court Dress for Females, Heian period and Kamakura period (1185-1333):

The Heian period in Japanese culture was more complicated fashion-wise. The world of fashion designs was growing more diverse, and for court apparel alone there were now three categories of clothing ensemble variations. The first of these categories was Special Ceremony dress, which was the clothing worn to special occasions at court. The second category was Formal Dress which was worn to imperial court. Finally, there was the ordinary clothing worn on a daily basis in court. The Formal Dress style was called “sokutai” (“Japanese Dress in Former Times”). For women, the clothing style was particularly cumbersome and dressing was a lengthy progress, as the “junihitoe” (“Japanese Dress in Former Times”) apparel consisted of twelve individual layers of formal clothing. Both male and female fashions for this period share the “ho” (“Japanese Dress in Former Times”) with extremely long, flowing exaggerated sleeves, the style of which would be mirrored by Western-style cloaks with very open and draping arm coverings. The male and female styles also both had the “hakama” visible under layer of clothing on the bottom half. The female outfit made use of a “karaginu” (“Japanese Dress in Former Times”) shawl, an elegant timeless piece that has been utilized in fashion design throughout the world. This bulky layered style would be mirrored in many other fashions, such as the corset, petticoat, bustle, outer shawl, etc. ensemble of Western womens clothing of future periods.

Japanese Samurai “Kariginu” Dress for males, Kamakura period and Muromachi period (1333-1568):

Japanese Samurai Winter Court Dress, Muromachi period and Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600):

Warrior clothing styles from Japanese Samurai have been influential in modern design, especially drawing from the popularity of the Samurai image in popular media such as movies and television in the West. During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods between 1185 and 1568, the clothing of the Samurai warrior class remained relatively consistent. Formal occasions called for the “sokutai” (“Japanese Dress in Former Times”) outfit which was elaborate and ornate in comparison to the everyday uniform. Ordinary Samurai clothing was “kariginu,” which comprised of a hitatare top, with loose-fitting sleeves, and hakama pants, also loose-fitting.

Japanese Dress in Former Times”). This style was based on the fashions of Japanese hunters. Samurai class women also had several types of outfits that were worn. Everyday clothing for these women was made of quilted silks in the form of “kosode,” and while these were the less formal styles for Samurai ladies, the design actually bears a striking resemblance to oriental formal wear that is worn to special occasions in Japan and abroad today. “Uchikaka” or “kaidori” were the more colorful formal clothing choice for warrior-class women during this period.

Japanese “Kamishimo” Samurai Court Dress and Everyday Dress, Azuchi- Momoyama period and Edo period (1600-1868):

Japanese Formal dress of married women, Edo period:

The Edo period in Japan was the beginning of several more Japanese styles that remain popularized by Western culture fashions for centuries. The “Kamishimo” was worn by both males and females of the Samurai warrior class during special occasions and attending shogun. This outfit featured stuff shoulder garments that crossed the shoulders and chest, called “kataginu,” and skirt-like robes beneath called “hakama.

” (“Japanese Dress in Former Times”). Both of these elements are vital to the Samurai-image held by Hollywood and other popular culture creations in the West today. The “kosode” robes were the normal wear for everyday Samurai class, both male and female again. The similarities between male and female fashions were quite pronounced during this period; “kakama” was also a shared clothing item between the sexes. While both genders wore a wrapping of cloth around the waist called “Obi,” it was not long before the womens obi became more decorative than functional. The belt was quite utilitarian for the men of the class who carried swords by their side. For women, the obi wrap eventually would cover the entire abdominal area, an important part of the Oriental woman image that is held by the West, picturing the Oriental female with loose-sleeved kosode robes, bound tightly in the midsection by contrasting cloth. The evolution of the Obi wrap was not the only change during this period that moved Oriental designs towards the more ornamental, decorative, and detailed styles commonly associated with the exoticism of the East. The simple daily clothing came to be far more intricately decorated as dyed and patterned fabrics became the norm in Asian designs. The festive kimono designs that are common in high and low fashion throughout the world in modern times are derived from this time period as well.

Japanese Everyday Dress for Males and Females, Meiji Period and Taisho Period (1868-1928):

The end of the Edo period in Japan in the late 1860s led to beginning of the Meiji period and the dawning of a new day for Japanese fashion. Western influence began to infuse the clothing worn by those in government appointed positions such as the military and police force; it was very much the end in many ways of the elegant Samurai style. While the average person was not necessarily dressing in such Western ways, it was the beginning of a trend that would continue, as the East and West exchanged cultural elements with growing fervor. Still, the kimono — the pinnacle of Oriental feminine beauty and elegance in the Western minds eye — was hugely popular and the most commonly adorned clothing item. The traditional Oriental waistcoat “haori” (“From Japanese to Western Dress”) was the most popular outer garment for men attending formal events. Beneath, the flowing hakama was worn, another traditional clothing item. However, the men would wear on their heads hats in a Western style not native to the region. Likewise, women wearing traditional Oriental dress such as the kimono or slightly less popular formal clothing of the era would often accessorize with Western style boots. This juxtaposition of “East Meets West” in popular fashion is still present in Japan today, as can be seen by the clothing worn by girls at college graduation where a kimono and boots are the norm. Also, this look is strongly present in the East. Many designers have created kimono and boot ensembles that combined these cultural elements. Other East-inspired styles, such as the “school girl” look, are also commonly combinations of Oriental clothing with Western boots and other accessories.

Japanese Dress in Western Style for Males and Females, Meiji Period:

During this period the Western business suit became standard for professionals and businessmen, solidifying the economical and, in many ways, political significance of the cross-cultural influence.

The fascination of the West with the East is due in large part to the fact that the culture of the Orient is so vastly different from that of the Western world. Wild images seeped into European society of the marvels and wonders to be found in the Orient, yet the geographical location of the East left it untouched by most Westerners who could only dream about the riches reported to be there. Clothing has always been among the most important trade items to transfer between the East and West, and the Orientalism and complete understanding of the East (as it is) has been created by fashion and clothing more than any other elements. According to fashion experts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, costume and fashion are readily absorbed and are not affected by language and other cultural barriers. “The option in dress afforded by the East is charged with enchantment, with a seeming sweetness and seduction that allows the Easts presence to seem innocuous. While never losing the characteristics of its place of origin, clothing has shown itself a readily.