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Kimono Couture:
The Beauty of Chiso

Exhibition Rescheduled:
November 7, 2020 – January 31, 2021

A kimono designed with red, green, gold and white colored cranes on a black background
CHISO Co. Ltd, Furisode with Wave and Crane Design, made for Nishimura Tokuko, the fourteenth Madame Nishimura, 1938, yūzen-dyeing and embroidery on woven silk, Collection of CHISO Co. Ltd, © CHISO

The exhibition, Kimono Couture: The Beauty of Chiso, breaks new ground for both the Worcester Art Museum and the distinguished Kyoto-based kimono house of Chiso. This first ever exhibition outside Japan of historic and contemporary kimonos from the 465-year-old firm, features 14 equisite kimonos from the mid-1600s to 2000s. Also for the first time, a museum presents the kimono as a contemporary art practice—through the commissioning of WAM's own kimono. The “Worcester Wedding Kimono” highlights motifs inspired by the shared appreciation in Japan and New England for the fall season and brilliant maple leaves. Referencing the city of Worcester's iconic seven hills, the kimono incorporates seven gradations of color as a depiction of seasonal change, as well as seven advanced textile techniques for decoration: barrel tie-dyeing (okedashi shibori), paste-resist dyeing (yūzen), colored flour paste-resist dyeing (iro utsushi itchin yūzen) thread-line paste-resist dyeing (itome yūzen) “snowstorm” wax-resist dyeing (fubuki rōketsuzome) gold leaf, and embroidery (shishū). Some of these techniques are now practiced by only a few remaining artisans.

Kimono Couture gives a rare and up-close look at the intricacy, character, and artistry of kimono design and fabrication in one of Japan's most exclusive kimono houses.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog, authored by the exhibition guest curators, Vivian Li and Christine Starkman, with contributions by Riyo Kikuchi and Yukio Lippit. Published by D Giles Limited, London, in association with the Worcester Art Museum, the catalog is available for purchase in the Museum Shop for $34.95. For phone orders, please call the Shop at 508-793-4354.

Get a close-up look at some of the techniques used by designers and artisans to create exquisite, one-of-a-kind Chiso kimonos in this short video.

This exhibition is organized by the Worcester Art Museum in partnership with Chiso, the revered 465-year-old kimono design and production house based in Kyoto, Japan. Support is provided by the Fletcher Foundation and Michie Family Curatorial Fund. Research for this project was made possible by the Japan-United States Friendship Commission and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies. Additional support is provided by Emily and James Holdstein, and Sandy Hubbard and Thomas J. Logan.

Japan-United States Friendship Commission logo Association for Asian Studies logo

The exhibition is sponsored by Cornerstone Bank and Imperial Distributors, Inc.

Cornerstone Bank logo Imperial Distributors logo

Media Partners: The Boston Globe and WGBH.

The Boston Globe logo WGBH logo

Selected Images

CHISO Co. Ltd, <i>Uchikake with Palace Garden Design</i>, made for Iida Taka, the thirteenth Madame Nishimura, 1913, <i>yūzen</i>-dyeing and embroidery on woven silk CHISO Co. Ltd, Uchikake with Palace Garden Design, made for Iida Taka, the thirteenth Madame Nishimura, 1913, yūzen-dyeing and embroidery on woven silk, Collection of CHISO Co. Ltd, © CHISO
Artist unknown, <i>Kosode with Overturned Flask Design</i>, Mid to late 17th century, Edo period, 1603–1868, <i>shibori</i> tie-dyeing and ink on white figured satin Artist unknown, Kosode with Overturned Flask Design, Mid to late 17th century, Edo period, 1603–1868, shibori tie-dyeing and ink on white figured satin, Collection of CHISO Co. Ltd
Artist unknown, <i>Kosode with Koto and Cloud Design and Edge Pattern</i>, Late 19th century, Meiji period, 1868–1912, <i>yūzen</i>-dyeing and embroidery on purple silk crepe (<i>chirimen</i>) Artist unknown, Kosode with Koto and Cloud Design and Edge Pattern, Late 19th century, Meiji period, 1868–1912, yūzen-dyeing and embroidery on purple silk crepe (chirimen), Collection of CHISO Co. Ltd