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Japanese kimonos gain appeal as wearables and works of art

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The Oriental kimono is cropping up everywhere. It is being worn by many as a kind of chic and newly discovered fashion accessory, to be worn at home or as a light wrap outside. It is being collected by others to hand on the walls of homes, public buildings, and galleries as a sumptuously beautiful work of art, rich in sheen, texture, and pattern.

This resurgence of interest in the kimono has been spurred by many concurrent recent influences, including James Calvell's novel "Shogun" and its subsequent television serialization; the epic Japanese film "Kagemusha" with its lavish display of opulent samurai robes; the Asia Society's impressive exhibition of Japanese robes; and the Metropolitan Museum's stunning review of Chinese costumes. Collectors are also showing an increasing delight in textile arts as a whole.

Today's new appreciation of kimonos includes a study of the lore of the robe in all its specific uses (wedding kimono, scholar's kimono, older-married-woman kimono, priest robes, etc.), and a fascination with its weaving, dyeing, embroidery, and painting techniques.

Shops and galleries in various parts of the country have begun to feature the kimono, particularly the Japanese kimono, which has had such a long and illustrious history. Its basic lines were first developed for the Japanese Noh theater, and much of its inherently dramtic quality can be traced to the functional and aesthetic needs of this stylized art form.

The costume later came to be adopted by the Japanese aristocracy, and reached its peak of sheer visual splendor during the Edo period (1615 to about 1867), when Japan was isolated from the outside world. In simplified but graceful style, it has survived as a national dress until the present time.

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