Japonisme: The Japanese Influence on Victorian Fashion

MiMi Matthews wrote this piece to discuss Japanese aesthetics and adaptive culture.

Mimi Matthews

The Japanese Parisian by Alfred Stevens, 1872.

During the mid-19th century, Japan opened trade with the West for the first time in more than 200 years.  The influx of Japanese imports that followed inspired an intense fascination with Japanese art and culture.  This fascination manifested itself in the paintings of Victorian era artists like Alfred Stevens, Vincent van Gogh, James McNeill Whistler, and Claude Monet.  It also had a profound influence on Victorian fashion.  As the 2015 book of Clothing and Fashion states:

“The obsession with Japonism in fashion hastened permanent departure from the cumbersome Victorian layers and maximalist aesthetic, anticipating the minimalism of 20th-century modernism.”

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