, Salem, MA


December 12, 2013

Future Beauty

Fashion show like none other at the PEM still draws on Japanese tradition


“Flatness” examines a problem central to all clothing design: how to cut two-dimensional material to fit three-dimensional bodies.

In the West, seams are cut to follow the body’s contours, and padding is added to bring hips and shoulders in line with an ideal. The Japanese designs in this show, by contrast, recall traditional garments like the kimono, made from rectangular lengths of cloth that are draped on the body. The kimono has a standard form, but takes on unique shapes in response to the body it covers.

Other clothes in the exhibit have intricate folds, like origami, when they hang on a wall, but look like living sculpture when they are worn.

“Innovation and Tradition” looks at the creative uses Japanese designers have found for modern materials, including dresses made entirely out of batting, and ruffle collars made from plastic.

“Cool Japan” explores the use designers have made of street fashions worn by Japanese teens, including Lolita-inspired ensembles and outfits modeled on characters in manga comics or anime films.

“These examples of Japanese fashion indicate how Japanese traditions are discontinuously continuing,” Fukai writes. “Japanese fashion revealed ... that clothes born from non-European spheres can have universality.”

If you go ...

  • What: "Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion"
  • Where: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem
  • When: Through Jan. 26, 2014.
  • Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the third Thursday of the month until 9:30 p.m. Closed most Mondays, but will be open Monday, Dec. 30.
  • Tickets: Adults $18, seniors $15, students with ID $10. Youth (16 and under) and Salem residents with ID admitted free. Regular museum admission includes all special exhibits.
  • Information:, 978-745-9500, 866-745-1876

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