Another Twenties costume question
October 29, 2013 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Unusual 1920s costume ideas wanted/ how to '20s-style a kimono

So I have a 20s party to go to just after Halloween, it isnt Halloweeny as such. I have a perfectly 20s dress (am cis-female, want to go in a cis-female get-up) but don't want to be a generic Jane Q. Flapper.

I have Clara Bow hair already though, so will probably do conventional 20s hair and make-up.

But! I do have a genuine silk kimono (just the "dressing gown" bit, not the rest of the kit). I've seen that these were popular in western fashion at the time so

1. If I'm wearing it as loungewear, what do I wear underneath it? Am thinking lacy elaborate loose straight-necked top and silky jama bottoms, with heels?

2. How else would non-Japanese women have worn a kimono at the time? Can I wear it over my cream lace dropped-waist dress or would that look clueless?

3. I'd also love any ideas for PARTICULAR 1920s women to go as, incl. women not in the fashiony/rich demographic. Am watching Boardwalk Empire etc but I don't have good local costume resources - basically any unusual images of 1920s women/ halloweeny ideas beyond "zombie flapper" would be fantastic.
posted by runincircles to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The term is Japonisme, so you may get a lot of ideas with some creative googling. I'm fond of the first picture on this page, but it may be a little too subtle for Halloween purposes.
posted by Think_Long at 6:49 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Carrie Mulligan wears a silk kimono in The Great Gatsby. I can't find a decent still of the whole outfit, so you may have to rent the movie to see what else she wears with it.

For the not-wealthy demographic, you could look at the suffragettes (Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, etc) or the women pushing prohibition (WCTU).
posted by melissasaurus at 7:01 AM on October 29, 2013

Japonisme in 1920's fashion is related to Orientalism in Edwardian fashion, so you may get some hits from that term, too, if you include "fashion" in the search. And, although it referred more to the visual arts, "Japonaiserie" may turn up a few interesting pictures.

For a Western woman in the 1920's, I doubt a kimono would have been worn as anything but loungewear or fancy dress, unless it was made over and styled into the overdress of a long evening gown.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:06 AM on October 29, 2013

This would be Chinese rather than Japanese, but have a look at Anna May Wong. She was a Chinese-American actress at a time when Hollywood preferred to use Caucasian women in lots of makeup.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on October 29, 2013

Here is Louise Brooks with a kimono over pants.
posted by Ness at 7:28 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh and some phrases and names to search for in this history of the kimono in fashion. Googling Paul Poiret bought back some fabulous pics.
posted by Ness at 7:40 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here is Louise Brooks with a kimono over pants.

I was about to mention that famous Louise Brooks photo shoot! To. Die. For.

The first time I tried bangs again after avoiding them for a decade, I figured if I got them done really heavy they'd behave better, so I asked the stylist to make me look like Louise Brooks. Much blinking and question marks appearing over heads ensued.

Getting my hair cut always makes me feel so old.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:17 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the Kerry Greenwood novels, her detective Phyrne Fisher is always lounging around in a kimono over silk pajamas. Here's some general pictures of the character/actress. She has a definite style you could use as a basis for a costume (mostly her hair).
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:30 AM on October 29, 2013

Best answer: Also, the kimono was standard backstage wear for female performers in every genre of entertainment. So if you want to portray a real-life entertainer of the era, you could be Clara Bow or Theda Bara or Annette Hanshaw between performances. Bonus points for signs of déshabillé or accessories like scripts or sheet music.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:53 AM on October 29, 2013

Best answer: I'd get some silky pj bottoms and a pretty cami top and wear the kimono over it. Get yourself a cigarette holder and a pair of little Chinese shoes and you're good to go. Comfy too!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:05 AM on October 29, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the inspiration and the pretty pictures!

I will probably do "backstage Clara Bow" or maybe "backstage Clara Bow if she had been shot in her dressing room by a deranged rival" if I can get the hang of the wound makeup.
posted by runincircles at 8:12 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

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