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Let’s go to the museum / A fitting space for designer’s dress collection

Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

Mannequins made of choseishi paper and day dresses. The style of a high dress completely covering the neck and layered skirts were in vogue between the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

By Miho Saeki / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterYoshiko Sugino (1892-1978) is notable for holding Japan’s first fashion show. She played an active role as a Western-style dress designer and educator — and also built the Sugino Costume Museum in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo.

Sugino founded the Dressmaker Jogakuin, the predecessor of the Dressmaker Gakuin vocational school, in 1926. She devised her own dressmaking method, known as Doreme-shiki, and contributed to the popularization of Western clothing in the nation.

Sugino once said, “I’d like to make a place where students can see and learn about the history of Western dresses.” Her desire is reflected in this museum, which she built in 1957.

Most of the exhibits are from Sugino’s personal dress collection, amassed on trips to European and other countries. The museum stores about 1,400 items, including hats, umbrellas and other fancy items. Several dozens of these goods are exhibited, and the collection is rotated regularly.

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  • Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Block print works called “fashion plates” show fashion trends from the latter half of the 19th century to the early 20th century.

  • Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Gorgeous dresses are displayed in a special exhibition of works by Yukisaburo Watanabe.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

Day dresses that were made in France sometime between the late 19th and early 20th centuries were outdoor clothes for upper-class women. A corset emphasized the waist, bust and hips, and these dresses are notable for their hourglass curves.

High society ladies would drape themselves in tea gowns at home tea parties. One silk dress, decorated with laces, is gorgeous.

Precious mannequins made of choseishi paper, which is made of washi paper, cotton and other materials, are also displayed. The plastic mannequins of today were not available when the museum first opened. Back then, they were carefully made by highly skilled craftsmen, with facial expressions and other details precisely made.

Sugino also presented Western clothes featuring kimono elements. A remark that Christian Dior made to her when she visited Europe for inspections in 1954 had an influence.

Dior told her: “It will be extremely regrettable if Japanese women discard the kimono to wear Western clothes. I hope Japanese women do not forget the beauty of the kimono.”

A junihitoe traditional Japanese dress worn by an official of the then Imperial Household Ministry for the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Showa is also exhibited, as are men’s costumes worn at the Imperial Palace.

Museum curator Akiko Fujihira, 37, said: “Regardless of the West and the East, all these items are elaborately crafted works. I hope visitors feel the depth of the dresses on display.”

■ Sugino Costume Museum

The museum is holding a special exhibition on Yukisaburo Watanabe until Feb. 12. “Collection d’Haute Couture de Yukisaburo Watanabe” features about 30 dresses and suits for women designed by Watanabe, and a second exhibition featuring different items is scheduled for April 1 to Aug. 10.

Address: 4-6-19 Kamiosaki, Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo

Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Sundays, national holidays and New Year holidays. May also close on other days.

Admission: ¥300 for adults, ¥250 for high school students, ¥200 for junior high and elementary school students. ¥500 for adults when a special exibition is held. For more information, call (03) 6910-4413.Speech

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