The Art of Kabuki, Japanese Theatre Costumes

Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese drama that emerged at the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868). Based on popular legends and characterized by striking costumes, stylized acting and the use of both male and female roles by male actors, Kabuki refers to a style of theatre once considered avant-garde.

Kabuki is theatrical entertainment in which the fantastical combines with the artistry of the actor. The Japanese dance-drama is distinguished from other dramatic genres by specific characteristics, notably kesho (an elaborate make-up worn by its performers), exaggerated gestures to express emotions, and a particular repertoire, including historical plays, domestic dramas and dance segments.

The Fondation Pierre Berge - Yves Saint Laurent has devoted its 17th exhibition to Japanese theatre costumes, known as the Kabuki. The exhibition displays costumes and accessories worn for Kabuki performances, on loan for the occasion from the Japanese company, Shochiku Costume, founded in 1895 by the Otani brothers to produce Kabuki plays. The costumes tend to be extravagant, sumptuous and colorful, contributing to the flamboyance of the show.

The contemporary nature of the displayed costumes and their accessories allows the viewer to understand not only the traditional heritage from which Kabuki theatre derives, but also the art of Kabuki as it is practiced today.

KABUKI - Japanese Theatre Costumes
Copyrights ©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo / Photo ©Luc Castel
©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo / Photo ©Luc Castel
©Schochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo / Photo © Luc Castel
Iconic Costumes
Woman's ceremonial costume (uchikake) decorated with weeping cherry tree  blossoms and the drum. Japan, 1980s ©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
Woman's ceremonial costume (uchikake) decorated with motifs from the Japanese New Year. Japan, 1970
©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
 Short coat (haori) and blue kimono (sitsuke) with octopus and shell decoration. Japan, 1980s 
©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
Kimono (kitsuke) with floral motifs and coats of arms belonging to noble families. Japan, 1900s
©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
Short coat (haori) and red kimono (kitsuke) with decoration depicting a dragon in the clouds.
Japan, 1970s ©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
Man's ceremonial costume with large sleeves (suo) and pants (hakama). Japan, 1980s
©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
Dance Costumes 
Costume with floral motif composed of two parts connected by straps. Japan, 1970s
©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
Young woman's kimono with long sleeves (furisode) decorated with leaves and wisteria flowers Japan, 1960s ©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
Singular Costumes
Samourai costume (kamishimo) with phoenix motif. Japan, 1930s ©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
Short coat (haori) and kimono (kitsuke) with motif depicting pine trees under the snow. Japan, 1940s ©Shochiku Costume Co, Ltd, Tokyo
Kabuki - Japanese Theatre Costumes
March 7 - July 15, 2012