Exotic, ornate, colorful Oriental themes—known as “Chinoiserie” or “Orientalism”—have been a recurring theme in the history of fashion, characterized by the use of fanciful imagery, whimsical contrasts of scale, and the imitation of Asian arts and decoration. Orientalism-themed fashions present dramatic silhouettes and are richly colored with intricate patterns or ornamental surface embellishments.
The designer Poiret was very influenced by Orientalism in Léon Bakst’s Ballets Russes costume designs in the early 1900s. His lampshade tunic, harem pants and turbans were all in vibrant, glowing and shimmering colors, with beaded embellishment. The surreal, vivid qualities of Bakst’s designs make them a continuing presence in contemporary fashion.
From the ever-popular kimono for loungewear and evening wear, to Asian-inspired prints, to Cheong Sam dresses, the Orient has inspired beautiful fashions that will always be in style.