Film and Fashion in Japan, 1923-39

Consuming the 'West'

Lois Barnett

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Examines Western-inspired fashion objects in Japanese cinema between 1923 and 1939

  • Consults varied primary Japanese-language source material, such as visual analysis of extant films; film fragments and stills from the era; advertising ephemera such as film posters and match boxes; and various print-based materials
  • Provides film analysis and synopses of many Japanese films which are not yet commercially available and/or subtitled in English
  • Concentrates equally on depictions of menswear and womenswear – there is currently a bias towards depictions of women’s styles in both fashion and film studies
  • Discusses the history of issues highly relevant to today’s media climate in a non-American and non-European context
  • Presents fashion as a means of coding identities both on- and off-screen – case studies include the Modern Girl (the Japanese variant of the Hollywood flapper), the Modern Boy (a foppish masculine archetype), the modernising Japanese housewife and the healthy sportsperson.
  • Discusses LGBT identities and the usage of fashion to depict them in both Japanese and Hollywood cinemas

Film and Fashion in Japan, 1923-39 examines the interaction between the audience member and Japan's film and fashion industries, focusing on Western-inspired fashion objects as opposed to indigenous Japanese items. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Barnett examines the semiotics of dress onscreen within Japan’s transcultural media climate, consulting not only film- or fashion-related theoretical bases but also historical and gender-based approaches.

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Introduction: Defining, Theorising and Approaching Japanese Film, Fashion and Modernity

Part 1 - On Sartoriality and Speaking: ‘Expressive’ Women and Western Attire

1.1 - Fashionable female imagery between media formats: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s Naomi (1924) and the concept of marketable female star "types"

1.2 - Sartoriality and Expressivity Pre- and Post- Sound: The Vernacular Voice, The Western-Attired Woman and the City

1.3 - Fashion Commodities Onscreen:the Modern Housewife in Naruse Mikio’s No Blood Relation (Nasanu Naka, 1932) and Masculine Female Attire in Ozu Yasujirō’s Dragnet Girl (Hijōsen no onna, 1933)

Part 2 - Sportswear and Hybridity: The National Body and Gender

2.1 - Sportswear and Hybridity: The Middle-Class Housewife as Hybridised Consumer Archetype

2.2 - Women and the Sporting Body

2.3 - Men and the Sporting Body

Part 3 - Menswear and the Modern Boy: Ozu Yasujirō and Western Style for Men

3.1 - Historically Contextualising Japanese Male Fashion: Western-style Menswear, the Cinema and Space

3.2 - Opposition to Western-style Menswear and the Desire for "Authentic" Japanese Male Commercial Identity Archetypes:Shōchiku’s shōshimin eiga and Ozu’s commercially augmented everyday male life onscreen

3.3 – Was Ozu a "Modern Boy"? Negotiating Related Sartorial Archetypes

Book Conclusion

Reference List


This book is a fascinating examination of the market condition for Japanese cinema in a major period of transition. Through detailed historical research it pays attention to the intersection of the film and fashion industries to excavate a vital story of changing sartorial styles and their cultural and social meanings.

Julian Stringer, University of Nottingham
Lois J. E. Barnett is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS).

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