Orientalism in 1920s Fashion

Orientalism was a big trend in 1920s Western fashion, taking design for textiles, silhouette, even makeup, from Japan, China, Russia, India, and the Middle East.

I noticed that Miss Fisher wears a lot of Asian-influenced clothing. Her entire look, with the flowing trousers and long robe-like coats, is very Asian, as well as the fabrics used, too. It fits in nicely with her “woman of the world” character, and also ties in with Australian interest and proximity to Asia.

I have an Asian-inspired jacket that’s been lurking in a closet for many….many years. It’s straight out of the 1990s, is a very boxy cut, with huge sleeves and shoulder pads (ugh!). It’s not a traditional cut, but a modern jacket made in Asian-inspired fabric. It’s pretty unflattering, so I’m hoping to retrocycle it into something for my Miss Fisher wardrobe.

To the Pinterests!

Here are a few of Miss Fisher’s robe-coat-things, for reference:

My absolutely favorite thing she wears, and very much with Asian influence, but perhaps a little Russian too?
The trim on this looks like it’s from an Indian Sari
Heavily embroidered coat with a Mandarin collar and frogs. Stunning textile
A VERY similar short version of the coat above

Now, some original items that Miss Fisher would totally wear:

1920s Chinese silk coat with embroidery, lined in fur – Doyle’s New York

“Mandarin” coat – Paul Poiret – 1923 – KCI
Art Deco Kimono Jacket – 1st Dibs
1920s Silk, Velvet, and Gold Asian inspired Cocoon Coat – click through for more views, especially the back – 1st dibs
House of Worth coat – WOW! – Timeless Vixen Vintage

There are loads of fascinating Asian-inspired garments at Vintage Textile too.

Looking at these examples now, they’re just so opulent. My humble little thrifted jacket, which isn’t even silk, has a looooong way to go….

16 Comments

  • ISABELLE

    August 27, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    Bonjour Lauren,
    J'ai découvert votre blog hier et l'ai longuement parcouru. Je fais de la miniature au 1/12 eme et suis actuellement sur un projet concernant le 18 ème . Les innombrables ressources et description de cette époque sont remarquables et vont beaucoup m'aider.
    En France les deux séries de Miss Fisher ont été diffusées et j'ai ADOREE!!!!!!
    Merci pour votre blog et pour le travail que cela représente!
    A bientôt!
    Isabelle FRANCE

    Reply
  • Amoris

    August 27, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    I already loved your blog, your sewing and your shoe store, but discovering you share the same enthusiasm for Miss Fisher and orientalism, has now made you my favourite person on the internet. Please keep blogging about the 1920s, I'm loving it!

    Reply
  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    August 27, 2015 at 11:13 AM

    Also the lovely Phryne had access to all the silks of the Orient via the delicious Lin Chung, her long term over in the books. 😉
    The red and gold suit I think was definitely made from a sari. I was blown away by it until I realised that and then not as much. Funny how that works, like knowing how a magic trick is done.
    That ong embroidered coat though, it makes me want to weep with joy. I've seen gorgeous pashminas like that and one day I'm going to track down a couple and make it. It has to be done.

    Reply
    • Lauren Stowell

      August 27, 2015 at 8:45 PM

      Ah! I should read the books. I can't get enough of Miss Fisher, and I'm done with all the available seasons of the show

      Reply
  • Anonymous

    August 1, 2016 at 4:13 AM

    Speaking of Asian, Miss Fisher's black coat in the first photo above looks like the long kebaya (the Malays call it 'kebaya labuh') – except that long kebayas are knee-length, and this is ankle length. On the other hand, the motif on the coat is Russian (if I'm not mistaken) and the collar is not a kebaya collar. The second photo is definitely resembles a red Malaysian or Indonesian kebaya except that the embroidery motif is Indian.

    Reply

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