Dressed to Impress

Worthing Museum & Art Gallery partner with the British Museum to exhibit Japanese fashion during the Edo period

This spring Worthing Museum and Art Gallery will be partnering with the British Museum for a special exhibition exploring Japanese men’s fashion.

Dressed to Impress: netsuke and Japanese men’s fashion is a British Museum Partnership exhibition, which explores the intricate accessories worn by Japanese men during the Edo period (1615-1868). The exhibition will be on display at Worthing Museum’s Norwood Gallery from 28 April to 25 August.

Netsuke are a form of Japanese miniature sculpture that were primarily functional, but evolved into an important art form in Japan. They were used by men as toggles to fasten tobacco and medicine pouches to the belts of their kimonos. Men of all classes of society used netsuke, but particularly merchants, who wanted to demonstrate their style and financial status through their fashion accessories.

This exhibition features five netsuke, chosen from over 2,300 netsuke in the British Museum’s collection. The beauty of these objects is in their individuality, and is reflected in the variety of the netsuke on show, a Chinese couple playing a flute, a goldfish, a turtle, a sleeping rat, and a Chinese boy holding a lion mask. In addition to the group of netsuke, an inro (a case for holding small objects), a sword, and smoking accessories will also be on display.

The exhibition places the netsuke and other objects in context with a bespoke male kimono to demonstrate how they were worn as a complete outfit in the 18th century.

To accompany these objects on display from the British Museum, Worthing Museum will be also be exhibiting an assortment of items from their collection, including a Japanese sword, wood block prints by Toyo-Kuni, a kimono and a selection of netsukes.

As part of the exhibition, there will also be various Japanese themed family friendly workshops taking place at the museum from 29 May to 10 August which include decorating a parasol, making lanterns, pocket sculptures and various traditional Japanese crafts.

Emma Walder, Worthing Museum & Art Gallery Art Curator, says

It’s great to be working in partnership with the British Museum and we feel honoured to be displaying their selected items here in Worthing. We rarely have the opportunity to display the limited selection of Japanese items we have in our collections, and I am looking forward to seeing the prints by Toyo-Kuni and the amazing netsukes that have been in our archives.”

Maria Bojanowska, Dorset Foundation Head of National Programmes at the British Museum, says “The British Museum is delighted to be working with Worthing Museum & Art Gallery for the first time, as the final venue of this partnership touring exhibition. It is wonderful that the exhibition has provided Worthing Museum with the opportunity to display these beautiful objects that would otherwise be in storage.”


For more information on the Dressed To Impress exhibition and the workshops, visit worthingmuseum.co.uk or call Worthing Museum on 01903 221 448.