I Wanna Be Your Japanese Doll

I’ve always been a bookworm since I was a child, and I still love reading anything, from tabloids to 800-page novels. Something I’ve never understood and never will are manuals about style. You know, those books where they suggest how to dress in formal/informal occasions, what should be the staples in everyone’s closet (the little black dress, the blazer, the trench, the crisp white shirt) and so on. I think these books are utterly boring and – in my case – useless: I’ve spent part of my life experimenting with clothes and accessories, and now I know what I like and what suits me best. I bet there’s not a manual out there which includes the flower-printed robe among the must-haves. I have a sort of obsession for this garment: it is intended to be worn indoor (with a nightie or pajamas), but it can be also turned into a lovely summer-time coat. It mustn’t be mistaken for a kimono, but it takes some of its features: it’s often made of silk or satin and it can be flower-printed.

Nowadays the flower-printed robe is not a common garment, so it can be rarely seen in fashion collections, but it triumphed on Gucci spring/summer 2003 runway: Tom Ford channelled his inner Dorian Gray attitude in five magnificent silk robes. Models on the catwalk wore them as an overcoat on mini-dresses or as a robe on nothing but panties.

The yellow silk robe is to die for: its print is delicate as a Japanese watercolour and it’s inspired to Japanese art. Despite its ethereal mood, it is turned into a seductive weapon by Tom Ford: the model on the runway wore it with silver peep-toe pumps, big sunglasses and jersey panties.

The most beautiful among the five robes is this one, made of blue and white silk, printed with tree branches and flowers, inspired to Japanese iconography. The shape of these robes has some features of the kimono – see the batwing and long sleeves – but they give a modern and relaxed interpretation of the traditional Japanese costume.

The blue and white kimono was seen on models in several editorials: Gisele Bundchen, for example, posed for Mario Testino on the cover of Vogue Paris January 2003 issue. Omahyra Mota showed it on the catwalk, wearing it with silver peep-toe pumps and lace panties.

Mario Testino – who worked with Carine Roitfeld for creating the unique image of Gucci in the Nineties – shot the ads for that season (the campaign included the controversial and ‘scandalous’ G-spot picture): Carmen Kass and Louise Pedersen posed in front of the camera wearing the yellow and the khaki green robes, with high-heeled pumps.

In 2007, when Tom Ford was not the creative director at Gucci anymore, the American journalist Hamish Bowles wore a Tom Ford flower-printed robe on his tuxedo at the Annual Costume Institute Gala in New York (that year the exhibition was devoted to Paul Poiret’s fashion). We don’t know if the beautiful robe was designed by Ford while he still was at Gucci, in any case it’s quite safe to say Tom Ford and me share the same obsession.

In 2004 the kimono craze was probably over, but Ines Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who shot the ads for Louis Vuitton jewellery collection, portrayed the models wearing flower-printed silk robes. I love the prints on these robes, and I also like the look of the models – their hair let loose, the satin and velvet ribbons, their bare faces.

Inez and Vinoodh shot Chloe Sevigny for Purple Magazine wearing a lovely kimono, embroidered with branches and birds. Doesn’t she look like a Sarah Moon model, with that dreamy make-up and big curly hair?

After watching these pics, you’re probably thinking that yes, flower-printed robes are great for a photo shoot, but what about real life? Is there anybody who really dares venturing outdoor wearing this garment? The reply to this answer come from the fearless Nicole Richie and Mary-Kate Olsen.

Ok, this is more a jacket than a robe. Anyway, the water-spray print makes me think of Japanese art and she’s wearing it with so much grace! She’s worn this vintage silk jacket while posing for House of Harlow 1960 (her jewellery line) promoshoots and at a social event. In the second case, she paired it to skinny jeans, Christian Louboutin satin peep-toe pumps, a plain silk camisole and a gorgeous Chanel red quilted bag.

In 2008 she posed for Brian Dober: the pics later appeared on People in October. In these shots she’s holding her adorable daughter Harlow in her arms, while wearing a simple but amazing outfit. She’s wearing jeans, a white tank top and flip-flops with an amazing flower-printed robe. When I first saw these pics, I tried to find out who designed this piece, but I think it’s vintage, so one-of-a-kind.

When it comes to experimenting with fashion, Mary-Kate Olsen has no equals.  In the pic above, she’s wearing a beautiful bed jacket from her line Elizabeth and James. It is not a robe, but it’s decorated by Chinoiserie embroideries, similar to the ones seen on Chloe Sevigny’s kimono. Mary-Kate pairs this jacket with black leggings, flip-flops, a big scarf, Ray Ban aviator sunglasses and a Proenza Schouler PS1 messenger bag.

Cinema can always be a source of inspiration for style and fashion. In the Eighties I was a teenager and I loved the brat pack movies. Pretty in Pink by Howard Deutch (screenplay by John Hughes, who also directed Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) is one of my favourite movies: teen star Molly Ringwald is perfect in the role of Andie Walsh, the girl who lives on the wrong side of the railway. Her style is ‘volcanic’, as her friend Duckie often says, and flower-printed robes are part of it.

There’s a scene, set in Andie’s bedroom, where’s she’s wearing a lovely flower-printed pink robe. She uses it to cover her silk pink pajamas. Aren’t her black ballerina flats adorable? They perfectly match the outfit.

Molly Ringwald and Harry Dean Stanton (who plays the role of Jack, Andie’s father) are the protagonists of this scene. In some shots another beautiful robe can be seen, hanging from the door.

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen by Sara Sugarman is one of Lindsay Lohan’s most successful movies (it was released after Freaky Friday and before Mean Girls). In this movie, a witty teenage Lohan acts in the role of Lola, a New York girl who moves with her family to the suburbs.  David C. Robinson was the costume designer who created a bohemian style for Lohan.

In these screenshots, she’s wearing a simple tee, sweatpants and an amazing robe, worn as overcoat/duster. I think this outfit is simply gorgeous!

Patricia Field, the infamous costume designer behind the quirky style of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, sometimes chose lovely robes for the protagonist of the tv series.

In Baby, Talk is Cheap (the sixth episode of the fourth season, one of my favourite episodes), the columnist is wearing a vintage flower-printed silk robe, over a top and shorts.

We can see some similar robes in Sex and the City – the Movie, too:  in the opening credits, for example, Carrie is wearing a beautiful vintage Norma Kamali robe.

Carrie spends her darkest hours in Mexico, after the break-up with Big. She spends the first days there just lying on the bed, sleeping and crying. In those scenes, she’s wearing a vintage green flower-printed robe.

What do you think of this trend? Have you ever worn a robe as overcoat? I have a nice cotton flower-printed robe I like wearing in summer on t-shirts and skirts. I wear it when I’m at home, but sometimes I’ve also ventured outside.  I like it because it gives an exotic and funny touch to basic outfits.

Source, source, source, source and source.




  1. Che bello questo post! anch’io amo particolarmente le vestaglie tipo kimono di seta..mi mancano molto le collezioni di Tom Ford!!

    1. Anche a me, ma devo dire che vederlo sprecare così il suo talento (le collezioni maschili sono una delusione, sia nel taglio che nella fattura, gli occhiali e i profumi sono solo dei trastulli, a mio parere) mi innervosisce parecchio!

  2. I bought a vintage kimono few years ago (1999) as I was an avid manga reader: there’s a nice little japanese store here in Rome, which sells all this pre-owned kimonos, quite pricey to be honest, but with such delicate designs. My fave subjects on a kimono are the cherry blossoms, sakura in japanese: they represent the delicate yet strong feminine beauty.
    Partial OT: there is an amazing exposition right now here in Rome, about one of the greatest japanese artists, Hiroshige and I’ll go and see it on sunday afternoon… eheh I have to say “one of the greatest” as his opponent during his life was my favourite painter, Hokusai.

    1. Next time I go to Rome, I’ll absolutely have to check the little japanese store you’re writing about. Apart from the cotton robe I describe in the post, I don’t own any other robes or kimonos, but I’d like to have one. I agree with you: cherry blossoms are poetic and strong at the same time!

  3. Oh Super, I spent my youth watching Molly Ringwald movies and Pretty in pink is my favourite. (and yes, you’re right her black ballerina are very lovely)
    I have a vintage japanese robe, one of my closest friend took it from Japan. I still never wear it.

    1. Isn’t Pretty in Pink gorgeous? Its plot is simple (nerdy girl loves rich boy, rich boy loves nerdy girl, funny boy loves nerdy girl), but the actors are amazing in their roles. James Spader is sooo sexy and Andrew Mc Carthy is so cute!

  4. Ciao SQ,

    just to give you a quick tip: the private shopping webstore Saldi Privati is having a Tepper Jackson loungewear and sleepwear sale.

    “Tepper Jackson, the namesake of designers Jackie Shapiro and Linda Rae Tepper, first introduced their love of patterns and colors in January 2004.”


    Their store is in NY, on 5th Avenue. They make delightful kimonos in several gorgeous prints.

    The designs on sale on Saldi Privati are: FLOWER, DIAL, MOSAIC, JEWEL, MULTI AERODOT, VOODOO and KASHMIR.

    They aren’t as beautiful and precious as a genuine silk Japanese kimono, but they could be just the next best thing 🙂

    P.S. If you need an invitation to join SP, please feel free to e-mail me. I used to post on your previous blog, as Morgan. Sono italiana, di Napoli, eh 🙂

    1. I’ve just checked Tepper Jackson’s website, looking for loungewear. The prints are lovely, very colourful and funny! Thanks for letting me know this brand I’ve never heard of.

  5. And you just reminded me my mother used to own an orange Japanese kimono, with white cranes and green bamboo stems printed all over it.

    My sister and I used to wear it in turns at “Carnevale” (for the English speaking readers: it’s a celebration preceding Lent – annual period of fasting and penitence observed by Christians in preparation for Easter. At Carnevale we dress up as fancy characters, as you do on Halloween :-))

    I will have to unearth it in my mother’s closet…

    1. All around the Net there are articles about ‘Grey Gardens’, both the documentary by the Myles brothers and the new movie with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. The style of the two protagonists is sooo interesting. I’ve just found the documentary and I’m looking forward to watching it, maybe I could write a post about it. We’ll see what happens 🙂

  6. ..and “so we had quite a fight” (not “so we had A quite a fight”).

    Gosh…I should stop staying up so late at night!!! and posting comments on blogs when I’m sleepless…

  7. Splendido post!,
    ricordo bene il numero di People con le bellissime Nicole e Harlow,(molto dolci le parole della coppia di genitori nell’intervista),e quella splendida vestaglia…

    Che dire di Top Ford,condivido quello che hai scritto,ho pensato che se ne fosse andato nel momento più giusto,e mi ricordo di aver pensato:”chissà cos’altro riuscirà a fare…”,sognavo collezioni sporadiche ed esclusive,magari un film memorabile (pareva volesse fare anche quello)…ma poi nulla di tutto ciò,anzi.


    1. E poi non sono bellissime le foto che completano l’intervista? Nicole Richie non mi è mai piaciuta particolarmente, un po’ per la maleducazione che ha dimostrato spesso e volentieri nel reality show con Paris Hilton, un po’ per quel suo aspetto malsano, ma da quando è diventata mamma, è cambiata molto e questo me l’ha fatta diventare più simpatica. Il suo stile attuale è adorabile, molto vicino al mio, e poi io e lei siamo diventate mamme a due mesi di distanza (la sua bimba è nata a gennaio, la mia a marzo), insomma, adesso è una delle mie celebrities di riferimento per quanto riguarda il look!

    2. Dimenticavo: anche io pensavo che Tom Ford avrebbe sfondato almeno nell’ambito cinematografico…e invece niente. Che delusione!!!

  8. Super here is the address:
    Giapponeria Sakurashu
    Via Ceneda 13 Roma mar-dom 10-14 e 16-21 no lun
    tel. 06/64821651 http://www.giapponeriasakurashu.com
    Of course they don’t sell just kimonos, but manga, dvd, books, cutlery, hand painted tea pots, obi, traditional sandals, etc…
    Hope you’ll find something you like.
    Take care

  9. I’ve just seen Stephen Frears’ movie “Mrs Henderson Presents”, and the fabulous 30’s costumes by Sandy Powell are all about Oriental robes, both for the showgirls and… for Dame Judi Dench!
    Too bad I couldn’t find good pictures, check it out if you get the chance.

    1. I’ve never seen this movie but I’ll def give it a try. I know Sandy Powell’s work very well because she’s one of my favourite costume designers. Apart from Shakespeare in Love, she worked in Velvet Goldmine (one of the best films about the glam rock era in Britain, imho), in Interview with the Vampire and in Gangs of New York (in that amazing film, Cameron Diaz wore a couple of lovely flower-printed robes).

  10. eppure chissà perché penso sempre che sembrerei un fagotto con addosso un kimono. forse non ho il physique du role (a volte in realtà penso di sembrare un fagotto con qualsiasi cosa) 🙂

    1. Beh, il kimono (quello tradizionale, strutturato) non è esattamente un passe-partout, ma esistono delle valide alternative, come giacche più corte e meno strutturate (in giapponese si chiamano haori).

  11. Hi! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and
    look forward to new updates.

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