The Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI)

Evening Cape (1938) by Elsa SchiaparelliThe Kyoto Costume Institute

KCI: A research institute dedicated to fashion

The Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI) collects and preserves outstanding examples of Western clothing, together with documents and other related items. It also conducts research in this area, exhibiting or publishing its findings. KCI was established on April 1, 1978 with authorization from Japan's Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.

Suit, Choker (Autumn/Winter 1997) by John GallianoThe Kyoto Costume Institute

KCI's objective

Through the study of Western clothing, which is the origin of what many of us wear today, KCI throws light on many different aspects of fashion and continually explores the significance of clothes in our daily lives. This allows us to look ahead to the future of fashion, and to also re-examine the rich, diverse cultures of the world.

Crinoline (c. 1865)The Kyoto Costume Institute

KCI collects and preserves Western costumes mainly from the seventeenth century to the present day, together with related undergarments, accessories, and other documents and items. Since its establishment, KCI has conducted research on these holdings and made its collection and research findings available to the public through exhibitions, lectures, publications, and digital archives.

Party Costume [Left] Party Costume [Right] (1914 [Left] 1913 [Right]) by Paul Poiret [Left] Paul Poiret [Right]The Kyoto Costume Institute

Our collection

Building its collection has been at the heart of KCI’s activities. Since its establishment, KCI has collected Western clothing representing various eras, mainly from the seventeenth century onwards, the undergarments that shaped them, as well as documents that provide related background information. In particular, it is highly acclaimed for its collection of items that bear witness to the fact that Western clothing has been substantially influenced by Japanese culture and aesthetics, and by Japanese designers.

Shoes (1740-50s)The Kyoto Costume Institute

KCI’s collection currently includes about 13,000 items of clothing from the sixteenth century to the present and about 16,000 documents. It also includes numerous items donated by fashion houses, designers, and collectors, such as Christian Dior, Paul Smith, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel. In particular, Comme des Garçons has donated approximately one thousand sets of clothing.

Evening Dress (Mid-1920s) by Lucien LelongThe Kyoto Costume Institute


To preserve the condition of items in the collection, they are stored in an environment kept at 20°C and 50% humidity, limiting exposure to ultraviolet rays, pests, mold, and other factors that could lead to deterioration.

Dress (c. 1908)The Kyoto Costume Institute

KCI views the pieces in its collection as both objects of study and items to be shown to wide-ranging audiences at exhibitions and other events. However, many venues are less than ideal environments for these items, so conservation specialists repair and reinforce them when necessary to enable them to withstand exhibition conditions.

Dress (robe à la française) (c. 1780)The Kyoto Costume Institute


KCI studies clothing from a wide variety of perspectives as a cultural resource, while constantly keeping an eye on new social trends.

Blouse, Skirt (c. 1893)The Kyoto Costume Institute

Regardless of the era, fashion has always been deeply intertwined in our lives, changing in response to the subtlest trends in society. Fashion today has spread throughout the world from its roots in the system of fashion in Western culture.

Dress “New York” (1971) by Issey MiyakeThe Kyoto Costume Institute

In Japan, fashion closely followed the growth and development of the modern-day nation through the practice of dressmaking. It has now become a medium through which Japan disseminates its unique culture to the rest of the world.

Smoking Jacket (Autumn/Winter 1986) by Yves Saint LaurentThe Kyoto Costume Institute

Making research findings available to the public

KCI makes its research findings available to the public through exhibitions, publications, lectures, and, most of all, clothing exhibitions at art museums. KCI has organized large-scale projects in collaboration with the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, and other museums worldwide, including exhibitions such as "Revolution in Fashion," "Japonism in Fashion," "Fashion in Colors," "Luxury in Fashion Reconsidered," and "Future Beauty." KCI also periodically holds small-scale exhibitions at the KCI Gallery, where it displays exhibits from the collection.

Heels [Upper left] Heels [Upper right] Heels [Lower left] Heels [Lower right] (c. 1925 [Upper left] c. 1925 [Upper right] c. 1925 [Lower left] c. 1925 [Lower right])The Kyoto Costume Institute

Cooperation and collaboration

In addition to being featured in the institute's own exhibitions, items from KCI’s collection are loaned for inclusion in exhibitions produced by other institutions. KCI actively cooperates with art museums, and items from its collection have been exhibited at venues that include the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Musée des Arts de la Mode et du Textile in Paris, as well as many art museums in Japan.

Dress (robe à la française) (c. 1760 (fabric: c. 1750))The Kyoto Costume Institute


KCI develops the mannequins that are essential to any exhibition of clothing. Designed with reference to the changing silhouettes of clothes as fashion trends change from era to era, KCI mannequins are highly acclaimed and used at art museums throughout the world.

Credits: Story
Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
We Wear Culture
The stories behind what we wear
View theme
Google apps