Lately I’ve been feeling inspired by the incredible fashions found in the digital archives of the Kyoto Costume Institute. Gowns from centuries ago are as jaw dropping as ever, with incredible textures and colors, cuts and patterns. I know this might seem like an abstract source of wedding inspiration, but consider the possibilities – details for a custom dress, color palette ideas, patterns for an envelope liner. And even if they’re totally unhelpful for you in thinking about design elements of your wedding, don’t you find them incredibly beautiful? I wish I had reason to wear a dress like this!

Oh, and as you go through the images, click on them to see larger versions with a closer look at all the details…

The intricate details on this monogrammed ivory hand fan are amazing, but I also love the use of pattern in both the gown and the sash. c. 1800, China.

The one above is probably my favorite of the lot – the simple colors, and the India-inspired pattern. c. 1850, India.

What about taking inspiration for your bouquet or centerpieces from a dress like this? I’d love to see what a floral designer might do with this as her only direction for bridal flowers. c. 1785, England.

This retro gown is a bit different from the rest, with a playfulness in its details (polka dots! bows!). c. 1950, Jacques Fath Paris.

c. 1888, Rouff Paris  //  c. 1780, France.

Even the description of the fabric in this elaborate dress is luscious: “Light-blue Lyons silk chine with cartouche-enclosed floral motif.” c. 1765, France.

Doesn’t this dress look straight out of Emma? I adore how light it seems, and the super simple pattern of what looks like bumblebees and wheat leaves. c. 1795, Italy.

c. 1855, England.

The floral embroidery on this muslin chemise dress is too beautiful for words! And feels very much like a wedding (especially with the white satin toe peeking out from underneath). c. 1802, France.


So what do you say? Would you be able to find inspiration in any of these designs or patterns, or in any of the other pieces over at the Kyoto Costume Institute?

11 comments posted +add a comment SEE MORE: Kathryn Loves
  1. Kate

    What a cool find! I think it would be hard not to be inspired by these… each one would fit perfectly on an inspiration board. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Josh Gruetzmacher

    So cool! The third one reminds me of a bride’s dress by Lazaro that I photographed this summer. The whole dress was covered in the super intricate embroidery. I posted a pic so you could see it :)
    What do you think?

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  3. Naturally Yours Events

    Gorgeous gowns!

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  4. Sarah @ Designsgood

    i could definitely find inspiration from those lovely gowns. i love the pattern of the “emma” dress as well. thank you for sharing, i’d never heard of the kyoto costume institute before now. i was in kyoto in april too … bummer (sad face).

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  5. Allison

    I really love these, especially the polka dot one!! Sooo pretty!

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  6. Marisu

    How lovely. The gown that Kate Moss is wearing on the cover of Vogue is reminiscent of the period feel of some of these. Thanks for sharing – love the silhouettes of the designs.

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  7. Jarfly Designs

    These are incredible. Makes me want to burn my t-shirts and jeans.

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  8. Barn Weddings

    Those dress are just so lovely. I do like the Italian dress styles. :D

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  9. Teresa Marenzi

    This is wonderful inspiration indeed! I already knew some of the dresses, as they are included in Taschen´s “A History of Fashion from the 18th to the 20th Century”. I´ve had this book (actually two volumes) for a few years now, I always enjoy browsing through it, and I can really recommend it. It makes you think about what an incredible amount of work used to go into a piece of clothing…
    Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Katie

    I’ll definitely have to page through their archives. These are incredible, and the images are even nicely photographed–not dark like I usually find.

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  11. Heidi@TrulyEngaging

    WOW- so glad you posted this. Extraordinary patterns and such beautifully handcrafted details. A fantastic source of inspiration …

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