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Fashion Inspired by Art: Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave at Kanagawa”

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For this installment of Fashion Inspired by Art, we’ll be discussing Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave at Kanagawa. Many college classes are coming to an end, so I’ve put together three looks to help get you through the end of the semester in style. I hope you all enjoy!

The Mysterious Mountain: About Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave at Kanagawa”

Hokusai great wave
Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave at Kanagawa (from the series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji) (c. 1831-33) via Wikimedia Commons

Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) was an Edo period Japanese artist known for his woodblock prints, which use advanced techniques based on previous woodcuts (like as those of Albrecht Dürer). He also made ukiyo-e paintings and was one of the first to use the term manga (“whimsical drawings“).

While this image is one of the most well-known Japanese prints, the actual subject of the picture is debatable. The Great Wave at Kanagawa is the first print in Hokusai’s woodblock series entitled Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. While most people tend to notice the wave in the forefront on the picture, the actual subject of Hokusai’s obsession was the mountain in the background, Mount Fuji. This is the highest mountain in Japan and is also one of its “Three Holy Mountains”.

Other elements of the picture are oshiokuri-bune, which are fast boats used to transport fish. Although the composition primarily focuses on the landscape, there are many small figures located in each of the boats that represent the smallness of mankind in the natural world.

Outfits Inspired by “The Great Wave at Kanagawa”

Colorfully Compatible Cutie

Hokusai great wave colors outfit
Sandals, Dress, Earrings, Ring, BagBelt | Makeup photo via ELLE

Perhaps one of the most striking features of The Great Wave is its uncomplicated, yet bold color scheme. For a chic outfit, throw on a flowing white dress, which mimics the sea foam of the water. Blue-hued accessories – like a pair of strappy sandals and a chevron belt - mimic the aggressive pattern of the waves. Add some peach pieces to bring in the contrasting color of the sky with a gemstone ring and shoulder bag. Finish this ensemble with art-inspired dangle earrings and a smokey eye, to resemble the haze around the mountain. This is an easy outfit to throw on to look cute for your last few days of classes or while you ace your finals!

Boho Beach Beauty

Hokusai great wave ocean outfit
Nail Polish, TankBandeau, Earrings, Skirt, Necklace, Sandals | Hair photo via ELLE

Imitate the movement of the ocean with this flowy look. Focus on pieces that hang loosely on the body, like a hi-lo skirt and a lace-trimmed tank. Add some structure with a body-hugging bandeau and matching nail polish. Origami boat earrings add a hint of whimsy, while a bold charm necklace draws attention to your face. Continue the casual vibe of this outfit with a comfy pair of sandals and style your hair into beach-y waves for a boho look that is perfect for grabbing coffee on the weekend with your girlfriends!

Bold Woodblock Babe

Hokusai great wave woodblock outfit
Bracelet, NecklaceBlazer, DressEarrings, Heels | Hair photo via ELLE

This final look incorporates structured pieces inspired by the orderly and simple appeal of Japanese woodblock art. Opt for an eye-catching geometric cutout dress that has a mountain-like pattern on the hips, paired with a simple blush blazer. Complement these pieces with gold ankle-strap heels and matching stud earrings. Bring in the “wood” of the woodblock with a wood beaded bracelet and pendant necklace. Keep your style pulled together with a slicked-back ponytail and it’s time to celebrate the end of the semester with your college friends!

What do you think?

Have you seen or studied Hokusai or this print before? Do you like The Great Wave? What do you think about woodblock prints? Do you enjoy the style of Japanese art? What do you think about the inspired outfits? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your opinions!

Posted on on May 1, 2013 / Filed Under: Inspiration / Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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10 Responses to “Fashion Inspired by Art: Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave at Kanagawa””

  1. 1
    May 1st, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Love it!

  2. 2
    May 1st, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I.
    LOVE.
    HOKUSAI.
    HE IS MY ART BOYFRIEND.
    ALSO I LOVE THE OUTFITS IN THIS POST. LOVELY.
    Colorfully Compatible is stellar!

  3. 3
    May 1st, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Wow, I like how college fashion really ties in Art with Fashion! Nice post

  4. 4
    May 2nd, 2013 at 12:46 am

    i am in love with that first belt. in love.

  5. 5
    May 2nd, 2013 at 1:31 am

    I’ve always loved this print! And the earrings with the print on them are so cool!

  6. 6
    May 2nd, 2013 at 2:26 am

    Awesome!

  7. 7
    May 2nd, 2013 at 4:42 am

    really loving the art inspiration….. I’m a huge fan of this piece i actually bought a print while i was touring japan for work. Look forward to seeing more art inspiration. nice to learn a bit at the same time so thanks. Loooove art.

  8. 8
    May 2nd, 2013 at 4:43 am

    and fashion so perfect combo and very complimentary and inspiring

  9. 9
    May 2nd, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I absolutely adore Japanese woodblock prints and I have a tattoo inspired by this piece. I’m glad others can take some inspiration away from it too!

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