Fashion Inspired By Art: Tosa Mitsuoki's "Flowering Cherry and Autumn Maple with Poem Slips"

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Do you guys ever feel like you get stuck in a fashion rut? Like, you're either so insanely busy that you don't have time to put together outfits, or you just get to a place in your life where it's exhausting to wear anything but your favorite slubby cardigan? Or even when you become so familiar with what's in your closet it all seems so...'meh'?

At the start of the school year, we get so caught up in the excitement of moving in, starting classes and having perfect outfits the first week. However, the next week we get SLAMMED with classwork, reading, extracurricular responsibilities and sports, and that excitement fades pretty darn quickly. When you're so stressed and busy in college, it can feel like the last thing you have time to think about is what you're wearing.

Yet, for those of us who are regulars here at CF, fashion and personal style is pretty important to us! So how do you power through that fashion rut?

In this installment of Fashion Inspired by Art, I'm going to show you how: by updating your favorite familiar outfit formulas with sparkly, trendy metallic pieces. We're using Tosa Mitsuoki's diptych of folding screens, "Flowering Cherry and Autumn Maple with Poem Slips," as our inspiration:

Tosa Mitsuoki's "Autumn Maples and Flowering Cherry with Poem slips" (c. 1650s) via Wikimedia Commons


Tosa Mitsuoki’s “Flowering Cherry and Autumn Maple with Poem Slips” via Wikimedia Commons. (Click to enlarge.)

About Tosa Mitsuoki

Tosa Mitsuoki, born in 1617 at the very beginning of the Edo era, was the son of painter Tosa Mitsunori, and one of many in the long line of his family to head the Tosa school of painting in Japan. In 1654, Tosa Mitsuoki was appointed the head of the court painting bureau, effectively unseating the rival Kano school as the favored style of painting in Japan.

At this point in the Edo period, the aristocratic class sought to revive the art-rich culture of the Heian period, and began hosting seasonal poetry meetings, where participants wrote poems on thin slips of paper underneath a blooming cherry tree in spring or a changing maple in the fall. These poem slips were then attached to the trees in an artistic ritual similar to the offerings made to Shinto and Buddhist gods.

This set of painted screens, which depicts and celebrates these transient, poetic meetings, was either commissioned by or given as a gift to an imperial consort named Tofukumon-in. Unlike the Chinese-inspired black-and-white stylings of the Kano school, these screens use not only vibrant colors like reds, burgundies and jade greens, but also gold leaf and silver powder to add dimension and luxury to the artwork. This technique would later be used by 20th century artists, such as Gustav Klimt.

Outfits Inspired by "Flowering Cherry and Autumn Maple with Poem Slips"

Now, don't get me wrong, I love Asian art - particularly Japanese art - but I feel like I hit my saturation point with it very quickly. A lot of the same mediums, themes, and compositions have been used over and over for centuries (this is due to the way it's taught, as teachers directly pass down techniques and styles to their student.)

And yet...this piece in particular stood out because of one additional detail: the metallic element. It's a good illustration (lol, art puns) of how one additional detail can elevate a simple, formulaic outfit to something stylish and noteworthy.

Cardigan + Jeggings + T-Shirt

Fashion inspired by art jeggings, cardigan, graphic tee, metallic oxfords


Jeggings,Cardigan, T-Shirt, Brogues, Headband, Nail Polish

Let's start with our dear, dear friends jeggings and cardi. True, they were always there for me when I needed them on those Fridays I was hungover and late for my 8am class, but lets be real - they're not the most exciting thing you could be wearing, are they?

Amp up this tried-and-true combo by adding a glitzy pair of gilded brogues. The menswear shape plays nicely with the slouchy boyfriend cardi, while the light gold color and lace-like details add a whimsical, girly touch.

The studded headband adds another complementary gold element, while the graphic t-shirt has a wry, self-aware, feminine edge. Finish with a minty jade color on your nails to emulate the natural but unexpected color combo on the painting.

Cardigan + Dress + Boots

Fashion inspired by art white maxi dress, duster, and ankle boots


Dress, Backpack, Boots, Bracelet, Duster

I am very, very guilty of this combo, too. IT'S SO EASY. Especially when you own like, 20 pairs of black boots. But who needs black boots when you can have that backpack(!!!). You can be your very own Jenna Marbles.

To mix it up with this combo, swap your average floral sundress and grandpa cardi for a white maxi dress and a floor length duster. Grab a fabulous metallic bag, like this avant-garde yet functional backpack. The silver bangle and the buckles on the moto boots riff off the bag nicely, but if you're into mixing metals, go for it. If you're not into wearing backpacks around campus, you can always opt for a cute satchel or purse.

Cropped Shirt + High-Waisted Skirt

Fashion inspired by art cropped sweater, gold midi skirt, flats


Bag, Sweater, Skirt,Earrings, Flats

This sophisticated and stylish update will take you from your marketing presentation straight to your on-campus internship. The deep gold pleated midi skirt is the star here, so - especially if you plan to wear this look to work - let your top be neutral and simple, like a quilted cropped sweater. The d'orsay flats add a slight touch of glimmer to mirror the skirt.

Finish the ensemble with jewel-toned accessories, like these jade studs and oxblood crossbody bag, to add a little color to the outfit. If you wanted to be really sophisticated, you could wear comfy black heels, or edge things up a bit with sleek black moto boots.

Jacket + Skirt + Booties

Fashion inspired by art metallic biker jacket, floral skort, red wedge boots


Jacket, T-Shirt,Lip Tar and Nail Polish (both in "Black Metal Dahlia"), Booties, Skort, Earrings

I don't know about you guys, but when I was in my ruttiest of fashion ruts, I even had a go-to formula for my going-out ensembles - namely, a bustier top, a bandage skirt, and a leather jacket. But I would try to update those pieces with little trendy touches, like a velvet skirt one night and a denim bustier another.

The idea is similar here: you'll stand out in a sea of black leather jackets with this gorge rose-gold moto jacket. Add a simple t-shirt that you can (maybe) spill on, booties that are comfy enough to walk in after a couple of hours out, a skort that you can dance your butt off in without showing your actual butt, and low-key jewelry.

The matching metallic nails and lip color aren't necessary, but do provide some extra sass and edge to your look and make for great selfies with your girlfriends.

Final Thoughts:

Just for clarification - I don't hate outfit formulas! On the contrary, I think they're wonderful tools that helped make my life way, way easier when I was a busy undergrad. I know from experience, though, that it's very easy to rely on them too much and forget what makes great outfits great: unexpected elements and interesting details!

Like all great works of art, outfits should bring a little something new to the table - something that is not only interesting for the viewer, but helps the wearer express their individuality. I used metallic elements as an example because it fit with the artwork I showed you today, but this could be anything - pyramid studs, varsity elements, fringe, even a signature beauty look, like milkmaid braids or fuchsia lips.

Find the little touches you like and the trends that speak to you, and everything else will come together.

What do you think?

How do you feel about Tosa Mitsuoki's dipdytch? How would you style metallics to fit your wardrobe? What are your go-to outfit formulas during the school year? What art would you like to see featured in this column? Let me know in the comments below!