When the historical significance of fashion is discussed, the multi-talented artist Jean Cocteau is often quoted as having said, "Style is a simple way of saying complicated things."

Many of the garments at the "Fashion and Interior Decoration in the 20th Century" exhibition, however, are far from "simple." Ball gowns reveal intricate hand-stitched details and embellishments, while unusual cuts show technical skills that seem almost baffling. But while the outfits are spectacular and beautifully crafted, the Shiodome Museum also puts them in historical context, which, as Cocteau suggested, reveals a complex relationship between style and women in society.

The exhibition begins with an elegant early 1900s garden dress by Paul Poiret, the designer who is credited for liberating women from the restricting corset of the Belle Epoch by reviving the high-waisted Greco-Roman empire line. It was a seminal point in womenswear at a time when France was experiencing inklings of feminism, but it was not until the early '20s that the evolution of loose, flowing designs became more symbolic of societal change.