Japanese Obi Make Great Holiday Gifts

Jcollector offers a wide variety of obi for wear or décor, antique, vintage and contemporary, in a multitude of colors and designs.  They make great gifts!

Although traditionally the obi has been worn as a sash, today its uses in interior design are myriad.  They may be draped over doors or windows, exhibited as wall hangings or displayed as table runners.  From wall art to pillow coverings, their uses are limited only by imagination.

A brief history suggests that the earliest obi was practical rather than ornate. During the Heian period (794-1185), the obi was a narrow sash. It held up short pants called hakama. Kimono layers were worn over the pants and obi.

Not until the Muromachi period (1392-1573) was the obi worn on the outside of the kimono. The women of the samurai class started tying the obi on the side or in front during this period. The most decorative piece of fashion at the time was a long overcoat, called the uchikake.

During the Momoyama period (1573-1615), the obi widened, and silk was used to weave it.  In addition, an obi made of braided textiles with tassels at the ends was made, but it was a short-lived fashion concept.

The traditional kimono and obi originated in the Edo period (1600-1868). The size of the obi became the traditional 11 inches wide and 142 inches long by the middle of the Edo period.  Entertainers and courtesans were the fashion mavens of the day, influencing the change to a longer more elaborately decorated obi. In the middle of the Edo period, Japanese designers began to weave and dye obi more elaborately, as they had done years before with the kimono.  Also in this period, the style of tying the obi in the back became customary.

During the Meiji period, the electric loom, chemical dyes, and industrial techniques introduced from America and Europe revolutionized the textile industry in Japan. This allowed for more obi variety.
In the present era, Japanese women have found Western dress more practical, comfortable and economical than traditional Japanese attire. The fine heirloom obi is no longer a part of modern Japanese women’s fashion, but it has found its way into Western homes and interior environments everywhere as an exceptional and versatile design accent.  Further, as fine obi become scarcer, the best become more valuable and are considered collector’s items.

For more ideas about obi use in design and décor, try Diane and Ann Wiltshire’s informative book, Design with Japanese Obi.

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