Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tieing an obi

Last year when I showed pictures of obis (kimono belts) on my blog, many people wondered how in the world Japanese women get that l~o~n~g~ belt on them. I asked my student, Mrs. Matsumoto, to explain about kimono and show me how she ties the obi. Yesterday she came for English wearing a kimono and let me take pictures.

Here is Mrs. Matsumoto wearing a kimono that she says she bought at a recycle shop for about $40. It is very old and smaller than kimono worn nowadays. 50 some years ago the average height of a Japanese person was quite a bit shorter, thus the kimono were shorter too. Mrs. Matsumoto is definitely on the petite side.

A kimono is not only beautiful for the painted, woven or embroidered designs on the kimono, it is also set off by gorgeous obis that can be tied in different decorative ways. Mrs. Matsumoto's obi is also a recycle shop find and has been tied and dyed billions of little times all over the silk (call shibori zome).

Mrs. Matsumoto wants you all to know that SHE IS NOT A KIMONO DRESSING TEACHER! She was quite worried about what Japanese blog friends are going to think with what she calls her unskilled kimono and obi tying skills. Mrs. Matsumoto is a housewife and part-time kindergarten teacher.

Here is a close up of the back of the kimono. It is held together by cords and it is tied in a traditional married women's style. A young girl would tie her obi more so that it looks like a bow or a butterfly or something but that would not be appropriate for someone of Mrs. Matsumoto's age.

At this point, I did the unthinkable and asked Mrs. Matsumoto to TAKE OFF her obi and let me show the steps. Here she removed the blue cord and the obi ends fell down her back.

In the front there was a silk sash tied just above the obi which is decorative but also hiding other cords that keep the obi in place.

With the decorative sash removed, the rough cotton sash can be pulled out from under the obi.

Once THAT cord is untied, the obi comes completely loose in back.

That decorative sash and the rough cord actually is a small pillow that sits up on the back and gives the obi its height as well as holding everything together!

See, the sash is hiding a pillow inside.

Now the obi can be unwrapped. It is wound around Mrs. Matsumoto's waist twice, the second unwind reveals a stiff fabric board that keeps the obi from wrinkling when bending over.

And once the board is removed, the obi falls completely to the floor.

You can see how long it is. And that beautiful ceiling to floor length thing is probably the most important part of a kimono. The kimono itself is still being held in place by a wide elastic belt... and under the kimono are plain under kimonos that are held by other sashes...

Oops. I'd better end with a picture of the Mrs. Matsumoto, obi clad.

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