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In general, the obi used depends on the
kimono worn in any given occasion. Most formal are the metallic or
colour brocade and tapestry, followed by dyed silk, woven silk, and
non-silk obi fabrics. Brocade, tapestry and dyed silk obi are used for
formal wear with the finest
kimono, while obi made from raw silk, cotton
or wool is used for everyday wear.
The maru obi is the most formal obi, with both sides fully patterned along
its length. The classic maru obi measures 33cm wide. Maru obi with
narrower width can be custom made for a petite client.
The maru obi is usually made of elaborately patterned brocade or tapestry,
which is often richly decorated with gold threads. It was most popular
during the Meiji and Taisho eras. However, due to its exorbitant cost and
weight (which makes it uncomfortable to wear), the maru obi is rarely worn
today, except for traditional
Japanese weddings and other very formal occasions.
The fukuro obi is a slightly less formal style than the maru obi. The
fukuro obi was created in the late 1920s. The fukuro obi is made with a
fine brocade or tapestry, which is patterned along 60% of its length on
one side. The back of the fukuro obi may be lined with a plain silk or
brocade, making it less expensive and less bulky to wear than the maru
Even though the fukuro obi is not as quite formal as the maru obi, the
fukuro obi can be used for formal occasions. The length and width of the
fukuro obi is the same as the maru obi. Thus, fukuro obi can hardly be
distinguished from maru obi when tied over the
The most convenient obi today is the nagoya obi. First produced in the
city of Nagoya at the end of the Taisho era (1912-26), the Nagoya obi is
lighter and simpler than the fukuro or maru obi. The nagoya obi is
characterised by a portion of the obi being pre-folded and stitched in
half. The narrow part wraps around the waist, while the wider part forms
the bow of the obi tie. When worn, a nagoya obi is tied with a single
fold, while a maru or a fukuro obi, being longer, is tied with a double
fold. Most nagoya obi is less expensive a maru or fukuro obi. Nonetheless,
its design can be stunning.
The hanhaba obi is thus termed, as it has half the width of other obis.
The hanhaba obi is a casual obi for wear at home, under a haori (kimono
coat), with children's
kimono or with summer
The fabric and design of the hanhaba obi are simpler to reflect its use
for daily wear. Some of the more ornate hanhaba obi is made from a former
Children's hanhaba obi is often in very bright colours. It is often made
with stencilling technique, rather than an elaborate embroidery or
There is also plain black obi, which is often made with the finest silk
woven with barely discernable pattern or design. Sombre, yet lovely, plain
black obi is worn as part of the mourning attire.
In a traditional
Japanese wedding ceremony, a bride will wear a white obi. In the
Edo era, a widow may dress in all white to signify that she will not
remarry. Thus, some very old white obi may not have been used for
History of the Obi
Obi Weaves, Dyes & Stitches
Types of Obi
Modern uses for kimono Obi