About Japanese Textiles

Japanese culture is known for its exquisite textiles that combine a wide range of decorative approaches: damask weaving, delicately shaded dyework using various wax or rice-paper resists, intricate embroidery in satin stitch or metallic couching, applied gold foil, elaborate brocading, and intricate ikat or tie dye. Like Parisian haute couture, each kimono is completely hand-sewn and tailored to fit the individual for whom the garment was made. As a result, purchasing a new kimono may easily become as costly as buying a small car. But vintage textiles offer an affordable alternative to delight the creative personality willing to overlook or even enjoy the small imperfections that have come with age and prior use.

To help you select your purchase, a bit of information about obi and kimono is offered in the sections below:

Obi are among the most treasured of Japanese fabrics. New, they can fetch prices in the thousands upon thousands of dollars, and are often handed down as family heirlooms from grandmother to mother to daughter. Here I present a collection of Vintage Obi at reasonable prices.

Maru-Obi is the most traditional and highest ranked formal obi. Although an obi is generally around 12 inches wide, the fabric for a maru-obi is woven at twice the standard width then folded during construction so that the patterned weave appears on both sides along the full length of the obi. Because of this double thickness, maru-obi are considerably heavier than either fukuro- or nagoya-obi and require higher shipping costs.

Fukuro-Obi was developed in the early 20th century. This is easier to put on and less bulky to wear, but still has ceremonial or formal aspects, although it can also be worn for rather casual occasions. The fabric is woven in single width and the pattern appears on the front side while the back and possibly a section of the front is constructed of a lighter weight plain weave fabric, which makes the obi lighter, more comfortable and more drapable.

Nagoya-obi was an innovation that first appeared in the city of Nagoya during the Taisho era (early 1900s). Being lighter and simpler than either the Fukuro or Maru obi, the Nagoya obi is now the most convenient and popular form of obi. The chief characteristic is that a section of the Nagoya obi has been pre-folded and stitched so that the narrow part wraps around the waist, while the wider part forms the bow of the obi tie.

diagram of nagoya obi

Haori and michiyuki are short lightweight jackets worn over a kimono when going outdoors. They can be made from a variety of materials, such as wool, silk, and a silk cotton blend called tsumugi. The design of the outer fabric can range from plain to colorful, but even the most somber jackets may be lined with incredibly bright and playful prints featuring complex landscapes, indoor scenes, abstract patterns, florals or children playing. Michiyuki tend to be somewhat longer, varying from mid-thigh to knee length, while haori range from waist length for casual daywear to mid-thigh for more formal occasions.

The two main styles of kimono jackets are pictured below: michyuki on the left features a squared neckline, snap closure and often has a hidden pocket in the front and are worn by women only, while haori on the right is worn open with a short braided tie-front closure just above waist level. Although the pattern and design of the fabric will show a gender difference, the basic haori may be worn by either men or women.
 michiyuki and haori

Since kimono are all individually tailored to the original buyer, there are no standard sizes. But to help you estimate how these garments might fit, the circumference and back length have been measured and listed for each piece. Since kimono are loose unfitted garments without darts or waistlines, the circumference, which is the actual garment measurement, can be used to estimate fit over both hip and bust, but be sure to allow for ease. Back length was measured from the base of the neck band to the hem.