Adjusting obi width to your proportions

Recently, a discussion on the Immortal Geisha facebook page got me thinking about folded obi width and size. Typically, a fukuro obi is folded in half before wrapping it around your torso, and for the average Japanese frame this looks balanced and proportional. However. many of us are not lucky enough to have a typically petite, slight build, and sometimes a narrower obi can make us look oddly cut-off or silly.

So what I thought I would do was take multiple pictures of the mannequin at differing heights, in the same outfit but with the obi tied at different widths. Obviously, this can only be done most easily with a full-width or unsewn obi, but the principle can be applied to tying a hanhaba or nagoya obi as well; just overlap the wraps to give the impression of a wider or narrower band.

The following two sets of photos have the mannequin set at approximately 167 cm (5’6″) and 180 cm (6′). The first obi on each is folded to roughly 12 cm (5″), the second is folded in half at roughly 16 cm (6″), and the third is folded to 20 cm (8″). As you can see, the obi width changes the overall balance of the outfit without being obviously “incorrect”. It’s a subtle difference, but if you’re very tall like I am, or very short, adjusting your obi can make a significant difference.

Love your height, be it “too tall” or “too short”! We’ve all got our challenges, and there are always tricks to making things work. 🙂

Items used in this coordination

Furisode Dress Tutorial

Several months ago, some photos started making the rounds of an awesome way to temporarily modify a kimono to wear over a Western-style dress, as a sort of reversible fusion of traditional and modern. I was determined to figure out how to do it, and I think I succeeded quite well back then. While commonly suggested for a wedding, these would also be a really special and unique outfit for a prom, ball, sweet sixteen, quinceañera, or any other event where a ballgown would be worn.

Since then, several people have asked me for a tutorial and I kept getting sidetracked by other projects and my own squirrel brain. The original photos, as well as new ones, are now making the rounds again so it felt like a good time to revisit it and do a proper step-by-step breakdown for you all.

This can be a bit tricky, so if you’re hoping to do it for an event I’d absolutely suggest practising a few times and having someone to help you out.

You will need:

  1. Dress with voluminous skirts
  2. Kimono (furisode work best)
  3. Fukuro obi
  4. Obijime
  5. Obiage
  6. Koshihimo (several)
  7. Kasane-eri (optional)
  8. Accessories (optional)

Other dressing accessories such as an obi-ita, obi-makura, dressing clips, etc, are optional but helpful, depending on what kind of obi musubi you have in mind. Make sure you have everything near at hand, because once you start tying and bustling the kimono it’s not the sort of thing you can pause and walk away from.

Step 1 – A naked mannequin! How scandalous! Seriously though – if you’re dressing a mannequin this is your starting point. If you’re dressing yourself, put on whatever traditional foundation garments you’d wear under your dress. Forget kimono underwear now, just wear something comfortable that won’t show under your gown (unless that’s what you’re going for, in which case, you do you. A harness bra would add a really fun gothic element with the right kimono)

Step 2 – Put your dress on, make sure it’s fully secured and done up. It will be carrying some extra strain, so you want to make sure it fits you properly and won’t go sliding around when you adjust the kimono over top.

Step 3 – This is where things get fun. Pick up your furisode and hold it up in front of you, with the back facing outwards. You’ll be putting it on backwards. Find the centre point of the collar, align it at your sternum. If you want to add a kasane-eri for a bit of colour and contrast, now’s the time. Once you’ve got your kimono arranged across your bust, wrap it around your torso and hold it snug while you tie everything in place with a koshi-himo. Make sure to leave the sleeves free, you will be adjusting them later. This is where a second set of hands definitely helps. If you have someone to hold everything in place for you while you tie the kimono in place, it will be much easier.

Step 4 – Once you have the kimono tied snugly in place, you can start pulling up the excess and folding it over the himo tied at your waist. If you’ve worn kimono traditionally, this part is very similar to adjusting your ohashori. You can have some fun here; there’s no specific length that the kimono has to reach. You can hike the kimono up far enough to show the hem of your dress, or you can have it almost dusting the ground.

Step 5 – Once you have the length determined, arrange the sleeves behind the dress and snugly tie everything in place with another himo. You can arrange the sleeves in the back like this, and it almost forms a train. You can also have them draped around the front like I did with the previous furisode dress, which gives a more youthful vibe, almost reminiscent of an apron or jumper. Have fun and experiment.

Step 6 – Smooth everything out with an obi-ita, and take the time to smooth everything out. If you need an extra koshi-himo or two don’t hesitate to use them. Make sure everything is snug and secure, especially if you’re dressing yourself (or another person) and not a mannequin.

Step 7 – Once everything is good and tight, you can begin wrapping your obi. This part is going to be essentially the exact same as when wearing kimono. Wrap twice around the torso and use the rest to tie your musubi. You can have fun here too; this outfit is so non-traditional you can really go wild with how you tie the obi. For simplicity’s sake I did a sort of bunko variant but there are really no rules here.

Step 8 – Secure the obi with an obijime, make sure it’s good and snug. If you used an obi-makura, hide it with an obiage. Even if you don’t need the obiage, it’s a nice way to add a little more colour and texture to your “dress”. Again, have fun! We’ve broken so many rules by this point there’s no real reason to worry about the others.

Step 9 – Voila! Your new ballgown is ready for the runway, with no modification or damage to the kimono.

I hope this is easy enough to follow along. Feel free to ask for clarification if you need help, and if you attempt this I would love to see photos!

Affordable and Accessible Display Rack

Yesterday evening, yours truly managed to get her finger caught in the exterior door while it was closing. Thankfully nothing is broken, and it was my most useless finger (left hand, pinky) but it’s taped up and quite painful at the moment so unfortunately the Princess Project will be on a short hiatus until likely sometime next week. Thanks for understanding!

Since I can’t dress the mannequin, I figured it would be a good time to share something a little simpler, how I display and photograph my collection. Naomi recently asked me what the rig I used to display my kimono was, so here’s a simple breakdown of what all went into it for those of us who may not have the funds or access to a traditional ikou.

I started with the Honey Can Do expandable garment rack. It has a maximum adjustable width of 60″, and the interior measurement not including the extendable rods was nowhere near wide enough to put a kimono on, so rather than using the included cross-bars, I picked up some 1 1/4″ diameter solid (not extendable) closet rods and cut them to 60″ length. You can do this using a hacksaw but it will take hours, so I recommend a power tool. Ask someone for help if you need to, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I also picked up a couple of narrow black tension rods to stabilise the base. I can’t find similar ones online, and these aren’t entirely necessary, they just help the unit look a little more balanced and keep the feet from rotating.

The last step was to make a pair of decorative clips to hold the kimono open during display/photography. I used a pair of inexpensive alligator clips and glued some cute rose cabochons to them to make them a little nicer to look at. You can really be creative here. Fans are a very traditional motif for these clips, but go wild and use anything you like! Once you’re happy with your clips, use some sturdy elastic or nylon thread to attach them to the uprights of the rack. Don’t tie them on too tightly so you can slide them up or down as needed. The top half of the rack can be slid down for storage, and if you make the clips too snug they can get in the way.

To take the photos I’m using in my new visual catalogue, I start by setting up my tripod. I actually use the exact same spot in the house as I use to take the mannequin photos. My backdrop is simply a plain white flat sheet with the top hem carefully sliced open at the ends so I can thread it onto the curtain rod. From there, I just put the rack in place, take my photos, and pack it all up until I need it again.

I hope you found this post helpful if you’re looking for an affordable and accessible solution for display or catalogue purposes! If you make a similar stand, I’d love to see it 🙂

This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.

Heart Obijime Knot Tutorial

Recently, someone posted a photo of this adorable heart-shaped obijime knot in a Facebook group I’m in. I fell in love and decided I would figure out how to tie it, and it’s surprisingly simple! It works best with a slightly longer than average round obijime. The one I used has contrasting colours which looks very sweet and also makes the tutorial easier to follow, I hope.

Step 1 – Begin with a standard obijime knot (if you occasionally have trouble with this, don’t fret! A lot of folks do. This tutorial is a great place to start).
Step 2 – With the long ends of the obijime coming out of the top of the knot, tuck them down behind the cord around your waist.
Step 3 – Make loops with the long ends and bring them back up behind the central knot.
Step 4 – Bring the long tails in front of the obiime and through the loops made in Step 3.
Step 5 – Tighten and adjust the loops and tails as need be until everything is nice and snug and in the right shape. Cross the tassels over each other, and voila! A sweet heart knot, perfect for Valentine’s Day!

I hope that was easy for you to follow. If you try this knot, I would love to see it. Please feel free to post photos or links in the comments. ♥

Knowledge: Types of Obi

Once you’ve figured out what kind of kimono is appropriate for your event or lifestyle, you’ll need to pair it with an obi. Deciding which kind of obi to wear can be even more overwhelming than picking the kimono. Hopefully this will help guide you in the right general direction!

Heko
Heko obi are very casual, and are used primarily by children wearing yukata. It’s starting to become more common for adults to wear them, but again they’re in a very casual context. They are the only obi that is very soft and flowing, and almost looks more like a delicate scarf than any other obi. They’re typically tied in loose, flowing bows.
Hanhaba
Hanhaba essentially means “half width”, and that is exactly what these obi are. Most obi need to be folded in half while wrapped around the waist, and start out at a measurement of approximately one foot or 30cm wide. Hanhaba obi are half this width, and are generally much easier to tie in all sorts of cute musubi (bows). They’re normally quite casual, but every so often you can find one made of finer, more solid fabrics that are more appropriate for slightly dressier kimono.
Tenga
These are a relatively new and not-so-common obi that are the size of hanhaba, but tend to have a lot of metallic brocade or embroidery and celebratory motifs. They can be worn with more formal kimono than a regular hanhaba would.
Nagoya
Nagoya obi have a very distinctive shape, they are narrow for approximately two thirds of the length and then they flare out to full width for the end. This makes them much easier to wrap around the waist, but still able to tie a slightly dressier musubi like otaiko or tsunodashi. They can vary from quite casual to quite dressy. Casual nagoya obi are often a solid colour with a small design embroidered or painted on the section that ends up on the front of the waist, and another coordinating design that ends up on the back of the drum bow. More dressy nagoya obi tend to have an all-over pattern and can often include metallic threads. Sometimes the wider end will also be long enough to tie a very formal drum like the niijudaiko. The type of kimono they can be worn with depends on the formality of the kimono.
Chuuya
Literally night-and-day obi, chuya have fallen out of favour. They were very much in style during earlier eras, and are typefied their reversible duality – pale sublte “daytime” designs on one side and dark or more vivid “nighttime” designs on the other. They may also be patterned on one side and solid black on the other. These obi are 12″ wide, like fukuro, and can be used in a fair number of musubi, but due to the fact that they are generally nearly 100 years old, they tend to be slightly fragile. They are also often softer and “floppier” than modern wide obi, which adds a bit of casual feel to an outfit.
Fukuro
The longest obi, and therefore the easiest to tie fun and funky musubi with. They are the same width, approximately 30cm, the entire length. They are generally patterned on only 60% of the obi – the parts that remain hidden are solid to save on weight and money. Higher-end fukuro obi may be fully patterned. They are generally worn with furisode, houmongi, and tomesode, but can also be paired with iromuji and tsukesage in certain situations.
Maru
Maru obi are are the most formal obi. They are fully patterned on both sides, and often contain a fair bit of metallic brocade. Patterns can be either very tiny scale (typically seen on much older maru obi) or quite bold and large (more modern). They can be worn with any formal kimono, however they are usually a bit shorter than fukuro obi, which makes tying furisode-appropriate musubi a bit of a challenge.
Tsuke-obi, also known as tsukuri obi or easy obi
These are kind of an odd duck. They are pre-tied, generally in two pieces. One narrow part ties snugly around the waist, and then a tied bow or knot tucks into the back. They’re used by women who don’t have a lot of experience dressing, women in a rush, or people who have to do frequent and quick costume changes like dancers or theatre performers. You can’t lump tsuke obi into one formality category, as they exist in nearly every level; from casual yukata obi to heavy gold fukuro obi in elaborate musubi to darari-style (see below) for dances and cosplay. Some people consider them “cheating”, but I consider them a good way to save a few minutes, or a good way to salvage an old or stained obi that would otherwise be unuseable. I am in the process of converting one myself, and will post the results once I am satisfied with them.
Darari
Darari, or dangling obi, are worn strictly by maiko, or apprentice geisha. They are more than twice as long as a regular obi, and will nearly always have the mon (crest) of the geisha house the maiko lives at on one end, to help identify where they are from. The patterns are always bold and vibrant, much like the maiko themselves. They are tied in a manner also referred to as darari, with two long hanging tails that remind me of folded butterfly wings.

*Darari obi image used with permission courtesy of Christina Stoppa/GoldenPhoenix/Kurokami

*Thanks to Ichiroya for the permitted use of their images. Originally these items were all available for purchase and the images linked back to the sale listings, but they have been sold!