Lobster Bisque

Recently, someone on the Kimono Tsuki facebook page reminded me of my incredible pente lobster obi. I decided it had been far too long since I’d done anything with it, so I went about putting together an outfit in my notes.

I took advantage of today’s holiday to actually get it up on the mannequin. It always makes me happy when the parts of an outfit look as good in person as they did in my head. I knew I wanted to the obi to be the star of the show so I used my ivory iromuji to make sure it really popped. It coordinates well with the shells on the obi and is the most neutral base I’ve got in my collection. From there it was a pretty effortless thing, pulling accessories out in colours that echoed parts of the obi.

Overall, the end result is a very simple and straightforward outfit, but I think that works really well. The obi is so fun and just quirky enough that balancing it with otherwise very simple pieces feels right. I’ve had fun doing more non-traditional outfits with it before, and it felt good to go in the other direction. In spirit, this outfit actually feels very similar to how I coordinated the stencilled obi I made recently, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Iromuji are always a great way to make the obi the star of the show.

Items used in this coordination

Obi Bundle part II – Chuuya and Tsuke Obi

Continuing my deconstruction of that huge obi bundle. I was initially planning on doing a separate entry for each type of obi, but since there were only two chuuya obi and two tsuke-obi, I figured I would put them in one entry in the interest of efficiency and expedience.

Black bingata tsuke-obi with cranes
Obi Bundle Part IIObi Bundle Part II
Or, as I like to call it, the roast-chicken obi. Something about the shape of the birds in flight reminds me of a trussed-up cooked chicken. I absolutely love the design of this one though, despite not usually being fond of cranes. The construction is a bit odd for a tsuke, it’s all one piece. I’ve yet to figure out how to put it on and have it look perfect, but I’m working on it!

Black tsuke with ume and momiji
Obi Bundle Part IIObi Bundle Part II
I’m so glad the other ladies let me have this one – I’m really in need of more cute, versatile tsuke obi for days when my health is not great and I don’t have the energy to tie them myself. I think this one is incredibly charming.

Green multi-technique chuuya
Obi Bundle Part IIObi Bundle Part II
I’m not entirely sure how to describe this, aside from gorgeous. It’s rich, slightly dusty colours, lots of different techniques , and the silk is incredibly soft and buttery. It’s a typical chuuya with black on the opposite side, and the black silk is rotted beyond salvation, but I’ve replaced the silk on other ones before, and it’s not difficult.

Grape chuuya,
Obi Bundle Part II
Obi Bundle Part IIObi Bundle Part II
So called because one side is purple and the other has grapes. How could I not? This is so gorgeous, the grape-and-trellis side is sort of a rough blend, and the wave side is a rough cotton or hemp. It’s quite casual, but so unique. I can’t wait to find the right kimono for it.

Tsuke-obi – cheat or genius?

Sorry for the lack of updates! Sometime between Christmas and Boxing day I received the heartwarming and thoughtful gift of gastroenteritis. I’m starting to feel better, but still don’t have a lot of energy for kitsuke. Since I’ve acquired a few new ones lately, I thought it would be a good time to discuss tsuke-obi, or pre-tied obi.

There are a few camps when it comes to tsuke-obi. Some people are staunchly against them in any situation, some people have to rely on them because they’re not confident enough yet, and some, like myself, think that well-made ones have their place in any decent kimono wardrobe. They’re a godsend when you’re not feeling well and don’t have the energy to deal with an obi, or if you need to dress a bunch of people in a hurry. They’re useful for fancy furisode musubi that would otherwise require two people to tie. They’re also great for dressing people who don’t have a lot of experience wearing kimono, since they don’t need to be tied as tightly as a “real” obi would be.

Some of them definitely look cheap and are obviously pre-tied. The brightly coloured polyester types with a large butterfly bow that often come with yukata sets are a prime example of these. Except in the direst of situations, I’d never recommend going out and getting one of those, because nothing says “I can’t be bothered!” more than one. Especially if worn with anything dressier than a yukata! However, there are definitely nicer examples. Often times they’re made with solid old obi that have been damaged, or were owned and loved by someone who may have gotten too old to tie her obi efficiently. Some of them are also mass-manufactured, but in a way as to look more like “real” obi. They come in several different musubi, or bows, such as otaiko, niijudaiko, and some larger and more elaborate ones for furisode. Often times, once these are tied on properly and an obiage and obijime added, it’s virtually impossible to tell they are pre-tied. I’ve got a few of them, and two of them are probably some of my favourite obi in my collection.

Pente Lobster obi
Pente Lobster Tsuke-obi
Pente Lobster Tsuke-obi

This is such a stunning piece. I found it on eBay right before the holidays and my folks encouraged me to go ahead and get it and it would be a gift from them. I’m so thrilled. I’ve mentioned my fondness for lobster motif before, and this is not my first lobster obi, but it felt different enough from the one I had that I felt fully justified in buying it.

Pente is an interesting and relatively uncommon technique – it’s a thin layer of paint daubed onto the surface of usually solid black silk. It was popular after WWII when there were a lot of damaged pieces floating about and people generally didn’t have huge budgets for fancy embroidery techniques or high-end dye methods. It was also used to re-work mofuku (funerary wear) into something more useful for everyday, stretching the wardrobe budget further. Unfortunately, due to the nature of most paint, it’s incredibly fragile. It sits on the surface of the garment rather than sinking in, and decades of tugging and pulling on the obi while it’s being tied leaves most vintage pente obi in states of disrepair, paint flaking off or peeling in huge chunks. Because of this I generally avoid anything pente, but because this was a tsuke-obi there was virtually no stress on the paint and it’s in flawless condition.

One of the other interesting and relatively unique things about this particular obi is the way it’s tied. Like most pre-tied obi, it’s in a standard otaiko musubi, but unlike more mass-market ones, it’s tied on a quirky, jaunty angle. This really helps make it look like a “real” obi, and definitely gives it a lot more personality than a perfectly level one.

Black and white hakata obi
hakata
hakata-2
I make no secret of my ridiculous love affair with all things hakata, but somehow I’d never managed to acquire a standard black and white weave. When I found this one I fully expected it to go for more than I was willing to spend, but I figured I’d throw out a bid and see what happened. Imagine my shock when nobody else bid! This is another variation of an easy obi, it’s not really pre-tied, just separated into a narrow waist bit and a wider bit to tie the actual drum with. It requires a bit more time and effort than a fully tied one, but also allows for more leeway in tying.

Cream tsuke-obi with navy, ruby, and silver foliage
White Tsuke-Obi
This is the first tsuke-obi I purchased, and was really the one that made me a convert. It’s a heavy almost silk blend that almost feels like parchment or canvas. The majority of the vines and leaves are dyed, but the red and silver ones, and a small selection of the navy ones, are embroidered over top, which adds a depth you don’t usually see in mass-market pre-tied obi.

Red synthetic with black flocked irises
Red Tsuke-Obi
This one is a synthetic, washable faux-tsumugi in a bright fire-engine red. It also has the strangest inflatable obi-makura (obi-pillow) sewn into it. I bought it mainly because of the flocking, which I loved, but it’s become a mainstay for a quick hit of colour.