Vintage Japanese Obi - 1

         From the collection of Marla Mallett


Shown on these pages are several early Japanese obi--most from the famous Nishijin weaving district in Kyoto. It was here that elaborate silk brocades were produced on complex draw looms from the 15th century on. In the last part of the 19th century, in the Meiji period,  jacquard loom attachments were introduced, and even more complex fabrics became fashionable.  Obi with lavish use of gold and silver threads became important kimono accessories; these long sumptuous sashes were often given more attention than the kimono themselves. They were frequently more expensive. The most highly regarded were woven in complex brocade weaves, as represented in the selection on these pages. 

obi were the most formal, and were popular in the early 1900s.  They were patterned throughout on both sides, and because of both their stiffness and exorbitant cost, they  gradually were replaced with other styles.  Sometimes these obi can be opened for display, if desired, making a piece double the width, though normally traces of a fold line remain.

Fukuro obi were slightly less formal, and first appeared in the late 1920s. Because only one side was brocaded or decorated with other complex jacquard patterning, they were less bulky to wear than maru obi.  The elaborate decoration sometimes covered the full front length, but more often covered only about 60 percent of the piece, appearing again at the far end for a few inches. The plain section was not seen when the obi was worn. 

Nagoya obi were first produced in the city of Nagoya in the 1920s. A portion of this kind of obi is pre-folded and stitched in half. The narrow part wraps around the waist, while the wider length forms the bow in back. 

Westerners have found multiple ways to display these luxurious textiles. They are easy to hang over a rod for a wall decoration. In our photos, approximately half of the total length is shown.  They also make fabulous table runners.    

To see large detail photos of the obi below, click on the inventory numbers. To see a variety of Japanese kimono, click here.  Or go to Japanese Textiles for embroideries, fukasa, futonji and other objects.  Our
HOME page will direct you to textiles from other parts of the world. 

Shigemasa, late 18th century       

The man in black kimono is weaving on a draw loom, while his young assistant perched above pulls strings to open the various complex pattern sheds. This is the kind of loom used until the Meiji period for lavish brocades and other complex weaves. In the late 19th  century jacquard attachments replaced the small assistants,  although the weave structures remained the same.  Kano Yoshinobu, 16th century. 

Japanese Maru Obi

Meiji Period, circa 1900.
12"x 148"
Silk brocading.

Japanese Fukuro Obi
1950s or 1960s.
12"x 166"
Decorated section:  12"x 105"
Gold brocade on silk

Japanese Maru Obi
11½"x 146"
Silk and gold brocading on silk.

Japanese Maru Obi
Meiji period, circa 1900.
13"x 160½"
Silk brocading on silk.

Japanese Maru Obi
1930s or 1940s
12¾"x 153"
Silk, with silk and gold brocading.
Two differently patterned sides.

Japanese Maru Obi
Reverse of K-9415
Japanese Fukuro Obi

12"x 165" 
Decorated section: 12"x 103"
Silk with gold and silver brocading

Japanese Maru Obi
Circa 1920
12½"x 149"
Silk and gold metallic brocading on silk.
Japanese Fukuro Obi
12"x 155"
Decorated section:  12"x 99"
Silk and gold metallic brocading
on silk

Japanese Fukuro Obi
12"x 165"
Decorated section:  12"x 103½"
Silver lamé with metallic brocading.

Japanese Maru Obi
12"x 151"
Gold metallic and silk brocading
on silk


Japanese Han Habba Obi
5½"x 146"
Silver lamé with silk and gold

Japanese Fukuro Obi
12"x 160½"
Decorated section:  12"x 101"
Gold, silver and silk brocading.



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