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
more expensive. The most highly regarded were woven in
complex brocade weaves, as represented
in the selection on these pages.
Maru 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
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
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. Our HOME
page will direct you to textiles from other parts of the world.
Shigemasa, late 18th
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.