So you have your new kimono and it’s on it’s way. The next step is to get an obi.

Step 1: What kind of obi do I need?

The formality of obi are just as important as the formality of the kimono. In the last installment, I suggested buying any kind of kimono that appealed to you, so in this step, I’ll guide you to the right kind of obi you’re going to need for it. I’m assuming again that you’ve done your research on the types of kimono or have at least identified the kind of kimono you have purchased. I’m also assuming the TPO is irrelevant. So, if you’ve bought a…

  • Yukata – You could go two routes with a yukata. You can wear it as a yukata, as it is most commonly seen, such what you would see at Japanese summer festivals. Out of all the combinations, this will be the cheapest, due to the fact that you wont need many of the accessories you will need with a regular kimono. If you choose this, you will need a hanhaba obi. They are half the width the other types of obi and much shorter. When you search eBay, search both “hanhaba” and “han haba.” The second route you could take is to dress up the yukata as a komon. It will become the formality of a komon, regardless of whether or not its design most resembles a komon. If you do this, you will need a nagoya obi. These obi have a narrow section that is half-width that you wrap around the waist (either sewn shut or not), and a wide section with which you make the bot/knot called a musubi. Sometimes you will find a very fancy nagoya obi that is decorated with metallic threads; avoid this type of obi, it is too formal.
  • Komon – For a komon, you’re best bet is going to be a nagoya obi. Again avoid any with metallic threads. Some fukuro obi may be acceptable. Fukuro obi are typically formal obi that are about 400cm long and about 27-30cm wide along their entire length. Nagoya obi were not created until around the 1900s, so before then, there were fukuro obi meant for informal wear and you can still find some today. Personally I prefer fukuro obi over nagoya anyways. These informal fukuro are often not silk (or hakata weave), lack any sort of metallic threading, and lack auspicious motifs.
  • Iromuji or Edo-komon – This one can be tricky because iromuji are very versatile. You’re going to have to look at the crests: if your iromuji lacks crests, you’ll probably want a nagoya obi or informal fukuro; if it has 1, 3, or 5 crests, you’ll want a fukuro obi. For 1 or 3, you should try to either avoid metallics, or at least make sure the obi isn’t heavily metallic. If you’ve chosen one with 5 crests, it ranks as a very formal kimono, and you can wear a heavily metallic obi with it. Edo komon are a special type of komon that appear to be one color from afar, and therefore rank with iromuji in formality. They often have one crest and can be paired with a formal nagoya or a not super metallic fukuro.
  • Tsukesage and Houmongi – While these kimono are technically different, they are both considered “visiting wear” and are the standard formal kimono. Tsukesage are very slightly less formal than houmongi, but for the most part are paired with the same obi. Tsukesage typically have no more than 1 crest (or none), while houmongi can bear 0, 1, 3, or 5.  The same general guidelines for iromuji can be used here, except that fukuro obi are going to be worn with those even with no crests. The metallic on the obi should correspond with the number of crests, as it did above.
  • Iro-tomesode  and Kuro-tomesode – As tomesode, these kimono are inherently VERY formal, even though iro-tomesode can have 0 crests. For these kimono, you’ll want a fukuro with metallic threads (a lot for kuro-tomesode) and/or an obi with auspicious motifs. You have another option called a maru obi. These obi are 100% patterned along their lenth and are full brocade. If you find an obi listed as a maru obi that isn’t full brocade or filled with auspicious motifs, the seller has more than likely mislabeled what is actually a zentsuu fukuro obi (a fukuro obi that is 100% patterned instead of the typical 60% (rokutsuu) fukuro obi). You should, even with limited experience, be able to pick out the obi suitable for these types of kimono just by browsing eBay.
  • Furisode – For furisode, you’ll probably have to look at the motifs/metallic used on the kimono. If the motifs are auspicious/all seasonal, you’ll need an obi with metallics. If not, you will still need a fukuro, but it isn’t necessary to have metallics. If you’ve found yourself with a ko-furisode, and you want to wear them with hakama, you’ll need a hanhaba obi. If you want to wear it as a regular kimono, the designs on the kimono should correspond to a komon, iro-muji, or tsukesage/houmongi. Choose and obi accordingly. If the ko-furisode has embroidered, floral crests, do not take them into account.

Step 2: Buying the obi

We’re going to follow the same basic steps as in the kimono search, only were going to remove the “-” sign from in front of “obi” and put one in front of “kimono.” Make sure you’re searching with saved sellers only and save your search. This will pretty much give you all of the obi on eBay. I forgot to mention last time, but sort by “newly listed” this way, you wont have to go through every page to find the new ones.

Step 3: Choosing an obi

You’ve got the formality down, but there is something else to think about: coordination. Until you get the hang of coordination, you can think about the three ways you can coordinate kimono and obi by color and design: matching, complimenting, and contrasting. Matching a kimono with the obi means’ that the color and maybe motifs are the same or are different shades of the same color. Complimenting kimono and obi means that a color or two from the kimono are chosen and match the main colors of the obi. This way, you can bring certain colors of the kimono forward, especially if many are present. Contrasting means that the main color of the kimono and obi are opposites on the color wheel, or combining “warm” and “cool” colors. It is often a good idea to contrast floral and geometric. If the kimono is all floral or very much so, maybe picking an obi with geometric designs will help break it up.  It isn’t that necessary at first, but another thing to think about is seasonality. This is a big Japanese thing. Most floral motifs have a season in which it is acceptable to wear. Not such a big deal in American, but if you like to get technical, you may want your obi to be the same seasonality as your kimono. Some pieces stretch over multiple seasons or are all-seasonal. Geometrics are all seasonal. A sense of Western coordination definitely helps, but there are a few differences from Japanese coordination: black and white match everything, navy blue and black do not clash, different geometrics don’t necessarily clash, and similar colors of different shades do not clash, just to point out a few. And most importantly, make sure YOU like it. The perfectly coordinated ensemble may not be to your taste. Don’t get lost in the guidelines and make sure your ensemble matches your own personal style and flair!

In the next installment, we’ll finish off your new kimono ensemble and I’ll tell you how to save money by making the accessories for dressing with household objects. If you have any questions about this post or if you need help or advice, don’t hesitate to comment or contact me! Thank you for reading!