Turning Vintage Obi Belts Into Clutches
Vintage obi belts from old kimonos now have a second life. Long passionate about Japanese textiles, my friend Michelle Lai amassed an impressive collection of vintage kimono obi sashes.
Experimental sewing of obis led Michelle to create MISCHA, a stunning line of evening clutches.
Obi belts, the sashes that go with kimonos, come in different sizes and textures. They can range from brocade, tapestry to simpler fabric.
As part of the kimono outfit, obis help show women show their status and wealth. The most luxurious ones, Maru obis (丸帯, ‘one piece obi’), are embroidered on all sides. Not only were they expensive, but also heavy to wear. Popular during the Meiji period, they included embroidery on both the visible and unseen side of the belt, often using metal-coated yarn.
As Japan emerged from the devastation of World War I, the Fukuro obi (袋帯, ‘pouch obi”) emerged, probably in response to the economic downturn. The inside facing side of the obi is lined with plain silk. The outward facing side only has a pattern on those parts visible when worn. This reduces the pattern to only about two thirds the length of one side.
Since Michelle’s clutch is dependent on using the full width of the patterned part of the obi, the number of clutches from a single belt can never be more than four. Sometimes stains limit her to a single clutch from an obi.
Above is her dumpling-shaped evening bag, clin d’oeil to her Hong Kong origins.
You can appreciate the intricacy of an obi weave and pattern, by looking at the inside threads of an obi belt.
Below vintage 70s obi, for those looking for more psychedelic pattern.
Michelle succeeds in giving a beautiful second life to Japanese historic pieces. I see MISCHA as a celebration of Japan’s incredible textile history that brings the kimono into daily beauty again. (I wrote about this theme in an earlier posting about Japanese bringing the kimono to the next generation.)
I wonder how the Japanese feel about it?
Filed under: Design, Japan, Textile Design, Vintage | Leave a Comment
Tags: "Tokyo Vintage", kimono, obi, obi belts