Obi (帯, おび) is a Japanese word referring to several different types of sashes worn with kimono and keikogi by both men and women.
The maru obi is the most formal obi, with both sides fully patterned along its length. The classic maru obi measures 33cm wide. Maru obi with narrower width can be custom made for a petite client.
The maru obi is usually made of elaborately patterned brocade or tapestry, which is often richly decorated with gold threads. It was most popular during the Meiji and Taisho eras. However, due to its exorbitant cost and weight (which makes it uncomfortable to wear), the maru obi is rarely worn today, except for traditional Japanese weddings and other very formal occasions.
The fukuro obi is a slightly less formal style than the maru obi. The fukuro obi was created in the late 1920s. The fukuro obi is made with a fine brocade or tapestry, which is patterned along 60% of its length on one side. The back of the fukuro obi may be lined with a plain silk or brocade, making it less expensive and less bulky to wear than the maru obi.
Even though the fukuro obi is not as quite formal as the maru obi, the fukuro obi can be used for formal occasions. The length and width of the fukuro obi is the same as the maru obi. Thus, fukuro obi can hardly be distinguished from maru obi when tied over the kimono.
The most convenient obi today is the nagoya obi. First produced in the city of Nagoya at the end of the Taisho era (1912-26), the Nagoya obi is lighter and simpler than the fukuro or maru obi. The nagoya obi is characterised by a portion of the obi being pre-folded and stitched in half. The narrow part wraps around the waist, while the wider part forms the bow of the obi tie. When worn, a nagoya obi is tied with a single fold, while a maru or a fukuro obi, being longer, is tied with a double fold. Most nagoya obi is less expensive a maru or fukuro obi. Nonetheless, its design can be stunning.
The hanhaba obi is thus termed, as it has half the width of other obis. The hanhaba obi is a casual obi for wear at home, under a haori (kimono coat), with children’s kimono or with summer yukata.
The fabric and design of the hanhaba obi are simpler to reflect its use for daily wear. Some of the more ornate hanhaba obi is made from a former maru obi.
Children’s hanhaba obi is often in very bright colours. It is often made with stencilling technique, rather than an elaborate embroidery or weaving.
There is also plain black obi, which is often made with the finest silk woven with barely discernable pattern or design. Sombre, yet lovely, plain black obi is worn as part of the mourning attire.
In a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, a bride will wear a white obi. In the Edo era, a widow may dress in all white to signify that she will not remarry. Thus, some very old white obi may not have been used for weddings.
Source: Japanese Lifestyle