Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day) is coming up on Monday! I've written before about my love of furisode, but I don't talk about obi very often. Obi are naturally an integral part of making a fabulous outfit. They take a very long time to make, and can often cost more than a kimono!
There is a misconception that obi hold together the kimono. This is not true. Koshi himo and datejime hold the kimono in place; an obi's function is to be art, as it has evolved from a narrow cord hundreds of years ago to a wide brocade in order to show off lavish Edo-period wealth and taste. These sensibilities have lingered ever since (and I should hope that they never fade!)
So here are five favourite fukuro obi under $100, not including shipping, from Ichiroya. I can't decide what I love more: vintage style featuring large, bold designs, or modern tastes featuring almost solid metallics and lots of tiny patterns. Either way, they are sure to be fairly versatile with furisode and your average single-crested iromuji and higher in formality.
Silk base fabric, metallic gold threads making it formal and sophisticated. A classic series of motifs on this wholly modern-made work of art. With so many warm and cool colours, multiple subtle and overt patterns, this obi can practically be worn with anything. Pale blue iromuji, reflecting the tiny hints in the leaves, orange-red kimono with bright gold patterns, really, there are so many options that if you can only have one fukuro, this might be a good choice for you!
$98 on Ichiroya.
This classic matsu obi was listed as being "quite old", and looks to be 1930s style. The bold matsu (pine) pattern with subtle hints of green in the gold and red makes me think that this obi was actually intended for a wedding of that era. I wonder about it's versatility today. Pine is still a December/January motif, and I think with the right kimono, it can be used for both Coming of Age and wedding ceremonies. It should be said that a young woman's ofurisode or formal kimono's motifs should not share the wedding symbols in order to avoid giving the wrong impression.
Sadly, it appears to have many damages. Because of it's age, I wouldn't wear it even if it wasn't stained. Hanging it is a more likely option. As it is, sections of the obi may be able to be cut and framed for brilliant decor, especially if you have a home filled with hardwood furniture in deep browns or brilliant yellow-blonde woods.
$58 on Ichiroya.
This might be my favourite of the five, but that might be because I have a particular love for bird patterns and glowing gold/black combinations. The obi is made of a silk base and was listed as having flaws such as 'prominent folding lines'. I suppose that could be a flaw; it means it was well-used and loved, despite it's recent construction. Perhaps with a cool iron with a protective sheet between it, the fold lines will come out. Or with any luck, the fold lines will be exactly where you need them to wear it anyways!
For $98, an obi of this magnificence and quality is a steal!
The brown/gold arabesque motif and use of bright pastel kiku (chrysanthemums) remind me heavily of a tenga obi I once owned. It was spectacularly beautiful, but I didn't have anything to wear with it. Tenga have a peculiar TPO position; not for odori, but not for average festivals, but not formal enough to wear with most kimono... what a difficult piece! Fortunately, fukuro obi have a much more versatile quality, and this one brings in more colour than the tenga, so I would be able to pair it with more outfits. <3 And look, more birds!
This kind of bird motif is called onagadori. The other flowers are karabana, imaginary Chinese flowers. Much of the obi is made of metallic thread on silk, so it can only be used in very formal outfits (or perhaps for stage), but even so, I wouldn't mind owning this one!
$98 plus shipping on Ichiroya.
Tiny leaves at first take the appearance of butterflies. Perhaps a deep blue butterfly kimono would also be appropriate?
$98 on Ichiroya.