An obi stay keeps your obi from creasing and provides some structure for added cords and obiage.
Many women who wear kimono rather enjoy the restriction of a tight obi, but I do want to be comfortable in my kimono, which is why I’m trying to find a compromise between what looks best and what feels best. So I’ve been experimenting with obi stays the past few days.
An obi stay is a stiffener that you insert into the obi to keep it smooth and rigid. You can buy them as part of a kit, but this usually includes a bunch of stuff I don’t want or need and I haven’t found anywhere just an obi stay by itself, so I decided to make one.
The girls on Immortal Geisha have all clearly come across this problem and have cobbled together their own stays from cut-up cardboard, plastic folders and whatnot, but with the weather being so warm, I was pretty keen to find something that was rigid enough for purpose but airy enough to be comfortable.
After a bit of searching in the barn I came up with this – plastic mesh I once used on an animal cage. It’s stiff but not too stiff, and bends pretty nicely, so I made it into a stay, folding it in three lengthways and stitching it together.
On Ebay, stays are usually 6in deep and about a foot wide, so I started with this measurement – you can see the effect at top left, with the stay tucked inside a piece of kimono fabric as an obi, a neck scarf as an obiage and a ribbon pressed into service as an obijime. Obviously, you would never wear it like this – the obi is quite a formal silk, while the robe is a casual cotton yukata, but it’s moving towards what I’m after.
Having the obi 6in deep is clearly too deep for me (I’m only 5ft 1), and the stay also felt too thick and ‘present’ with the mesh three layers deep, although it was very comfortable.
So I then cut the mesh up and made it into three separate stays, each of only one thickness: one is a foot wide by 5in deep, one is a foot wide by 3.5in deep and the last is about 10in wide and is about 5.5in deep, but with curved edges like a commercial obi stay.
Probably all three will have their uses, but the narrow, long one is probably the one I’ll wear the most. Here’s a pic of a mocked-up obi (left – and note my tazuki cord slung over my shoulder, ready for use) using the short, curved stay, compared with the triple-thickness one on the right.
It’s not bad, but of course the obi gathers at the sides because this silk isn’t proper obi silk, just thin Rinzu silk cut from a kimono. It would look better if the stay was longer, so it came round the sides more, but I do have an hourglass figure, and I don’t wish to pad it out to make a cylinder, as is the fashion with modern kimono. In times past, Japanese women clearly showed their waists in kimono, and that 18th-century ukiyo-e or even Meiji look is more what I’m after than today’s very modest, very middle-class appearance, which too often looks like a tube of toilet paper.
Can’t wait for my obi silk to arrive in the post, which will give me fabric with enough stiffness to hold its own a bit better.
Or perhaps what I really want is a datejime…