Say konnichiwa to the obi

Updated: Aug 14, 2019, 08:53 IST | Karishma Kuenzang |

The obi belt, originally used to hold a kimono in place, has evolved and made its way to Bollywood, with its share of hits and misses. Here's how to wear versions the right way

The last decade has seen people go from opting for broad belts to slender options, and gradually working their way back to thicker styles and even giving in to bling. It's the easiest accessory that can revamp any outfit, if you know how to wear it right. And now, there's the obi belt — a version of the Japanese belt that secures a kimono — which is becoming popular among fashionistas abroad. Closer home, Sussanne Khan and Athiya Shetty are acing the look. But as is the case with the fusion of two diverse genres of music, the sound can go completely off, if done in a non-complementary manner. This is what style icon Rhea Kapoor, the woman behind sister Sonam Kapoor Ahuja's fashionista avatar, learnt when she tried the look recently. Observers also brought to our notice Shilpa Shetty Kundra's faux pas when she teamed the belt with a kurta a few months ago. "Designer Payal Pratap and Anita Dongre were some of the earliest designers to bring the obi belts done in a mizuki knot to the ramp. While Pratap's had a Japanese vibe when it came to the cuts, Dongre teamed it with lehengas," says stylist Anjali Xalxo. Here's how you can ace the look while opting for this tricky yet versatile accessory.

Style it right

Obi Belt
Sussanne Khan in a sleek obi belt, The obi belt with a lehenga, Athiya Shetty's floral option

  • These wide strips of cloth wound around the waist became popular as belts worn by geishas to accentuate their curves. So, if you have a long torso, cinch one on your waist for an hourglass figure effect.
  • The broader the be­lt, the better. Ma­ke sure it's not huge. If you're petite, stick to a thinner one.
  • If you have an hourglass figure, opt for a small sleek knot.
  • Wear one over a flowing shirt-dress for the day or something with layers. Wearing one with a pencil skirt also works.
  • Avoid colour blocking. If you have to, choose a shade from the same family.

Faux pas triggers

Obi Belt Rhea Kapoor
(Left) How Rhea Kapoor (right) should have worn it

  • Avoid wearing it with loose tops or it will look shabby.
  • Don't pair it with a kurta. A lehenga or a saree are better bets. Avoid bling.
  • Opt for subtle accessories.
  • Don't carry a strappy bag as that will take away from the belt.

Obi history

Shilpa Shetty Kundra
Shilpa Shetty Kundra

Though today a broad belt is necessary to wear the kimono, it was first worn as a thin belt for the inner garment in 1300 AD. Its width increased in 1600 AD, and it was also worn as a braided sash. By 1716, it became integral to the kimono leading to a range of knot ties. The first was the Tsukomi-knot, made by simply tucking the end of the obi into the gap between the belt and body. Only when geishas started using the wider obi, did actor Kichiya Kamimura come up with the Kichiya knot — where both ends of the belt hang down. The back obi was introduced in the 1800s and was usually worn by married women. Unmarried woman wore it in the front.

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