How To Wear an Obi, The Most Versatile Belt!

What Is an Obi Belt?

An Obi belt can be described as a traditional Japanese sash, a long silk rectangle, intended to be worn with a kimono. The belt used to fasten Japanese martial art uniforms is also named obi.

These classic belts have been reinterpreted in multiple ways in contemporary fashion.   Made of fabric or leather, obi-style belts can vary in width and styles but are usually very long, intended to be wrapped around the waist twice and tied.  This type of belt is widely adjustable, thanks to the ties.  Therefore, it’s easy to get a good fit. They sit at the natural waistline, emphasizing it and creating an hourglass silhouette.

Obi-style belts have been a favourite fashion accessory for decades. Rightly so as they’re really versatile and flattering. So, how to wear on obi belt?

Various Ways to Tie a Wrap Belt

A simple knot or a bow is the most obvious and easiest ways to tie an obi belt.  They work perfectly for most situations, but you can try a few alternatives to vary the looks.

The Half-Bow

While the full bow can be striking, especially for wide ties or dressier belts, the half-bow is less bulky and has a more modern look. 

To tie it, simply proceed like you would for a regular bow but slip the second tie completely through the central loop.  Then, adjust the tightness by pulling the « legs » of the half-bow.

I like to tie the half-bow slightly to one side, not too central or completely to the side, and give it an angular position.

The Necktie Knot

You can tie an obi belt like you would a neck tie.  The knot will be flatter than a regular knot and will be easy to adjust after it’s tied.

If you need guidance on how to do it, this page can be helpful.

The Twist or X

Depending on the type of ties your belt has, you can get beautiful effects with this technique.  It tends to work better with wider ties but can also be interesting with rope or ribbon ties.

After bringing the ties to the front, cross them once or twice, bring them to the back and make a knot.

Alternatively, instead of twisting the ties, you can just cross them at the front to form on X.

The Rosette

This also works better with wide ties.  Take both ties together and rotate them until they’re twisted to the ends.  Then, roll them as to create a flower and bring the ends behind the rosette to secure them.  To do so, push the end of the ties behind the part of one of the tie that lays flat on the waist. 

Tied in the Back

Just lay the belt on your waist and, instead of bringing the ties in front, tie them at the back with a knot or bow.  If the ties of your belt are very long, this technique is probably not the best.

How to Style Them

Obi belts will suit a wide range of outfits.  Very few clothes won’t be a good match. Obviously, low waist pants or skirts aren’t the ideal companion for a belt that is meant to sit at the waist. Other than that, pretty much everything goes, with proper styling.

Wear It With a Dress

Simple dresses or tunics, like long t-shirts in solid colours or shirtdresses, call for accessories.  The obi belt is perfect for the job!

Obis are also a good match with faux wrap dresses (that don’t actually wrap and don’t really need a belt).  For wrap dresses that have ties that aren’t sewn to the garment, you can replace the self-fabric belt with an obi to give it a different look.

When pairing an obi belt with a dress, most silhouettes will work. Fitted at the top and flared, loose, bodycon…  The key is simplicity.  If there are many details on the dress, it probably doesn’t need accessories anyway.

Jeans and a t-shirt

Yes, the simplest outfit is a candidate for an obi belt as well.  Nearly all jeans cuts and fits will work as long as they sit on the waist or have a higher rise.  These will give you the option to wear the obi at the waist with the top tucked in, emphasizing the waistline.  You can also untuck your t-shirt if it’s long enough and wear the belt on top.  Try it with a buttoned-down shirt too!

If you have low waist jeans, you can still wear the shirt untucked and the belt over your top.  Just be mindful of proportions, which leads to the next point…

Tight Top and Flared Bottom (and Vice Versa)

I love a flared skirt and a tight top with a wide belt!  Reminiscent of the 1950s Dior’s New Look, this silhouette is timelessly flattering.  Wide pants that are fitted at the hips and waist make a nice alternative on the same theme.

Skinny pants with a loose top can also pair nicely with an obi.  Use the belt to cinch the top and emphasize your waist.

Over a Jacket or Coat

An obi with a suit?  It’s crazy chic!  A kimono is a jacket after all…  The possibilities are endless. You can also wear it under an open jacket or cardigan.

Being stylish in the cold season isn’t always easy.  Because they’re so readily adjustable, wrap belts are perfect to wear on a coat, even a thick one!  The most distinguished in nice woollen fabric, as well as the puffy down jacket… So spice up your winter gear with nice obis. 

As I keep saying… Experiment and have fun!

This is a flowy elasticated waist skirt that I sometimes use as a top, cinched with a wide obi belt.

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