Belts are ideal accessories because creating definition at the waist makes a woman appear thinner. However, if a woman’s midsection is her fullest feature, many belts may emphasize that quality in a negative way. If most belts do not compliment your figure effectively, the obi belt may become your greatest fashion ally. The obi, meaning “sash” in Japanese, was traditionally worn by both men and women, beginning around the 16th century. Men’s sashes are typically narrow strips of fabric, while women’s can be more than 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Obis can be very long, but may be doubled or tied in elaborate, decorative bows.
Obi belts are exceptionally wide, almost like a cummerbund, and they achieve the waist-cinching definition that flatters feminine shapes, even on the fullest waists. The modern obi belt can be made out of any fabric, including leather, and often have spandex or elastic components to help the belt fit snugly. These belts can be worn with loose, tunic-style tops to give shape to the torso, or may be part of a snug outfit meant to draw attention to a narrow waist or hourglass form. Electric colors and geometric patterns made these shirts particularly exciting.
Although the obi belt is an essential part of a Japanese kimono outfit and great for fashion today, this type of sash has other traditional uses. Some Japanese martial arts forms include exercise outfits that are tied with an obi belt.