I received a beautiful 18th century linen house-coat/bed-jacket as a belated birthday gift the day before yesterday from Susan. (Thank you again. I adore it!) Whether the influence was conscious or not, there's an undeniable Japanese influence on its design... It looks really very similar to a happi coat, for those familiar - in other words, a mid-thigh length kimono. Well, when not reenacting, I thought, you know, this would look really cute worn around town if only I had an obi... And even cuter if the obi were flattering to western ideas of fashion... because let's face it, an obi makes the figure quite shapeless and that's not very pretty in the West.
Solution - Topsy-Turvy. Don't know if you've seen the movie or not, but, to remind or inform, it's about Gilbert & Sullivan and the first production of their operetta "The Mikado" in late 19th century London. It being set in the late 19th century, the ladies of the acting troupe were scandalized at the thought of appearing on stage without corsets. The solution for the costume mistress (played by Alison Steadman, "Mrs. Bennett" in the Pride & Prejudice A&E mini) was to make the obis effectively into corsets that mimicked obis by making them pre-tied with hidden laces, so that the actresses could still have shape and some support. One actress bemoaned that there was no whale bone, but she had to live with it. (And I simply have to mention - in case one needs more incentive to watch the movie - Andy Serkis plays a choreographer who apparently believes himself to be a chicken...)
Anyway, I'm wondering if I could rig up something like that... A long, rectangular length of fabric, three layers - "China silk" on the outside for shimmer with cotton drill or something underneath for the requisite stiffness lined in a cotton that compliments the "China silk" - tied like an obi, sewn in place so it won't come apart, cut open near the knot where people wouldn't see, couple of pieces of wire ties to keep it from gaping, lace it, finish it up, et voila! Something like that? I think that's closest to how they did it in Topsy-Turvy. I need to watch the movie again (or just that part), but I think I could do it... Although, I could also have two separate pieces - one that wrapped around the torso with ties and another piece with the decorative knot. There are Japanese obi that come in two parts... Anyway, another thing to add to my to-do list, growing longer by the day.