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Haramaki Love (Product Review)

by Curator Beatrice on February 25, 2009

Public Service Announcement From Curator Beatrice:

Curator Beatrice feels compelled to warn you: if you read any further, you’ll want to buy a haramaki.  There’s just no way around that.

When Julia Aynsley, the owner of Haramaki Love, contacted me about doing a product review, I took some time and wondered whether it was right for Etsy Stalker. I was pregnant during the boom of the “belly band” craze and had worn my fair share of those maternity bands meant to give you extra coverage under the guise of the “layered look.”  I wasn’t sure how a haramaki would be different.  But the colors were undeniably cute and the pictures intriguing, so I invited her to send me one.

Stalkers, I have worn my haramaki  every day since it arrived.

What on Earth is a Haramaki, Anyway?

In the simplest of terms, it’s a band of the softest, comfiest fabric that is worn around your midsection. It can cinch in a looser shirt or dress and add a pop of color and flair to an otherwise ho-hum outfit. Worn underneath your clothing, it can give you the same pop of color and help you achieve the “layered look” without the bulk of many shirts.

But the haramaki goes beyond that, too. What makes it unique from similar belly bands on the market is its link to the traditional Japanese garb that bears its name. Haramaki is more than just a pretty face; it’s a functional item as well.

Until its recent resurgence in Japan as a fashion item, it was a purely functional undergarment worn by grandmothers and children alike. Dating back centuries, haramaki are believed to help a person achieve and maintain optimum health by warming the core of your body, the midsection. When sick with anything from the common cold to more serious ailments, haramaki are considered a vital step to recovery. Japanese designers, sick of wearing their haramaki invisibly under their clothing, decided to make them the star of the fashion world in their own right with bold colors and fun prints.

The 1,000 Stitch Belt:

During World War II, every Japanese soldier going off to war was given a senninbari haramaki, (roughly translated: one thousand stitch belt).  It is said that the woman in his life–be it mother, wife, or daughter–would stand on the street and ask passing women to contribute a stitch to the haramaki until she had gathered a thousand. The sennibari haramaki’s purpose was twofold: to serve as a talisman against harm and to provide physical warmth and comfort while the soldier was away. Program your time machine to take you back even further and you’ll see an armor version worn by samurai or by both men and women over a traditional kimono.

Haramaki then

Haramaki now

A Canadian in Tokyo:

Julia, a Canadian, discovered haramaki while living overseas in Japan.  When she returned home to Canada, she saw an opportunity to bring the accessory she had come to love international acclaim.  Her company, Haramaki Love, was born:

Julia Aynsley, owner of Haramaki Love

Julia Aynsley, owner of Haramaki Love

What this curator loves most about Julia’s haramaki is the uber-soft, comfortable fabric.  The hem of the red tube has a cute black edging, and my haramaki, like all of them, has an indiscreet black heart embroidered onto the lower left hand corner, Haramaki Love’s equivalent of the Polo shirt’s horse on the pocket. It has just the perfect amount of stretch to cozy against your midsection without feeling tight.  It really is warming and has the comfortable feeling of my favorite pair of pajama pants. Unlike my favorite pair of pajama pants, though, I also have to admit something: I look pretty damn cute in this thing. Yeah, that’s right. I said it.  I leave the house in my yoga pants and plain tee, but with the haramaki thrown over the top my outfit is transformed from “Unkempt Suburban Housewife” to “Hip Urban Woman.”  And when it was–ahem–that time of the month? I tucked a thin heat pack under my haramaki and went about my day. Best. Thing. Ever.

The Haramaki Goes to the Post Office:

The setting: suburban post office. I’ve got a stack of manila envelopes and a squirrely toddler in tow. The line snakes around the island desk and through the double glass doors into the postal foyer and I’m gearing myself up for a long, harrowing wait. A typical day in the life of Curator Beatrice. I grab my little one just before she yanks a stack of decorative padded envelopes from a wire display stand and the woman behind me taps me lightly on the shoulder.

“Your top is adorable,” she says. “Where’d you get it?” She’s in her early twenties, infinitely hipper than this curator, every hair in place.  I look down, baffled.  I’m in my daily uniform–the uniform of a woman who works full time out of a home office but only has a part time nanny, which is to say: yoga pants and solid t-shirt.  It hits me.

“You mean this?” I point to my midsection. “It’s separate–it’s a haramaki.” I sense her wondering: did she just say something about sushi?

“You mean that’s not part of your shirt?”  she looks confused, so I demonstrate: I pull the band of red fabric around my midsection slightly away from my shirt underneath.  She gasps.

“That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”  My toddler entertains herself by pulling every item from my purse and handing them to me one by one. Another woman three people back in in line behind us speaks up.

“Where do you get those?”  I wish silently that I’d asked Julia to send me some business cards; instead I give the name of the Etsy shop and she writes it down.  I get my stack of mail metered and posted, and leave wearing a ridiculously large smile. Let’s face it: what woman doesn’t love a little bit of fashion attention every once in awhile?

True Confessions from Curator Beatrice:

I broke the “No Shopping While Stalking” rule again.

I bought another one. Come on, people. What am I supposed to do when my haramaki is in the wash? Like Lay’s potato chips in the nineties, no one can have just one.

The Nitty Gritty:

Visit Haramaki Love’s Etsy shop and website for more information.

Happy stalking!

Curator B.

About our product reviews: at Etsy Stalker, we will never, ever, ever, ever (did I mention ever?) take money for product reviews. We only review products we love and think our readers will, too. We do it because we love handmade and want to see it take over the world. If you think you have a product that would be a good fit for Etsy Stalker, please visit our product review tab at the top of this page!

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