Hug Your Hara
If you were to look up haramaki on Wikipedia, you will find that it gives two references - one to a style of chest armor worn by samurai in feudal japan, and the other more 'modern' manifestation - a cloth wrap worn around the belly.
In fact, haramaki literally means 'abdomen' or 'belly wrap', and as described, it's like a thin, simple stretchy tube top ... just worn a bit lower.
Once phased out of Japanese wardrobes for being 'old-fashioned', they are becoming 'hip' again. (Ha...! Okay, that was bad....)
The practical purpose they serve is to keep the abdomen warm - and in the case of pregnant bellies - supported. The 'old-fashioned' part may have had to do with another feature they touted - warding off harm or evil from the wearer.
But when you understand the tremendous importance the Japanese culture places on the hara as one's center and character, this would make sense. Leaving your hara open and vulnerable would be akin to being naked.
In Oriental Medicine, the kidneys are seen as the organs that store our vital core energy (ki, qi, chi), and they are quite vulnerable to cold. It would be unfathomable for traditional Japanese to look upon our young women with exposed midriffs without feeling concern for their health. Maintaining one's vitality, protecting the immune system and the body from chills in the winter, supporting the low back and preserving precious heat were the purposes that haramaki would serve.
There are a few companies that offer these now (none in the US, that I'm aware of) and in fun styles and colors. Or you can make them yourself. (I'm notoriously NOT handy with a sewing machine, so, at some point I will have to opt for int'l postage when I get one).
There's NukuNuku in the UK, whose website offers some additional great reasons to use a haramaki:
- Easing menstrual cramps
- Covering the 'muffin tops' or 'builders' bums' (gotta love the Brits!) which may hang over low-slung jeans
- Fitting nicely under other clothes, and raising the core body temperature
NukuNuku has some cool and out-there designs, styles for kids, and now ANGORA! (As I write this, it's blizzarding with wind-chills dropping to the minus signs. Plus I have cramps. Angora would be Awesome right about now!!)
Kokoru is another UK company: http://www.kokoro-japan.co.uk/
And here's a company a little closer to home: Haramakilove in Canada: http://www.haramakilove.com
For the crafty folks, here's a haramaki tutorial:
For that added justification from the sustainability camp, here's some proof from treehugger.com that a haramaki can cut on your heating costs, complete with a cool thermographic image.
So.... um.... my birthday is in September .... though Mother's Day will also be coming up. And I do like to wear black and pink together. Hint, hint. :)