If you go and type “zen chic” into a search engine right now, one thing you will notice is that none of the links that come up have anything to do with Zen Buddhism. Not so here! I promise that this post has an actual relationship to Zen *and* stylish (?) clothing.
This little project has been underway for a couple of months – owing to the amount of time it took me to knit the poncho – but I am pleased to say that after four or five years of Zen practice, I have finally gotten around to making my first dedicated meditation clothing – which will only be worn for retreats and no other purpose:
This in no way comprises “traditional” wear, such as samue (plain cloth jacket and pants) or lay robes. Instead, it is what I consider essential for a meditation retreat – a jersey-knit dress with 3/4 length sleeves (to be worn with full length black leggings), and an easy-to-pull on poncho knit in DK-weight wool for travelling between the meditation hall and the dining hall. This garb is comfortable, modest, and most important – stretchy – which is a must for long sessions of sitting and bowing (in full prostration several times a day). Also – it’s black. Dark, neutral colours on retreat are a Zen thing meant to help minimize visual distraction.
Because I have a lot of black in my regular wardrobe, I usually just grab things on my way to retreat – but too often the items I want to pack are in the laundry, or a little worn out from regular wear. My hope is to make a small capsule wardrobe that will last a long time and remain clean in between practice sessions. Three outfits are enough to carry through a 7-day retreat as we don’t exactly sweat or get dirty in the meditation hall – and by layering, I can wear the same items in different seasons. That’s my plan at the moment – starting with two items.
I am very much in love with this poncho pattern – having made it twice now (the first time in an amazing rust-red, completely unsuitable for meditation retreat). it is essentially just a large stockinette rectangle, mattress stitched at one long edge to create the shoulder and neck. If you are interested in the specs for the Easy Folded Poncho, the pattern is available for sale on Ravelry. The dress is simply one more version of the Coco Dress with a modified neckline hidden beneath the top layer in this photo.
I haven’t decided yet if I am going to make more of the same or go for a samue or other traditional outfit as a bit of a challenge. To be decided.
And on a totally different tack – I changed my instagram handle yesterday to reflect the name of my creative practice studio – so if you are so inclined and weren’t already following me – please go to Instagram and follow @birdsongtextiles. No big changes coming to the content posted there as it is pretty much all textile-related already!