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Clothes to Just Sit and Think In

February 01, 1996|KATHY BRYANT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

How many outfits in your closet have 2,500 years of history behind them? Most in Carol Mudd's wardrobe do.

As the owner of Zen Home Stitchery, one of three companies catering to the estimated 500,000 Zen practitioners in this country, she had better like the simple, strong lines of clothing made for meditation.

"Since they are vestments, there is a peace to them," Mudd says. "That seems especially appealing in this world of so many loud noises."

Her 17-year involvement with Zen meditation led her into her clothing business. "I was basically given this business in 1982 by the Zen Center of Los Angeles. They had a small stitchery shop that they were closing down."

Mudd started by making meditation cushions with a sewing machine borrowed from her mother, then expanded into a line of clothes. In 1995, she rented a shop and work space in Costa Mesa and added a staff of four.

They put out two styles of jackets ($60-$70); pants ($35); a hakama, or skirt ($80); lay robe ($130); kimono ($75); jubon, or shirt ($35); and monk's shoulder bag ($35). (For information on ordering a catalog, call [714] 631-5389).

Mudd also recently designed clothes for a samurai wedding that took place at the Zen Mountain Center in Idyllwild.

"The groom wanted to use the samurai theme of the spirit of courage and relationship for his wedding," Mudd explains. "We did the clothes in cream and black silks, and the couple had their buttons done by a silversmith."

The groom wore a traditional black silk vest over a cream silk shirt with a mandarin collar, black Japanese-style raw silk pants and a black traveling robe with a black obi, or sash. The bride's dress was in cream sueded silk with a mandarin collar, with a cream kimono of woven silk over it. An altar cloth combined the silks used in her wedding dress and his robe.

"The thing I like about Zen clothes is that they are not fitted," Mudd says. "They're interesting to sew because all the pieces are squares and rectangles."

Most of the clothing is done in black, brown, navy blue or gray--subdued colors that won't distract from meditation. And Mudd is adding to the collection shirts, vests and other pieces made from vintage fabrics.

"There is an enormous market for these clothes," she says. "I'm seeing more and more people who aren't doing Zen meditation buying them. They're comfortable for sitting on the floor and studying or eating in."

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