Six weeks in, I’ve done it.

It’s happened. I wore a kira to work today, to pretty rave reviews, I have to say, and received only minor adjustments to the collars by onlookers. A few people asked if I had help getting dressed, which I think was praise. One normally wears high heels, but that is really going too far. I might be able to do heeled boots, but I have none, so I’m safe from further difficulties on uneven paving for now.
(A wordpress problem–I can’t get the paragraph breaks to show up. If any readers know how to fix this, let me know. It bugggs me. Thanks.)

Kira (pattern), toego (black), wanju (beige) and rachu, ceremonial sash with dorje/vajra pattern*, and brooch with endless knot symbol:**

Properly dressed.

I had to meet with a Minister today, overseer of my new project, so I was appropriately dressed for the first time. Women have to wear the rachu and men, a kabney, a broad, long, flowing wrap around drape-scarf, whenever they go in a building with a national flag (ie. where I work, any government office) or in a monastery or for any other formal occasion.
I followed my shopping assistant’s advice and got the foreigner’s version of the kira, which means it is only waist length instead of shoulder length,  and has some hooks and velcro. Normally the kira is held up with two hooks at the shoulders, and a belt in the middle. The wanju and teogo have no hooks or anything. You use the brooch and safety pins to hold it in place. (Women and men are constantly adjusting their clothes here. The men have two pleats in the back of their gho that they always have to mind.)
There is also a half kira that is a bit like a wrap around skirt, but you wear a broad fabric belt with it, and cinch it down very tight at the waist. My advisor advised against that option, saying the Bhutanese women have permanent marks around their middles from cinching the belt so tight. This is all to say that there are lots of opportunities for wardrobe malfunctions, if the hooks unhook, or the hookless belt loosens, or, or . . .
The sleeves of both upper items extend way beyond the hands and get folded up twice to land at the wrists. The wanju (accent color) gets folded double over the toego collar. The toego isn’t tailored, so I’m wearing the standard, looseish version, which allows for long underwear underneath, but I found it all very warm this morning. I don’t know what happens in hot weather. I’ve noticed that young, slender women have improved the toego tailoring to something more fitted.
The picture doesn’t show the kira pleats, but there are two pleats that run down the right side. These are from folding layers of fabric (as opposed to sewn or pressed in) and allow some movement, but you have to hold it up going uphill, so you don’t trip on the front, and downhill so you don’t trip on the back, and going up and down stairs, so essentially you have to hold it up almost all of the time. Ok, not going down the hall. (And speaking of, the floors of the toilets are generally wet, and there is no toilet paper, and no pockets, but I have discovered a small amount of tp will tuck nicely, and unnoticeably in a sleeve. That doesn’t solve the problem of needing soap and a towel, but it is a step.)
Day one of kira wearing survived. Tomorrow I head south to see the new project. Supposedly it is  six hours drive each way, but I suspect it is not much more than 150 miles, and probably less as the crow flies, so that gives you some idea of the roads here. Should be very scenic in any case. Back on Wednesday.
* “The Sanskrit word vajra stands for adamant, that is, ‘diamond-like’. Hence, besides being able to indent whatever object and overwhelm with its uncomparable blaze, the vajra or dorje represents eminent durability – a hardness and an immutableness that is virtually eternal. Dorje is the Tibetan word for vajra. Do-rje stands for noble stone (Do = stone and rJe = noble or prince). This embodies not only the blaze of refracted or reflected illuminance, but also symbolises the imperviable and fixed solidness of the point of power around which totally else turns – the hub of the world. Vajra is a Sanskrit equal of the Tibetan word dorje and it transmits a lot of meanings: Indra’s thunderbolt, the lama’s scepter, and diamond.”
**”This latter image signifies the dramatic interplay and interaction of the opposing forces in the dualistic world of manifestation, leading to their union, and ultimately to harmony in the universe. This fact is amply reflected in the symmetrical and regular form of the endless knot.

The intertwining of lines reminds us how all phenomena are conjoined and yoked together as a closed cycle of cause and effect. Thus the whole composition is a pattern that is closed on in itself with no gaps, leading to a representational form of great simplicity and fully balanced harmony.”

 The two quotes on Buddhist symbology can be found here, and here, as well a much lengthier explanation of both.

10 thoughts on “Six weeks in, I’ve done it.

  1. Given your previous description of tripping and falling—the new attire should give you lots of exercise picking yourself up off the ground. You mentioned heeled boots—well a good friend just caught the tip of her heel on the hem of her pants and landed squarely on her knee (not good) so maybe flat footed is better.

    Enjoying your photos and blog!

  2. So beautiful, love the textures, colors and patterns – also the discussion on design and function. I love reading your blog, Jennifer. Thank you so much for sharing – time and effort.

  3. You look very striking indeed. It is interesting that they have made western modifications to the kira. How many Westerners are buying them? Have enjoyed your descriptions. I think I’ll be swiping a bit more TP from the hotel in Bangkok to get me through the three weeks in Bhutan. I’m off tomorrow. And while I don’t think mine will be as eloquent as yours, I have set up my first ever blog. You’re welcome to take a look- though so far there is little to look at. Am enjoying your accounts. Be well. Don’t trip.

    • I suggest you carry your own toilet paper everywhere, although as a tourist you will have more likelihood of finding it. It is for sale in the shops, just not supplied where needed. You won’t go wrong having soap and a towel too for non hotel toilets.

  4. Well, other than the fact that THERE WAS NO PHOTO, I am entranced by your blog. And I’m glad you got lots of strokes for your first day in traditional dress. Good job.
    Love, Debra

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