A tai chi uniform may look simple, but it was designed to create the essential sense of tranquility and comfort required for this martial art. Consisting of a jacket and pants, a tai chi uniform must allow for freedom of movement, which is directly related to how well it fits. The best way to ensure that your uniform will fit properly is to construct it yourself. While the uniform, particularly the jacket, may look complicated, it can be constructed by someone with only novice sewing skills.
Record your measurements while wearing only the undergarments you plan to wear under the uniform. It may help to have a friend assist with measurements. You will need your chest, waist and hip measurements in order to purchase the correct size of sewing pattern.
Purchase a pattern for Chinese pajamas and read the back of the pattern envelope to determine your correct size. Be aware that sizes for sewing patterns can vary greatly from store-bought clothing. Purchase the required amount of fabric for your uniform. Tai chi uniforms are most frequently made of cotton or silk. Satin is also an option, but does not have the breathability of natural fabrics.
Cut out the pattern and fabric according to the pattern instructions for your size. Transfer all pattern markings to the fabric using the tailor's chalk or marking pencil. These marks will assist you in matching the pieces to be sewn together.
Fit the garment to you by pinning it together and carefully trying it on. Tai chi uniforms should fit fairly loosely around the body, so that your movements are not constrained. If adjustments need to be made, re-pin the seams until the garment fits the way you desire. Move around in the pinned garment to make sure it is comfortable and does not restrict your movements.
Sew the pieces together as instructed in the pattern instructions. Try on both the jacket and the pants after you sew major seams, including the sides and back seams, to make sure that you are achieving the fit you desire.
Pin the hem of the pants about 3 inches longer than your normal pants length. Sew a casing for the 1/2-inch elastic at the bottom cuff as follows: turn the raw pants hem up 1/4 inch, then fold it in a 3/4-inch fold, thus encasing the 1/4-inch fold inside the hem. Sew with a straight stitch around the hem, leaving a 2-inch gap. Wrap the elastic around your ankle to determine how much is needed in each cuff and cut. Insert the elastic into the cuff so that the hem is gathered onto the elastic. Sew the ends of the elastic together and refold the 2-inch gap so that the elastic is covered. Sew the gap closed and distribute the gathers around the width of the cuff.
Hem the waistband of the pants in the same manner, creating a casing for elastic for the waistband.
Complete the jacket by sewing the frog closures evenly spaced down the front opening.
Purchase only fabric that is washable. You most likely will wash the uniform frequently. Wash and dry any cotton fabric before cutting out the pattern pieces. Cotton shrinks about 4 inches per yard the first time it is washed and machine-dried. Failure to pre-shrink the fabric by washing it and drying it in an automatic washer and dryer may result in your uniform being too small after the first washing and drying.
Take care when trying on the pinned garment to avoid scratching yourself with the straight pins.
Tips and warnings
- Purchase only fabric that is washable. You most likely will wash the uniform frequently.
- Wash and dry any cotton fabric before cutting out the pattern pieces. Cotton shrinks about 4 inches per yard the first time it is washed and machine-dried. Failure to pre-shrink the fabric by washing it and drying it in an automatic washer and dryer may result in your uniform being too small after the first washing and drying.
- Take care when trying on the pinned garment to avoid scratching yourself with the straight pins.