Ever since my first post on making the Girls’ version of the Chinese Qipao in January 2014, I have received lots of feedback and seen lots of pictures on social media of the dress. I have been thinking about making the same pattern for adults for a long time, but was hesitant to do so because the adult’s version is a much more challenging dress. It is a fitting dress that hugs your curve (Note: not the same as tight!) It would be hard to create a standard set of patterns that will achieve the same effect. This is the same reason why most people choose to tailor make their Qipaos, because you simply need it to be made to your size.
So there is this local sewing community group of Facebook that I am a member of, and recently the same topic came up, as all the sewing enthusiasts are getting ready to start sewing for the New Year. I decided to try drafting it for my size and despite my disbelief that I would actually be able to fit into the dress while drafting it, I was pleasantly surprised that it really was not that difficult, and yes I did fit into it. I was also surprised that it actually made me look rather slim, and this debunks the theory that you need to look like a model to look good in a qipao. You just need one that fits you well. Read Part 2 – How to make adjustments to the free patterns here
Some photos from my own testing. Note that this is still an unfinished piece, as I ran out of bias while sewing and I have no red buttons to complete the dress! Hence the front piece is not quite fixed in place. I will add on more photos to this page when I finally make the trip down to Chinatown to buy matching buttons and more of the bias tape.
So, emboldened by my personal “success”, I present to you, a set of free Qipao sewing patterns for your personal use. I can only test my own size, so obviously I have not tested all of the sizes yet. I used standard measurements from the Winifred Aldrich “metric pattern cutting for women’s wear” to draft these patterns, but as I mentioned earlier, that in order to achieve perfect fit, you will need to make some adjustments for your own shape and size. I will be writing up another post about adjusting the standard patterns for your own measurements later on. So watch out for it.
Note that these patterns are free for testing, please leave me your comments below if you find anything missing in the patterns. For fit issues, please refer to the section below on Adjustments for Fit. I will now give you the materials and instructions on making the toile. This post will focus on getting the right size and right fit. Very important! Make a muslin/toile first! This is very important. Especially if you are intending to use a special fabric. Do not cut into it until you are sure your qipao fits you well! I used a cheap $1.40/m cotton for my muslin. Long stitches without backstitching the ends so that I can quickly undo it and make adjustments.
The following describes the Materials and instructions for making a toile.
Once you have perfected the fit, use the toile to work on your nice fabric to make your own Qipao.
At least 1.5 m of muslin/cotton/anything you can cut into without crying if you make a mistake. Preferably a plain light colored fabric that you can easily make markings on.
An invisible zipper that is long enough to extend from your underarm (side of bust) down to the hips.
Bias tape – if you want to practice attaching the bias on the curved edge of the qipao and collar. For beginners you might find it a little challenging to get a smooth flat finish especially when the front bodice curves up to the collar, so it might be good to test it out on the muslin, but for fit purposes it is not neccesary to finish the edge with bias.
How to make
- Take proper measurements of your bust, waist and height. Make sure the tape measure is parallel to the ground and around the widest part of your curves. Do not tighten the tape measure when measuring, it must be just resting on your skin. Be truthful to yourself. Nobody will be able to tell the exact measurements, but if you hold your tape measure too tightly around your tummy for example, then the qipao will look tight at the tummy when finished, which makes it look ill-fitting.
- Using these measurements, refer to the size chart and select your size.
Size Bust Waist Hips XS 72 56 80 S 80 64 88 M 88 72 96 L 96 80 104 XL 104 88 112
- select the size you wish to download from the list below.
- If you have downloaded the PDF pattern, you will realize that I have separated the skirt piece from the bodice pieces. The reason for doing this was to use less paper, which not only means saving the environment, but also easier piecing.
My pattern only uses 16 pieces in a 4×4 grid. Use recycled paper whenever you can since you are going to cut it up anyway. You will need to use the skirt piece for both the front and back pieces. Here’s how. Let’s start with the back pieces.
The front pattern piece is traced in 3 steps, as follows. Note that the front piece is traced on the right side of the fabric. Note the orientation of the front piece. The curve should be running down the right side of the chest towards the right arm.
Flip the skirt piece to match the other side seam.
- Seam allowances are NOT included in the pattern. This is to cater for possible pattern adjustments. Do all the pattern adjustments before adding on seam allowances. Follow the diagram below to add on your seam allowances.
- Transfer markings to your muslin and cut. Now you are ready to sew!
- The first thing you have to do is to sew up the bust darts and the waist darts. Use a long stitch so that you can undo the darts for fine adjustments if needed.
- Other than that, the process of sewing up the rest of the Qipao is pretty much the same as the kids version. So you can follow the sew-along / video tutorial series.
However, do note that my way of attaching the collar is not the traditional way of sewing on a collar. It was my one step short-cut way of preventing the dreaded collar-not-matching-neckline nightmare, and also a quick and easy way to hide the raw edges without having the baste the inner collar. So if you are not used to my method, please feel free to use my free patterns and attach the collars in your favourite way. If you are in between sizes, read part 2 here about making adjustments for your own measurements. I will also do another write up about variations of the classic design, adding sleeves, and discuss decorative ways of embellishing the Qipao when I have more time to do so.
Oh and one more thing. If you do make a Qipao using this pattern or the kids version, do post it on Facebook/Instagram with the hashtag #MadeMyOwnQipao to be eligible for a very special giveaway at the end of the year!