MoQbara (Klingon Tai Chi) Costume

MoQbara ("Klingon Tai Chi") Costume

(initial section posted 12/22/19)

I've been a member of a cosplaying Star Trek fan group for several years. So it's probably not surprising that I became interested in costumes that were different from the usual StarFleet uniforms. I've also been a Tai Chi player for several years. So it's probably also not surprising that it caught my attention to see scenes in The Next Generation in which members of the crew were wearing special uniforms for a workout class for something that looks an awful lot like Tai Chi, but is actually a Klingon martial art called MoQbara (sometimes spelled mo'kbara) taught by Worf.


The costume looks like a fairly basic tunic and pants, but of course I needed to do research to get more details. The most helpful lead was info on an auction of some of the screen-used costumes, which included the pic at right along with a description of the costume as being of textured cream cotton, and comprising a shirt, pants, and jacket. The pic at right is Worf's: his has the burgundy trim signifying his status as a MoQbara master; the others we see in TNG do not have colored trim. We do note that the pic at left seems to show only the jacket and pants, but not the shirt. It's also interesting to observe that the pants have stirrups, but I don't think that's something I'd feel compelled to reproduce.

Checking out scenes from the show helps to clarify some of the info. For one thing, it seems that the outfit is worn with either the jacket or the shirt, but not both at the same time. When we see someone wearing the jacket, there doesn't seem to be enough bulk to suggest an extra shirt under it.

The following screencaps show some additional details:

In the pic at left, Worf and Ensign Sito (with the long ponytail) are wearing jackets, which you can tell because they're wearing belts with them. But the others are not wearing belts, so presumably are wearing the shirts, but we only see them from the back. You can see, though, that there is another layer under both styles of top. It might be an undershirt, but I'm inclined to think it's a lining.

Here we see the textured fabric on Worf's costume quite well. I suspect he's wearing the shirt here, rather than the jacket which we saw in the previous pic, but it's hard to tell. However, it's clear that Troi (left of Worf in the pic) is wearing the shirt, so we can see what the front looks like. It seems to be a pretty basic V-neck tunic.

Another group pic where you can see several shirts. See notes below.

You can see white trim on Riker's shirt, similar to the burgundy trim on Worf's costume. If you look at the full pic above, you can see it on the cuffs of Geordi's shirt also.

However, the other people in the pic above do not seem to have the white trim on their costumes. Perhaps this is some kind of ranking system--the total beginners have no trim; after some level of achievement, they get white trim; after they achieve a level of mastery, they get burgundy like Worf. But I suspect it has more to do with TV budgets and the time required to add barely-visible trim on all the extras' costumes.

Putting It Together

Once I had a good idea about what a MoQbara uniform looked like, I began to consider various options for how to get my own. I was quite certain, though, that before I would ever wear such a costume for cosplay, I would need to understand how to do the "play" part; i.e. I'd need to learn more about MoQbara as a martial art. So I have a separate article on my exploration of MoQbara.

For a cosplay costume, I figured I'd need either a jacket with pants or a shirt with pants; I wouldn't necessarily need all 3 pieces. The jacket seems more interesting and probably better in terms of making the outfit recognizable. The jacket does look very similar to some other martial-arts uniforms, although not exactly. I thought it looked close enough to a particular style of Tai Chi uniform (pics at sides) that I considered buying one, but after looking at several different sources, I decided I didn't like the price/accuracy ratio. And I didn't find any source for a straight MoQbara uniform.

Eventually I decided that if I wanted a jacket with what I considered an acceptable level of accuracy, I'd probably have to make it myself. The pattern shouldn't be that hard to figure out, and I have a couple of pieces of clothing (like a kimono-style robe and my own Tai Chi uniform (which had a different type of closure)) to use as guides. The hard part would be finding a good fabric to make it with. I'd periodically go looking online and in fabric stores for textured cotton, but the closest thing I seemed to find was, like, waffle weave. Although not quite right, I thought it has a good look and was close enough. So I figured when I was ready (after I'd figured out how to "play" MoQbara), that's what I'd probably use.

Thinking about waffle weave reminded me that I already had an outfit with a waffle-weave tunic in a color (I think it was called oatmeal) that might work. But the neckline of tunic had lace applique around it, and it was also the wrong shape; the combination of the two was enough to dissuade me from using it. The coordinating pants were leggings so they weren't quite right either. I had already figured that, if for whatever reason I decided not to make exactly-matching pants at the same time I made the jacket, I could probably buy something like yoga pants in a similar color to make the outfit work. But as long as I was considering shirt options among my existing wardrobe, I also checked a couple of other tunic-like tops that were close to a proper color, but they weren't quite right overall either.

At some point, when I was looking at fabric online again, I found a "textured cotton" that I thought looked quite a bit like the pictures of the MoQbara costumes. By this time, I had figured out how to "play" some MoQbara, so I was ready to get started on the costume. It's hard to tell exactly what fabric is like when you look at it online, so I was a bit nervous about ordering it. Also, I hadn't done any work on a jacket pattern yet, so I didn't know how much yardage I'd need. But, the fabric came in cream, it was on sale at a reasonable price, and it did seem to look right. The reviews of the retailer seemed good, so I went ahead and ordered 5 yards, which I figured should be more than enough for the jacket, maybe even enough for pants too. When the fabric arrived, it was nice, although the texture wasn't as apparent as it was in the online photo. But, as of the moment I write this, I haven't done anything with it yet.

But then, not long after I'd ordered the fabric, I saw an ad on Facebook from Zulily for a waffle-knit, V-neck tunic that looked--you guessed it--quite a bit like the MoQbara uniform shirt. The color was wrong, but the price was right (about $12), so I followed the link to see if it came in cream... and sure enough, it did. So I went ahead and got it. So now I could do the cosplay without being dependent on designing and sewing the jacket.

I still needed pants, although, as I mentioned earlier, I'd figured they'd be easy enough. But one day I happened to go into my "work clothes" box and noticed a pair of cream-colored elastic-waist pants--not textured, but otherwise they looked very suitable. This box has clothes that I only wear for messy around-the-house stuff, like painting. They go in the box because they got stained or otherwise damaged and I don't want to wear them out in public, but I think they still have some use left in them. I could recall putting these particular pants in the box, but I couldn't recall what was wrong with them, nor could I see anything obvious. So, this is my initial pass at a MoQbara outfit:

(following added 6/22/20)

Sherry R MoQbara (Klingon Tai Chi) cosplay

Once I took the picture, I realized the pants had probably shrunk and were shorter that I would like, but close enough for now.

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