Concept designs for 2014

Here are three concept designs for tutus due in early 2014. One of them will have me hunting for fabric for a while but the other 2 will be made from my inventory; Lemon and Lime, Turquoise Sugar Plum and Midnight flowers.

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I think I’ve found some fabric in LA!

Midnight flowers was designed for a young dancer who has been wearing navy and silver tutu for the past couple of years and can’t step away from the colours because she loves them so much. Between us we came up with a softer design (the previous had been very geometric) that incorporated silver-white floral appliqués. The original skirt was also dark bue so I did the concept design with a lighter skirt to see what they thought. Here are the fabrics and the drawing.

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Same velvet as Neon and Navy tutu … love this colour


The young dancer chose the rhinestones. Nice work.


Turquoise and gold


I’m going to enjoy this one!

Floral Sydney

One of my daughter’s friends stayed over during the week. She’s a young designer trying to find her way. Well she found her way into my studio and I gave her free rein to go through my stash of trims, beads and treasures. As she rattled off ideas I quickly wrote them down. There’s nothing like a set of new young eyes to see things I hadn’t seen. So I gave her a tricky brief; give me a strong spring pallet on dark lilac coloured lycra. A client is after a robust spring coloured tutu for choreography set to Strauss’s Spring Waltz. Ella Charlotte came up with this beautiful colour scheme. To me as a (former) botanist this is Jacaranda, Illawarra Flame and Silky Oak, three trees that are all in flower in Sydney in late spring /early summer. A glorious riot of colours.


Sydney Spring Flowers

Phantom of the Opera Ice Skating in action

I love getting photos of my costumes in action. Here is the lovely Caitlin skating as Christine to the Music of Night from the Phantom of the Opera. We had to be careful in the colour we chose for the costume as the ice can bleach colours quite a lot. A white dress would have disappeared into the ice so we chose a very warm buttery cream colour.


Ball-gown into ice skating dress


the lovely Caitlin


Neon and Navy Tutu


Starting point

My sister has requested a tutu for her shop window display over Summer. It’s theme is Neon and Navy so I got thinking about how a tutu could match that. I had some lovely navy stretch velvet and some (almost) neon fuchsia netting. To soften the strong colours I dug into my stash and pulled out this lovely embroidered fabric I knew would come in handy one day.


Scalloped fuchsia ballet net

I needed to skirt to be a dramatic “neon” statement so it is all one colour. I toyed with the idea of a few colours in the skirt but as the colour is such a bold statement anyway I decided not to fiddle about with the skirt. Of course I needed to match the panty of the leotard to the net and I just happened to have a small piece of lycra  I test-dyed with fuchsia Jacquard acid dye last year. Near perfect match!


Leo with her pink pants!

The next stage is mapping out the bodice decoration, which I like to do before I sew on the skirt which is much less back breaking than leaning over a 40 cm skirt. The trouble is the fabric has no mirror image appliqués so the trick was to manipulate the appliqués to look busy (taking the eye away from the lack of symmetry) but not confusing. I think I’ve managed it. Of course I added some extra bling!


tricked up appliqués

I decided not to decorate the bodice before the skirt was finished as I was concerned the rough edges of the cut net might snag  the embroidered appliqués. So that will be my last step this time.

The next step is sewing on the skirt. Once the 8 layers of ballet netting are sewn on the tutu looks like a giant puffball. This is always very pretty when the skirt has multiple colours but we need to make this look like a tutu.


time to tame the puffball

To tame this into a recognisable classical ballet tutu the layers are steamed, starting from the bottom, and groups of layers 8,7, and 6 are tacked together, followed by 6, 5 and 4,  then 4, 3, 2 and then 2 and 1. That way groups of 3 are tacked together but all attached to each other throughout the tutu. The layers hold each other down while the stiffness of the net and the construction of the skirt gives a counterbalancing lift to hold the skirt more or less horizontal. It’s actually engineering not sewing. I like my skirts to be fairly full and with a bit of a downwards slope. The weight of the plate needs to be taken into consideration too. As this will have a fairly heavy plate I’ve left the skirt a bit perky.


and tamed!

…and now for the fun part … decoration! The embroidered fabric that I used has elements about 20 cm long and no mirror image repeats so I can to place the appliqués carefully to give a balanced design. Here’s the overall effect.


The big picture

I wasn’t sure at first if I just wanted the appliqués around the edge of the plate but I think the decision to place them at the hip line as well gives a richer look to the skirt and breaks up the large expanse of dark blue that might make a dancer disappear on stage if the backdrop is also dark.


back of plate


a bit more details of the embellishment

I’ve been very pleased with how this tutu has come together, from the initial concept of Neon and Navy to the final design and execution. This tutu is now on its way to Brisbane, Queensland for a shop window display.