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.
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!
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.