A client fell in love with a beautiful French lace that I had in my stash so we decided to build a tutu around it. The lace is a beautiful sea green colour but when we teamed it with a matching bodice fabric it lost its pop. The colours of stage costumes need to stand up against strong stage lighting, so we were brave and teamed it with a bright aqua velvet. I’ve documented most of the steps in making this tutu as the young dancer wanted a pictorial diary. here’s what I sent her.
Consultations for a remote client often start with photos of fabrics and trim. I teamed the French lace with a few fabrics but this one bright aqua really seemed to work. A handful of diamantes and silver trimmings completed the concept.
Either colour scheme would have worked well but the aqua with the sea green spoke to the client (and I was really pleased it did). The green lace would be gathered over a white skirt so the background green of the net would become clear on the tutu. So we agreed on the design and colours and made a start. Stretch tutus are great for remote clients as there is a bit more latitude in fit but still achieving the “second skin” look that ballet dancers wants from a tutu.
I usually line my tutu bodices although it’s not really necessary for stretch velvet as it’s opaque. However, for adolescents I’ll always line the bodice for added confidence. The velvet has been serge-lined with thin lycra that has the same level of stretch as the velvet.
This tutu will have a white skirt so it needs white pants. The lining extends from the bodice and faux basque to make a one layer panty. The line of tacking stitches is the placement for the first row of tutu ruffles
The next stage is sewing on 8-10 layers of gathered stiff ballet net in layers of decreasing length. The fastest and most accurate way to do this is with a rotary cutter and a self-healing mat.
Netting layers can either have a straight edge or have cut edges like scallops or points (dags). Tutus that represent birds often have dagged net edges while princesses will have scalloped edges.
Then the net is rolled up and labelled ready to gather and the it’s time sew onto the waiting leotard. The first layer is not too hard but as you sew more layers on the giant puff-ball threatens to eat your sewing machine.
To tame the net once it’s sewn on the layers are steamed into a pleasing shape and then tacked by hand or using plastic gun tacks like the ones you find on clothing price tags.
The lace was gathered and sewn to the top layers of the skirt. The scalloped edge was perfect for the bodice decoration but with a little bit of extra detail added to highlight the shape.
Sometimes I will decorate the leotard before I attach the ruffles but in this case I wanted to see how the skirt looked before I decided on the bodice decoration … oh and I made a little tiara too with blue and green Czech crystals.
and finally the completed tutu