Warm Cream and Gold Traditional Tutu

This was a lovely tutu to make. There were no time pressures and Lillian, Izzy and I had a great time putting together the design. I really had to call on my inner princess for this one.

The first thing we do of course is decide on a bodice fabric. Tutu making has given me a glorious excuse to buy and stash away beautiful fabrics to make into dance costumes. I’m a real jeans and t-shirt girl but I still can’t resist a luxuriant fabric.

fabric starting point (640x424)
starting point

Here we have a beautiful brocade with warm gold and a soft silvery thread woven through. We matched it with a rose venise lace, some pretty ivory and gold braid for added texture and lovely citrine Czech Preciosa rhinestones to catch the bluish tones in the brocade. I use Preciosa rhinestones rather than Swarovski as they have a better glimmer at a distance. Both are superior to the cheaper machine pressed rhinestones that are available. Having said that the cheaper ones are great for colour and can be teamed with machine cut stones for sparkle.

pattern pieces (640x424)
first steps

With the lovely brocade on stand-by I cut out the cotton drill foundation fabric first. You cans ee the side panels have been placed on the bias for a little bit of give at the side of the bodice.

serge lining the top fabric (424x640)
prep for serge-lining

The foundation pieces are laid right side up onto the wrong side of the top fabric (got that?) and then cut out with a bit extra to be trimmed off by the overlocker (serger). This stabilises the top fabric and gives the bodice some body. Some tutu makers use coutil but a sturdy 7 or 10 ounce cotton drill also works well.

lower bodice together (640x424)
lower bodice pieces sewn together

This bodice will have a ruched silk upper bodice; a corselet bodice. The serge lined pieces go together so well in this pattern. Again I’m using a pattern from Tutus That Dance. This is Bodice 2107.

steamed tissue silk (640x424)
steamed tissue silk

The upper bodice will be of cotton drill covered in roughly pleated silk. The bodice is about 1 metre around (including the wide seam allowances at the back closure).  I gathered four metres of tissue silk top and bottom and steamed it like I steam my ballet net holding the bottom edge taut and steaming in the rough pleats. It’s a magical technique taught to me by the very talented and generous tutu maker Suzanne Dieckman of Tutus That Dance.

pinned to the bodice (640x424)
ruched silk pinned to bodice

I interlined the silk and the drill with deep cream coloured poplin to give a warmer colour to the silk, then I pinned the ruched silk over the top keeping the pleats more or less even but still keeping a slightly ordered chaos … my stylistic excuse for lack of perfection!

ruched silk sewn down (640x424)
upper bodice with attached silk

It came out looking so beautiful I just kept looking at it. I handstitched it in first so I could control where the pleats sat and then basted it by machine. A bit of overworking here but I love the result. I used the same technique for the centre panel but it was a bit trickier to keep the pleats in place over a long vertical piece so I basted them down lightly.

centre panel pinned in (640x424)
centre panel pinned in

I piped the deep V of the lower bodice so I could attach the centre panel by stitching in the ditch through the piping. I love that technique and try to use it wherever I can. It’s neat, controllable and piping always gives such a classy finish. The upper bodice is piped with duchesse satin and I piped the bottom edge of the lower bodice with gold satin. I used the same satin around the basque as well. The soft gold and blended well with the brocade offering just a little bit of definition without detracting from the line of the bodice.

bodice taking shape (424x640)

I was really looking forward to the next step. The 2 pieces fitted together beautifully of course (thanks Suzanne!) and the lustre of the brocade and the rich depth of the silk  looked so luscious together!

inned ready for handsewing (640x424)

Oh I loved this bit too! We had agreed on the rose venise lace and the ivory and gold braid but between consultation and starting the tutu I ordered some new laces and the smaller dark gold rose venise lace arrived. It was the perfect complement! I put citrine AB rhinestones on the light gold lace and crystal AB on the darker lace. Next came the tutu skirt itself.

panty and numbered net layers (640x424)
panty and numbered net layers

The panty has had the elastic casing already sewn on and the ruffle guidelines marked in alternating white and beige thread (so I can see where I’m up to). The panty is 2 layers of cotton poplin. White was too stark against the ivory net so the lining was beige and the 2 colours together matched the net beautifully.

layer 3 goes on (640x424)
layer 3 going on


Layer 3 is the first of the layers with seam allowance pointing down. It’s probably the trickiest layer to sew. There’s a bit of wrestling and a bit of cussin’.

fishing line pulled up tight (640x424)
fishing line gathering

With over 60 linear metres of gathering, broken threads or running out of bobbin thread can be a nightmare … until I learnt how to gather onto fishing line. May I say, if it were not for the humble spool of $5 10lb fishing line from Kmart I would not be a tutu-maker! I applaud anyone, past or present, pulling up gathering threads!

layers ON (640x424)
steamed, attached and steamed again

And here is the lovely skirt that emerges from under the presser foot. A lovely fluffy thing waiting to be further tamed into shape. This beauty was hand-tacked used good old fashioned thread, scissors and endless patience.

plate decoration (640x424)
plate decoration

The plate needed to balance the ornate bodice. I chose a fairly traditional 6 petalled plate and filled in the gaps with the duchesse satin I used for the bodice piping. I toyed with the idea of more ruched silk but I pulled back from that as the design was already rich and all I needed was the colour of the silk to tie the plate design in.

all systems go! (640x424)
all systems go

And then a nice early morning start for the final phase of construction.

lovely ruched bodice (640x424)
lovely ruched bodice

A delicate sequinned lace was also used as an overlay from under the plate. This was the finishing touch.

side  (640x424)
Plate detail
et voila (424x640)
inner princess channelled

I really enjoyed making this tutu. Thanks to Lillian and Izzy for being such great fun.


Published by barbarasanders2077

I am a costumier living and working in Sydney's leafy upper North Shore. I specialise in dance costumes (particularly classical ballet tutus) but I also love the challenges presented by stage and film costuming and am always looking for new costume genres to explore.

8 thoughts on “Warm Cream and Gold Traditional Tutu

  1. It’s so Beautiful ! My goodness, I can only imagine how it looks in person…I don’t know if I would want to wear it ;p.

    1. Thanks for that. The dancer, her Mum and I started with the idea of a few colours, worked through my stash and came up with this. I like to have lots of trim and fabrics to show people. It really helps the creative juices.

  2. Barbara could you make the warm cream and gold traditional tutu the same style but in cream and pink which could be used for Sleeping beauty variation and what would you charge. Thank you Tania Camkin

      1. Hi Barbara thank you we wont know till Feb/Mar what she will be doing.
        Either Sleeping Beauty or Swanilda. We thought if we went with cream tutu we can go with pinks for overlay or golds. Can I let you know in Feb what we are doing and would you still have time to make tutu. Thank you Tania

      2. Let me know when you need it for and we can book you a spot on the schedule. It doesn’t matter that the decision on the variation hasn’t been made yet but my schedule will start to fill very quickly once the New Year starts and it may be too late to book a spot in February.

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