Maleficent

A client came to me a while ago for a tutu and asked if I’d make her a Maleficent costume as well. They wanted wings that could be easily removed in the early part of the choreography. Now before you get too excited, I don’t know ow to make wings and certainly not easily removable ones so I accepted the tutu job but sent them off to a costumier I knew in Bondi that does this sort of thing.

When they cam back for a tutu fitting they said they’d changed their mind about wings and could I make a costume with a removable long floaty cape. Oh yes … now that was right up my alley. Three metres of 6 momme tissue silk and a handful of magnets and here we go!

magnets

The costumier’s friends

Anything that is removed on stage in front of an audience needs to be done deftly and silently. Velcro won’t do it and snaps need serious pull to dislodge. For quick change costumes you best friend is a magnet. I use 12mm x 2mm neodimium magnets. They have a pull of about 600g and with 6 pairs of them I figured it would be enough for 3 metres of beautiful floaty tissue silk.

covered magnets

covered magnets

The magnets had to be placed inside the black mesh of a unitard so I covered them with flesh coloured powernet and sewed them into the costume across the back of the shoulders.

magnet sewn in

magnet sewn in

My aim was to have as little fabric as possible between the north and south poles of the magnets (It’s important to get that right!) so I didn’t sew them over seams.

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magnet sewn in

Now while the magnets can be seen close up, at 5m they disappear and considering the audience is generally at 15 m they are for all intents and purposes invisible. The matching pair of the magnet was in the edge of the cape with just one layer of silk over it.

magnet in cape

magnet in cape

The magnets in the cape and across the back of the costume lined up and gave the look of a firmly fixed cape.

magnets atachment pts

magnet attachment points

The cape is 1.5 m long and 3m wide gathered and steamed onto a band the width of the back. Small magnets were also inserted into the wrist of the costume to give the impression of wings: Mission accomplished .. and NO WINGS!

back (3)

back of cape

When the cape is removed a deep low back is revealed on a black velvet unitard with gold embossing.

back (2)

deep back

Maleficent with her evil black silk cape.

front

Maleficent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spanish Jacket

Black,red and gold are instantly recognised as stage-Spanish and although there are lots of other colours that can speak Spanish these 3 are always great to work with. For this young man’s jacket I’ve chosen black velveteen, light gold and yellow gold braid, red sequins and rhinestones.

spanish style jacket

do you speak Spanish?

The decoration for this jacket will be detailed stripes following the contours the panel pieces.

back chalk

chalked in designs

And then the application of three types of trim.

back braid

back braid

And also decoration on the front and back of the sleeves.

sleeves

sleeves

Undershirts are usually cropped and elasticated. It keeps them from riding up. Longer shirts would just become  untucked, This one is silk crepe de chine.

chemise

chemise

The epaulets were great fun to make. There were just concentric loops of braid on an ellipse. I’d actually run out of red sequins at this stage so I dug through my box of trims and found these sequinned swirls and added some rhinestones for good measure.

 

epaulet

epaulet

The details on the jacket are basically just lines but they do speak very loudly … and in Spanish! The little tassel is a touch of matador!

back

back detail

Initially the front of the jacket between the lines was undecorated but it needed a little something. These gold embroidered appliques were a perfect balance.

three Q profile

front detail

And the final picture with lots of red rhinestones sewn on for extra richness – Ole!

front

Ole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flower Festival Romantic Tutu

Romantic tutus are great fun to make; all that soft tulle in huge clouds. Having just sent off a blue Giselle to the Alana Haines Ballet competition in New Zealand I was in the mood for making another. The mum and teacher wanted a burgundy bodice so I suggested this beautiful brocade teamed with old gold venise lace and ribbon flowers.

starting point

burgundy and gold brocade

I used the steamed silk technique to make the fabric for the faux chemise insert. I sewed it onto the insert piece and then prepared the bodice.

insert

insert

The edges of the bodice were piped with bronze satin. I piped the V front so that the insert could be easily attached by stitching in the ditch.

inside of bodice

inside of bodice

I sandwiched a piece of looped braid  between the insert and the bodice for the corset lacing. It’s an easy way to achieve a nice even placement and the unused loops create an interesting finish

lacing loops

lacing loops

The top of the insert is finished with satin piping.

bodice detail 1

bodice close up

It’s a great little technique and I prefer it to sewing the ribbon laces down.

bodice detail 2

faux chemise with laces

For this tutu I used 4 layers of soft tulle. I sewed some light organza ribbon around the base of the skirt on the top layer of tulle.

finished tutu

Finished tutu

Prince Albrecht from Giselle

I love making tutus but it’s wonderful to be asked to make other costumes too. Here is the starting point for a boy’s classical ballet costume from Giselle. My client wanted burgundy and I had a choice between plain bengaline or this … not a hard decision!

Prince Albrecht

embroidered taffeta and ornate buttons

Like a tutu bodice I line boys’ tunics with a good stable cotton fabric. I cut out the pattern pieces in drill and then overlock those pieces to the top fabric.

cutting out

cutting drill lining

I decided to try hook and eye tape for this tunic. I hadn’t used it before so after a bit of googling I launched in. There was a bit of mental geometry in working out how to apply it but I now have a great new technique to use.

h&E tape

hook tape

 

The tape was folded back so that the tape was hidden behind the lap. I also put a #3 hook and bar at the top and bottom of the back closure and I folded the fabric back on itself to make a facing behind the eyes.

H&E + #3

hook and bar closure

To keep the vest anchored at the waist I put in an elastic waistband that is held in place with loops on the seam allowances.

internal waist belt

internal waist belt

I had the option to sew in sleeves and a faux chemise but I decided to make a little shirt on a crop top to be worn underneath the vest.  The shirt can then be separately washed and could be worn with other t. Being cropped there is no concern about the shirt coming untucked.

braid

braid and buttons

The ensemble was finished with a pair of knee length tights.

final

Prince Albrecht

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pale Mint Brocade Traditional Tutu

 

Pale and pastel-coloured traditional tutus are very popular but I always like to sneak a little bit of extra colour into them. For this pale mint brocade tutu I decided to highlight the mint colour in the skirt and enhance it with a little glitter tulle.

clippings

net clippings

And if you’ve wondered how I get all those layers (up to 10) onto a tutu it’s a combination of determination, brute force and sewn on guidelines. I alternate the thread colour so I can tell where I’m up to.

guidelines

sewing guidelines

 

 

After clipping the net I sew the widths together; 5 for the top two layers, 4 for the next 2 and 3 each for the remainder. Then I gather and steam them.

layer 3

layer 3 is mint

Now, while this layer looks like a very strong colour, 2 layers of white above it and 7 layers of white below it will dilute the colour beautifully. Positioning is important.  If you put a strong colour at layer 2 you get more distinct radiations of colour and at layer 4 the effect is too light.

The mint brocade was teamed with silver venise lace. I cut up a few motifs to give a long decorative style for this Russian bodice and toyed with a few placements. When I was happy with the placement I got to work with the rhinestones.

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placement ideas

To bring the pale green out of the fabric I used a combination of stones and pearls that had a green base.

 

bling time

rhinestones and pearls

It looks a very different applique once the stones and pearls are attached.

BLING

finished applique

For the plate, the appliques are cut and arranged first and then sewn to the plate.

plate decos

plate appliques

Once they are sewn to the plate then I attached the rhinestones and pearls.

plate

ready for glueing

The rhinestones add a lovely definition to the plate decoration as well as subtle ballet glimmer. You can just see the glitter net showing through.

plate detail

plate detail

The bodice decoration had a lovely mixture of green stones and peals as well as a few little green flower shaped sequins.

bodice detail

bodice detail

I was very pleased with the final design and loved the glow of pale mint in the skirt.

tutu

finished tutu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trio of traditional tutus

I’ve been flat out lately and forgetting to take photos but I’m sure you’ll forgive me just posting some pictures of finished tutus rather than construction steps.

I often will buy a couple of metres of beautiful fabric if I can see a tutu in it. I could not resist this beautiful embroidered taffeta. It is green and is shot with a purple-fuchsia colour. The dancer who chose it has flaming red locks and ivory skin. It was a perfect choice for her.

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bejewelled venise lace on green shot fuchsia taffeta

The plate was made with long points that echoed the bodice decoration.

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plate decoration

And for a soft effect the skirt was cream. White looked too harsh and ivory wasn’t right either.

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Green taffeta tutu

The next tutu was another pink Aurora. This one was pink and silver and had a delicate feel. Both of my recent Auroras were for the same ballet school so I wanted them to stand apart but both be lovely.

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bodice edge piped in silver

The pink silk we chose was a little too light when it was lined so I put a layer of darker pink poplin between the silk and the drill to give a little more strength to the colour.

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plate and lace overskirt

The silver overskirt and venise lace gave the tutu an airy ethereal look.

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lovely pale pink

And finally a little tutu for a very dedicated young 10 year old. We used royal blue dupioni and gold corded lace for a regal look.

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corded lace bodice appliques

There was no plate but I matched the colour of the skirt to the bodice so that the line of the bodice carried down onto the skirt. I used the corded lace to make a flay lace overlay. I used blue rhinestones on the lace to increase the negative space in the design and break up the sold stretches of gold.

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lace overskirt

The whole effect was rather regal

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Royal blue and gold

and I finished off the ensemble with shoulder frills and a tiara.

tiara

hand-made to match the tutu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swanhilda

The peasant costumes in ballets are lovely, whether they have large fluffy skirts, tiered Spanish skirts, or like this one, a low profile full circle skirt that stays close to the dancer’s legs. Here is the starting point for a very pretty Swanhilda costume.

starting point

braids and flowers

Sometimes the decorating ideas will change as I move trough the construction phase. The white braid for example didn’t make the final cut and some other flowers were introduced, discarded and then reintroduced. I’ve learnt to let go of ideas!

bodice for fitting

bodice ready for second fitting

The first fitting for a bodice uses a calico (muslin for US readers) mock-up of the bodice to which I make changes and then translate to a pattern for the bodice. The bodice is then made up with it’s drill lining but with no piping or other finishing. The second fitting helps take account of the thicker fabric and the drill lining. After this I add piping and boning. The third and final fitting is at completion and is basically for finalising the hooks and bars.

bodice opening for insert

bodice opening for faux corset insert

This bodice will have a faux corset insert so the centre front needs to be opened up and trimmed away. The piping allows me to sew attach the faux corset insert by stitching in the ditch. The corset insert should look like the corset is laced over a soft chemise. For this effect I gather tissue silk over the insert. This type of silk is not very expensive and I try to always have some on hand. I think it is superior to using polyester as it sits flatter when it is steamed or ironed.

silk

tissue silk and silk crepe de chine

The tissue silk is for the ruched corset insert and the crepe de chine for the arm puffs as the tissue silk is a bit too light for the puffs.

insert

gathered and steamed silk sewn onto insert

The excess silk is trimmed off the insert and it is stitched into the bodice opening. Now comes the fun part, starting the placement of decorations.

trying out ideas

design ideas

I thought I’d add in some other ribbon flowers to bring out the apricot colours in the bodice but they started to shout to me so I swapped them over for the original colour. You can see below the crimson ribbon flowers work much better with the dusty pink ribbon roses and still gives a point of interest to the design.

corset laces

corset laces

I also solved the perennial problem of trying to line up the laces on a faux corset by using a gimp trim that I could thread the laces through; instant symmetry … YAY me!

puffs

arm puffs

Some cute little arms puffs and an apron completed the picture.

skirt nd apron detail

skirt and apron detail

The skirt was a simple full circle of creme georgette over 2 layers of soft bridal tulle. The skirt had a lightly gathered overlay of embroidered organza. Both top skirts were circular to minimise bulk at the waist and both were completed with a rolled hem using woolly nylon in the upper looper for a soft but defined hemline.

bodice detail

bodice detail

I finished off the top of the chemise with a pretty green and pink braid that I carried all the way around the top of the bodice.

tutu

Pretty Swanhilda