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!


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.


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.













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.



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.



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.




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 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!













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.



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 and buttons

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


bejewelled venise lace on green shot fuchsia taffeta

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


plate decoration

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


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.


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.


plate and lace overskirt

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


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.


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.


lace overskirt

The whole effect was rather regal


Royal blue and gold

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


hand-made to match the tutu










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.


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.


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!


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.


Pretty Swanhilda












Apricot and Gold Aurora

I’ve had a groundswell of Auroras this year, in all their glorious girly pinkishness. It was almost enough to make me consider frocking up myself (nope, still in jeans and a t-shirt!). My client brought along some fabric she had found and some ideas and we set to work. First there was the dyeing of the net to a lovely soft colour. While good quality net comes in about 30 different colours subtlety of shading is not one of the characteristics!


hand-dyed net

I dyed the net to be the same soft colour as the bodice and then because she is a Princess I simply had to scallop the edges of the net. The knickers had to match the net so I toyed with a few variations of pink and ivory poplin and voile until I came up with the best match. You can just see the pink liner peeking through. It gave the perfect blush to the ivory to match the net. The lines on the pants are my sewing guide for the 10 layers of net.


Knickers with sewing guide

I made up the bodice to fitting stage and then worked out my placement of venise lace. There are about 3 different motifs in this design cut up and rearranged. Once I’d finalised the design I photographed it as a record and then decorated it with pink and apricot rhinestones.

placing bodice decos

applique placement

After the fitting I finished the bodice and sewed on the appliques. Here it is sitting against the pretty dyed net all steamed and ready for the next stage of skirt construction.

bodice decoration

lots of different pinks and apricots

Because we wanted a detailed baroque look, we decided on 8 small petals around the hipline instead of a solid plate. Each petal was lined with interfacing and the appliques were machined on with gold metallic thread. If you bling them up first you have little choice but to hand sew them on … ask me how I know! Sometimes I still get carried away and  forget and bling them first. Then I smack myself in the head or say bad words. The petals were then edged with gold trim and THEN blinged.



The inner edge of the petals were clipped to fit the hip-line and hand-sewn onto the piping of the basque. I find the piping really useful as an anchor point for the plate.  I don’t sew the plate (or petals) between the basque ans the top layer of net as I like to wiggle things into place when the skirt is finished.  This is because the  hip-line is more of an ellipse than a circle so clipping for the curve at the front and the back is much shallower than for the petals at the side. It also means that it’s easier to change the decoration on the tutu at a later stage. Petals are great because you can position them either side of the centre back and you don’t have to make a placket for the back opening.

sewing on petals

sewing on petals

After sewing on the petals I gathered some light gold lace and tucked it up underneath the petals and stitched it down. Then I stitched the petals down over the lace into the skirt and finally sewed down the lace to keep it in place.

petals 2

overskirt detail

And there you have Aurora, the second one for the year!












Grey Velvet with French Lace

Tutu design can sometimes get you into a bit of a rut so it’s nice to be nudged out of that with clients’ lovely ideas. While this design was quite simple the colour choice was surprisingly refreshing. The young dancer is about 15 and she chose an elegant soft dove grey and teamed it with an understated silver French lace I’d had stashed away.

lace CU

silver and grey French lace

French lace is very expensive and also quite heavy but with a careful approach you can avoid the high cost and weight. While it may seem a travesty to cut this up is really does reveal a huge range of possibilities. Usually the lace selvedge will be scalloped and heavily beaded and can be quite lovely as a plate. However, it also has a number of motifs in the centre that can be cut out as the background fabric is nylon net and won’t fray. This lace had mirror pairs of motifs.

mirror pair

Mirror pairs of motifs

I used 5 of these to decorate the bodice, 2 pairs across the top and a single motif I trimmed to appear bilaterally symmetrical. Any cuts through beaded sections were sealed with Fraycheck. I also extended the motifs around the back of the bodice to give a little interest to the back. I decorate the bodice before I attach the net as it’s veru difficult leaning over a full tutu skirt to try to sew things onto the bodice. In the photo below you can see where I’ve zigzagged the velvet bodice onto the white knickers as the bottom rows of the skirt will be white.

decorated bodice

decorated bodice

The plate was embellished with 6 mirror pairs giving a complex edge that looked like the plate had been frosted with ice. The underlying plate shape was 6 round petals. I didn’t finish the edges at all as the fabric doesn’t fray and it wouldn’t be seen. The is not haute couture! Otherwise no one could afford a tutu!

CU of decorated plate

placement of motifs

After deciding on the general placement of the motifs, I hand-sewed (Oh yes … too many seed beads to use a machine!) them to the plate.

decorated plate

Plate decorated with french lace motifs

You can see the inner circumference of the plate is an ellipse as that is more accurately the shape of the dancer through the plane of her hips. The plate itself is a modified circle. Sometimes I will create an elliptic plate if the trim is linear but elliptic plates make the regular placement of motifs a bit tricky.

net FX

Grey and white net layers

I wanted a translucence in the skirt rather than a solid grey colour so the top 4 layers alternated between grey and white. The remainder of the skirt is white. With the white underneath the grey took on a slight lavender effect.

three quarter


Close up you can see a little of the net around each motif but these disappear at about 2-3 metres so I didn’t trim too closely. I certainly don’t want beads spilling off the costume onto the stage. The edge of the velvet plate is sewn loosely to the top of the skirt as is the lace edge.


finished tutu

And you can see here that the net backing certainly doesn’t show up and the whole effect is quite ethereal.








Black Velvet and Ivory

People often ask how I find my fabrics and trims but it’s hard to say much more than “online”. I am inveterate hunter and gatherer of all types of trim and I’m always on the lookout for something a little different. I watch what other tutu makers are using and try to step aside from that so I’m very pleased when a client sees a tutu in a fabric or trim where I saw one too. This simple and elegant black tutu arose from that convergence of ideas.


black net lace

This lace is about 22cm wide with 2/3 of it being just sheer black net. I thought it would be perfect for a light overlay on a tutu.


motifs with rhinestones added


Each of the motifs can be separately cut from the net for use as a bodice decoration. While there are no mirror images there is enough irregularity in the designs to fool the eye a little to create a well-balanced but asymmetrical design.


tutu sketch

We planned an ivory skirt which meant the knickers would also have to be ivory. In the photo below you can see the front basque and one of the back pieces with a black velvet top and an ivory lycra bottom. The join is covered by the layers of net.

white pants

ivory knickers

I separately serge line each piece with lightweight lining. In the picture below you can see the pieces laid out onto the lining fabric. I cut roughly around each piece, pin and then overlock, trimming off the excess.


lining the pieces

I placed the individual motifs on the bodice in a pleasing arrangement then either photograph it or look at it in a mirror to get a different perspective to make sure the balance is OK. I decorate the bodice before I sew on the net as it’s much easier to sew appliques onto a leotard stretched onto a bodyboard than onto a completed tutu.


bodice detail

The design was so lovely and abstract I didn’t want to stop at the bodice so I carried it around the back making sure there was still enough stretch for the dancer to pull the tutu on without breaking the sewing thread.


back detail


I gathered the lace onto some narrow hat elastic and pulled it in snug around the high hip and then sewed the seam allowance to the top layer of net. The edge of the overlay was tacked down loosely with black thread to keep it in place.



The overall design was one of elegant simplicity.


finished tutu