Le Corsaire – Pas D’Esclave Variation

I’ve made a few of these costumes over the past few years. As a stretch costume  it’s a snug and secure fit for younger dancers.

bodice detail

bodice detail

The bodice is not too deeply cut and extends comfortably down through the midriff as the dancer is young and good coverage was requested.


basque back

The basque reaches just short of the navel and is decorated both front and back. You can see the earring finding I’ve used.

front detail

basque and plate design

There’s a layer of glitter tulle in there for a bit of extra sparkle.

arm cuffs

some close-fitting arm cuffs complete the picture

and the tutu complete



Peasant Style Classical tutu

I had a request from a client in Adelaide for a classical tutu in the style of Giselle’s peasant pas dress. So we needed a faux corset and chemise, something that would suggest a little apron and some little sleeves.


little “apron”

A real apron would have looked silly on a classical tutu … (yes I think they look silly on peasant pas dresses too but don’t tell anyone) so I compromised and made a light net plate edged with silver venise lace.


faux chemise and corset lacing

The chemise is gathered stretch mesh and I used lycra strips as the corset laces. The little ribbon roses gave the tutu the sweet peasant look my client was after.


arm puffs

The little puffs were made of stretch mesh too to co-ordinate with the chemise.


et voila

The whole effect was rather sweet.

Red Queen

I don’t make a lot of costumes for end of year concerts, actually I duck for cover whenever anyone says the word “troupe”. I figure I paid my dues when my daughter was dancing. But occasionally a solo costume is needed and I’m very happy to help. This one was great fun. Karen and I are often on the same page with “less is more” and that the costume is there to support the dancer and the choreography not the other way around. Here is what we came up with for her daughter’s Red Queen tutu.

We chose a beautiful paprika red rather than the usual pillar box red and teamed it with black. But we needed a colour mid way between the red and the black for the middle side front sections. I placed some fine black mesh over the red and voila; perfect gradation.


you’ll have to scroll down for the final effect

Everyone knows that the Red Queen in the Queen of hearts so we felt we didn’t need to overplay the heart design so we insinuated hearts into the design with lovely baroque swirls.


playing with heart designs

I tried with a few more pieces and settled on this design. BTW, doesn’t the mid colour between the red and black look great?


final design … just needs bling

The skirt needed a little drama too so the top black layer was highlighted with gold glitter tulle and filled in with reds, plums and blacks.


gold glitter tulle in layer 2

Here’s a pictures of the underneath of the skirt with all the gorgeous reds.


I did struggle a bit with the placement of the appliques for the skirt so I played with a number of placements before I was happy.


design struggle 1

Too skimpy


design struggle 2

Too pointy


Goldilocks design

Just right, although I did tweak it just a little to make a bit more of the long points.


blinged up skirt

I think with a fancy tiara and some draped sleeves this could also be a very effective Spanish tutu.


et voila!



I was very pleased to receive this photo of the beautiful and vivacious Georgia in the tutu I made for her. We added the red hearts at the request of the teacher.

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poster girl Georgia


A Trio of Flower Faeries

As you can tell I’ve been too busy to blog lately and I’m cheating a little by just uploading photos of completed tutus. Bear with me. there will be a complete construction blog coming up soon. For the next few weeks however,  I will just post the tutus I’ve finished to show you what I’ve been up to.

I’ve recently made a number of solo tutus for dancers from a Cechetti School in the foothills of Sydney’s Blue Mountains. The school director then asked to make her a trio of tutus for their wardrobe. I call these my flower faeries.


ready for construction

It still amazes me that a bundle of pieces of fabric can become something as iconic as a classical ballet tutu and that this jumble can be transformed to this:


decorated leotards

I decorated the leotards before I sew on the net. It’s much easier than bending over a 40cm skirt to get to the bodice. If the appliques can survive the rigors of sewing on the skirt they will survive the rigors of eisteddfods and rehearsals.

The tutus all have white or ivory skirts (with a coloured layer a #3) so the panties are the same colour as the net.


120 linear metres ready to gather

Bluebell faerie was constructed on a cornflower blue lycra with an embroidered lace of pale gold, turquoise and sky blue. I used crystal AB rhinestones with a pink cast to bring the cornflower and other blues closer together.


plate detail

I used small motifs from the lace on the bodice. Where I had to cut through the embroidery I used a rhinestone to secure the cut ends and then expanded the rhinestone design from there; form following function.


bodice decoration

And the first of the faeries emerges


Bluebell Faerie

The Peony Faerie was made up of a rich coppery corded lace on dusky pink lycra.


plate detail

Crystal AB rhinestones did their trick and blended beautifully with these 2 rich colours.


bodice details

And finally, a pink layer of net added a soft blush to the skirt


Peony Faerie

And last but not least the Summer Rose Faerie using apricot ribbon lace on a sage green lycra. I wasn’t able to cut small motifs from the lace and I didn’t want a blocky design with no negative space so I fooled the eye a little by using rosebuds in 4 different colours to tie the plate decoration to the bodice. The rhinestones are unfoiled (transparent) so they took up the unusual colour of the lycra very well.



I’ve used the same rosebuds on the plate


plate detail

and the Summer Rose Faerie


Paquita Cupid Variation

This time of year I have a lot of YAGP tutus to make. Australian eisteddfods often don’t allow dancers to do variations unless they are competing in the elite level so it is nice to get requests from my American clients for variation tutus. It’s a fabulous excuse to while away a bit of time on YouTube watching ballet!


Ivory, gold and champagne

This little Paquita will have an ivory bodice and plate with swirls of gold corded lace encrusted with  rhinestones and sit over a pretty overlay of champagne gold lace; but first, the construction!


tutu leotard

The tutu is built on a lined lycra leotard. I will sew the pants up after I have attached all the net layers. You can see I’ve deepened the neckline a little to put in the powernet nude insert. This will give a more shaped neckline. I elasticate the top of the leotard before I put in the insert.


powernet insert tacked and pinned in place

Once the inert is in place I zigzag the elasticated top edge.


insert sewn in place

Once the bodice is finished I work out the best placement for the appliques and then bling them up.  I’ve used a combination of crystal AB and topaz rhinestones.


rhinestones on the appliques

When the rhinestone glue has cured the appliques are pinned in place to the bodice stretched across a body board.


motifs pinned in place

As you can see in the photo the appliques are sitting very flat across the bodice at maximum stretch. When it comes off the body board it looks a little crumpled but that just indicates that there is enough slack in the sewing to permit stretching onto the dancer.

In the picture below you can see I’ve added a few extra rhinestones, sequins and beads to fill out the design.


bodice decoration

For the plate the appliques are machine- sewn as the lycra dos not need to stretch. I will attach the rhinestones afterwards so I don’t have to sew around them. I learnt that trick the hard way!


motif placement

The next step is the construction of the tutu skirt itself. This tutu will have 8 layers, all ivory except for one layer of champagne net at layer #3.


scalloped layers

Each layer is made up of a number widths of stiff ballet net which are scalloped to give a soft-looking edge to the skirt.


Sewing the widths together

Each width is overlapped 1cm and then sewn together with a straight stitch and make one long piece which can be up to 7m in length.


rolling up the net

To be able to manage these long lengths of net during the gathering process I roll them up.


8 layers

Here are the 8 layers ready for the gathering process. The champagne colour at #3 looks a little dark rolled up but after it is gathered it will just add a warm golden blush to the skirt.


gathering the roll

To make the gathering a smooth (albeit DULL) process I roll the long piece of net so that it will unroll from the top not the bottom. This way it doesn’t just unroll into my lap.


fishing line in the cording foot

I feed fishing line through the cording foot, leaving the reel of fishing line on the floor. As the feed-dogs take up the net there is enough resistance on the fishing line for the net to automatically gather. I use overlocking thread for this. There’s no real need to use better quality thread here as the gathers are not under any tension.


self gathering net

I love this technique. Even if I run out of bobbin thread or if the thread breaks it won’t affect the gathering.


unsteamed net

After gathering, I clip the net to a metre rule with pony clips, evening out the gathers. Then apply steam to flatten it out a little. It makes for much easier sewing if the net has been tamed a little first.


steamed net

Once all the net has been steamed it’s time for sewing on the skirt … but first let’s admire this DSC_0140beautiful display of steamed net layers.



Yes, my OCD has kicked in here separating out my coloured glass-headed pins. I don’t want to lose any in the skirt so I have my pins separated so I can choose the colour with the best contrast. This layer is sewn on with a 4.5 x 3.0 zigzag is a good quality sewing thread.


layer 1 pinned on


When they have all been sewn on, starting from the bottom I tag layers 8, 7, 6 and 5 together. Here I’ve dropped down layers 4 and 3 and will tag them tag to layer 5. Finally I will drop down layers 2 and 1 (which are still held up by the wide black elastic) onto the pretty champagne coloured layer 3 and tag through layers 3, 2 and 1.


tagging the skirt

The plate had been prepared earlier so that the glue could cure but here are few photos of different applique placement.


nice tendrils

I like the tendrils but I’m not sure how to use them. I didn’t feature the tendrils in the bodice design so I have to introduce them carefully.


a bit more detail

The shape is nice but I just keep seeing a map of Australia.


final design

A few more elements and I’m happy. The border seems heavy but it is going over a lace overlay so it needs a strong clear outline.


front of place with rhinestones

Once the placement was complete I machine stitched the appliques with metallic gold thread and glued on the rhinestones.


corded lace appliques over embroidered lace

And behold, the completed tutu


finished tutu


on the steps in the back garden