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



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.

13 thoughts on “Paquita Cupid Variation

  1. Very Nice ! Here, in France YAGP semi-finals took place in Paris on early November. I made corrections and modifications of the Colas’ costume from “la fille mal gardée” and our student finished in the six best junior men ! It’s always a pleasure for me to admire your work, and your photos and explanations are very instructive for me to learn how to sew my ballet costumes !

  2. Congratulations to your student! I haven’t blogged much lately as I have been very busy making costumes. I’ll post a few more pictures over the next few weeks and then start detail blogging again. Is there anything you’d like to see?

  3. It would be very interesting for me to see how you sew each part of a stretch bodice together which machine, (serger or not), which stitch do you use. The dream would be a step by step stretch tutu construction, like you did with the black classical one !
    As you can see on my blog, I don’t have your practice !

      1. Wonderful !! Here, Tutu classes don’t exist and french people haven’t a great sense of sharing !! All I know about tutu construction, I learned it on the web !

  4. Stunning work! What an amazing post, it’s so clear and helpful! I’m researching tutus and this is by far the most in depth article I’ve found. Where do you find your supplies? I love working with tulle but I have never seen lycra in my fabric shop 😦

    1. Thanks Roselyn, I’m glad I could help. I’ve been a bit lax of this page of late. I have post coming on on my Odette and Odile tutus soon. I buy most of my supplies of fabric at home in Australia and for trim I spend a LOT of time on Ebay and Aliexpress. Lycra is also known as Nylon Spandex.

      cheers and thanks for the kind words about my work


  5. I have been pouring over your blog for days. Absolutely beautiful work! Thank you for sharing your beautiful work and hard earned tricks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: