Three Peasant Pas Dresses

While the classical ballet tutu is the iconic shape for ballet there are a few other costumes that make a regular appearance. The peasant pas dress is one of them. Here are three I made earlier this year; the copper silk for YAGP and the blue silk and russet stretch for Alana Haines in Wellington New Zealand.

I loved the bodice detail on this one. Rather than the typical laced corset bodice this one had little horizontal bars. I also found the most perfect coloured roses to give some points of interest to the bodice decoration.

CU bodice
bodice detail

The faux chemise under the bodice is 8mm tissue silk that had been gathered and steamed into rough pleats. This is on of my favourite techniques and I always have 5 metres of this on hand. It’s inexpensive and easy to use. I think it gives a much better effect than polyester chiffon and about the same price.

silk chemise and bodice detail

The skirt was not the typical fluffy style but a lower profile dress with just a couple of layers of tulle underneath. The top layer was the same tissue silk because the teacher wanted a lovely soft float to the skirt.

Low profile skirt

I added a few little roses to the sleeves for a tiny splash of colour.

CU sleeve
sleeve detail

The brown guipure lace continues around the back of the bodice. I bought this lace online thinking it was gold and I wondered if I’d ever use it. I think it’s perfect in this application.

costume back

The costume was shipped to California and I received this photo back. It’s lovely to see my costumes come alive on dancers.

dancer and dress

The next was another traditional peasant pas with silk bodice but with a romantic tutu rather than a low profile skirt.

Kirov Peasant Pas

I couldn’t resist flowers, it is a peasant dress after all. You can see the ruched silk effect again here but the corset is underbust so more of the ruching can be seen.

Crisp detail on the puffed sleeves

As you can see the skirt is very fluffy. It has 2 layers of bridal tulle on the top 2 layers of dress net underneath.

3 rows of ribbon give a very crisp finish

One of the difficulties with these skirts is the tendency of the net to wrap around the legs during turns. My client came back with the dress to see if we could fix it. I put in 12 long swing tacks (about 8cm) evenly around the skirt at the level of the ribbon and the problem vanished.

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Quarterfinalist Sienna

The last peasant pas dress I made was a stretch version. This is another of Dani Legge’s terrific patterns.

bodice detail

You can see I was again rather taken with the brown guipure lace and the dusty pink roses. I added a few little carnations as well and a coppery ribbon for the traditional corset lacing.

sleeve detail
apron detail


This costume had the traditional apron as well as ribbon trim around the bottom of the skirt.


There’s not a lot of requests for peasant pas costumes in Australia. I look forward to Alana Haines 2019 when the next requests come in.

Tutu-making Classes in Sydney

I am very grateful to my dear friend Danielle Legge who has given generous permission for me to use her patterns to teach others how to make classical ballet tutus. Dani has been my tutu mentor for many years and I would now like to share the benefits of what I have learned to others, just as Dani did with me.


Dani’s pattern is extremely versatile and designed for stretch fabrics such as lycra and stretch velvet. The great benefit of stretch tutus is that the tutu will grow with a dancer over a couple of seasons. In addition, stretch tutus have terrific resale value as they will fit a number of different body types and still look like the tutu was tailor-made.

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I will be running classes from my studio in Sydney. They will be one-on-one over 2 days. The scheduling of the classes is flexible and I will endeavour to fit classes to suit students’ own busy lives.  You may buy your own materials or I’m happy to make up a kit for you. It is important to purchase materials that are fit for purpose so you should consult with me first. You will, however, be required to purchase a pattern from Dani. She can be contacted via her FB page Tutus By Dani.

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To undertake the course you must have intermediate sewing skills. Stretch sewing skills are handy but not essential as the basics will be taught. It is important though that your sewing machine has a good straight stretch stitch.  Unfortunately, this is not a course for beginners.

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You will be supervised through fabric cutting, garment construction, shown quick and easy ways to cut and shape your net, learn stress-free ways to gather 45 linear metres of ballet net, and importantly, how to tack your tutu into a classical shape from the puffball that emerges from your machine. After 2 days of focused work and personal instruction you’ll have a lined, 6-8 layer classical ballet tutu, tacked and ready for decoration.


If you would like further instruction in how to finish off your tutu, additional half day courses in Tutu Embellishment and Tiara making will also be available.

3Q profile
Ivory and Copper Aurora

The Embellishment Course will teach the basics of good design and ballet aesthetic,  explore the materials that can (and can’t) be used, plate design and how to attach it to the tutu, creative ways with lace, beading and rhinestones, and how to make arm puffs, frills or drapes. Information on sourcing trims will also be discussed.


points attached

arm drapes

The tiara course will teach you how to make a tiara on a frame (basic) or a more advanced fully beaded tiara. Both techniques use wire wrapping, jewellery findings and crystal beads. In addition I will show you 2 effective techniques to attach the tiara to the dancer’s hair without having to pin over bulky frames.



As the instruction is one-on-one scheduling is very flexible. Please contact me for additional information.


2-day basic tutu-making course           $500 (excludes materials)

1/2-day Embellishment course             $175 (includes trim for basic plate and bodice)

1/2-day Tiara Making course                $135 (includes materials)

Advanced Classes                                     $POA


Paquita Grand Pas Classique

I’m just about to leave for my holiday so I have a little bit of time up my sleeve to blog my last 2015 tutu . This one has quite a bit of detail so get ready to plough in.

starting point
starting point

This is white and gold tutu for Paquita. The accents are a dark gold and red.

decorated leo
decorated leotard

I build the tutu on a lycra leotard with a faux basque to resemble a classical tutu. I use Danielle Legge’s pattern which is available via her FB page or website. If you’re thinking of making your own tutu I’d urge you to use her pattern. It really is the best available.


Next I constructed the plate. Here I have placed the venise lace on the lycra plate. I sewed the lace to the plate with gold metallic thread. Once it was attached I glued on the rhinestones and then trimmed the lycra around the edges of the lace.

lace overskirt
lace overskirt

The plate was about 1/3 the width of the skirt. The lace overskirt filled the remaining 2/3 of the skirt. Here I have gathered the lace lightly to fit around the edge of the plate.

plate and overskirt
plate and overskirt

This tutu had 8 layers of net. Each layer has between 3 and 5 widths of net. I cut them on a self-healing mat with a rotary cutter and a quilter’s ruler. It’s the easiest and most accurate way to cut 60 linear metres of net. Each bundle is numbered as they are only about 2cm different in length and hard to distinguish at a glance. After the widths are cut I feather or scallop the edges if required by the client. For this one I scalloped the edges.

numbered layers
net bundles

The widths are sewn together to make long lengths that are gathered and sewn onto the lower part of the leotard.

sewing widths together
sewing widths together

I sewed the widths together from the outer edge matching the clipped edges. The overlap is about 1cm wide.

rolling net
rolling the net

When the widths are all sewn together I roll them up for ease of handling. When I gather them the roll unrolls from the top so that it doesn’t roll onto the floor.

sewing hoop casing
sewing the hoop casing

Because this tutu has lace right to the edge there is a possibility the net may droop after a few years due to the additional weight even though the net I use is very stiff. If the tutu does need a little bit of a pick up after a few years hooping can be inserted. This is much easier to do if the hoop casing is already inserted. I will do this for tutus with wide overskirts even if there is no immediate need for hooping. In this picture you can see a 5cm wide casing being sewn onto the middle of layer 4. The ruler and the edge 0f the pressure foot are the guides for placement.

hoop casing
hoop casing

If hooping were to be inserted it would be done just before this layer is tacked. The hooping wire is covered in light fabric to match the skirt and pushed though the casing.

net on leo
ready for tacking

Tacking starts at the bottom three layers. The remainder are held up out of the way with some wide elastic. The bottom three layers are tacked together. The next 2 layers are dropped down and tacked to the top layer of the first 3 that were tacked together. This is continued to through all the layers. The tutu is therefore constructed of groups of 3 layers of net tacked together which are internally attached to one another. This allows the tutu to move softly but without the layers fluffing up.

CU plate detail
plate detail close up

This photo shows the variation in the rhinestones I used.

plate detail
plate detail

The plate was sewn as close to the bodice as possible through the top layer of net. The very edge of the lace can either be sewn with gold metallic thread onto the top layer of net or tacked on using the same tags that are used to hold the tutu layers together.

bodice detail
bodice detail

The red and dark gold rhinestones add a warmth to the decoration.



Ivory and Champagne Bell Tutu

Most of the tutus I make are traditional classical tutus with a relatively flat skirt. There is, however,  a  style mid-way between classical and the long romantic style; the bell tutu. The skirt is a little longer than a classical tutu and more loosely tacked.

This bell tutu has an ivory bodice and plate with gold embellishment and a champagne coloured skirt. The net has been feathered to assist the colours to blend. Usually tutu skirts are lighter than the bodice but a slighter darker skirt can look really lovely. I planned an elaborate plate to fool the eye a little.

ivory, champagne and pink net

I used gold venise lace to trim the plate. I removed the solid line from the trim so I could bend it around the curves of the plate.

venise lace

Here you can see the trim pinned to the plate. I inverted one of the heart-shaped pieces in the apex of the plate scallops to define the shape.

pinning on lace

I extended the plate into points with venise lace and gold glitter tulle.

plate points

The venise lace and points were sewn on by machine with gold metallic thread.

points attached
plate ready for rhinestones

The bodice was decorated with similar venise lace and encrusted with rhinestones. Bodice appliques were sewn on by hand on a body board to accommodate the stretch fabric.

bodice detail
bodice detail

The champagne coloured skirt looks quite pretty with the elaborate plate decoration.

skirt detail
skirt detail

The bell skirt was steamed into a soft shape. You can see here is slopes down more steeply than a typical classical skirt.

bell skirt

I was very pleased with this pretty bell tutu.



Burgundy and Plum tutu

This may just be my favourite tutu of the year! I love strong colours and this tutu ticked all of the boxes. I was actually sad when Sandra came to pick it up!

net rolls
net colours

Now while these colours look a little like a football jumper when they’re just sitting on my work bench, see what happened after they were gathered and steamed.

sunlight catching the colours

And from above you start to get an idea of how the skirt will really look!

skirt colours

It’s quite a transition from looking at a roll of net to the actual effects of the colours in an eight layer skirt.

adding lycra pants

The bodice fabric was a closer match for the plum coloured net but we wanted the bottom ruffles to be burgundy so the pants had to be a different colour. I made the pants separately and overlapped them on the wrong side of the velvet and zig-zagged them on. You can see this technique more clearly in Matilda’s Garden tutu.

cutting insert
cutting insert

Once the leotard is made up I use a french curve to deepen the front V for the insert. Note the smooth gradation from the original shape. The purple line indicates where I will finish the elastic.

deepened V

When the elastic has been sewn on I fold it under and baste the unelasticated section in place with a piece of crystal lycra filling in the gap I have created (see further down).

placement 1
Applique test 1

At this point I see how the applique will fit and what I could do to improve the shape. This applique is too big so I’ve cut a few bit of it off and moved them around.

placement 2
Applique test 2

Here you can see I’ve snipped off a few little pieces and added them to the top of the bodice. I’ve also cut off the little bunch of leaves from the bottom as I had another idea for the bottom of this.

placement 3
Applique test 3 and final

The little bunch of leaves has been moved to the centre of the applique and a new bottom point has been added. The bottom point is from a piece of venise lace I will use for the plate. Once the design is finished I apply the rhinestones and then sew the blinged up applique to the leotard bodice.

rhinestones on applique
Rhinestones on applique

The rhinestones are not just for sparkle. By choosing stones that match or complement the underlying fabric you bring more of the “negative space” though the design making it less blocky and more delicate.

pinning on venise lace
Pinning venise lace onto plate

The plate is a simple circle to take greatest advantage of the outline of this gorgeous lace. The edges of the plate was simply overlocked but it could be left untreated as this fabric does not fray. Once in place I machine stitched the lace to the plate using gold thread in the needle and burgundy thread in the bobbin. I use Kingstar metallic thread as it is tough and not temperamental.

decoraed plate
finished plate

I decided the original lace needed a bit more shape as I wanted to divert the eye away from the circular shape so I cut some little hearts out of another lace I have. I quick email discussion with my client and we decided to amp things up a  little more and added the beautiful purple french lace motifs to the plate. From the audience perspective this will add sparkle and texture to the plate.

plate detail
plate detail

And here, against the sumptuous colours of the skirt you can really see the final effect. I loved watching these ideas come together!

bodice detail
bodice detail

The stones of the bodice were a mixture of burgundy, blue, purple and even a tiny bit of green. Crystal AB rhinestones were added for a bit of ballet glimmer.

finished tutu

I was definitely in LOVE when it was all finished. Folks who visited the studio while it was in residence felt the same. My daughter would pop downstairs just to look at it. Sigh. Yes, this is why I make dance costumes!


Emerald Velvet and Gold

This tutu brought together my favourite applique, beautiful emerald green velvet and a new shade of net I fell in love with at Dani Legge’s tutu course in Woodend earlier this year.


Layers 1, 3 and 5 of the skirt were a warm champagne colour withe remainder ivory. I use stiff ballet net that is imported from Italy. I find it has plenty of body and keeps its shape well without hooping or hand-pleating.

champagne and ivory net

I trimmed the applique a little to fit the inverted scallops and played around with a few other appliques to fill in the gaps.

playing with trim 1
playing with trim

When I was happy with the arrangement I overlocked the edges and then placed the appliques in their final position. While these are iron on appliques, the glue isn’t really strong enough for a reliable attachment, so I pressed them lightly into place to save using pins and then zigzagged them on with gold embroidery thread. I was careful not to let the iron mark the velvet.

playing with trim 2
final placement

After the trim was in place I glued on rhinestones and started putting the skirt layers on while the glue dried. When the skirt was finished I cut an ellipse from the centre of the skirt 2cm smaller than the high hip measurement. I clipped the inner circumference and sewed the plate to the top layer of net as close to the bodice as possible. This technique gives a neat finish and a flat plate. I use a curved upholstery needle as I’m sewing into a more or less flat surface.

attaching plate
attaching the plate

Just a sprinkling of rhinestones and the embellishment is complete.

skirt detail
bodice and skirt detail

The beautiful subtle colour of the skirt complements the richness of the bodice and plate.

finished tutu

and a lovely emerald and gold tiara to match


Ivory and Gold Stretch Tutu

I thought with this tutu I might take you through a bit more detail of the construction elements. If that’s not interesting for you scoot through to the end for the finished tutu.

day 1
second tutu for the week

I was asked for an ivory tutu with light gold embellishment in a Baroque style. My client sent me though 1 picture but basically left it in my hands. I ordered in some of my favourite Eclipse Italian lycra “arborio”. It’s a beautiful soft colour.

dani's pattern
Tutus by Dani pattern

My go-to stretch tutu pattern is Dani Legge’s pattern. If you’re considering making a stretch tutu for your girl I can’t recommend Dani’s patterns highly enough. She also runs tutu making courses from her studio in Central Victoria.

cutting out bodice pieces

I usually line the tutu bodice with lightweight swimsuit lining but in this case because the top fabric was so light I lined it with medium weight white lycra. Tybalt wanted to be a pattern weight but he was sidelined.

front sectiom
front section of leotard

Stretch tutus are built on a leotard base. This pattern has a faux basque design to make it resemble a traditional tutu basque.

I use one way stretch crystal lycra for the insert with the stretch going downwards. I fold a piece in half using the dull side outermost. I usually baste the edges to stop the 2 pieces sliding against each other.

crystal lycra

I cut out the nude insert after the leotard is made up. The insert will be another 1 cm deeper than the cut section as I fold the lycra under for a neat edge.

nude insert
nude insert

After cutting out the deep V for the insert I elasticate the tip of the leotard to the point where the insert starts.

pinning in
pinning in the crystal lycra

After the crystal lycra is in place I fold over the elasticated raw edge and then zigzag the whole of the top all the way around and down into the nude insert.

front imsert
nude insert

Then I just neatly trim away the excess crystal lycra.

trimmed insert

When the leotard is finished I decorate it before sewing on the net layers. I struggled through metres and metres of trim for this design but finally decided on 3 different trims and an assortment of rhinestones.


deciding on trim
deciding on trim

Because the trims are non-stretch the leotard needs to be stretched out before they are sewn on. Here is the first layer of trim. It’s a light coffee colour and has a beautiful shape.


I tidied up the bottom of the cut edge with a small piece of the ivory and gold lace. In the  picture below the rhinestones have already been added.

extra trim
finishing trim

I laid the second trim outside the first and squeezed in a third type to frame the nude insert. I added a few other bits and pieces later to complete the design.

fina trim
final design

It’s hard to believe that this came out of the chaos that was on my sewing table for a day!

bodice detail 2
bodice detail

The plate was cut into 6 scallops. I used the coffee coloured braid for the edge and placed the ivory and gold trim just inside it. The next step was to sew down the trim using the sewing machine. The rhinestones were added afterwards.

first plate layoy design
trimming the plate

In the morning I had another look at the plate and decided it needed just a little more trim. I also hand sewed on a few large gold rhinestones.

additioanl trim
additional trim

The skirt was a mixture of ivory and white. I can’t resist combining colours. At a distance you can’t really see the colours but it gives the skirt a bit of movement.


I usually roll up the net after I’ve sewn the pieces together. When I gather the net it can then neatly unroll instead of getting tangled up under the sewing table.

bodice detail

The decoration on the bodice and plate ties together beautifully.

final tutu
finished tutu




Turquoise French Lace

French lace, that beautiful confection of beaded and embroidered lace is sometimes just the most perfect focus of a tutu. It can be used sparingly or, as in this case, lavishly to full effect. I look for a lace that has a pretty scalloped edge but also has motifs across the centre of the fabric that can be used to decorate the bodice and plate.

starting point
lycra and imported french lace

French lace is typically made with a net background so elements can be cut from the lace without fraying. Here I’ve cut some out of the net. I’ve glued a rhinestone to the point where I had to trim a piece of the design away. This will stop the thread that attaches the beads and sequins from unravelling.

motif cut from lace

The appliques were sewn to the completed leotard stretched onto a body board. The lace has a little stretch in it but not as much as the lycra so it’s important to attach the motifs when the lycra is stretched. These body boards are fabulous and available in a range of sizes from Trimmings and Remnants in  Melbourne.

sewing om bodice motifs
decorated bodice

The skirt graded from a matching turquoise on the top layer down to a soft pastel blue in the shortest layers. I hand dyed some white lycra to get the right shade of pale blue for the knickers.

hand dyed net

Usually for skirts with multiple colours I would feather the net so the colours blend avoiding concentric rings of colour but the colours were so closely graded that the edge treatment didn’t matter. We went with scalloping to match the scalloped edge of the lace and the scalloped plate.

hoop layer
hoop layer

French lace is quite heavy so I added a hoop casing onto layer 4 in case the lace weighed down the net. I didn’t hoop it but it will not be a difficult job to add a hoop later if it is needed.

hoo[lauer sewn on
hoop casing
Its much easier to hoop if the casing is already there. Not such a pleasant job if it has to be added in later.

plate construction
plate construction

I also decided to put some motifs on the plate ready for when the tutu skirt was finished. The plate motifs were not symmetrical but they were big enough and irregular enough to fool the eye.

plate detail 2

The venise lace on the edge was originally silver but I overdyed it turquoise. The metallic threads are unchanged but the underlying white rayon bobbin thread took the dye beautifully (using the same dye that was employed for the net). The chalk marks indicate the elliptic cut out to allow the plate to be sewn to the top of the tutu skirt.

The 2 selvedges were cut from the 2 metres of lace and the raw edges trimmed and matched. I hand-sewed these together and gathered the top of the lace ready to be attached to the edge of the plate.

piecing lace together
piecing the lace edges

I put the matched edges at the sides of the overskirt where they wouldn’t be noticed as much.

skirt detail (2)
lace overskirt

The plate mimics the lace and gives a lovely romantic look to the top of the skirt.

skirt detail
plate detail

The overall effect was quite pretty.

completed tutu
20150715 Sydney-54
Tutu in action


Sea Princess

I generally won’t reprise my designs but sometimes I can tweak the design just enough to create an echo of the original. Here is a version of my Sea Witch in a lighter palette and gold embellishment.

feathered net

The skirt had lots of different blues and greens and to help them blend I deeply feathered them all. Lpoks like I missed a few points. I usually go back in with small scissors to trim them up as I sew the layers on.

untacked skirt layers

I wanted to make the plate light but with a bit of interest so I included some tulle ellipses between the points.

putting the plate together

Once the appliques were sewn on it was time to add rhinestones.


sparkle arkle

I added one of the plate motifs to the bodice applique to draw the overall embellishment together.

bodice detail

The little ellipses of glitter tulle were quite lovely I think. I’m also rather fond of elongated points on this inverted scallop plate.

plate detail

And I think we have a very elegant Sea Princess.








Lemon and White Stretch tutu

This was an emergency tutu for lovely young dancer that I’d made a tutu for last year. Her Mum called me with the latest measurements and just said make her a sweet little lemon and white tutu.

I have lots of lovely white appliques. I decided on one with flowers in it and toyed with a few designs.

plate 1
simple circle

I’m not fond of circular plates but I thought the irregular edge of this might add some interest. Then I tried inverting the 8 individual appliques.

plate 2
design number 2

Much more interesting alignment but it still needed a little something, so I added some daisy motifs.

plate 3
design number 3

That little touch lengthened the design and gave more obvious inverted scallops. A handful of rhinestones and half pearls and the design is finished. Glitter net and a layer of yellow net made the white skirt come alive.

plate detail
glitter net adds lovely shimmer

The bodice was embellished with the same appliques and rhinestones.

bodice detail


And finally, a sweet little lemon tutu, ready to brave the eisteddfod season.