Little Red Riding Hood

Demi-character costumes scale the depth and breadth of interpretation allowing dancer’s to stretch their acting abilities. What little girl would not want to be Little Red Riding Hood? This sweet little character costume steps away from the typical but keeps Red Riding Hood’s character true.


bodice detail

A little princess line dress with a flared skirt allows for all the ballet moves in the choreography. The corset lacing on the bodice adds a little old world charm.


sleeve detail

Because the costume may be used for other choreography I added a little detail to the sleeves even though it may not be seen once the cape is added. The long mesh sleeves come down across the hand to give greater line.


dress and cape

A lace edged petticoat adds a little more sweetness to the costume.


Red in full flight


picking flowers for Grandmother




Rajah the Tiger

This was great fun to make. The dancer’s mom (from the US) sent me a sketch and asked me to realise it for her. I’ve worked with her before and she has great design ideas and understands the constraints of dance.  I must admit, lots of people don’t and it’s sad to disappoint people when their ideas are not feasible … but this one worked beautifully.

bodice detail

tiger print and sharp teeth

Tiger print of course was a must but then I was faced with how to decorate. The answer came when I delved into my trove of rhinestones … tiger teeth and bright metallic gold trim.


back detail

The high collar decorated with jewels was just what my client was looking for. This was no wild tiger.

skirt detail

detail on hip line

I had just enough of these rhinestones for the hip decoration too. I bought then a few years ago thinking they’d come in handy for something.  I knew I’d find the perfect application at some point.


Tiger in the jungle

A full circle mesh skirt with 4 slits (offset from centres and sides) provided plenty of coverage but opportunity for the dancer’s leg-line to be seen. Little arm cuffs completed the picture.

arm bands

arm cuffs

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.

Apprentice Fairy Demi Costume

I do love requests like this one. I was asked to make a pink and gold “apprentice fairy” costume with golden wings. The client and I decided on an upside down tutu, with the shortest layers at the top, in a multitude of pinks. Here’s what I came up with.


pink skirt

and to give a ballet feel to the costume we added little pink arm frills with gold venise lace to match the bodice.


arm frills

The wings were made from gold stiff net covered with fine gold glitter tulle. I used a little more venise lace to tie all the costume elements together.



I added a little pink dew drop tiara.



The sweet little fairy looked so gorgeous on the back steps in my garden.



Esmeralda Classical Tutu and Peasant Pas costume

One of my US clients sent me a box of beautiful fabrics and appliques to make her daughter an Esmeralda classical tutu and a Peasant Pas costume.


Indian appliques and dupioni silk

Both costumes were made from the emerald green dupioni but I slightly darkened the fabric for the peasant pas dress by overlaying it with fine black tulle.



The middle panels of this costume were made from beaded silk chiffon overlaid on the silk dupioni.



The costume was finished off with a hip scarf made from crimson sari silk embroidered with gold medallions.


peasant pas costume

The off-the-shoulder sleeves, faux chemise and overskirt were silk chiffon. The underskirt was 3 layers of fine tulle. The tulle was sewn in 4 gores per layer to reduce the amount of bulk at the waist.


tutu bodice

Accompanying the emerald dupioni was some forest green silk chiffon. I used this as a ruched chemise on the top part of the tutu. To add a little more drama I sewed a scattering of green seed beads across the bodice.


plate detail

The Indian appliques that I was sent were a very pale gold. The green silk was such a strong colour I thought it needed a little something to balance the the design. A robust yellow gold trim did the trick.



A scalloped ivory skirt finished the picture.

And here are the 2 costumes together.


classical tutu and peasant pas costume


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.













La Bayadere

This time of year I am extremely busy with costumes (hence so few posts at the moment sorry) and it’s sad when I have to turn people away. Although this costume request came in very late I had a postponement so I managed to squeeze this little temple dancer in.

The costume is based loosely on an Indian choli and lehenga skirt. It was a great opportunity to dig out lots of rhinestones and jewelry findings.

starting point

starting point

I cut the very centre from an applique to give a nice shape to the deep V neckline. That’s it sitting at the bottom of the applique. The next step was my favourite … bling time!

initial placement

applique placement

Traditionally the choli has a scoop neck and set in sleeves but we decided to tweak that and give an off the shoulder look and a deep V neckline by making the top of the choli from flesh mesh.

undecorated bodice

undecorated bodice

I didn’t have quite enough venise lace to go all the way around the top of the bodice so I sneaked in a few earring findings that I’d blinged up.


bodice detail



back detail

and a few on the back of the bodice and skirt too

wiast detail

waistband detail

The costume came together beautifully and will be in the post tomorrow to make its way to Victoria.


completed costume

and of course an ornate tiara to finish everything off.


Heavily ornamented headpiece















Kitri has a lovely costume in Act One of Don Quixote. This is a fully stretch version for a young dancer. It is modelled on the Bolshoi costume. This costume has a 4 tiered knee length skirt and bodice with a laced corset.


skirt tiers

I built the skirt onto a full circle of nylon lycra. The 4 tiers were made of gathered stretch mesh and  trimmed with black and gold braid.


faux corset insert

I used a rotary cutter for the corset ribbons and zigagged them on. Since this effort I have decided to use looped tape to get a nice even placement of ribbons. I’ll post that method soon when I document my Swanhilda and Flower variation romantic tutus.


insert in bodice


The leotard has red pants to match the skirt. I placed the trim around to see how it would look. And then time for BLING!


gold venise lace and Czech rhinestones

and voila. I added a few little ribbon roses as well.



bodice decoration

and the finished costume.


Postcript: I do love it when I receive photos of my costumes in action. This is a fabulous photo showing how well the stretch mesh flies on stage



costume in action





Cosette Demi-character costume

I’ve spent the last few weeks making costumes for the local Musical Society. I do love making stage costumes. Demi-character costumes are a lovely mix of stagewear and dancewear. The character has to be self-evident but it cannot overshadow the choreography or the dancer. This costume is meant to evoke the feeling of poor mistreated Cosette before Jean Valjean rescues her from the Thenardiers.

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simple colours with a little texture

We chose dark browns for the bodice and the skirt and ivory for the chemise and petticoat. The bodice fabric has a light gold thread through it. It gives no sparkle but from gives a little texture to an otherwise flat colour. The skirt fabric is just broadcloth.

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Suzanne’s Dieckmann’s peasant bodice

This bodice joins at the shoulder and allows a faux chemise and sleeve to be easily added. They could be removed to give the costume a different look.

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distressing the lace

I don’t like ragged hems to just be cut into triangles or dags. I try to make them look like they have been made ragged through wear. Scissors are my first attack, then I rub the fabric together and then run it underfoot on concrete!

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pinning in faux chemise

I have piped the bodice with black broadcloth. The chemise was then sewn in the ditch to the bodice.

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I love the lines on this bodice

The broadcloth lent itself so well to my distressing techniques. There are 2 layers of brown broadcloth mounted on a basque like a romantic tutu. The ragged petticoat underneath adds definition to the skirt line. The ragged lace is mounted on a muslin petticoat and then sewn to the bottom of the basque.

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skirt hem

The sleeves are loose to the elbow and have the ragged lace attached.

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faux chemise

And here is the costume all put together! This costume could also work for a Cinderella or Little Match Girl demi. With a romantic skirt added and different sleeves she could even be Giselle!

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Bluebird Demi-character

While i seem to mostly be making tutus every now and again i get to do a lyrical costume or a demi-character costume. Demi-character is a wonderful combination of ballet technique and characterisation. This can be dramatic or funny or sometimes just darn cute here’s a costume for the latter category; a little bluebird.

starting point (640x424)

The “character” part of this dance form is firmly embedded in the choreography and the dancer’s ability to characterise. The costume is there for support. So with that in mind we decided that this costume only needed to evoke a bird. Feathers were the first idea we settled on and we thought we’d team it with a little upside down bell tutu with a bit of a tail. Here’s how we did it.

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ballet leotard

I used Dani Legge’s tutu pattern for the leotard. I thought it was cute to bring the tutu back into demi-character. This leotard has a faux basque and lovely line.

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clipped tulle

Bird tutus in classical ballet often have dagged nets (princesses have scallops!) so it made sense for this wee bird to have pointy tutu layers too. This tutu was made from sparkle tulle and bridal tulle so it’s very soft and floppy.

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skirt ruffles

I cut the layers longer at the back to give the idea of a bird’s tail. There are 4 layers of alternating sparkle and bridal tulle. Layer 1 was sewn seam allowance down and the remaining were sewn seam allowance up so the skirt would lie fairly flat.

skirt (640x424)

cute little tutu skirt

The top layer was a bit perky so i needed to tame it a bit. So out came my trusty tagging gun and some fantastic blue tags!

tagging (640x462)

the tutu-maker’s friend

I really just needed to hold the top layer down a bit so I placed tags through all layers quite close to the top of the skirt. Bell tutus have light tacking as well so it’s not surprising this little one needed a bit.

tagged skirt (640x424)

tags holding skirt nicely

The bodice decoration had to be feathers and Roisin chose the rhinestones she wanted; lovely AB garnet Preciosa rhinestones and a gorgeous sparkly acrylic focal piece. These rhinestones were repeated across other parts of the costume.


bodice deco (640x430)

bodice decoration

The last time I’d made a feathery costume I used a glue gun. You have to work fast but a quick drying glue is the best for this so the feathers don’t just waft all over the studio. To keep the ballet theme alive with avian cliches I made some blue hackle pads as a head-dress and repeated the skirt design for the arm frills.

hackle pads and arm frills (424x640)

hackle pads and arm frills

And here is the little blue bird in all her sparkly blue glory.

costume 2 (424x640)

little bird

I dipped the tulle layers down at the back to exaggerate the bird tail.

back detail (424x640)

back detail