Le Corsaire (The Pirate) is a ballet based on a poem by Lord Byron and set in the mysterious Near East, Turkey. An odalisque was a servant in the Turkish ruler’s court and features in the ballet. The iconic 2 piece costume well recognised. This tutu traveled “across-the-ditch” to New Zealand for the Alana Haines Awards in April.
The costume was made in rich teal with purple and gold embellishment. I wanted to make it as sumptuous as possible and almost ran out of space for rhinestones.
I used 2 different gold trims on this tutu to create a depth of colour.
The decoration was as rich on the back as it was on the front. The separate top was modelled on an Indian choli rather than a smaller bustier as the dancer was quite young.
I think the rich embellishment and the colour choices made for a wonderful overall effect.
A layer of glitter tulle under the top layer of net add a lovely sparkle.
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.
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.
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.
I added a few little roses to the sleeves for a tiny splash of colour.
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.
The costume was shipped to California and I received this photo back. It’s lovely to see my costumes come alive on dancers.
The next was another traditional peasant pas with silk bodice but with a romantic tutu rather than a low profile skirt.
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.
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.
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.
The last peasant pas dress I made was a stretch version. This is another of Dani Legge’s terrific patterns.
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.
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.
A mum from Queensland asked if I could make her 4 year old a very romantic Cinderella style tutu in blue, cream and gold. She gave me a few ideas, like a swag around the top and shoulders and a deeply ornate plate but basically gave me free rein. We were both very pleased with the sweet little confection I came up with for her wee girl. Have a look at the elements in the pictures below.
The plate was blue at the top and edged with gold venise lace. The second tier was cream and I used 2 other trims in lighter gold. The lace was embellished with crystal AB and blue rhinestones.
The very centre of the plate had an ornate focal point using french lace that mirrored the bodice decoration. The skirt was ivory underneath with a blue layer and a layer of glitter tulle on the top for some Cinderella sparkle.
The bodice had a little swag cross the top that continued around the top of the arms and to the back. The centre of the bodice was decorated with venise lace, embroidered lace and a some french lace remnants I have left over from another tutu. I always keep a box of little trimming pieces just in case. The french lace was perfect for this.
I was very happy with little tutu and then completely delighted when I received this picture from the ballerina’s mum with her daughter wearing the tiara I made for her as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had a tiny bit of time between tutu orders so how did I relax? I made a new ready to wear tutu. I’d been on a shopping trip and picked up a pretty lilac corded lace so I built a tutu around it.
This type of lace uses a metallic corded that is cleverly sewn to the backing fabric in a series of loops to make designs. The shapes can be cut out and rearranged as appliques. I simply glue a rhinestone to the cut section to stop any fraying. In the photo below you can see the fine mesh background fabric.
The skirt was pale lilac and I added a layer of soft glitter tulle to the top.
This little tutu is currently waiting for its new owner.
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!
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.
And from above you start to get an idea of how the skirt will really look!
It’s quite a transition from looking at a roll of net to the actual effects of the colours in an eight layer skirt.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And here, against the sumptuous colours of the skirt you can really see the final effect. I loved watching these ideas come together!
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.
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!
Matilda is 8, turning 9 in August and wanted a green, purple and gold tutu with butterflies. She’s a completely delightful and engaging wee thing and quiet decisive in her tastes. We had a brief chat and quickly decided on colours, trim and embellishment. I eventually made a small change to give the embellishment a pretty lightness.
Once I’d made up the bodice I laid out the trims we had decided on but the venise lace motif was a bit too heavy so I swapped it for some gold corded lace I had used on a tutu last year. There was just a little of it left; no mirror pairs so had to make do. The aim was to fill the gaps with flowers.
In this photo you can see where I have zig-zagged on the mauve pants (to match the net) and the basting line to indicate the first layer of net. The raw edges are completely hidden by the net on the front and on the inside by the lining. The flowers disguise the fact that the corded lace embellishment is not symmetrical.
The skirt was a mixture of mauve and light purple net and a layer of glitter tulle.
The original plan for the plate was venise lace, butterflies and flowers. As you can see in the photo, it’s pretty but a little stark, so I introduced a little of the corded lace onto it and added some rhinestones to bring a bit more purple through the gold lace.
The final version of the plate has a lovely delicacy about it.
I was very pleased with this rather whimsical little tutu. It’s very sweet and age appropriate.
The addition of the green butterflies just makes me laugh every time I see them remembering my funny little conversations with the charming Matilda.
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.
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.
I wanted to make the plate light but with a bit of interest so I included some tulle ellipses between the points.
Once the appliques were sewn on it was time to add rhinestones.
I added one of the plate motifs to the bodice applique to draw the overall embellishment together.
The little ellipses of glitter tulle were quite lovely I think. I’m also rather fond of elongated points on this inverted scallop plate.