Five Traditional Tutus

It really was a very busy year for me so blogging has had to take second place to actually getting tutus made. I promise to be a bit more organised in 2016 and blog a bit more detail rather than just photos.

In the meantime, here are 5 traditional tutus I completed in the second half of 2015.

The diamond fairy was made with a lovely “dragon-skin” brocade from a favourite fabric shop in Sydney. The skirt was hooped to support the weight of the full lace overskirt.


The Lilac Fairy was made from shantung and dupioni and decorated with French lace. Glitter tulle in layer 2 made this Lilac Fairy really sparkle on stage.


Lilac Fairy I

Another Lilac Fairy was made from aqua/pink shot dupioni and aqua corded lace.



I also made 2 lovely royal blue tutus, one with gold and the other with silver.


Silver and blue


Gold and Blue

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

Pale Mint Brocade Traditional Tutu


Pale and pastel-coloured traditional tutus are very popular but I always like to sneak a little bit of extra colour into them. For this pale mint brocade tutu I decided to highlight the mint colour in the skirt and enhance it with a little glitter tulle.


net clippings

And if you’ve wondered how I get all those layers (up to 10) onto a tutu it’s a combination of determination, brute force and sewn on guidelines. I alternate the thread colour so I can tell where I’m up to.


sewing guidelines



After clipping the net I sew the widths together; 5 for the top two layers, 4 for the next 2 and 3 each for the remainder. Then I gather and steam them.

layer 3

layer 3 is mint

Now, while this layer looks like a very strong colour, 2 layers of white above it and 7 layers of white below it will dilute the colour beautifully. Positioning is important.  If you put a strong colour at layer 2 you get more distinct radiations of colour and at layer 4 the effect is too light.

The mint brocade was teamed with silver venise lace. I cut up a few motifs to give a long decorative style for this Russian bodice and toyed with a few placements. When I was happy with the placement I got to work with the rhinestones.


placement ideas

To bring the pale green out of the fabric I used a combination of stones and pearls that had a green base.


bling time

rhinestones and pearls

It looks a very different applique once the stones and pearls are attached.


finished applique

For the plate, the appliques are cut and arranged first and then sewn to the plate.

plate decos

plate appliques

Once they are sewn to the plate then I attached the rhinestones and pearls.


ready for glueing

The rhinestones add a lovely definition to the plate decoration as well as subtle ballet glimmer. You can just see the glitter net showing through.

plate detail

plate detail

The bodice decoration had a lovely mixture of green stones and peals as well as a few little green flower shaped sequins.

bodice detail

bodice detail

I was very pleased with the final design and loved the glow of pale mint in the skirt.


finished tutu











A trio of traditional tutus

I’ve been flat out lately and forgetting to take photos but I’m sure you’ll forgive me just posting some pictures of finished tutus rather than construction steps.

I often will buy a couple of metres of beautiful fabric if I can see a tutu in it. I could not resist this beautiful embroidered taffeta. It is green and is shot with a purple-fuchsia colour. The dancer who chose it has flaming red locks and ivory skin. It was a perfect choice for her.


bejewelled venise lace on green shot fuchsia taffeta

The plate was made with long points that echoed the bodice decoration.


plate decoration

And for a soft effect the skirt was cream. White looked too harsh and ivory wasn’t right either.


Green taffeta tutu

The next tutu was another pink Aurora. This one was pink and silver and had a delicate feel. Both of my recent Auroras were for the same ballet school so I wanted them to stand apart but both be lovely.


bodice edge piped in silver

The pink silk we chose was a little too light when it was lined so I put a layer of darker pink poplin between the silk and the drill to give a little more strength to the colour.


plate and lace overskirt

The silver overskirt and venise lace gave the tutu an airy ethereal look.


lovely pale pink

And finally a little tutu for a very dedicated young 10 year old. We used royal blue dupioni and gold corded lace for a regal look.


corded lace bodice appliques

There was no plate but I matched the colour of the skirt to the bodice so that the line of the bodice carried down onto the skirt. I used the corded lace to make a flay lace overlay. I used blue rhinestones on the lace to increase the negative space in the design and break up the sold stretches of gold.


lace overskirt

The whole effect was rather regal


Royal blue and gold

and I finished off the ensemble with shoulder frills and a tiara.


hand-made to match the tutu









Apricot and Gold Aurora

I’ve had a groundswell of Auroras this year, in all their glorious girly pinkishness. It was almost enough to make me consider frocking up myself (nope, still in jeans and a t-shirt!). My client brought along some fabric she had found and some ideas and we set to work. First there was the dyeing of the net to a lovely soft colour. While good quality net comes in about 30 different colours subtlety of shading is not one of the characteristics!


hand-dyed net

I dyed the net to be the same soft colour as the bodice and then because she is a Princess I simply had to scallop the edges of the net. The knickers had to match the net so I toyed with a few variations of pink and ivory poplin and voile until I came up with the best match. You can just see the pink liner peeking through. It gave the perfect blush to the ivory to match the net. The lines on the pants are my sewing guide for the 10 layers of net.


Knickers with sewing guide

I made up the bodice to fitting stage and then worked out my placement of venise lace. There are about 3 different motifs in this design cut up and rearranged. Once I’d finalised the design I photographed it as a record and then decorated it with pink and apricot rhinestones.

placing bodice decos

applique placement

After the fitting I finished the bodice and sewed on the appliques. Here it is sitting against the pretty dyed net all steamed and ready for the next stage of skirt construction.

bodice decoration

lots of different pinks and apricots

Because we wanted a detailed baroque look, we decided on 8 small petals around the hipline instead of a solid plate. Each petal was lined with interfacing and the appliques were machined on with gold metallic thread. If you bling them up first you have little choice but to hand sew them on … ask me how I know! Sometimes I still get carried away and  forget and bling them first. Then I smack myself in the head or say bad words. The petals were then edged with gold trim and THEN blinged.



The inner edge of the petals were clipped to fit the hip-line and hand-sewn onto the piping of the basque. I find the piping really useful as an anchor point for the plate.  I don’t sew the plate (or petals) between the basque ans the top layer of net as I like to wiggle things into place when the skirt is finished.  This is because the  hip-line is more of an ellipse than a circle so clipping for the curve at the front and the back is much shallower than for the petals at the side. It also means that it’s easier to change the decoration on the tutu at a later stage. Petals are great because you can position them either side of the centre back and you don’t have to make a placket for the back opening.

sewing on petals

sewing on petals

After sewing on the petals I gathered some light gold lace and tucked it up underneath the petals and stitched it down. Then I stitched the petals down over the lace into the skirt and finally sewed down the lace to keep it in place.

petals 2

overskirt detail

And there you have Aurora, the second one for the year!












Miettes Qui Tombent

Miette is one of Sleeping Beauty’s fairies. The name means ‘falling breadcrumbs’ and comes from an old Russian tradition that spreading breadcrumbs on a girl’s cradle will bring her children when she marries. White is appropriate for this tutu but as it will be on its way to the Prix de Lausanne 2015 we thought a “special” white fabric would be a good choice.

embroidered tafetta (640x424)

Embroidered Taffeta

I cut the pattern pieces and serge lined them to a strong backing fabric. there was a lot of “de-beading” required to get these pieces under the presser foot. I also had to find areas of the fabric to take the bias trip from for the piping. I love the look of a piped bodice.

very CU bodice beading (640x424)

bodice detail

Even though this is just a plain tutu, Olivia wanted something a little special on the bodice just for her so I did a bit of therapeutic hand beading. Although this can’t be seen from the audience it adds texture and I’m sure it delights Liv.



attaching bodice to basque (640x424)

bodice pinned to basque

As you can see I have my coloured pins ready for this job with my white pins outs of harm’s way! The basque and bodice can either hand sewn or machine sewn together. Due to the beading and sequinning on the fabric I though hand sewing would be the best option! I also sewed the basque to the tutu skirt by hand in this case.

handsewing bodice to basque (640x424)

handsewing bodice to basque 

I don’t sew the bodice all the way around but leave the point free. I attached elastic stays from the centre panel to the waistband to allow a little bit of movement for deep back bends.

internal elastic stays (640x424)

internal elastic stays

The centre front seam is boned with spring steel. This keeps the point firm and only allows movement backwards and forwards. In the photo below the steel has been cut. The bottom one has been filed down a little to remove the sharp edges that can work their way through the boning casing. After this I dip the ends in a plasticiser that creates a much softer edge and stops rusting.

flat steel (640x424)

spring or flat steel

The bust seams (and sometimes the side seams) are subject to more varied movement than the centre front seam so they boned with spiral steel that allows movement from side to side as well as back and front. For the nerdy science types out there (that’s me!) spiral steel is, in fact a flattened double helix.

roll of spiral steel (640x424)

Roll of spiral steel

The ends have four sharp points so they need more than filing and a bit of plastic. I think the hardest part of boning a bodice is getting these little aluminium caps on.

spiral steel (640x424)

capped spiral steel

Bodice complete now it’s fun time with the skirt. I used a mixture of ivory, cream and white net in the skirt. Even a plain ivory skirt needs a bit of life!

ready for tacking (640x424)

steamed and ready for tacking

Tacking starts at the bottom with the first three layers tacked every 5 cm or so with an individual loop or gun tack. Then the next 2 layers are dropped down and they are tacked together into the top layer of the first three tacked layers. This is continued to the top. It means the layers are all working with each other as well as within their own little groups and creates a live skirt. There are lots of other ways to tack that will result in different styles of skirt.

first three layers for tacking (424x640)

elastic holding untacked layers

We decided on a just a small hip plate to keep the decoration minimal. I used the motifs in the fabric for each of the 6 petals.

plate petals (640x424)

plate petals

And then I finished them neatly with self piping. there were no mirror images in the fabric but the design is elaborate enough to compensate for the lack of symmetry.

plate petlas piped (640x424)

piping adds a lovely finish

I added the petals to the top of the skirt and then added the basque as I wanted to feature the piping on the basque.  Alternatively plate or petals can be added later which makes it easier to remove them if the tutu is to be “reinvented”.

petals attached (640x424)

petals attached

You see here the piping is clearly visible and adds to the finish of this simple elegant tutu.

best basque detail (640x424)

basque and plate detail

The beading brings in a little bit of pink and gold to the tutu.

best bodice detail (424x640)

bodice detail

Here is the completed tutu

front (640x424)

Miettes Qui Tombent 

… and of course a little coaching from her ballet mentor Lucinda Dunn before the trip to Switzerland

Olivia Betteridge with Lucinda Dunn















Baroque Aurora

It’s important in any field to keep refreshing skills and learning new ways to do things. To this end I spent a week in Victoria’s beautiful Woodend at a tutu seminar run by the wonderful teachers Helen Rodwell and Sylvia Heather of Sew Classical Tutus. I also stayed on for a couple of days to lend a hand to the very talented Dani Legge, who has been my tutu mentor for many years, while she ran her stretch tutu class.

Tutu classes are hectic. While you’re concentrating on your tutu you keep an ears and eyes open for what others are doing and drop everything to watch a demo; hence no progress shots with this one, just some pretty pictures.

three quarter profile (424x640)

the inner princess triumphs again!


As this was to be a ready to wear tutu I chose a design that would have wide appeal and could be used for a variety of variations or solo pieces. The 12 piece bodice has three colours, ivory silk centre panels, pale pink middle front panels and apricot brocade for the remaining 8 panels.

textural detail (424x640)

textural embellishment


I was keen to enjoy the embellishment on this tutu and did a lot of hand beading as well as cutting and rearranging venise lace appliques. There are about 4 different gold colours on this tutu but they have blended well. I was chasing a rich, ornamented baroque look with a strong textural focus.

bodice detail 2 (424x640)

pinks, golds, yellow and aurora borealis colours

The final touch was the brocade plate with a light gold lace overlay. Bright gold did not suit the overlay so I tried a beautiful coffee-gold venise lace I’d had stashed away. Being at tutu school meant I could traipse around the classroom asking for advice and comments! Thanks to everyone who helped me with the decisions!

plate detail 2 (640x424)

and another “gold” to add to the subtle depth of colour

I had a wonderful time at the tutu seminar; I worked hard, unpicked things, talked tutus, laughed, talked more about tutus and gushed at other folks’ beautiful creations. If you read my blog because you want to want hints on tutu, leave the pets, kids and spouses at home and do a course!


front (640x424)





Just when I thought the year was getting quieter for Australian tutus I received a rush of calls for YAGP tutus. I almost couldn’t fit this one in but a position on my schedule opened up.

This is a lovely traditional Spanish tutu is a gorgeous dark red dupioni silk with light gold-embroidered tulle plate.

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The lace has a subtle gold thread thread it

We decided on a bright red skirt to contrast with the darker reds in the bdice and plate. Actually the black tulle of the lace brings the red of the skirt right down.

layers (424x640)

nine layers of stiff ballet net

After gathering the net on fishing line I steam each layer ready for sewing directly to the panty. In the picture below you can see I’ve sewn on guidelines in 2 colours so I don’t get confused where I’m up to. Over the hip flexor the ruffles are only about 8mm apart!

sewing layers (424x640)

sewing on the layers

After sewing on 9 layers of stiff ballet net I squeeze the skirt onto my patented Dieckmann tutu tacking form (that I’m not allowed to call a tutu butt).

1. Tacking layers 9,8 and 7 (424x640)

tacking layers 9, 8 and 7

After tacking the skirt, I gathered the lace onto fishing line to get an idea of how much I’d need for tier.

3. ruffling the lace (640x424)

gathered lace

I did a test ruffle on the skirt to see what sort of ratio looked best.

4. testing ruffle ratio (640x424)

test ruffle

From here I measured out gathered lace for each tier and pinned it to a net plate then I wrangled it under the sewing machine.

5. pinning tier 2 to plate (640x424)

pinning tier 2 to the plate


It was exciting getting all the tiers on. The black tulle of the lace gave the bright red net a nice dark shade. The layers were tacked to the net plate with my sanity saving tagging gun. I also used the tagging gun to tacked the plate to the top layer of the tutu.

8 .finished plate (640x424)

finished plate

And I saved a bit of the lace for the sleeves and mounted it onto some fine black stretch mesh.

sleeve (640x424)


After some emails to and fro between Sydney and Los Angeles we agreed the lace on the bodice needed some “negative” space to break up its solid appearance. While that worked well on the plate the bodice needed to read differently.

bodice decoration (424x640)

beads, sequins and rhinestones

I loved putting this tutu together. The plate is just magic!

skirt detail 2 (640x424)

skirt detail


All the pieces went together beautifully. Another beautiful pattern from Suzanne Dieckmann especially designed for Spanish style tutus.







front (640x424)

finished tutu



Ivory, Apricot and Pink Traditional Tutu

This last half of the tutu year has been pink! This lovely tutu has a slight twist with the introduction of some apricot to warm up the pink a little. The bodice fabric is a lovely crisp Thai silk.

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Thai silk, embroidered net and apricot rhinestones

I’ve used Suzanne Dieckmann’s girls tutu bodice 3102.  I pin my patterns to my cardboard grid so I don’t get any distortion when cutting.

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cutting out

I started blinging up the embroidered net first so the glue could dry while I was making up the bodice and cutting the net.

023 (640x424)

apricot, pink and AB crystall rhinestones

My client wanted a bit of subtle gold on the bodice so she suggested piping the bodice seams. The lovely lines of this design are so clear. The top and bottom of the bodice were piped in the ivory silk. The basque was piped in the gold for continuity

021 (424x640)

Piped bodice seams

Because this is a child’s bodice I have only boned the front seam. I like to use spring steel for this. I cut a piece to size, file down the corners so it won’t puncture the boning casing and dip it into tipping fluid.

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tipping the spring steel bone

Next step was to sew on the bodice decoration. I’m really getting the hang of taking trim that has no mirror image and tricking the eye into believing it has.

031 (640x424)

pretty pinks and apricots

The skirt is all ivory except for a blush of apricot in layer 3. While the apricot colour is quite strong and very clearly not pink it is beautifully diluted by the ivory net to give a soft blush to the skirt. look at the photos following to see how it quietly blends with the ivory.

006 (3) (424x640)

ready for tacking


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apricot and ivory peony

tulle ruffles

ruffles 9 and 10 are soft ivory tulle

My first attempt at the plate used 6 large pink appliques. I sewed them to ivory net and then clipped around them. I wasn’t happy with this placement. I thought the design was too sparse.

002 (4) (640x424)

6 pointed decoration





I found 2 more appliques, blinged them up and had to wait a few hours for them to dry before I could have a play and see how the plate looked with 8 points. I was much happier with this design. For this design I left the net plate covering the skirt and trimmed the edge into scallops to blend with the skirt layers.

8 points

8 pointed decoration

And here is the finished tutu with apricot and pink sitting happily side by side.

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apricot and pink happy together

The skirt has a lovely soft blush of apricot from above and a flash of stronger apricot underneath.

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apricot 3rd layer just peeking through

I think I’ll try a bit more piping in future

049 (424x640)







Fairy Doll variation tutu

I seem to be living in a cloud of pink and white lately. I’m not really a pink person so I called on my inner princess to help with this one for YAGP in January. In this Fairy Doll tutu I’ve used 3 quite different pinks; salmon pink, soft baby pink and bright pink. Well perhaps there are four as the salmon dupioni is shot and has two colours depending on how you view it. We started with a few ideas that grew and changed.

002 (2) (640x424)

starting point

Many Fairy Doll tutus have exaggerated decorations and big puffy sleeves but we decided to keep things relatively low key and just focus on colour and sparkle, but not forgetting the obligatory bows! I made these in bright pink so they would be a focal point of the design.

Fairy Doll Sketch 001

initial concept sketch

To avoid a pink overdose I decided on a crisp white skirt but with a layer of pink to give the skirt a soft pink blush. The edges of the net was scalloped. I don’t use a template for this because … well, life is too short. I just fold the net 3 or 4 times, secure with a large quilting pin and cut through all layers with shears. As I tack the skirt I will trim up the occasional wonky scallop. I’m most careful, of course, with the top layer of net as it is most visible.

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scalloped layers

I sew the top 2 layers on seam allowance upwards. This means putting layer 2 on first. Here you can see pink layer 2.

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layer 2

Here you can see my 3 pinks in the bodice. The bright pink really pops as the corset lacing. The centre side panels are embroidered taffeta with a few sequins. They show up orange here but are much more subtle than that. I’ve used the ruched bodice effect again here. It’s one of my favourite styles.

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putting the faux corset lacing on

The plate is made up of 12 petals, 6 in the salmon silk and 6 in the embroidered taffeta. Gold venise lace, white and gold braid and AB crystals rhinestones complete the picture.  Bright pink bows will adorn the junction of the petals.

003 (3) (640x424)


I have attached little puffed sleeves to the tutu. I threaded the elastic through a casing and sewed it securely to the front but have left is adjustable at the back for the dancer to make the final adjustment after she’s danced in it a little. Tutu bodices will stretch a little when warmed up and hooks and bars may need some final tweaking.

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elastic left for dancer’s adjustment

The bright pink really brings the decoration to life. You can see the dupioni shows up as 2 different colours here. I like daylight photos as they give a a bit of an idea of how the colours will change under stage lights.

plate (424x640)

plate detail

bodice detail (640x424)

bodice detail

I think she is quite a sweet confection.

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Fairy Doll variation tutu