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

Flower Festival Romantic Tutu

Romantic tutus are great fun to make; all that soft tulle in huge clouds. Having just sent off a blue Giselle to the Alana Haines Ballet competition in New Zealand I was in the mood for making another. The mum and teacher wanted a burgundy bodice so I suggested this beautiful brocade teamed with old gold venise lace and ribbon flowers.

starting point

burgundy and gold brocade

I used the steamed silk technique to make the fabric for the faux chemise insert. I sewed it onto the insert piece and then prepared the bodice.



The edges of the bodice were piped with bronze satin. I piped the V front so that the insert could be easily attached by stitching in the ditch.

inside of bodice

inside of bodice

I sandwiched a piece of looped braid  between the insert and the bodice for the corset lacing. It’s an easy way to achieve a nice even placement and the unused loops create an interesting finish

lacing loops

lacing loops

The top of the insert is finished with satin piping.

bodice detail 1

bodice close up

It’s a great little technique and I prefer it to sewing the ribbon laces down.

bodice detail 2

faux chemise with laces

For this tutu I used 4 layers of soft tulle. I sewed some light organza ribbon around the base of the skirt on the top layer of tulle.

finished tutu

Finished tutu


The peasant costumes in ballets are lovely, whether they have large fluffy skirts, tiered Spanish skirts, or like this one, a low profile full circle skirt that stays close to the dancer’s legs. Here is the starting point for a very pretty Swanhilda costume.

starting point

braids and flowers

Sometimes the decorating ideas will change as I move trough the construction phase. The white braid for example didn’t make the final cut and some other flowers were introduced, discarded and then reintroduced. I’ve learnt to let go of ideas!

bodice for fitting

bodice ready for second fitting

The first fitting for a bodice uses a calico (muslin for US readers) mock-up of the bodice to which I make changes and then translate to a pattern for the bodice. The bodice is then made up with it’s drill lining but with no piping or other finishing. The second fitting helps take account of the thicker fabric and the drill lining. After this I add piping and boning. The third and final fitting is at completion and is basically for finalising the hooks and bars.

bodice opening for insert

bodice opening for faux corset insert

This bodice will have a faux corset insert so the centre front needs to be opened up and trimmed away. The piping allows me to sew attach the faux corset insert by stitching in the ditch. The corset insert should look like the corset is laced over a soft chemise. For this effect I gather tissue silk over the insert. This type of silk is not very expensive and I try to always have some on hand. I think it is superior to using polyester as it sits flatter when it is steamed or ironed.


tissue silk and silk crepe de chine

The tissue silk is for the ruched corset insert and the crepe de chine for the arm puffs as the tissue silk is a bit too light for the puffs.


gathered and steamed silk sewn onto insert

The excess silk is trimmed off the insert and it is stitched into the bodice opening. Now comes the fun part, starting the placement of decorations.

trying out ideas

design ideas

I thought I’d add in some other ribbon flowers to bring out the apricot colours in the bodice but they started to shout to me so I swapped them over for the original colour. You can see below the crimson ribbon flowers work much better with the dusty pink ribbon roses and still gives a point of interest to the design.

corset laces

corset laces

I also solved the perennial problem of trying to line up the laces on a faux corset by using a gimp trim that I could thread the laces through; instant symmetry … YAY me!


arm puffs

Some cute little arms puffs and an apron completed the picture.

skirt nd apron detail

skirt and apron detail

The skirt was a simple full circle of creme georgette over 2 layers of soft bridal tulle. The skirt had a lightly gathered overlay of embroidered organza. Both top skirts were circular to minimise bulk at the waist and both were completed with a rolled hem using woolly nylon in the upper looper for a soft but defined hemline.

bodice detail

bodice detail

I finished off the top of the chemise with a pretty green and pink braid that I carried all the way around the top of the bodice.


Pretty Swanhilda













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





Lilac and Blue Romantic Tutu

Romantic tutus are lovely soft floaty confections. Generally they are made for Giselle and Swanhilda variations. Occasionally, however a request arrives for a romantic tutu that takes advantage of all those swishing layers of tulle. Multicoloured skirts in a romantic tutu have a gorgeous life of their own creating beautiful washes of colour.

starting point

blue-mauve shot dupioni for the bodice

Once we’d decided on the blur-mauve shot dupioni for the bodice the rest of the colours fell naturally into place. The precise shades of tulle weren’t available do I got out my dye pots and started dyeing!

top tulle layers (424x640)

top tulle layers

The skirt has 4 layers. the top 2 are tulle and the colour statement needs to be made clearly here. The next 2 layers are dress net which is soft but still with a little body. I discovered by accident a few years ago that nylon net from Thailand softens dramatically with dyeing or washing which makes it utterly useless for classical tutus but perfect for romantics< for this tutu I dyed it pale lilac.  The bottom layer was American diamond hole net which has perfect body for the lowest layer of a romantic tutu.

pinning on bottom layer (640x424)

American diamond hole net for bottom layer

The basque is similar to the basque on a traditional tutu but the net is attached from the waist and then in 2.5cm intervals below that. Each layer is therefore 2.5cm longer than the one below it so that all layers are the same height from the floor.

layers (640x424)

skirt layers

Once the skirt was complete I put the bodice together from some lovely blue and mauve shot dupioni silk. Silk is beautiful to sew with. In the picture you can see the silk bodice pieces serge lined to cotton drill.

bodice pieces (640x424)

bodice pieces

The top and bottom edges of the bodice are piped for a nice finish. There is spring steel in the centre front, and spiral steel boning in the bust seams and side seams.

placement (640x424)

starting to play around with flowers

The flowers were a lovely mixture of mauves and blues. Silk flowers from craft shops are perfect for this and they dye beautifully. I mixed some ribbon roses and ribbon carnations in there too.

bodice CU (640x424)

hand beading

I added some beading and sequins as well. I think they look like dew drops.

et voila  (424x640)

I think she’s really pretty!




Giselle Romantic Tutu

Here are a few pictures of a little Giselle romantic tutu that was made for a dancer from Hong Kong. She will wear it in Paris YAGP in late October. We wanted a bright blue for this young dancer. This embroidered taffeta was perfect. I teamed it with ivory tissue silk for the bodice top, sleeves and overskirt.

embroidered taffeta 1 (640x455)

embroidered taffeta

I used Tutus That Dance corselet bodice. I love that these patterns now come in student sizes.

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lower bodice

I piped the inside of the insert to make it easier to attach. I just stitched in the ditch. In the following photo you can see the “chemise” inserted. The chemise insert is a piece of ruched tissue silk mounted on cotton drill interlining.

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chemise insert

The upper bodice was made of cotton drill and covered with ruched tissue silk as I did with the warm cream traditional tutu. This picture shows the silk gathered top and bottom on fishing line. Steaming it sets the rough pleats which are much easier to handle than gathered fabric.

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gathered silk over drill upper bodice

In the following picture you can see that the tissue silk sits nice and flat after it has been steamed.

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bodice pieces coming together

The skirt was made of 1 layer if tissue silk as the over skirt, 1 layer of soft bridal tulle and 2 layers f soft dress net (not stiff tutu net). They are sewn onto a basque much the same as for a classical tutu but the seam allowances all point upwards.

021 (640x424)

gathered tulle going onto basque

When the skirt is finished I hand sewed the bodice to the basque through all the skirt layers by stitching in the ditch through the bodice piping. Not only does piping give a lovely finish but it is very handy for sewing into to attach separate pieces.

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hand stitching the bodice to the skirt

The bodice sits beautifully on the skirt

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bodice detail

and the finished tutu!

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off to Paris!


Giselle Finished

My Giselle romantic tutu is now finished and ready to go into my OTR folder. The shoulder straps will be tweaked to fit the owner with the option of some sneaky elastic at the should seam for a bit more movement if needed. The skirt has 4 layers of tulle, the top 2 bridal tulle and the 2 layers underneath a soft pastel blue. You can see flashes of blue as the skirt moves. I was pleased with the organza ribbon on the skirt as it lends a light touch. The final decoration choice was a last minute delve into my box of ribbon flowers and these pretty little carnations are perfect. I think they give a feeling of innocent village girl.

My next jobs are unrelated to ballet … a formal dress for my daughter who is about to finish high school and a fun new skirt to go with the pink barmaid corset that is being given a new lease of life.

bodice and chemise

I decided that linear trim wasn’t the look I was after

Bodice detail

Carnations and brass ribbon guides


Pretty little peasant bodice

Romantic tutu