Since its appearance in 1839, a ballet tutu has undergone many amazing metamorphoses. The production technology has been perfected for centuries - what does this process look like now?
From sketching to tailoring
Each tutu is unique - its individuality begins with a sketch. It is created using the ballerina’s measurements, taking into account her height, size and particular features of the figure. The radius of an average classic ballet tutu usually doesn’t exceed 50 cm.
The main material is tulle or netting; in the last century, ballerina tutus were made of muslin and tarlatan, they had to be starched before every appearance of the artist on stage.
The fabric consumption is impressive: over 15 meters per item! Work at this stage requires high skilled manual labor. Costume makers create ballet tutus according to architectural canons: a steel tape or hoop acts as a foundation, layers of fabric of different lengths and depths are attached on top.
The fabric is folded in a certain way and then stitched always in one direction. There are other rules observed when sewing a tutu. For example, they use hooks as fasteners and stagger them. This makes the fastening more reliable. It takes from one day to two weeks to make one tutu.
Decorating a ballet tutu is a creative process that requires special skill. The top layer of the product is called a tunique, it is usually decorated with trims or embroidery. Tutu makers decorate their creations with bright laces and trims, sew on ribbons and appliques, beads and rhinestones, shimmering gems and sparkles.
If stones are used on a tutu, they cover them with tulle in order to prevent injuries during performance. Every theater has its own professional secrets: for example, costume makers at the Bolshoi Theater are known for their virtuoso art of hand lacemaking.
Typologically, we can distinguish three main types of ballet tutus: elongated "chopin" skirt, bell tutu and pancake tutu. Mid-calf length ballet skirts are called “chopin” tutus. Light and romantic, they are usually made of tulle or netting. Romantic parts are often performed in “chopin” tutus as the skirt design is perfect for them.
The classic bell tutus have a base of rigid mesh fabric. The skirt is designed in such a way that its upper layers are shorter than the lower ones. Pancake tutus are shorter and stiffer than bells - they are usually sewn using hoops. These tutus are stuffed with fabric loosely, creating an airy look. Their rigid form allows you to decorate them with gems and rhinestones, lace and embroidery.