There are countless ways to make a tutu. It really depends on the type of tutu you want. A classical tutu is the hardest type to make. It is shorter than a romantic tutu and usually has more layers. It is also made to stand out more horizontally from the body, whereas a romantic tutu hangs more like a skirt. Classical tutus can have anywhere from seven to sixteen continuous layers of ruffles, more if mixing soft tulle with the net. The number of actual rows used depends on several factors: type and stiffness of the tulle or net being used; height and age of the dancer (ie – a child’s tutu will need less rows than a tutu for an adult); for what ballet or choreography the tutu will be used; and the collective visions of the choreographer, director and designer.
To make a classical tutu, you will need to have good sewing skills. You do not have to be an expert seamstress, but the more sewing experience you have the better. The secret to a good tutu lies as much in the fitting process as in the actual sewing process. Most normal clothes have two to three inches of “ease” in them. A tutu basque (the part of the tutu between the waist and high hip) and bodice only have a half to one-inch of ease so the fit must be perfect, and the grainlines of the pieces must be used precisely, otherwise the costume will be very uncomfortable.
The panty or “knicker” part of a classical tutu should have more ease in the fullest part of the rear end than at the high hip areas which must match to the ease in the basque and/or bodice. One and one half to as much as three inches of ease in the lower panty is good. One of the biggest mistakes first-time tutu-makers make is cutting the panty to fit too tightly, leaving the dancer with an uncomfortable “wedgie” the minute she brings her leg down from the choreography’s first developpe a la seconde.
I recommend making a muslin first for fitting purposes. A muslin is made of the panty, basque and bodice first, fit on the dancer and altered into the correct fit for that individual dancer. Once you know the fit is accurate, then you can cut out and sew your tutu. It would take a year to completely describe all the facets of making a classical tutu. For more information, we offer a how-to book called, The Classical Tutu Book. To order, go to the Books and Patterns page at www.Tutu.com. We also teach seminars each year in various cities around the US and in Australia. For more information, go to www.TutuSchools.com.
Romantic tutus are much easier to construct. They usually have anywhere from three to six rows of soft tulle gathered onto a basque. The pieces of tulle in each row can be cut in rectangles or gores, depending on the finished look for which you are going. They can be made with or without a panty attached. Many companies make them without an attached panty, especially for the corp de ballet dancers, since these tutus are often shared between many different dancers, whereas a romantic tutu for a soloist is more likely to be used by fewer dancers and dancers of similar size. When made without a panty, the dancers are expected to have their own dance trunks, usually in the same shade as their tights. This way, the tights and trunks blend and the dancer does not look like they are wearing underwear underneath the tutu when the stage lights shine through the tulle. For a soloist, or a dancer doing pas de deux work, a panty sewn into the tutu will help keep the tutu in place during lifts. Though easier to make than a classical tutu, you will still need to know your way around a sewing machine. For more information, we offer another how-to book called The Romantic Tutu Book, available at www.Tutu.com.