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Tips & How To

  • Dior Roses

    A couture touch, a designer detail, a signature:  designers since the dawn of haute couture have made flowers and trims from ribbons and fabric, but none is as famous as the Dior rose.  Dior allowed his roses to cascade down ball-gown backs; he used them to call attention to the nipped waists on suit jackets and evening dresses...

    From:  Distinctive Details:  Great Embellishment Techniques for Clothing p. 62

    I first used "Dior Roses" to embellish tutus more than a decade ago.  I love them.  They are fun, simple and a wonderful use for all of those little scraps of fabric.

    Here is a recent post from Threads Magazine that does a perfect job of explaining how to Create a Detachable Flower Embellishment.

    Corsage_lg

    This is the perfect finish to your "Rose Splendor" tutu ensemble.  At Class Act Tutu we are happy to provide you with extra fabric for your tutu finishing needs (available only with tutu purchase).  Just contact us!

  • Caring For Your Tutu

    Dancer/Model: Laura Gilbreath, Pacific Northwest Ballet. © Angela Sterling, Photographer

    Dancer/Model:

    Your professional ballet tutu is a major investment. Properly caring for that investment will help ensure many years of enjoyment and use! Here are the answers to your most commonly asked tutu care questions...

    How do I clean my tutu?

    Whether/how you can wash a tutu is dependent upon many variables and whether or not you can detach the bodice from the skirt.  Here are some points to consider:

    The fabrics that are used (and their color)

    Ask yourself, what fabrics are used?  Are they washable?  How much will each fabric shrink?  What will happen to the color?  Will laundering change how my fabric looks and feels?  This includes the top, lining, panty and ruffle/skirt fabric (all are most likely different).  Can I detach the bodice from the skirt?

    If all fabrics are washable, have been pre-shrunk, are color-fast and the changes to the fabric look and feel are not a concern, then laundering would be a great and cost-effective choice.  If care instructions differ between the bodice and the skirt of the tutu, hopefully the bodice can be easily detached.

    Uneven shrinkage would be a very common concern for underlined bodices and basques.  The ideal fabric for lining is 100% cotton (the “gold standard” for comfort & durability).  Cotton shrinks.  If cotton is paired with a fabric with little or no shrinkage, for example, polyester satin, laundering the completed bodice may result in the cotton shrinking more than the satin.  The result would be a very puckered or “rumpled” looking bodice.  Consider a cold water wash with line dry or dry clean.

    Another fabric consideration is color. Will the color fade or bleed with washing?  If you are washing a cherry red bodice that is attached to a white skirt you may be in trouble.  A tip I have heard (but not tried) for maintaining color is to wash with shampoo for colored hair.  Dry cleaning solvents do not penetrate fabric fibers and colors do not tend to fade, so dry cleaning may be a wiser choice (but see below for precautions).

    Some fabrics will change with laundering.  For example, washable brocade will loose its sheen and become more “drapey.”  Those changes may be a good thing or may be undesirable.

    Generally, if laundering, hand washing and line drying would be the least harsh method.  I have thrown my fully boned bodices into the washer (on delicate) and they come our fine—but I know what they are made of, that I have pre-washed them, and how they are constructed.

    I have also had great luck with romantic skirts in the washer—again, on the “delicate” cycle and in a mesh laundry bag.

    Style of tutu (classical vs. romantic)

    Generally speaking, you want to maintain a classical tutu's “pancake” or “powderpuff” shape and keep it relatively flat for cleaning.  Some options:  Hand wash in a kiddy pool (it is the right shape!) or a bathtub.

    Construction of the tutu (boning, hooping, tacking)

    If a classical tutu is hooped, the hooping must be removed before washing if it is metal.  It WILL rust.  If the tutu is tacked, either remove the tacking or launder/dry-clean flat. 

    Embellishment (materials and how they are attached)

    You must know both what your embellishment consists of as well as how it/they are attached.  If beading is sewn on with one continuous thread, and if the thread breaks, there go all of the beads!  If crystals are glued on, the glue may soften.  I have found that washing well-attached sequins, beads and rhinestones brings back their wonderful sparkle.

    Should I consider dry-cleaning my tutu?

    For some tutu bodices and basques, dry-cleaning would be the recommended method, but recommendations are dependent upon the materials used and how embellishment is attached. 

    Dry cleaning can cause the net and tulle in both classical and romantic tutus to become soft.  Depending upon the tutu, this may or may not be a problem.  Most tutus are made with 100% nylon net or tulle which is very washable and does not bleed or fade.

    Sequins may melt with exposure to dry-cleaning solvents—or the thin coating of color on some beads and sequins may come off.  If anything is glued onto the costume, the glue may soften.

    How should my care/storage differ for a romantic tutu versus a traditional tutu?

    It is advisable to store a classical tutu either flat or hanging upside down.  A romantic tutu can be hung upside down or as you would any garment.  For any costume that is hung, it is best to use hang loops to protect the tutu from hanger or clip marks.

    To protect your tutu from dust, a breathable storage container is your best bet.  Look for a garment or tutu storage bag made of a breathable fabric like cotton canvas or cover with a cotton sheet.  I store my classical tutus in a bass drum case that has no lining.  It is sturdy and not air-tight.  Check your local music store.  And last but not least, never store your costume when it is damp!

    Other tips:

    1. Contact your tutu-maker or retailer if there are no care tags in your tutu.  It is essential to know what your fabrics, trims and hardware (hoops, bones, hook & eyes) are made of in order to determine the best approach to cleaning.
    2. If you don’t have access to a steamer, putting a tulle skirt into a dryer on very low or no heat with a damp towel for just a short time and hanging can remove those pesky wrinkles.
    3. It is a good idea to inspect your tutu before every performance.  Pay close attention to common “trouble spots” like straps and hook and eyes.  These areas are subject to much stress and are all that holds your costume in its place.  We have all heard the stories!
    4. Have needle and thread, safety pins (be careful!), hook and eyes, and elastic (strap and leg) as your costume warrants.  My favorite emergency tool is a tagging gun.  A tagging gun is what retailers use to attach tags to items—those very thin plastic tabs.  They are great for light-duty emergency repairs like trim coming loose or quick tacking a classical tutu.  Use as a safer version of a safety pin.  Remember, emergency repairs are just that.  If you have time to repair, do it the right way, the first time.
  • History of the Tutu

     

    The tutu has been called one of the greatest costuming inventions of all time. And it is just that, a brilliant “invention”--unlike any garment otherwise known. Confused about the parts of a tutu and confused about the different tutu types? Well, we’re going to help you make your way through the world of tutus.

    “Tutu” is French Baby Talk for Your Bottom!

    According to Wikipedia, The word tutu is a corruption of cucu, French baby talk for cul-cul meaning roughly "botty-wotty" (for bottom). Legend has it that the term was first used by commoners who, unlike the wealthy sitting in the upper levels of the ballet theatres, were seated in the lower levels. These commoners would look up at the dancer and had a very different view of the ballet. “Tutu” refers to the area seen under the ballerinas’ skirts. The derivation of the name not nearly as elegant, beautiful and romantic as the garment itself!

    Anatomy of a Tutu

    Before we look at the different tutu styles, let’s get the “anatomy” straight.

    A tutu presents major construction challenges:

    • The tutu must be beautiful—yet durable.
    • The tutu must fit like a glove—yet allow a full range of freedom in movement.

    So, some really brilliant costumers developed a way to piece together different elements to overcome both of these challenges.

    Bodice
    The tutu bodice can use from 6 to 15 panels of fabric. Some of these pieces are cut on the bias (the diagonal) which gives fabric some stretch. The bodice is a separate piece of the costume attached at the waistline or high on the hip; sometimes it's put together just with elastic tabs to allow for movement.

    The Basque
    This is the piece that sits from the waist to high on the hip. It can be continuous with the bodice or a separate, tight fitting fabric “band.”

    The Skirt
    Tutu skirts determine the shape of the tutu and generally define the style: Romantic, Classical or Bell. These different tutu styles will be explained in the next section.

    Tutu Styles

    The Romantic Tutu

    The first tutu is credited as appearing in Paris in 1832 on Marie Taglioni in La Sylphide. Her skirt (see right) was cut above the ankle to show her famous legwork. This first tutu style was dubbed, "The Romantic Tutu”. This romantic style occurred during the “Romantic” period in ballet history.

    Romantic Tutus are long, floating and ethereal. They are usually 3 – 5 layers of soft tulle.

    There are 2 types of Romantic Tutu. In the first type of Romantic Tutu, the skirt begins at the waist. The second type of Romantic Tutu is a dropped waist version. The skirt begins at the high hip and is called a Romantic Tutu with Basque.

    The Classical Tutu

    Historically, after the Romantic Tutu, came the Classical Tutu. The Classical Tutu was born from the viewers’ request to see more of the intricate movements that dancers were starting to perform. The Classical Tutu jutted out horizontally from the dancer’s hips and showed more of the leg. This style of tutu was first worn by the Italian ballerina Virginia Zucci in the 1880s. This first “Classical” style tutu ended just above the ballerina’s knees and looked more like the current “Bell” or even “Romantic” style of tutu.

    As the years went by, the Classical Tutu shrank to show more and more of the feet and legs. Today, there are two main styles of what is known as the “Classical” Tutu: the very flat Pancake / Platter / Plate or Russian design (this tutu goes by many different names!) and the softer Powderpuff or “Balanchine” style of Classical Tutu.

    The skirt ruffles on Classical Tutus are placed on a panty.The pancake style Classical Tutu has a wide, flat skirt, is hooped, and is tightly tacked. It is made of stiff tutu netting.

    Hooping is stiff petticoat wire inserted into a casing in one of the central ruffle rows. Hooping aids in keeping the tutu’s flat, stiff shape.

    Powderpuff Classical Tutu

    The “Powderpuff” style of Classical Tutu has a softer look. It is not hooped, has a shorter skirt and is tacked more loosely. It can be made of softer tulle (like the romantics) or a combination of net and tulle. (photo credit: Symphony In C Tutu, From Bentley, Toni, Costumes by Karinska, 1995, Harry N. Abrams, Inc, p. 104.)

    Bell Tutu

    Another tutu fashion is the Bell Tutu. The Bell Tutu is named for its bell like shaping and is combines features of the Romantic and Classical tutu. The Bell Tutu has shorter, more numerous skirt layers than the Romantic and longer and less numerous skirt layers than the Classical Tutu. The Bell has no hoop and is very loosely tacked. It can be made of softer tulle like the Romantic or net like the Classical or a combination of both. Like the Classical Tutu, it has ruffles that are stitched onto a panty.

    Final Thoughts

    In spite of the fact that the tutu has just a few pieces, the shaping, lines and combinations of fabrics and colors are endless. Hopefully, this information will help you to plan the tutu of your dreams, and at Class Act Tutu we are always here to help.

  • How To Avoid the 4 Biggest Tutu Mistakes

    How to Avoid the 4 Biggest Tutu MistakesSo…you have landed your dream role…you made competition finals…you have an audition. What do you wear? Here are some things to consider:

    1) Don't Be Shy About Your Budget

    A professional tutu is a major investment. Generally expect to pay $500.00 or more for an undecorated professional tutu. Extras, such as fancy fabrics or embellishment, add up fast.

    • If you determine and communicate your tutu budget from the start, your tutu maker can create a design that you can afford. Don’t be shy about asking for ways to cut costs!
    • The more you can do yourself, the more you can save. For example, if your costumer offers standard sizing, you may save a substantial amount by purchasing a standard size and altering to fit yourself. Learning how to sew a rhinestone on your tutu is money in the bank!

    2) Tutu Ordering Takes Longer than you Think!

    Time is a critical factor in getting your perfect tutu and performing well in it.

    • Allow time to “shop.” Check with as many tutu makers as you can to make certain you get the right tutu. Tutu makers tend to have a signature “style”. Choose one whose style matches your taste.
    • Permit time for sewing. Most tutu makers request at least 6-8 week lead time. Longer is better when it comes to custom. The more time you have to attend to detail, the greater the guarantee that you will get the costume that you want.
    • Consider the time for finishing the fit. The more time you have to fine-tune the fit, the better your tutu will look and feel.
    • Plan for time to embellish. If you are planning to embellish your own garment, you will need time to visualize different options and get those sparkles in place.
    • Allow time to dance! Finally, get your tutu early enough so that you can dance in it—tutus can take some getting used to and fit will loosen after wearing and sweating. If you are used to dancing in Lycra®, a boned and fitted bodice will take some practice.

    3) Reuse and Recycle your Tutu

    Consider the design and fit in terms of the long run.

    • If you want a tutu that you can use over and over, choose a basic color and opt for removable embellishment. A plain white classical tutu can be dressed up in many ways with embellishment for roles like Odette, Cinderella, Snow Queen, and so on.
    • Know where your tutu can be altered before you buy. If you can alter both width and height, you will get much more use out of your tutu. Ask your costumer for a sample of your fabric and netting to use for future alteration and/or repair.
    • For the long haul, it is also important to consider how to clean your tutu (and its embellishment).

    4) Choosing the Right Design

    There are many elements that go into the design of a tutu. Here are some things to consider.

    • Consider the role and/or preferences of the director. Many ballet roles come with a set look. Think La Sylphide and the white, flowing, and ethereal romantic style tutu—or Sleeping Beauty’s traditional longer bell shaped form. Look at books, magazines and attend performances for inspiration and guidance.
    • Remember what looks good on you. If your need doesn’t warrant a specific style or you have the option to choose your costume, consider what form, color, shape, and length of tutu looks good on you.
    • Skirt length should consider height of the dancer. Generally, the taller the dancer, the longer the skirt should be. A rule of thumb in the fashion world is, “To look taller and slimmer, wear skirts that appear longer than they are wide.” This could be a challenge to the “Pancake” style tutu.
    • Use “style lines” to create a flattering silhouette. This can be done with embellishment, with seam lines and with garment shape. For example, use vertical lines on the parts of your body that you want to lengthen. A deep neckline can make your neck look longer (like a swan!). Wear lines that converge (come together) on the parts of your body that you want to look smaller. Use a “V” shape to point at and minimize your waist. Curved lines are very feminine—think sweetheart neckline on your bodice.
    • Think about the venue and setting. If you are performing on the big stage, embellishment may need to be “larger than life” in order to be seen, but in an intimate theater or audition situation over-embellishment can be a major distraction. The tutu is there to flatter the dancer—not steal the eye of the viewer.
    • Flatter your dancing. Be cautious with very long, hooped skirts. They can take on a bouncing life of their own and be difficult to control. To paraphrase Balanchine, hoops can cause skirts to take on movement of their own…in ways that are not always musically appropriate.
    • Consider your partner. If you are partnering, remember that your tutu keeps your “Prince” or “Cavalier” a set distance from you. The further the distance, the more difficult finding balance may be.

    Congratulations! You're well on your way to creating a visually stunning performance!

  • Planning Your Tutu

    octnewsgraphicBuying your tutu at Class Act Tutu with all the selection in colors, sizes, appliques and more, means you can get the EXACT tutu you want. You get to pick every little detail!

    BUT how do you come up with the inspiration?

    AND THEN, how do you communicate your idea?

    First, finding inspiration. This first step stops many at the outset. Don’t fret! There are many sources of inspiration for your perfect tutu:

    Look at art. Remember, “art” can range from the Masters to an illustration in a children’s book. Here is an illustration submitted by a professional costume designer (Genevieve Tyrrell, Walt Disney Pictures & Television, used with permission).

    Look at nature. You may find the perfect colors for your tutu by looking at the colors in a flower or a hillside. Look at this photo and see how the autumn tutu matches the leaves on the branches. (Model: Rachel Smith / Photographer: Jerome Tso)

    Look at fashion. A current fashion trend may lend itself to a contemporary look for your tutu. Bridal styles often work well for ballet. Look at necklines, sleeves, embellishment, colors, etc. What looks do you like, dislike, work for the piece, etc.?

    Look at dance. Check out magazines, videos/DVDs, libraries & book stores. When I enter a used book store, I head straight to the dance aisle and look for bargains in books with lots of pictures. They can provide great direction for tutus for a role that dictate a specific style.

    Look at costume. A good historical costume reference helps not only with inspiration, but can provide a guide for getting a period piece correct.

    Now that you have a design concept in mind, how do you communicate those thoughts? Through a picture, a sketch or a very detailed description. Remember the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” While there are copyright laws that prohibit exact replication of a design, a picture or photo can be used nicely as a starting point. Specify the pieces of the design that you like and those that you want to change. You can also piece together more than one example to convey what you want (i.e. "The skirt on this tutu, the sleeves on this tutu., etc.")

    A picture doesn’t necessarily have to be a tutu. Here is an example of a picture and design submitted by a client for their Design Concept.

    (Used with permission from Genevieve Tyrrell, Walt Disney Pictures & Television)

    Don’t feel that you need to be an artist! There are schematic figure forms (children’s, women’s, men’s) available on the Internet or you can trace the outline of a picture.

    Happy tutu planning! And when you're ready for help, whether it be design advice, or a little added inspiration, feel free to contact us.

    Planning Your Tutu Checklist:

    Choose Your Bodice

    • Fabric/Color(s)
    • Neckline Shaping (Sweetheart, Scoop, Boat, Other)
    • Bottom Shaping (Point, Straight, Dropped Waist)

    Choose Your Skirt

    • Fabric/Color(s)
    • Style (Romantic, Classical, Bell, Flat, Full, etc.)
    • Skirt Length
    • Choose Your Size
    • Get Measurements
    • Decide upon Custom vs Standard Sizing (if an option)

    Accessorize

    • Sleeves
    • Wings
    • Headpiece/Tiara
  • "Arctic Dawn" Tutu Ensemble: PERFECT for your Snow Scene

    I'd like you to pause for a moment...and listen.

    Do you hear it? It's the whisper of winter, quietly waiting in the wings. Ready to make her grand entrance.

    Feel her cool, biting breath cascade along your neck and shoulders. Inhale slowly, deeply...allowing the fresh peppermint-laden scent to envelop your lungs. She's there, waiting to unveil her beauty.

    Travel alongside her to a snowy wood, where icicles shimmer--snowflakes dance and twirl--while bathed in cascading moonlight.

    Let your eyes drink deeply of the beautiful scene before you. Isn't it magical? Wonderful? Beyond description?

    This is how the thousands of ticket holders across the country view "The Nutcracker". To them, it's a wonder--an awesome beauty--to behold. No other ballet is more loved, more cherished, more inspiring than this one!

    To help make YOUR Nutcracker production the best one EVER, we're pulling together our most luscious ensembles and offering them to you at an INCREDIBLE SAVINGS!

    First up, we have our gorgeous "Arctic Dawn" ensemble. This icy creation is comprised of shades of aqua and snowy white, enhanced with a hint of pale orchid. This delicate beauty is sure to take your production's Snowflake variation from "same ol' routine" to "standing ovation"!

    And now for a limited time, you can order Arctic Dawn at an incredible savings!

    Don't wait! Like the elusive Northern Lights, this captivating beauty won't last long.

    Order yours TODAY!

  • Waltz of the Flowers

    The Nutcracker Ballet's Waltz of the Flowers ...

    Waltz of the Flowers Group 72

    Romance. Beauty. Joy. These are just some of the words that come to mind when we think of the Waltz of the Flowers and--more specifically--our color-layered "Flower" tutus!

    Why?

    Because our designs are plucked directly from the meadows and forest glades of dreams, bursting with color and light. From the Amaryllis to the Zinnia, from the bold to the delicate, Class Act Tutu has collected a stunning bouquet of inspiration that will help you create the most visually captivating Nutcracker ever!

    Over the next several weeks, we'll be sharing some of our favorite floral designs. These choice tutus are sure to whisk your mind off to an enchanted garden where lilacs and roses dance in delight!

    But before you take off on a fragrant "flight of fancy", we want to hear from you! Tell us which flower(s) have given you inspiration or what flowers you would like to see us "collect"! We may share your ideas in an upcoming post.

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