Tutu Refurb

Wow – long time no post. Here is a post with lots of pics by way of making amends.

Tutus take a lot of sewing, and that makes them time-consuming to make, and that makes them expensive.

So if you can pick one up secondhand which has a decently constructed skirt then it might be a cheaper way to get a lovely costume to dance in even if you have to adjust it a little – or, as in this case, almost completely rebuild it!

Take one tutu that is a bit short in the bodice length but which fits around the hips. Actually, I didn’t make it but this tutu and I have a bit of a history.

At first it was just a tiny bit short in the body for the lovely tall dancer (age 12). The first alterations I did were to open up the crotch seam and add a gusset of around 2” which allowed the skirt to sit at the high hip. I also added the white lace at the top of the bodice to preserve the dancer’s modesty and make her feel a bit more secure. The professional ballerinas might not bat an eyelid at an inadvertent La Toyah moment but it is a different matter when you’re 12.

That worked for a while but I swear this dancer stands in compost and it wasn’t long before she’d grown again. By this time, although the tutu still fitted around the hips and body, the gusset needed to be lengthened again, the skirt length itself looked a little short and out of balance with the dancer’s height and the frill on the bodice just wasn’t going to cover much anymore.

I wasn’t going to be able to match that purple, although it suited the dancer’s colouring very well, and I needed to create a completely new bodice so we decided on a more dramatic black and white theme.

In some ways the tutu was a little dated in its decoration with the nylon lace and all of those sequins, and to be completely honest it looked vaguely tacky up close and not to my taste really.  But this tutu taught me a lot.

The skirt was only very lightly hooped and had been knocking around backstage so was a bit grubby too – but on the dancer the skirt held its shape beautifully, it had been very well put together indeed.

And the sequins and lace? Sitting in the audience watching the dancer do her beautiful dancing on stage, some kind of costume magic happened and it looked really enchanting, very sparkly and definitely not tacky.

First the deconstruction.

The tutu had been made with no separate basque or knickers, more like a leotard shape (but not in stretch fabric) with the net layers sewn straight on.

So to create a pseudo-basque to build on I first cut off the top of the bodice, this looks quite drastic.

I like to think of it as a bodice-ectomy.

Then I removed as much of the top fabric layer as I could (but I left the sequins on because I couldn’t pick them off without damaging the net – and I like the idea that they’re still hiding somewhere in there).


The next step was performed with my heart in my mouth. It really was quite grubby. I decided that I would give it a gentle swish around in the bath with some warm water and a little Fairy Snow. I was prepared the remake the skirt if the worst happened, but happily I didn’t have to – the dirt floated out, the skirt remained intact, and it dried beautifully white on my line in the sunshine.

Skirt Adjustments

The 2” gusset I’d added previously was swapped for a 5” one, and a petersham waistband was added to the top of the pseudo-basque, along with two layers of stiff net to give some much needed extra length to the skirt. I now had a respectable base for building the rest of the tutu.

Outer basque, plate and bodice construction

The new theme was to be black and white mostly because  I’d found some white voile with a black flock design on it in a remnant bin at Abakhan.

At this point I usually get excited about completing the tutu and this was no exception – I got so carried away that I didn’t take any more photos until it was finished.

I cut a plate in white net, and then appliquéd selected motifs cut from the printed voile onto the plate. The plate was tacked to the top of the skirt.

Next came a decorative outer basque with a piped bottom edge, all in a heavy black satin. This was sewn by hand to the skirt, the stitches being buried between the piping and the bottom of the basque, and the piped edge neatly covering where the inner edge of the plate and the new layers of net met the pseudo-basque.

Finally, a completely new bodice in black satin. The trim is white braid which has some diamante stones in it, and it is relatively simple since the plate is quite patterned. The dancer is very slim and still young so I didn’t want to overwhelm her with decoration on the bodice as well as the skirt, although there is plenty of scope to add more to the bodice if it is needed in future.

A few crystals were applied to give the motifs on the plate to give the skirt some sparkle, and the skirt tacked together again.

I got a huge amount of pleasure from giving this tutu a new lease of life in a very cost effective way, and making it suit the dancer’s style but I think a lot of credit should go to the original maker of the tutu for doing such a good job of the skirt in the first placel.


2 Responses

  1. OMG I love that tutu you’ve made. The black detail on the skirt is stunning. I’d love it in a long version on silver grey or nude to wear as a party skirt!

    Lisa xoxo

  2. A lovely remake, and striking design. Thanks for giving us such a detailed post.

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