What Makes A Ballet Costume Classical?

What Are The Characteristics Of A Classical Ballet Costume Versus A Romantic Ballet Costume?

When this beautiful pink gem was under construction at the Costume Creations design studio, the designer, Monica Newell,  fashioned it a certain way because all ballet costumes are grouped into specific categories.

Some dance costumes are classified as modern or jazz.  Other costume types may be labeled as lyrical, character, theatrical, or contemporary.

When a client places an order with Costume Creations for a classical tutu, why does that mean that the tutu skirt will be short, stiff, and multi-layered? I decided to do a bit of research on the terms classical and romantic and here is what I found:

In 1832 Marie Taglioni appeared on stage in Paris wearing a ballet costume that was cut above her ankles to show off her legs and feet. During those years, there was a social movement called romanticism that was rejecting a scientific view of the world. This movement believed that humans should live by intuition and emotion alone.

These beliefs caused the popular ballets of that era to explore extreme emotions. The romantic tutu is named for this era in ballet. Romantic tutus are long and floaty with layers of soft tulle.

After the ballet audiences became thrilled to see the foot work of the ballerinas, they requested the skirts become shorter. In 1880, Virginia Zucci came out on stage wearing the first classical tutu which was knee-length. Through the progression of time, tutu skirts became shorter and shorter as ballet audiences responded favorably to seeing the full range of motion in the dancers legs.

Classical tutus are short and made with layers of stiff netting. Although the romantic style ballet costume is older, it is the classical tutu that has represented ballet costume tradition for the last 120 years.



  1. I have one question……in you article you talk about using tulle……….I was taught to use tutu/English net. I will add tulle into the layers if I want a different effect, or have a surprise of the dancer jumps or is in a life, etc

  2. Blog posts on Tutu-Love are written by an American writer, who, at times, will use “Americanisms” instead of proper U.K. English.

    I am not a tutu maker nor do I use all the “lingo” associated with this profession. I simply call the fluffy part of the skirt “tulle” not netting.

  3. Yes you are right , many people call tutu net tulle, it was the original terminoligy, as you say it is a descriptive article about tutus not an instructional on tutu making.

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