The Stuff Dreams And Tutus Are Made Of

The Fascinating History Of Tulle

Whenever I see a ballerina on stage wearing a magnificent classical tutu, I take in the whole picture of the costume and give no thought to the individual parts. Every once in a while I find myself wanting to know more about the things I love by digging deeper and asking myself questions.

By now, I have come to understand the history of ballet costumes and tradition in a very basic way. The traditional classical tutu must have a multi-layered tulle skirt to be classified that way. My question is: who made this stuff? Somebody invented tulle and someone decided to use it for ballet costumes.

I did a bit of research on the history of tulle and found some very interesting facts:

  • The reason that is called tulle is because it was invented in Tulle, France
  • Tulle was created when fabric makers began weaving silk into a honeycomb or hexagon shaped pattern
  • Tulle is old! It was created in the early 1700’s
  • It wasn’t until 1807 that a machine was invented that could copy the weave pattern of hand-made tulle
  • Brides didn’t wear tulle for their weddings until Queen Victoria made tulle popular by wearing it herself in 1840

As you can see in this photo, tulle has a certain pattern to the weave that gives it unique characteristics. The spaces in between the threads give tulle the floaty and bouncy properties that make it perfect for a dancer on stage. Can you imagine trying to weave something like this by hand?

310 years ago, a weaver decided to try something new. His intricate handwork created the tulle fabric and added yet another page to the rich and beautiful history of tradition in the ballet world.

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4 comments

  1. Excellent little background piece on tulle 🙂 There are actually now two types of tulle-making processes commonly used, one is the traditional bobbinet, and the other is a form of tricot.

    Usually the nylon and polyester tulle is tricot and the cotton and silk tulle are bobbinet.

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