Fitting Costumes-Getting The Bodice To Fit The Dancer

One of the most beautiful and noticeable parts of a Classical Tutu is the upper portion of the costume above the tutu skirt that hugs the dancers torso and is the repository for many an embellishment.

This portion of the costume is called the bodice. For a costume designer, the bodice section of a classical ballet costume is where painstaking work needs to be done with measuring and sewing the panels together to produce a body-hugging fit.

Because the female form has curves and fabric yardage does not, the costume designer has to be skilled in creating a three-dimensional shape from a flat piece of fabric. If you have ever worn a 4 gore skirt you will notice that the joining pieces are seamed together in varying widths.

I have tried to do sewing like this in the past with dresses and I can certainly say that it takes an enormous amount of patience!

A professional ballet costume designer will measure the client’s torso in these areas:

The circumference of the upper chest under the arms and around the back

The circumference of the chest at its largest point

The complete waist measurement

The complete hip measurement

Even describing this process makes me tired! Can you imagine doing this for each and every client? After the measuring, cutting, pinning and sewing comes the zipper insertion. As you can see in the below photo, both sides of the bodice back are evenly matched.

Because I am not privy to some of the designer secrets involved in bodice making, I can’t be certain when the straps and trims are sewn to the costume.

The only thing I can say for certain is that the dancer who had this classical tutu made for her must have been very, very happy!

Information Update: After contacting Monica about the correct procedure for measuring a bodice, I realize I left out a large portion of what she actually measures on the client. Here is what she said:

I measure around the chest at armpit height, around bust, around ribcage, waist, high hip (on hip bone), armpit to waist, nape back to waist, nape front to naval, shoulder to nipple to under bust to waist. Then I often refer to the girth measurements I have taken to. That is from shoulder between legs and up to shoulder again. Also nape neck front round to nape neck back. I also refer to their other measurements to check proportions and look at the photos. It is also important to take distance from nipple to nipple so bodice seams in right place.”.



  1. Thank you so much for going into such depth about the tutu fitting – I do appreciate your appreciation. The bodice is actually done up with individual hooks and eyes – it is very tricky to get it to meet in a straight line without the hooks showing!!!!

  2. A Zipper could always break or get caught, with the individual hooks and eyes they must be sewn on so thoroughly so as not to come loose. They also need to be really close together – and yes they take ages. It could be disastrous if the zip got stuck prior to entrance!!! I also use hooks and eyes in the pant and basque area too.

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