Classical Tutu Skirts-Sewing Embellishments Onto Pleats

Classical tutu skirts are traditionally made using layers of stiff netting called tulle. There are some tutu skirts that are left plain after the construction process is over and the designer has chosen to leave off any additional embellishments. More often than not, tutu skirts are given an extra dose of beauty by the carefully chosen placement of embellishments.

Classical Tutu Design with added embellishmentsLooking at this completed ballet costume, I find myself wondering about the application process and what the steps would be to add embellishments correctly to a classical tutu like this one.

If you notice in the photo, the tutu skirt is pleated all the way around. The embellishments were sewn on over those pleats without crushing or flattening the pleats of the skirt. I searched around on the internet for any good tips to use if I were to try to sew embellishments over the top of a pre-pleated tutu skirt. I could not find any information about the proper sewing technique for embellishing a tutu skirt.

Gold applique trimI have experience with clothing construction (basic) and have made a pleated skirt or two in the past. The pleats were super-wide, I admit, and none of them were ever embellished with trim over the pleats.  Sewing a regular street skirt can be done in just hours. It certainly doesn’t compare to the time-consuming process of applying the tiny decorative details  found in a classical ballet costume.

It takes a very careful eye and delicate touch to attach decorative trims to a tutu skirt. The proper thread has to be used. The applique trim needs to be positioned evenly all around the skirt. Applying the trim itself is the most delicate part of the construction process.

Sewing needleThe embellishment has to be sewn on firmly enough to stay put during a performance, but not so tightly that the tulle on the tutu skirt puckers up around the stitches. I would like to take a guess and say that sewing an embellishment onto the top of the tutu skirt is done using the first layer of tulle only.

Thread color choice might be a strong, transparent thread, or one to blend in with the costume color scheme. There are no shortcuts around the hand-sewing requirements of a professional grade ballet costume.

It is this time-intensive hand labor that makes each custom-made ballet costume so incredibly special…

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4 comments

  1. Thank you , you are right, it is very fiddly and also very easy to get wrong. There is nothing more soul destroying than to find the decoration is a bit wonky or off centre!!!!! Then it has to be carefully unpicked and done again!!!!!!

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