A Day In The Life Of A Professional Tutu Maker

Classical Tutu Peach
How many hours does it take to hand pleat a tutu skirt?

Have you ever wondered what a typical day is like for a professional tutu maker? Of course, in the dance costume profession, each new day can bring a variety of challenges. The word typical is just a guideline. However, there is a certain ebb and flow to the daily work structure of any business. For the sake of reality, there is no such thing as a Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm workweek in the tutu making business.

Tutu makers and those who create couture garments are human. They may have children, grandchildren, or pets that need care during the day. They need regular rest, healthy meals and time to spend with loved ones. Don’t you wonder how they fit it all in and stay sane?

Before Our Sample Day Begins; The Prerequisites

Tutu Inquiry By Phone
” Hello, Costume Creations? “

Let’s pretend that a client contacts Monica at Costume Creations on a Monday afternoon by email or phone. She will collect, request and discuss the following information:

  • The color, design and size
  • The competition date and a general price quote
  • A photo of the dancer to view body shape, coloring and to get an idea of their personality
  • A request for any repertoire music that is not well-known

At this point, the client will receive a detailed measurement chart that includes height and weight. Once the measurements are received, the pattern making can proceed.  It may take part of Monday evening and all day Tuesday ( approx. 12 hours) to design the pattern. Now, it’s Wednesday morning.

Let’s Spend  Wednesday With Monica At Costume Creations

What time do you get up and what are your first plans?

Alarm ClockI get up about 7am and put on freshly ground coffee. I feed the cats and Valentino. After that, I get going on work quite quickly. I spend some time on business marketing and promotion through online social media. I order fabrics, decorations and spend time sourcing quality materials. This could be online or require travel to London or Birmingham.


After the general pattern is finished, what do you start working on first?

I cut all the net frills accurately , cut the edges, then hand pleat them all before sewing onto the pant and basque. Next I cut the bodice panels and linings and cut the specialist boning for support.

If you begin pleating the tutu skirt at 8am, when will it be finished?

I would say the pleating probably takes about 15 hours – that does not count sewing the frills in place onto the pants.

How do you fit in time to care for yourself on a work day?

Cornish Cream TeaI usually only stop to eat one meal a day to save time.


How long is your typical work day ?

My job is quite long hours but I enjoy the creativity of working in a profession and art-form I love so much. I also go to Ballet Performances of professional companies to keep up with the latest innovations and I attend as many competitions as possible to see the standards and requirements and conditions.

How do you handle or prevent interruptions?

Interruptions are only really phone calls. It is usually quite easy to stop; answer the phone and get back unless I am gluing crystals or airbrushing. If I am airbrushing I don’t answer the phone or door.

When do you allow yourself to “call it a day” and get some rest?

I don’t really “rest”.  I occasionally take a day off to go to the ballet or see family.

How do you prioritize tutu-making with your other costume orders as well?

I don’t prioritize tutus above the other costumes; the main priority is Date of Competition. So that is the priority I give to everyone regardless of whether Ballet, Tap, or Gymnastics.


Considering that costume orders and inquiries continue to come in while completing previous orders shows us that it takes:

  • Energy and passion-Working from morning until late at night takes dedication and a lot of physical energy. Fiskars ScissorsLoving the trade is an important part of the energy creation needed to make couture garments for the public.
  • Organization and priority setting– Tutu makers work within schedules, deadlines and blocks of time.  They must be as self-disciplined as the dancers they serve.
  • A calm, responsible head-It wont do to approach costume making with a frazzled mind and shaky nerves. Couture work isn’t about churning things out quickly. Quality over quantity is what matters.


Tutu Making  Requires Careful Management Of Time

Classical Tutu Bolshoi Level
A beautiful partnership based on skillful execution

Isn’t it interesting to find out that each part of a tutu can require the designer to spend days just working on one section? It can take 15 hours just to pleat the skirt. If you consider that all that time is devoted to just one garment order, it can boggle the mind to see how busy the days are for a professional costume designer.

It isn’t just a trade or a job, but a way of life. The quote at the bottom of this page sums it up nicely. Costume designers spend their lives intentionally directing their time and talents towards the skillful execution of theatrical design.

The dance student also works hard towards the skillful execution of ballet technique. It’s such a beautiful partnership; a dancer and their costume maker. Each works so hard to reach the pinnacle of perfection.

The dancer needs the designer and the designer needs the dancer. One is the canvas; the other the painter. When it comes to achieving excellence, allowing ease with the passage of time is an important part of the creative process.


“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” ~William A. Foster


Image Credits:
1. Girl On Phone, Pixabay Free, 2. Flickr.com, Alarm Clock 3 by Alan Cleaver, No Modifications, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/,  3. Cornish Cream Tea By Tuxraider reloaded at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons, 4. Fiskars Scissors By Evan-amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. thank you so much for this informative and entertaining to read review – It is so nice to have someone write about the immense amount of research and time required on a costume. The quotation at the end is a beautiful way to describe how an artist works.

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