Wouldn’t you love to hear the private conversation between a tutu maker and her client when they get together? Do they sit, chat and have tea? Maybe they get right to business and plan for tea later. Perhaps tea is forbidden anywhere near the delicate netting and expensive trims in the fitting room.
What we all understand is that a designer and client come to an agreement on what the end result is supposed to look like. However, both care what it feels like and what it moves like as well. Are you surprised to learn that an individual dancer has great input in the whole process?
Sitting Pretty Doesn’t Work For Ballet Garments
When a costume designer creates a couture garment like a classical tutu, the fitting process has a double challenge. The garment has to flatter the dancer’s body and it has to function athletically during a variation. Tutus are made to move and create that thrilling theatrical presence on stage that keeps people spending money on ballet tickets.
Fitting A Tutu Is A Respectful Collaboration
Let’s picture a dance student on her way to a costume consultation. What’s on her mind? Maybe :
- I hope it turns out perfectly for my role.
- I hope the colour will look good on me.
- I wonder if the straps will stay up during this variation?
- What if I gain or lose weight after it’s finished, then what?
- How should I carry it home?
As it turns out, the real conversation is based around the areas of the body that need coverage, allowance for movement, ease, aesthetics or accentuation for beauty.
First time clients always receive the advice and expertise of an experienced tutu maker, but advanced dancers will also trust their costume maker with the details.
Every little construction detail is important for maintaining professionalism of appearance, but there are four main points that a dancer discusses with Monica of Costume Creations when she comes in for a fitting. After designing thousands and thousands of professional tutus for dancers all over the world, she gets the same concerns from all of her dance students:
1.Sufficient Bodice Coverage
I think the first thing most girls concern themselves with is that the fit is high up at the front so they are not exposed when they stretch up and bend back.
I can understand why. The ballerina represents class and elegance. It would be mortifying to have a bodice that doesn’t provide ample coverage during a performance. Secure, dependable bodice coverage means freedom. Creating a worry-free dance experience for the client is another goal for the designer.
2. Tight Waistline With Moderate Room
For second I would say tight on the waist for a nice shape, but not too tight so they can breathe.
This must be done cleverly and carefully. Tutus definitely appear to be form-fitting; especially around the waist and lower bodice area. This elegant silver tutu is a perfect example of form-fitting style. Ease has to be carefully calculated. Too much ease causes wrinkling, drape and little accentuation of the waistline. A tight, corset-like waist could split a seam on stage. No dancer wants to faint on stage from costume asphyxiation.
3. Tutu Skirt Placement And Profile
A nice sit of skirt – not drooping or flopping.
Let’s consider this part the balancing act where the tutu skirt is attached at precisely the right place on the hip. Just like geometry, angles matter a lot. Tutus serve a purpose other than making a dancer look beautiful. They were created to prevent looking down at the feet. Correct circumference is important. A dancer is judged and viewed from almost every angle. Dance photographers are taking advantage of these angular views to create intensely beautiful ballet pictures.
4. Snug Fitting Brief
A nice snug fit on the rear with aesthetic lines and appearance.
The brief part of the tutu has to do much more than keep the gluteus muscles warm. It has to cover an area that has two very active hip joints and moving legs tempting it to sag, bag, or, heavens forbid, ride up in the middle of a variation.
Now it’s easy to see why these four areas are the main fitting criteria for a tutu. Top, bottom, center and skirt placement for balance.
Tutu Makers Are Secret Mathematicians
In order to make a 3-dimensional garment that looks great from every angle, looks tight, but isn’t, allows complete freedom of movement and is made completely by hand takes a huge amount of skill. The magic of couture work is the un-magical dedication to a difficult craft. Not only is a tutu maker an artist, but an architect that uses physics and geometry.
They measure and come up with angles. They create linear patterns using intervals of space. They take flat, lifeless material and construct it into a crisp shape that keeps its form during leaps, jumps, bends, sways, kicks, waves, folds, stretches, curl-ups and curtsies. We may as well add a bit of engineering and mechanics know-how to the repertoire of skills an expert tutu maker is blessed to have.
Image Credits: Eavesdropping By Vittorio Reggianini (1858–1938) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Ballerina By The Fireplace by Philter Photography.UK