Is Your Tutu Stressed Out?

Blue & Gold Variation Tutu
Design Copyright ©Monica Newell, Dance Photo Copyright© David Sharples Photography

Have you ever wondered which part of the Classical tutu takes the worst beating during a performance? Just like our regular street garments, certain parts of our clothing contain more stress points during wear than others. In garment making, there are several areas that need more attention than others when it comes to creating sturdy seams.

One of the most interesting mysteries for the average ballet aficionado is the noticeable difference between leotard fabric and the types of materials used to make a Classical tutu.  If ballet dancers wear leotards so they can move, leap, bend and extend, why wouldn’t they wear leotard-like tutu costumes for the performance? ( The answer can be found at the bottom of this page.)

Dance garments for Classical ballet are an intriguing blend of flexibility and security, elegance and athleticism, snugness and ease, artistry and practicality. How they are made and what they are made of isn’t always examined with a fine-tooth comb, but how we love the beautiful results!

Leotards And Tutus Are Made From Very Different Materials

Take one gorgeous tutu and place a dancer within its confines. Notice the snug fit. The music begins and the stage curtains go up. Our lovely ballerina glides gracefully to center stage where she begins a series of physical gyrations that would make one think she is wearing super-stretchy Lycra-spandex, but she isn’t.

The body of a Classical tutu is made with high-quality fabrics that can include satin dupion or elegant polyesters, then lined with cotton for comfort. This is not every standard, but the high standards of design that Monica Newell uses to create her couture costumes.

Quiz-What part of the Classical tutu do you think has the highest stress point? :

  • A.) The area where the pants meet the skirt.
  • B.) The back closures.
  • C.) The straps of the bodice.
  • D.) The bodice seams.
  • E.) None. Stress points are distributed evenly throughout the garment.

High Stress Tutu Parts And The Mysteries Of Fit

White Classical Tutu Bodice Details
© Classical Tutu Bodice designed, constructed & embellished by Monica Newell |

Did you choose the bodice seams? If you did, congratulations! You are right. It isn’t the leg openings or strap attachments that take on the major stress points, but the bodice seams. Seams need to be carefully constructed so they withstand the rigors of a constantly bending torso.

Barely do we notice how seamlessly these bodices are pieced together like fabric puzzles. It’s even more amazing that these puzzle pieces are made and shaped just for the torso of one special dancer.

The spiral steel boning tape added to the front seams gives each bodice additional shape and twist-free flexibility. How intricate and detailed the art of tutu making is. This doesn’t even include applying the finishing touches of trim to the bodice.

The most interesting thing about fitting a dancer’s torso for a Classical tutu is how fabric ease is hidden. They are constructed to appear snug, but are not as snug as they look. Think about the math and measurement calculations required to do this correctly; it’s quite a feat.

When it comes to quality, a Classical tutu should be able to hold up well for many, many years. Although Ballerina mishaps on stage are used for comedy purposes, it would be a nightmare to find your embellishments falling off and your seams popping open during a serious performance. If you want to avoid the stress of dancing in a poor-quality garment, choose your tutu maker carefully.

Take The  Scary But Fun Vote Below

Away we go…

Of course, this is a lighthearted look at a very stressful situation; a costume malfunction on stage. A ballet dancer is very much like a ship in that everything must be battened down securely. Buns are pinned down and netted, shoes are elasticised and ribboned to the insteps, and dancers are sometimes sewn in to their costumes. Everything has to be ship-shape when it comes time to set sail for the theater.


Blue & Gold Variation Tutu by Monica Newell
© Designed by Monica Newell | Dance Photo Copyright © David Sharples Photography

* Here a few reasons why tutus are not made from leotard material:

  • The Classical ballet costume has evolved from as far back as the 16th century. Leotards were not invented until the 19th century. The choice of fabrics and embellishments for tutus is anchored in deep tradition.
  • Ballet tutus are created to last and many are shared, stored and repaired for decades. Leotards are too thin to withstand constant use.
  • Sturdy fabric is more suitable for applying heavier embellishments and for maintaining a crisp shape.

The best reason? It’s nice to get out of a leotard and slip into a gorgeous costume creation.



Image Credits:

  1. Blue & Gold Classical Tutu photos by © David Sharples Photography
  2. Sailboat,, Public Domain Free



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