Designer Tutus Vs Classical Tutus-What’s The Difference?

Paquita Variation Tutu
Paquita Variation Tutu- Designed, but not designer. © David Sharples Photography

Have you ever entered the search term tutu into your computer? If you have, you might have noticed that your search results will mention a  garment called a designer tutu.

Technically, every tutu is designed, but those in the designer category have many differences from Classical garments.

Surprisingly, they also have a few details in common. One of the most interesting things about calling a designer tutu “designer” is that many are quite simple in shape and style. This gray tulle skirt is just one example of what you can find online under the category of designer tutus.

What  These Two Have In Common : Using Tulle Fabric To Make It A   Special Garment

Theatrical costume professionals and fashion designers use different weights of netting fabric as a way to mold, shape, and embellish garments. Both the ballet tutu made in the Classical style and the designer versions have a few general things in common:

♦ Both are created for a special occasion; a celebration, a performance, or a themed event.
♦ Both strive to accentuate feminine beauty by using tulle fabric as a component of the design.
♦ Neither are garments that you see women wearing as a part of their everyday wardrobe.

How They Differ From One Another

Lilac Fairy Professional Tutu
Lilac Fairy Professional Tutu- Standing by ready for work.

A professionally made Classical tutu has a lot of seriousness under all those pretty pleats and sparkling crystals. It has a job to do. The garment becomes part of a ballet story. It has to meld with choreography in a way that makes sense. It trains the dancer to avoid looking down at her feet.   The aesthetics of a Classical tutu are scrutinized and judged by audience members, competition judges, theater critics, and photographers. There are two other important differences as well:

  1. Body Standards– In order to wear a Classical tutu and pass the traditional requirements of body shape, proportion, and weight, you have to fall within a certain standard. On the other hand, the only person who has to like the appearance and fit of a tulle party skirt is you.
  2. Construction Process-One of the most brow-raising qualities about calling a designer tutu designer is the fact that Classical tutus have many more components that must be designed than the designer versions.  Constructing Classical ballet garments are very complicated and time-consuming.

It takes days, sometimes weeks, of sewing to complete a couture tutu because each one has so many parts. Every one of those parts has to turn out perfectly. Perfection takes time. How long does it take? Below are several examples.

Total Sewing Time Does Not Include Time Spent For Fittings & Measurement Adjustments


A Designer Tutu Is Part Of The Fun-Fashion World

Designer tutu is a very loose fashion term for any dress or skirt that is made to appear wispy and feminine through the use of tulle fabric. Clothing manufacturers tend to use the term “tutu” a bit lightly at times. They even mass-produce do-it-yourself tutu kits. Of course, a fluffy party dress can be a thing of beauty, but technically, they are tutu-like, or tutu inspired.

 The Classical Tutu Is An Investment

Queen of the Dryads Variation Tutu- Don Quixote ballet
Queen of the Dryads Variation Tutu- Don Quixote ballet

A professional Classical tutu is a very intricate garment that will only meet professional standards if the tutu maker is an expert. It is an investment for the future success of a ballet student. You never get the idea that a young lady wearing a designer tutu skirt or dress to a party is doing so because she is focused on her career.

If we can be completely honest, there are many, many images of girls and women wearing designer tutus that are a bit, well, shall we say, unflattering. A professional tutu for a performance must be flattering.

 The Biggest Differences Between Designer And Classical Tutus

Queen of the Dryads Variation Tutu by
If you can construct a Classical tutu, designer versions would be simple and easy.

Someone who is skilled enough to create, fit, and embellish a professional ballet tutu can easily construct a designer tutu. However, someone who can make a designer tulle skirt does not necessarily have the skill to construct one in the proper classical style. A Classical tutu skirt incorporates layers and layers of netting that are precise in width, length, and volume.

Designer tutus are fun and easy garments that people can wear without sweating at the barre, studying a role, or doing the same floor exercises over and over again.  They are toil-free tutus. On the other hand, we all know that everything a ballet dancer wears is a reminder that work is on the horizon.

A Ballet Rehearsal Skirt Is Much Like A Work Garment

This dancer wearing a rehearsal tutu has to practice over and over again to perfect her routine. Her partner has to learn how to maneuver around all that extra fabric. There is a plan, a purpose, and a goal behind every professional dance costume that fun fashions just don’t have.

The Business Of Classical Tutus –Making, Sharing, Showing & Storing

Theater SeatsSometimes, getting lost in the admiration of theatrical garment designs,  we forget the business aspect of the theatrical world. With one single professional tutu costing 1000.00 or more, it has to last and earn its keep. Costumes are like  precious gold for theaters.

The goal of any theater is to sell enough tickets to have a “full house”.

There are many, many people involved with a ballet production. They are paid through the profits of the theater. The entire entourage travels from venue to venue not only to perform, but to have a successful season drawing maximum ticket sales. The garments they wear are a large part of that draw. Lithe, graceful dancers in gorgeous costumes are money £ $ magnets!

Of course, audience members come for the music and dancing too, but they would demand a refund if the dancers came out on stage in sweatpants. They might even throw a  🍅 or boo the house down.

To sum it all up, the Classical tutu has one beautiful, magical quality that the designer tutu will never have ; inspirational power. Somehow, the department store tulle skirt doesn’t inspire one to see visions of delicate feathery swans dancing to haunting music by a moon-lite lake. Nothing can stir the senses like the imagery of a Classical tutu.



Image Credits:

  1. Paquita Variation Tutu , Photo Copyright David Sharples FacebooDavid Sharples Photography  
  2., Tutu Skirt Model, Public Domain Free, CCO 1.0
  3. Tulle Fabric Examples by Monica Newell
  4., Theater Seats, Public Domain Free, CCO 1.0