How To Preserve A Classical Tutu As An Heirloom Garment

Would you like to store a favorite tutu or costume so that it lasts for decades?  Preserving dance memories in photographs is a lovely way to pay homage to both the costume and the dancer. However, nothing can be more special than having the family gather around to see what Mum wore when she was The Sugar Plum Fairy at age 10. Even Mum herself will be thrilled to revisit the ballet costumes of her youth.

Not only is a beautiful dance memory being preserved, but an example of theatrical design and construction. It’s not everyday that a young person has a reason to wear a couture garment like a performance tutu.

Her Children’s Children May Want To See The Ballerina Costume Grandmother Wore “Way Back When “.


Why Save A Classical Tutu For The Long Term?

For those who treasure family heirlooms and intricate things passed from one generation to the next, a child’s first stage performance costume is precious. Perhaps it isn’t a first tutu, but one of a favorite variation character. Maybe the costume was worn during a dance competition that was won. Here are a few other reasons why someone would want to save a tutu for the long term :

  • Auroras Wedding solo Tutu for YAGP Paris.
    Tutu For Auroras Wedding Solo- YAGP Paris, © Costume Creations U.K.

    Preventing The Pangs Of Regret– If you are a dancer,  or an older ballet student, did you toss your very first pair of ballet slippers away, then regret it later? What about those exciting first pair of pointe shoes? Do you ever think about that tiny leotard you wore when you took your first class?

  • Indulging Sentimental Feelings Is Part Of Being Human– Many people choose a ballet career for the romanticism and passion of stage performances. Even non-dancers love to save little souvenirs like theater ticket stubs and playbills.  You can imagine how much more someone would want to save a beautiful Classical tutu that was carefully crafted just for them.
  • Celebrating The Passage Of Time During A Ballet Career-If you are a current dance student with several years of training behind you, your practice garments and recital costumes show the beautiful stepping stones of your journey. From that tiny first leotard to your first appointment for a couture fitting, it is a magical period of growth for the serious ballet student. For many, these garment memories are worth saving.

Preserving A Couture Tutu

Have you ever seen a beautiful vintage wedding dress that was lovingly kept in storage for decades? The lace is still pristine, the satin still glossy and smooth. The very same preservation works for couture garments like bespoke tutus. As a matter of fact, preserving a special dance garment is much like creating a design time capsule. Future  generations will be able to travel back in time to admire the sewing and embellishment techniques of a master costume maker.


This beautiful tutu was created by Monica Newell of Costume Creations U.K.  for The British Ballet Grand Prix and The Yellowstone International Arts Festival for the ballet The BACAROLLE from the Tales of Hoffman. You can listen to the music hereThe layering technique of using varying textures and shades give this tutu incredible stage presence. Because a made-to-order tutu contains both a design and a performance memory, storage know-how is essential.

Short-Term Storage For Keeping Your Tutu Clean Before A Performance


Long-Term Storage For Preserving A Classical Tutu

Classical  Solo Tutu for Competition,  © Costume Creations U.K.

For the short term, preserving the shape and cleanliness of your tutu isn’t too complicated. It can be done at home by separating the costume from other clothing so it doesn’t get crushed before a performance. However, if you have your heart set on saving your beautiful tutu for decades and decades, it needs more serious protection from moisture, insects, and textile breakdown.

Couture Tutus May Have Several Areas That Need Careful Long-Term Preservation:

  • Appliques, Beading, or Embellishments
  • Pleating and Layers
  • Hand-stitched Seams
  • Delicate Specialty Fabrics

For preservation of any precious garment, acid-free paper and storage boxes help protect your investment for the long-term.

Acid-Free Boxes And Acid-Free Tissue Paper

Cedar Hope Chest
Cedar Hope Chest

Ordinary cardboard boxes and tissue paper can do an effective job at storing ballet costumes for the short term. However, if you plan on keeping a costume in pristine shape to preserve it for decades, there are specially-made storage boxes that are better than plain cardboard.

Using a Hope Chest made of insect-repelling Cedar wood has always been a way to preserve and protect fine linens and heirloom garments. Now we are fortunate enough to have two more protective layers for our precious garments; tissue paper and storage boxes that are free from textile-damaging acids.

What Is So Special About Acid-Free Tissue Paper And Acid-Free Storage Boxes?

Embellished Tutu by Costume Creations U.K.
Tutu For Classical Solo, © Costume Creations U.K.

These specialty products have been created for the express purpose of conserving and protecting delicate items for long-term storage. They lack the harsh factory chemicals that can leach into and discolor delicate fabrics like satin and lace. They are used to store anything from hand-stitched quilts to ballet costumes and dance slippers.

Beyond the technicalities of fabric care and storage concerns, preserving dance garments pay a lovely tribute to the entire genre of ballet. Even more so, the artistry and talent of those who make these garments one at a time.

There are no cookie cutter shortcuts in the world of bespoke stage garments for ballet. It is a rare and beautiful gift they contribute to the world.

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.” ― Arthur Schopenhauer


Image Credits:

1.  Auroras Wedding Solo Tutu- YAGP Paris, Dancer Poppy Downing of Kings International Ballet Academy, Photo by Costume Creations U.K.

2. Costume for The BACAROLLE from the Tales of Hoffman, Dancer Charlotte Bean

3. Classical Solo for Competition,  Dancer Giuliana Giudice-Lyon, Photo by Steve Cooper Photography t/a Studio 63

4., Cedar Hope Chest by Rich Misner, No Modifications, (CC BY-ND 2.0)

5. Tutu for Classical Ballet Solo Competition, Dancer Grace, Photo by Costume Creations U.K.