Ballet is a form of dance that has been appreciated in Europe since the 15th century. The ballet tutu adds beauty and style to a female dancer’s costume. A ballet tutu is a skirt worn as a costume in a ballet performance, often with attached bodice. It might be single layer, hanging down, or multiple layers starched and strutting out. The ballet tutu is designed to highlight and enhance the dancer’s graceful storytelling through music and movement. The full circle silhouette is a technical wonder, and today’s ballet tutu has secret supports and hidden seams.
There are several types of ballet tutu. Called the romantic tutu, the first tutu style appeared during the romantic period in ballet history. There are two types of romantic tutu: the first has a skirt beginning at the waist and the second has a dropped waist, with the skirt beginning at the hip, called a romantic tutu with basque. Unlike the romantic tutu, classic style tutus may have an above the knee skirt or the skirt portion may simply surround the dancer’s hips, jutting outwards, without draping. The shorter classic tutu may also have a wire hoop or wire spokes that help shape the layers of fabric into a bell or plate. Powder puff tutus, created by George Balanchine’s costume designer, Karinska, for the New York City Ballet are similar to classic bell-shape tutus. However, they do not have hoops or wires. Tutus can be attached to the bodice of a dancer’s leotard or they may wrap around the dancer’s waist and tie with ribbons or lace. The bell tutu combines the romantic and classical tutus into an entirely new style. Its skirt is shorter and has more layers than the romantic tutu, but is longer and has fewer layers than the classical tutu. It has no hoop in the skirt, and it can be made of soft tulle like the romantic style or net like the classical tutu.
Ballet tutus were once made of muslin fabric. They were initially made of up to 16 layers of fabric. Now they are commonly made of tulle, a very thin, mesh-like fabric. The romantic tutu generally uses only one or two layers of fabric, in order to produce an airy, floating effect. For the classic ballet tutu, multiple layers of tulle fabric are sewn together to achieve the desired shape or drape effect. Student tutus may have less fabric, and they are usually attached to the bodice of a dance leotard. The skirt and bodice are often embellished with embroidery, sequins, lace or other soft, airy fabrics.