The Classical Tutu Through History

The classical tutu has always been one of the most important parts of the ballet costume throughout history. Many have designed the tutu down through the ages and yet few have perfected it. The design and structure of the making of the tutu is actually a form of art unlike any other out there. Creating the perfectly tailored tutu is extremely hard to do. The tutu is a skirt often worn with an attached bodice, worn on the ballet dancer in a ballet performance. There are many varieties, from fairy to cats and dogs, most of which can be tailored to fit the performance. This is where the simplicity ends. It takes many materials to make an awesome tutu, including muslin, tulle, voile, organza and tarlatan.

Tutus can be made with a flat top sticking straight out from the waistline, a 'hoopless' short skirt with a softer appearance, a stiff, shorter skirt made into a bell shape with lots of netting without the use of a wired hoop, just to name a few styles.

In ballet's early days, dance was a pastime of the social court, not an art form. For these dances, the dancers wore everyday clothing instead of costumes specially made for them, but what the dancers wore back then would resemble costumes to us today; the women wore tightly-laced bodices and 'panniered' skirts, while the men wore stiff brocade coats, wigs, and knee breeches, along with their swords belted at the waist. While a special dance troupe was established in 1661 and the first professional dancers coming out into the limelight, the technique of the ballet dancer became more difficult and complex.

While leotards and tights were not yet invented, the dancers were made to wear "precautionary underwear" to make sure they did not reveal too much leg while doing their flips and jumps.

Marie Camargo was a famous ballet dancer, made famous because she was the very fist one to shorten her skirts, giving her audience the chance to observe and appreciate her footwork. Marie's rival, Marie Salle, danced in a simple, single layer muslin dress, daring censorship even further than Camargo.

The French Revolution, around the end of the 18th century, brought changes into the dance of ballet as well. The very lightweight, clinging, and simple robes inspired by the Greek models now became fashionable on stage as well as off as an altenative to the tutu. Maillot, a designer of costumes at the Paris Opera, invented tights. And so the modern image of the ballerina in a classical tutu and tights was born and endures to this day.