Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tutu: a Dying Art Form . . .

I headed over to the Winger today to see what was new, and I saw this post about tutu construction; the above tutu is complete up to the tacking down stage, so it is simply a ball of very stiff tulle. That reminded me of a few articles I had read some time back about the history of this rather unusual but iconic garment: The Story of the Tutu, and Tutu: the History of a Perfect Design.

Both articles talk about how the modern tutu is surprisingly young, with the first "Romantic" tutus appearing in the 1830's, and the modern, "platter" shaped garment coming just 100 years later, largely because of the wishes of the famous choreographer, Balanchine. They also tell us that a tutu can cost upwards of $5000, and, made of 9 to 13 layers of stiffened tulle, they are made only by skilled artisans.

But, tutu-making seems to be a dying art. Today there are few costumers who do them; they must be sewn completely by hand, and can take weeks to complete, and most tutu-makers confess that there are no patterns, and the construction is largely trial and error. Will we one day reach a time when ballet companies eschew the tulle confections completely, and there are no longer any costumers who know how to produce them?

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