ballet skirt, from Fr. tutu, alteration of cucu, infantile reduplication of cul “bottom, backside.”
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
It’s also the case that if you said ‘tutu’ in Hawaii, you’d be talking about your Grandmother; in New Zealand it’s a poisonous plant and Tutu de Feijão is a paste made of beans and manioc flour in Brazil!
A tutu is a couture dress made for a ballet dancer
Most people think of a tutu as the whole dress, but strictly speaking it is just the net layers around the waist – the bodice is separate and both are made by specialists.
A tutu begins life as 10 metres of net, in strips of varying stiffness. The softest layers will be placed close to the legs, the very stiff layers will go in the middle and the top layer will be somewhere between the two. It is based on a basque which fits the waist and hips, and knickers are attached in the final stages. The net layers have to be tied down, by hand, with loose stitching to ensure they all move together.
Layers of net
Around the world, the number of layers requested varies between ballet companies. A tutu is usually made with 10-12 net layers; in Italy it is between 7-10 and Paris is always 13.
A crinoline (steel) wire is used to make a firm hoop in one of the layers, which helps to retain the plate-like shape.
The final layer, the top skirt, is the heaviest, with jewels and feathers, appliqué and embellishments.
There are only a handful of professional tutu makers in the UK; it’s a niche business and hard physical work, quite often carried out by men (much the same way as pointe shoes are).
However, all of the tutus you see in this feature are mostly designed and made by Anna Maria Genuise. The gold and caramel tutu with ivory lace was designed for Anna Maria Genuise, under her instruction, by Eleanor Gibson.
The wonderful textile design company Bluebellgray, of whom I’ve long been a fan – produce hand painted designs printed onto luxurious fabrics to make colourful cushions, scarves, bedding, fabrics, prints and a whole lot more.
In the photographs above you can see two of their scarves, Emmi & Kait. The scarves are beautifully soft and are Italian made in a luxury cashmere blend, priced at £160.
These beautiful bath petals are by Heathcote & Ivory from their Rose Vintage Collection.
Hand Made Leg Warmers – win the warmers in this shoot!
Also seen in shot are Sue Murphy’s Leg Warmers (see below for further details including how to order your own, plus a competition to win the Leg Warmers featured on the shoot).
In the photograph above, Prisca Bertoni, a student at The Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden, London, wears legwarmers made by English National Ballet Lead Principal Daria Klimentova’s mum.
Bluebellgray’s colourful scarves make another appearance in these two photographs, along with an old pair of pointe shoes signed by their owner.
You can follow Prisca’s blog, All4ballet.com, and learn more about her studies at The Royal Ballet School and her life both in London and her home country of Italy.
Prisca wears leg warmers sent from Canada and hand-made by Sue Murphy.
You can order yours via Sue’s facebook page, Mama Sue’s Warmers.
Leg Warmers by Sue Murphy cost £25 plus shipping (40-45 CAD).
As they are made by hand, they take around two weeks from order, depending on Sue’s workload.
Prisca’s up-do was created by legendary hairdresser Malcolm Planck, and we called it ‘edgy elegant.’ It was a mix of the traditional ballet bun, with a twist.
Prisca’s hair took about an hour to complete and we accessorised with her own jewelled hair clips to match her pearl earrings.
Purchase a print of your favourite photograph from the shoot
Would you like to buy a print of one of these photographs from the shoot ?
Please get in touch if you’re interested in purchasing a print; there are several sizes available to suit your budget (don’t forget to include which photograph you’re interested in, and where you’ll need it posted to).
Win the Leg Warmers by Sue Murphy featured here
To win the Leg Warmers by Sue Murphy featured in this photo shoot, all you need to do is contact me with your details. You will be invoiced for postage and packing so please include your address. All valid entries will be entered into a draw which will be made on Friday 2nd May 5pm GMT and the winner will be notified by email.