Research: The Tutu

So, if you guys follow my Facebook Page (which you should and if you don’t it’s at you should know that I recently finished watching Princess Tutu  (Not really recently it was like forever ago, but when I started this article I just finished it. xD Yay Procrastination!).  And while I still don’t know who I’m going to cosplay from it I do know I want to make a tutu at some time in my life.

Princess Tutu

Princess Tutu

The first thing to know is that there are many types of tutus. Princess Tutu as seen above is wearing what I would classify as a Classical Bell Tutu. Bell Tutus are made of layers of tulle and are very similar to the Pancake Tutu, however the bell tutu has longer layers and no hoop meaning it is not as flat and flops a bit more than the Pancake Tutu. Princess Kraehe’s tutu is also a Bell tutu. These tutu’s were made popular after the romantic era when ballet goers wanted to see the dancers’ legs and feet so they could see the technique being used.

Princess Tutu - Swan Lake

Princess Tutu – Swan Lake

When princess tutu is dressed as oddette from Swan Lake she is wearing a Pancake tutu. This style of tutu is made of many layers of tulle and netting. Generally Pancake tutu’s also have hoop of boning to help them keep their shape. While there are many more types of tutus these are the more common kinds from Princess Tutu so these are the two I will be writing about.

Both kinds of tutus have the same basic anatomy. Starting with the basic bodice. Tutu bodices are basically princess seam bodices, however they will sometimes be cut on the bias and with extra pieces. This is so that the bodice will fit the dancer like a glove and still have some stretch so they can move fluidly. More often then not there would be nude straps on the tutu this helps keep the garment up when the dancer is moving about and also makes it so no inner structuring is required. However for the sake of a costume and accuracy I would suggest not having straps but rather boning the bodice so that it will stay up and be supported. Generally the bodice will have a front plaque of beading or applique. Bellow are some examples of real classical tutus and some Princes Tutu cosplayers who have embellished their bodices.

Many classical tutus have bodices which are separate from the rest of the tutu, this is so the dancer will not be constricted by their costume. However even when the bodices are connected to the tutu they have what is called a Basque. The Basque is best known as the “Panty” part of the tutu. However it is more than just the panty. The Basque also includes a tight fitting band that sits above the tutu on the hips and ends at the waist. My understanding is that the basque is used to ensure that the dancers stomach will not be seen as she dances (if the bodice is a separate piece). However It also seems that having the basque continue past the tutu all the way to the waist would aide in keeping the tutu in place on the dancer and stop it from falling down.

The last part of the tutu is the fun part! The Tutu itself! As I said I will be discussing two types of tutus; bell and pancake. Both of these styles of tutus are variations on the classical style of tutu, thus their construction is very similar. The average tutu is made of 12 layers of  ‘frills’ (the tulle that makes up the tutu) but can have up to 16 layers. These layers are cut of tulle, you can use softer tulle for Bell tutus and more stiff diamond tulle for Pancake tutus. I suggest using a mix of many types of tulle for both though using more stiff tulle than soft tulle. Here’s a good place to buy tulle specifically for tutu making. These layers are  individually sewn to the basque and are either gathered or pleated. Bell tutu’s are generally gathered onto the basque and Pancake tutus are generally double pleated onto the basque. To double pleat you first make a box pleat then you make another box pleat going the opposite direction right next to your original pleat so that it covers the first one. This is much easier to understand if you watch it! Here is a video of how to double pleat. After pleating all your layers and attaching them there is a boning hoop attached to the 8th layer. This is only for Pancake tutus as it is what creates the flat and stiff look. While making both types of tutus it is important that each layer is smaller than the last. This is what helps to give the tutu volume. After you have attached all your layers of frills to the basque you must now tack the layers together. For bell tutus the layers are more loosly tacked and are tacked in less places. Pancake tutus, however, are tightly tacked together and are tacked in more places.

Once you’ve finished constructing the base of your tutu you can now add the Plate, this is the flat top layer of the tutu which has all the embellishments on it! This is simply a circle skirt that sits atop your tutu. It should end up smaller than your top layer of frills, however I suggest starting with it larger that way you can better control the length and be sure that it covers what you want it to. Now you can just add your details! Make sure to keep them light so they don’t weigh down your tutu!

Here’s some tutu inspiration! Aren’t they beautiful!!

And that’s it! Good luck tutu making!
Be sure to check out these helpful links!
Parts of the Tutu. Embellishing the Plate.  Tutu History.

Till Next Time!

-Eli <3


  1. Emily Shamrell says:

    I love all your research about the different kinds of tutus and what kind of tutu Princess tutu has. I know you want to cosplay tutu at some point and that is great. I only have one concern since Princess tutu is on pointe a lot, if you do go through with this cosplay please do not go all the way up on pointe shoes if you are not trained for it. You can still wear pointe shoes if you want too but they really are not that comfortable. Just please do not go all the way up on pointe shoes if you are not trained because you can break your ankle very easily if you do go up on your toes. I love Princess tutu and its wonderful to know that you would love to cosplay her sometime. I am stating my concerns with pointe shoes as being a fellow cosplayer and dancer myself I don’t want you to get hurt. Also if you know about this already and or trained for pointe then that’s great I just wanted to leave this here just as a warning so you don’t injury yourself. I really love Princess tutu and I would also love to cosplay her or another supporting character in the anime sometime in the future.

    • Oh hey Emily! :D
      Yes that is for sure something that I am aware of and should add to this post! I completely agree with all of this!
      I’m taking ballet and hoping to be able to the pointe class next year! (:

      I can’t wait to see your princess tutu cosplay too! You’ll be super cute!! :D

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