How to make a ballet tutu

Updated February 21, 2017

The ballet is deeply rooted in tradition. The costume most of us associate with ballet -- the tutu -- is a fairly recent invention, dating to the 19th century. You don't need to travel any farther than your local fabric store to find the supplies to make a ballet tutu of your own.

Create the skirt

Measure the dancer's waist and side length from waist to just below the knee. These dimensions will be used to determine the size of the waistband and the length of the tulle for the tutu.

Cut a piece of wide ribbon to the length of the dancer's waist measurement, plus 4 cm (1 1/2 inches). Attach two snaps on each end, checking to confirm that the ribbon fits snugly but not too tightly around the dancer's waist.

Multiply the waist dimension times 3. This will be the width of tulle you will need to gather to create sufficient fullness for this bell-shaped tutu.

Cut enough fine, soft tulle to the length of the dancer's waist to below-the-knee measurement to create three full layers.

Stitch each layer up the center back to within 15 cm (6 inches) of the top edge.

Run a gathering or basting stitch through all three layers and gather them to fit the ribbon waist band. You can run another basting stitch through the gathered layers to stabilize them before you stitch them to the waistband.

Top stitch the layers of tulle to the wrong side of the waist band, allowing for a small overlap at the center back closure.

Attach the skirt

Build a basque or purchase dance briefs (trunks) on which to attach the tutu. Typically, a pancake or the less rigid Karinska tutu falls from the dancer's hip, just below the waist.

Cut three to four lengths each of tulle in successive layers ranging in length from 32 cm to 4 cm (12 1/2 inches to 1 1/2 inches). There should be a 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inch) gradation in the layers from the top to the bottom.

Stitch each layer horizontally onto the brief or lower basque, starting with the longest and working downwards to the crotch. You will need to use the gathering foot attachment on your sewing machine.

Insert a wired layer to support the layers of tulle for a more firm looking tutu.


Order stiff tulle from a specialty fabric store for the best results when making a pancake tutu.

Things You'll Need

  • Ribbon
  • Measuring tape
  • Ballet basque or dance briefs
  • Fine silk or nylon tulle
  • Snaps
  • Pencil
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Stiff petticoat tulle
  • Needle
  • Fabric
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