Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ballet bodice 101

There are probably one hundred different ways to build a tutu bodice, and everyone has their own preference for how things are done. I know, though, that when I was first starting I had a HORRIBLE time finding any kind of information. I guess you could say I learned through "osmosis." Which is a nice way of saying that I spent a year burried in ballet costumes, looked at them, and guessed.

In hopes of saving someone else the time, here's what I learned. :) *note: This tutorial assumes that you do have some idea of how a ballet bodice should fit...snug snug snug.

Step 1: Fabric and Lining
Cut all of your pieces from both your outer (pretty) fabric and your lining. Pay special attention to the grainline on each pattern piece. Your sides should be cut on the bias. This allows the bodice to expand and contract with the dancer's rib cage. (I tease the girls about it, but oxygen is NOT, in fact, optional.)

The lining fabric I see recommended from most sources is coutil. If you're cheap (like me) or on a small studio budget (like me) a soft cotton twill makes a nice stand in for the spendier coutil.

Step 2. Lining.
When you have all of your pieces cut, match each outer piece with it's lining and serge around all edges, attaching the lining to the outer and making it one solid unit.

Step 3. Assembly.
Once you've attached all lining pieces, sew the bodice units together in order using a 5/8" seam or so. This is just a starting point.

By the end of step 3, you should have something that resembles this:

This is generally where I do an initial fitting on the dancer and make any adjustments to the fit.

Step 4. Adding Boning Channels
There are a lot of ways to insert boning. I prefer a casing hidden in the seam. It's flat, simple, and doesn't show from the outside. I bone every seam except for the two side seams.
Lay the seam, unopened, with right sides together. Fold back one half of the seam allowance, leaving the other flat on your sewing surface.

Lay a piece of narrow, single fold bias tape on top of the seam. Raw edges should be down, and the seam should be centered along the tape. Top stitch the bias tape to only the seam allowance.

Now flip your seam over and repeat the process, sewing the other side of the bias tape to the other side of the seam allowance.

Step 5. Piping the bottom.
This is optional, but it gives a beautiful finish to the bottom of the bodice and helps keep the rounded edge from stretching. You can use a ready made piping, or cover your own to match the fabric.

Lining up all of the raw edges, place your piping on top of your bodice along the bottom edge. Using single fold bias tape, open one side and place the tape on top of the piping so that the crease is snug against the piping edge and the raw edges are lined up. Stitch along the crease, attaching the piping and tape to the bottom of the bodice. (If this feels fussy, you can do this in two steps. Apply the piping first and then go back and apply the bias tape.)

You should now have something similar to this:

Step 6: Insert Boning
There are several types of boning. I'll cover them in a seperate post, but for this tutorial I'm using a mid-heavy weight poly boning.
Cut your boning pieces one inch shorter than your channel. This allows for the finishing seams on either end.
The boning should simply slide into the channel, and now you can apply piping and bias tape to the top edge of your bodice as well. (Your boning is now "trapped" in it's casing.)

Step 7: Finish up! :)
To finish the top and bottom edges, simply fold the bias tape towards the inside of the bodice and slip stitch in place. Be careful to only stitch the tape to the lining of your bodice (it takes a little practice).

Doesn't that look pretty?

TADA! Now you just have to stitch on your elastic straps, and your hook and eye closures.
This bodice is a future Sugar Plum Fairy.

And just for giggles....here's an itty bitty little Sugar Plum Doll (A child's size 4. So tiny!) made to match, from possibly the most adorable commercial pattern ever produced.


  1. That is a fantastic and clear tutorial, thanks!!

  2. That was a great tutorial especially the tip about cutting the sides on the bias. I haven't seen that before and it makes great sense.

  3. great! could u tell me where i could find some patterns? :)

  4. Would you mind sharing what tutu bodice pattern you used? It appears similar to the Tutus That Dance #2104, however yours is only 8 pieces? Did you draft it yourself?

  5. Mayogirl, this is the 8 piece bodice from tutu.com. I generally have to cut their patterns down a bit at the top though.

  6. Did you place a drawstring in the upper side edge?

  7. This one just has regular piping at the top edge. I've changed the way I do a few things since I posted this tutorial. For things where there's not a big set of costumes, where I can move people around until I have a bodice that fits well, I will draw string the top edge. I also try to finish the front separately from both sides of the back, and then sew them together. It makes it much easier to make large adjustments along the side seams, without having to pick apart the facings at the top and bottom. :)

  8. where do you purchase the boning material?

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  10. i like this post
    i love ballet .
    where i can get this ballet staff . . .

    Ballet business | \A\Rachel Withers

  11. I know this is cheating, but I just zig-zag my boning into the seam allowance. It saves a ton of time :)

  12. How do you draw string the top edge?

  13. How do you draw string the top edge?

  14. this is something phenomenal tips about ballet dance. yes i agree that preparing of dress had main and basic thing in the perform of dancing thanks so much to introduce this post.

    Ballet fitness | Ballet Be Fit
    Ballet fitness classes | Getting fit using ballet

  15. Thank you for sharing! Very informative!

  16. Wonderful. Instead of hook and eye closure, can you use wide velcro. Hook and eye seems to 'pop' open on my daughter. Thinking of replacing. What are your thoughts? Tia! Louise

    1. Velcro is a definite no. It's not strong enough. Are they popping because they're coming off the fabric, or are they sliding open?

    2. If they're bending open, try the hooks from tutu.com.
      If they're popping off the fabric, you need better thread. Hand quilting thread is good, or upholstery thread.
      If they're just sliding open, you're bodice is far too loose.

      So it can be a variety of issues.

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