Many people have asked me how my miniature fairy slippers, tutus and ballet costumes have come about. Well, it was one of those cases where one thing did indeed lead to another. But first I would like to tell you about a particular favourite order that I made for a young Australian ballet student.
I am often asked to reproduce human-sized costumes into doll size and find this a very enjoyable challenge. I especially enjoy historical and ballet costumes and one of my favourite projects was when I was asked to make some tutus to fit the 16 inch Tonner NYCB ballerina doll.
The doll’s costumes were commissioned by Sue, the mother of New Zealand ballet student, Katie and were for a birthday present. Katie was dancing in a competition and the doll’s costumes had to resemble as near as possible, both of Katie’s own tutus. Sue sent me some pictures of the Katie’s tutus and the rest was up to me.
The first tutu was for the part of ‘Princess Aurora Rose’ from the famous ballet ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. This was an absolutely gorgeous tutu in pale peachy pink with lace, pearl and sequin detail on the bodice and top frill. Unfortunately I no longer have the close-up pictures of the lace detail that Sue sent me but here is a lovely picture of Katie dancing in this beautiful tutu.
This costume was made by Katie’s dancing teacher Philippa Campbell and the lace detail was applied by Katie herself.
I found that I had both the right shade of pink silk for the bodice and tulle for the frills plus I was also able to find a really lovely cotton lace that could be cut about to make the details for the bodice and top frill. All the flowers on the lace had to be cut out separately and applied individually around the top of the bodice and down the centre front and then onto the top frill. I then applied all the pearls separately and finally the sequins were dotted over the rest of the top frill. Tulle arm frills were made to match the tutu frills and I made a headdress from wired beads. Here is a picture of the finished costume modelled on my own NYCB Ballerina doll.
Here is a close up of the lace, pearl and sequin detail.
The second costume was a really exotic style of tutu for the part of ‘Esmeralda’. This had a bodice in a dark shade of greeny- blue with matching lace sleeves and golden braid decoration, extending into shaped lace and decorated silk panels onto the top frill of the tutu.
The top tutu frill was a paler shade of greeny-blue tulle and the rest of the frills were pale ivory in colour. There was also a headdress made from crystals. This costume was made by a professional Aukland tutu maker called Margaret Shore. Here are two lovely pictures of Katie wearing this gorgeous costume: one of her dancing and one of her receiving her prizes.
For the doll’s tutu, I found a good match in dark greeny-blue silk dupion for the bodice and panels. The lace was more of a challenge as I had to dye this myself. After a bit of experimenting, the right shade was reached. I already had all the tulle for the tutu in stock as well as the trims. I have quite a stock of different bodice and sleeve patterns for tutus that I have made over the years so the only new pattern that needed making was for the decorated panels that sat on the top of the tutu skirt.
Here is a picture of the finished doll-sized tutu (shown below left) modelled by my own NYCB doll (who didn’t want to take it off!)
Here is a close-up picture (below) of the tutu bodice detail.
The headdress was made from lengths of rhinestone chain wired together to fit the doll’s head.
Having made a lot of tutus for the larger dolls, I decided to try scaling down to miniature size (one twelfth scale). I had already been dressing tutus onto the miniature dolls for some years but had not made a miniature tutu on its own without the doll wearing it. Experiments started and I found that my ideas worked out fine and I set about designing some miniature ballet costume sets.
I decided to concentrate on four designs based on the most popular ballet characters.
These were Princess Aurora Rose (from The Sleeping Beauty)
Odette and Odile (from Swan Lake)
and the long white tutu from Giselle.
I also decided to offer each tutu with a head dress on a wig, displayed on a stand and also a tiny pair of ballet shoes.
The ballet shoes for the sixteen inch dolls were not made by me but were commercially produced by an American company but there didn’t seem to be anyone producing realistic looking miniature pointe ballet shoes. I realised that I would have to come up with a way of making them myself.
I had made miniature ballet shoes onto my one twelfth scale ballerina dolls but never made the shoes on their own. I decided to dig my own old (and very well used) pointe ballet shoes out from the back of my wardrobe and take a closer look at them.
After much fiddling around with tiny pieces of silk, I eventually worked out a way of making a one twelfth scale version under an inch in length.
These completed the miniature ballet costume sets perfectly and even became popular on their own too.
It wasn’t very long before I was asked to provide the ballet shoes in a little hand-decorated gift box of their own
and these have proved very popular indeed, especially as I am able to produce them in a huge range of colours as well as the traditional flesh pink.
Well, one thing led to another, as it so often does and the idea of miniature ballet shoes in gift boxes led me to thinking ‘Why not have gift boxed Fairy Slippers too?’ Once again experiments began and after much fiddling around ( although not as much as with the ballet shoes!) and these tiny pointy- toed silk slippers took shape.
I offered these in decorated gift boxes again and in many different colours and they have also proved extremely popular.
It just goes to show just how making one thing can lead to making several other related items. Without the tutus for the larger dolls, the miniature tutus would not have happened. Without those, the miniature ballet shoes wouldn’t have been developed and without those, the fairy slippers would not have happened.