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Natalia

Cost of tutu: Comparing styles of tutus (or dresses) for same role

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In recent productions of 19th-C classics, there seems to be a trend toward using short "cocktail dresses" with zippers vs traditional late-20thC "true tutus" with boned bodices and wired skirts that stick out. For example, for Princess Florine in Sleeping Beauty, we have a traditional tutu:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JsQHCfzYuxA

vs

Cocktail dress:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QDMqBwXBtGk

We saw the same trend in Medora's dress in the most recent Corsaire at ABT vs Medora's traditional tutus in ABT's 1998 production (Julie Kent on the famous DVD).

Is this due to economics or aesthetics?

If it's due to cost, does anyone know the relative cost of making a traditional "boned" tutu vs the cost of crafting the softer-skirted "cocktail dress"? Of course, I'm referring just to the execution of the design, rather than the designer's fee. Assume that the costumes are being crafted in the same atelier (same location).

To me, the boned & wired classical tutus seem richer and more luxurious. Less " El Cheapo" even though perhaps the "cocktail dresses" may be more expensive to craft (?).

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Natalia, I don't know anything about the costs of tutus. It does seem to me that the "cocktail dresses" are similar in shape to the "bell tutu," which I believe was introduced in the second half of the 19th century, although the material may be different. I don't know that much about zippers, boned bodices and wired skirts to say much about that, but I would like to read about that. My guess and it is only a guess is that this is mainly a desire for some aesthetic variety. That is to somewhat differentiate one production from another. This is just my opinion and I can certainly be incorrect about it, so I would like to read more as to what you think and what others think.

Tom,

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I thought the Ratmansky Sleeping Beauty costumes were based on the Ballet Russes designs, combined with Ratmansky's desire to make the skirts lower ( his comment: "you don't show your underwear to the Czar").

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Is this due to economics or aesthetics?

Since your second video shows a clip from the 2015 ABT/Ratmansky production of "Sleeping Beauty", I’ll chime in…

I’m no expert (not even a beginner) with regard to methods of costume construction, but I do know that ABT, Ratmansky, and costume designer Richard Hudson went to great lengths (not to mention expense) to attempt to recreate Leon Bakst’s original 1921 costume designs for ABT’s production of “Sleeping Beauty”. Here’s a quote from the Segerstrom program for the production:

“Ratmansky and his wife … have pored through notes, pictures, décor, and costume designs and other materials at the Sergeyev Collection at Harvard University. … Ratmansky and Hudson have based the new ABT “Sleeping Beauty” on Serge Diaghilev’s legendary 1921 Ballets Russes production with breathtaking sets and costumes by Russian painter and designer Leon Bakst.”

You can judge for yourself how well Hudson did by comparing a few of Bakst’s original designs (the first two show the “cocktail dress” for two of Princess Aurora’s costumes):

Bakst 1921 Costume Designs

with Richard Hudson’s recreations (scroll down for the “Rose Adagio” and “Hummingbird Fairy” costumes which mirror Bakst’s designs by using the “cocktail dress”):

Hudson Costume Designs

You can also find more of the 1921 Ballet Russes designs here:

1921 Sleeping Princess designs

So, I guess the answer to your question is “aesthetics”. It’s pretty clear that, at least with regard to Ratmansky’s "Sleeping Beauty", the use of the “cocktail dress” was based on a desire to mirror the extravagant and bold Ballet Russes designs of the 1920’s.

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Mariinsky-1890 version:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLqZzk6Z_ZjBoEpi9TjnhB0RSYyF4SFYRV&v=iEH3N-S9v4U

These tutus are also long but seem more correct and fuller than ABT/Ratmansky's. Definitely not a cocktail dress.

Liking something more doesn't make it more correct

Anna Johansson (daughter of Christian Johansson ) as Canari que Chant with two unidentified suitors in Vsevolozhsky's costumes for the Petipa /Tchaikovsky The Sleeping Beauty (1890) at the Mariinsky Theatre:

http://www.elitearteydanza.com.ar/biografias/musicos-libretistas-costume-autores-empresarios/ivan%20vsevolozhsky-libretista/04-anna-johansson.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sleeping_Beauty_-Marie_Petipa_as_the_Lilac_Fairy_%26_Lyubov_Vishnevskaya_as_an_Attendant_-1890.JPG

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Liking something more doesn't make it more correct

Anna Johansson (daughter of Christian Johansson ) as Canari que Chant with two unidentified suitors in Vsevolozhsky's costumes for the Petipa /Tchaikovsky The Sleeping Beauty (1890) at the Mariinsky Theatre:

http://www.elitearteydanza.com.ar/biografias/musicos-libretistas-costume-autores-empresarios/ivan%20vsevolozhsky-libretista/04-anna-johansson.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sleeping_Beauty_-Marie_Petipa_as_the_Lilac_Fairy_%26_Lyubov_Vishnevskaya_as_an_Attendant_-1890.JPG

Dear Aurora, thanks for confirming my thoughts!Anna Johansson wears a classy, puffy tutu. Not a saggy cheap cocktail dress as in the ABT faux-Bakst Follies!

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Well there's the practicalities of using "expensive" fabrics for tutus. I once got a backstage tour of a ballet company where they took us briefly to where the costumes were kept. The main thing that struck me was how DIRTY the backstage area was. So much dust, sweat, chalk, dirt, hair, trash, and an up-close of the scenery also showed piles of dirt, chipped paint, sweat, dust, and bugs (yes, bugs). Nowadays also maybe Svetlana Zakharova gets her own costumes. Other costumes have to be passed on from ballerina to ballerina. Not a surprise that tutus love sparkly stuff (easily pasted on), use polyesters (easily washed), tulle fabric (easily cut, rearranged), and are often a pastel (or dark) -- hides stains. Deep rich fabrics in primary colors also absorbs sweat, heavier to dance in, less easily readjusted for said ballerina.

IIRC the Bakst costumes might have been beautiful but the enterprise was a financial disaster.

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Dear Aurora, thanks for confirming my thoughts!Anna Johansson wears a classy, puffy tutu. Not a saggy cheap cocktail dress as in the ABT faux-Bakst Follies!

I've been registered on BT for years, but haven't bothered to comment before this; I think aurora's point was that the late 20th c. hooped tutu has not always been standard. The in-between look of the Mariinsky version is equally as 'ahistorical' and, dare I say it, silly looking - at least, that was my impression viewing the clip (Ratmansky's point that one does not show one's underwear to the czar - nor a ruffled tutu panty, presumably - is well taken. Pick one, was my thought upon viewing the Mariinsky clip). Furthermore, IMHO, trying to create the same kind of aesthetic with a long, puffy, bell-type tutu as seen in the Wiki photos with today's dancers - who look NOTHING like late 19th c. dancers - would look ridiculous. Part of the reason those old photographs look so nice is the balance between the larger bust, the very narrow waist, and the flair after the hips. Pray tell, who on stage today could replicate that look (no one, because that's not what ballerinas look like today)? Perhaps the "cocktail dresses" should have a little more "oomf" below the hips, but they look very nice in motion & also play into the aesthetic the creators were after.

I find the big platter tutus that flop over ballerinas heads in penche, among other moments, extremely distasteful, but they're all over the place. I think the softer, non-hooped, loosely-tacked "Karinska tutus" used in a variety of Balanchine ballets much more aesthetically pleasing - but I don't complain about the 'pancake' tutus; that's the aesthetic these days, regardless of how attractive it is.

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For comparison, here is some information on pricing tutus.

First, traditional classical tutu with boning/wiring, multi layers of tulle - $1,500 ($1,200 skirt + $300 bodice):

http://thecostumelady.net/pricing/balletcostumes.html

A "ballerina style" cocktail dress that just hangs down, without boning, wiring or tulle. $495

https://www.net-a-porter.com/us/en/product/618657?cm_mmc=LinkshareUS-_-J84DHJLQkR4-_-Custom-_-LinkBuilder&siteID=J84DHJLQkR4-MqISWkXhNCYEkZE5DMXFyg

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I always had the impression that even though the XIX century photos we see of Russian productions seem to portray bell shaped longer numbers, they always seem to have a wired inner piece, vs. the wireless numbers we see a la Ratmansky's ABT SB. Other recons seem to use bell shaped but wireless skirts, like the Bolshoi's Coppelia or La Scala's Raymonda. I believe the detail goes in the fact of the skirt being wired or not. I still much prefer the mid century shorter than usual high waist wired style.

balet2.jpg1848a3af16e72424a297d79e752fd123.jpg

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Natalia, I'm glad that you started this topic as I found its discussion of tutus very interesting and informative. Thank you.

Tom,

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For comparison, here is some information on pricing tutus.

First, traditional classical tutu with boning/wiring, multi layers of tulle - $1,500 ($1,200 skirt + $300 bodice):

http://thecostumelady.net/pricing/balletcostumes.html

A "ballerina style" cocktail dress that just hangs down, without boning, wiring or tulle. $495

https://www.net-a-porter.com/us/en/product/618657?cm_mmc=LinkshareUS-_-J84DHJLQkR4-_-Custom-_-LinkBuilder&siteID=J84DHJLQkR4-MqISWkXhNCYEkZE5DMXFyg

Aesthetics aside, you've got an apples and oranges situation here. The first example (boned bodice, net underskirt, etc) is made for performance. It has to withstand the strains of actual classical dancing -- these things are built like tanks, frankly.

The second example is a party dress, made for a social situation, where there may also be stress, but it's more psychological than physical. It would shred to pieces in a performance setting.

While there may be more hand work required for the boning/pleating of a saucer-skirted tutu, I sincerely doubt that ABT is making design choices based solely on the budget.

If you like a style better, fine -- say so and stand by it. But as someone else points out here, liking something doesn't make it historically accurate, and that was one of the goals of ABT's most recent production. I cringe every time I see some of the costumes from 1970s dance productions, but that doesn't make them better or worse.

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In recent productions of 19th-C classics, there seems to be a trend toward using short "cocktail dresses" with zippers vs traditional late-20thC "true tutus" with boned bodices and wired skirts that stick out. For example, for Princess Florine in Sleeping Beauty, we have a traditional tutu:

vs

Cocktail dress:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QDMqBwXBtGk

Other comments on costuming aside, many thanks for the link to the recent ABT clips -- I am even more curious about the production now than I was before!

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As posted on the ABT Corsaire thread, the old production is back, with true classical tutus! El Cheapo bites the dust.

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