Author Topic: Ballet Bodice with lacing?  (Read 138 times)

guest121

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Ballet Bodice with lacing?
« on: December 17, 2018, 12:20:43 pm »
A theatrical/sewing/cosplay question:

My daughter just finished her first season of the Nutcracker through her ballet school. Since I sew and have some experience running wardrobe for plays, I volunteered backstage to get our family co-op "points".

I noticed something that seemed unnecessarily difficult, and am puzzling a solution to propose. I wonder if anyone here can point me to some relevant tutorials or patterns.

Problem: As you'd expect, the studio keeps a set wardrobe for the show, reusing as many pieces as possible from year to year. This works quite well for most of the costumes, as they are based around stretchy leotards and skirts or pants that come in standard sizes, so there are a range of sizes for all the ensemble numbers.

For the soloists, however, (Sugar Plum, Dew Drop, Snow Queen, etc) they have some very expensive classical tutus with boned bodices made of silk brocade. Normally these would be custom made for an individual dancer. But we are a) reusing them from year to year, and b) cycling through different casts within the same run. This year there were 3 Snow Queens, 2 Sugar Plums, and so forth. Sometimes there's one cast for the matinee and a different one for evening.

In a professional corps de ballet, they can cast to the costume. But this is a school.

The director wants a super-smooth fit, but you just can't make a stiff, structured garment fit smoothly on 3 different teenage girls with a 6-8 inch height difference (not to mention different builds and stages of development in their figures). It's not just about circumference - it's the angle of the hip, length of the ribcage - The back of these tutus and bodices close with hooks and bars. And at this point, there are up to 6 rows of hardware on there, running at different angles. So even if it's snug enough, it won't sit right, because the center back isn't centered anymore.

As a last resort, we sewed some of the girls into their bodices, especially the ones with partners and lifts - all that metal would have torn up the partner's hands. And we still had issues with the bodice and tutu separating at the waist during lifts. (Because it just doesn't freaking fit, and the stitches popped under the strain.)

Possible Solution: It seems to me that lacing the bodice like a corset would help a lot. It wouldn't solve the problem of length, but you could take off all that hardware and get a more customized fit to each girl's silhouette.

I've done some preliminary research, and it looks like you can buy grommet tape by the yard. So theoretically, we could attach the tape in place of the furthest row of hooks and bars on each side, remove the hardware in between, and the overlapping cloth would provide a modesty panel. It looks like the tape comes in limited colors, so we could cover it with a flap of ribbon.

I've never done something like this before, so before I propose it, I'd like to see if someone else has a Walk thru or tute about it, or even just some photos of a finished product. I know just enough about this type of construction to know it's more complicated than it looks.

So far I'm finding stuff about waist-training corsets, and about making custom-fit ballet bodices from scratch. Neither of which is really helpful.

Any ideas of where to look?

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Offline STiG

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Re: Ballet Bodice with lacing?
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2018, 12:35:10 pm »
I don't sew but I do agree with you that the best way to make the costumes have a more universal fit is to switch them out to a lacing system.  It was my first thought when I was reading your description, before you got to the grommet part.  I would also be tempted to add a **** panel underneath the lacing, in case there isn't enough material to form a full modesty panel of the same fabric.

guest121

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Re: Ballet Bodice with lacing?
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2018, 02:10:58 pm »
I've found a few tutes for converting wedding dresses from zipper to corset-back, which is fairly straightforward, just fiddly.

And a bunch of stuff from pro ballet company or university dance programs about tutu/bodice making. None of them use lace-ups. All hooks and bars. I'm just kind of worried that there is some reason nobody does this. Aesthetics? Or practical?


Offline STiG

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Re: Ballet Bodice with lacing?
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2018, 07:40:17 am »
There might be a concern about the tie coming undone.  But that could be fixed by sewing through the knot on performance day in such a way that the tread can easily be snipped to get the laces undone again.

guest121

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Re: Ballet Bodice with lacing?
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2018, 01:48:26 pm »
There might be a concern about the tie coming undone.  But that could be fixed by sewing through the knot on performance day in such a way that the tread can easily be snipped to get the laces undone again.

After looking at ten thousand photos of ballet bodices, I think it's about the look. Lacing is going to show unless it's on the smallest dancer, and the classical look is very seamless, like a statue.

After Christmas season is over, I may (maybe) mock something up to show the director and see if she objects to the look. After all, they hardly look seamless now with all that extra metal running up and down the back.

Offline STiG

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Re: Ballet Bodice with lacing?
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2018, 02:00:53 pm »
Much better to have it fit reasonably than have super clean lines!  Which aren't going to be clean if it is gaping in places.

I used to skate and we'd put on a show at the end of every season.  Same as you, we wore whatever costume fit.  And if it didn't fit?  Your mother made a new one.  The club paid for the materials and the costume went into the vault for another season.