National Ballet: The Tutu Project

Costume designer Alex Gilbert created this tutu out of treated paper bags, in the mode of  The Paper Bag Princess, the beloved children’s tale by Canadian storyteller Robert Munsch. It’s one of 60 made by artists, designers and the community for The Tutu Project, a celebration of the National Ballet of Canada’s 60th anniversary.

Lululemon lead designer Antonia Iamartino accentuates the classical aesthetic with the use of Lululemon stretch fabric and technical construction for a high performance garment.  It’s inspired by Swan Lake.

The Lemkos Tutu, by well-known multi-disciplinary artist Noel Middleton, is inspired by the characteristic design of early Slavic churches and is made entirely from reclaimed and collected wood.

This Proud as a Peacock tutu, from Pride Toronto 2011, carries 800 messages of hope and celebration on the paper feathers that make up the body and tulle-tail.

Toronto fibre artist Molly Grundy supervised this film-inspired creation, contributed by children attending the TIFF Kids International Film Festival. They colored on 16mm film leader, which Grundy attached to a wire cage at the tutu’s core, styling and sculpting each one to achieve a wild and animated shape.

Included in the project’s legacy tutus is Swanilda, from Coppélia,  (first performed in 1952), designed by Kay Ambrose. It’s the only tutu in the ballet’s costume archives worn by founder Celia Franca, the firebrand who turned the fledgling dance troupe into an internationally celebrated company as principal dancer and then artistic director.

Salmon Coming Home is from The Port Theatre of Nanaimo, B.C., inspired by its lobby installation, a sculpture by Aboriginal artist Phill Ashbee of more than 100 carved salmon swimming.

The project’s multimedia site has dozens more tutus, and lots of National Ballet history.

19 replies »

  1. I think they are very creatively designed. Wouldn’t it be great if, let’s say, lady gaga wear them in her concert or videos? 😀


    • You’re so welcome! I agree that they really need to be seen live, especially because they are so delicate and things like the crystals or the paper feathers would show up more clearly in person.


    • I agree. I’m not sure if that’s part of the project plan, but I do know that many of the tutus on the website are “legacy” costumes, which have actually been worn. And most of those are just as stunning.


  2. they are all so different!

    the ‘salmon coming home’ has so much movement.
    no dancer to fill it yet it’s already in an eddy!

    we don’t see it here but i think my favourite is ‘tutu cozy’
    which commemorates canadian winters & the hudson bay co.
    i love the mittens. they would accentuate the ballerina’s
    hand movements if one were to dance in it. also love it’s
    waistline, it could double as a collar!


      • Thanks so much for letting me know about this. I was in Toronto on the Labour Day weekend and got to see the show on its last, extended day. I found it really inspired my creativity, and I wouldn’t have heard about it except for your blog!


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