How To Care For Your Tutu
Your professional ballet tutu is a major investment.
Properly caring for that investment should help you gain many years of use. There is much debate about if professional costumes should even be cleaned. But in fact, sweat, oils, and makeup can do more long-term damage to a costume than a proper cleaning. Here are some answers to the questions that you may have about cleaning and caring for your tutu.
How do I clean my tutu?
Whether/how you can wash a tutu is dependent upon many variables and whether or not you can detach the bodice from the skirt. Before cleaning a costume, Suffolk recommends that you carefully read each and every care tag in your tutu. If there are no tags, contact your tutu-maker. It is essential to know what your fabrics, trims and hardware (hoops, bones, hook & eyes) are made of, in order to determine the best approach to cleaning.
Here are some points to consider:
The fabrics that are used to make your tutu
Ask yourself, what fabrics are used? Are they washable? How much will each fabric shrink? What will happen to the color? Will laundering change how my fabric looks and feels? This includes the top, lining, panty and ruffle/skirt fabric (all are most likely different). Can I detach the bodice from the skirt?
If all fabrics are washable, have been pre-shrunk, are color-fast, and the changes to the fabric look and feel are not a concern, then laundering would be a great and cost-effective choice. If care instructions differ between the bodice and the skirt of the tutu, hopefully the bodice can be easily detached.
Uneven shrinkage would be a very common concern for underlined bodices and basques. The ideal fabric for lining is 100% cotton (the “gold standard” for comfort & durability). Cotton shrinks. If cotton is paired with a fabric with little or no shrinkage, for example, polyester satin, laundering the completed bodice may result in the cotton shrinking more than the satin. The result would be a very puckered or “rumpled” looking bodice. Consider a cold water wash with line dry or dry clean.
The color of the fabric of your tutu
Another fabric consideration is color. Will the color fade or bleed with washing? If you are washing a cherry red bodice that is attached to a white skirt you may be in trouble if you do not separate the two pieces. Dry cleaning solvents do not penetrate fabric fibers and colors do not tend to fade, so dry cleaning may be a wiser choice (but see below for precautions).
Some fabrics will change with laundering. For example, washable brocade will lose its sheen and become more “drapey.” Those changes may be a good thing or may be undesirable.
Generally, if laundering, hand washing and line drying would be the least harsh method. Fully boned bodices can be put into the washer (on delicate) and they will come out fine—if you know what they are made of, how they were constructed, and have pre-washed them. You may also have luck with romantic skirts in the washer—again, on the “delicate” cycle and in a
mesh laundry bag.
Style of tutu (classical vs. romantic)
Generally speaking with a classical tutu you want to maintain that “pancake” or “powderpuff” shape and keep it relatively flat for cleaning. Some options: Hand wash in a kiddy pool (it is the right shape!) or a bathtub. The key is to rinse, rinse, and rinse again to ensure that you have removed any trace of cleaners or soap.
Construction of the tutu (boning, hooping, tacking)
If a classical tutu is hooped, the hooping must be removed before washing if it is metal. It WILL rust. If the tutu is tacked, either remove the tacking or
Embellishment (materials and how they are attached)
You must know both what your embellishment consists of, as well as how it/they are attached. If beading is sewn on with one continuous thread, if the thread breaks, there go all of the beads. If crystals are glued on, the glue may soften. Washing well-attached sequins, beads, and rhinestones brings back their wonderful sparkle.
Should I consider dry-cleaning my tutu?
For some tutu bodices and basques, dry-cleaning would be the recommended method, but recommendations are dependent upon the materials used and how embellishment is attached.
Dry cleaning can cause the net and tulle in both classical and romantic tutus to become soft. Depending upon the tutu, this may or may not be a problem. Most tutus are made with 100% nylon net or tulle, which is very washable and does not bleed or fade.
Sequins may melt with exposure to dry-cleaning solvents—or the thin coating of color on some beads and sequins may come off. If anything is glued onto the costume, the glue may soften.
Now that my tutu is clean, how should my care/storage differ for a romantic tutu versus a traditional tutu?
It is advisable to store a classical tutu either flat or hanging upside down. A romantic tutu can be hung upside down or as you would any garment. For any costume that is hung, it is best to use hang loops to protect the tutu from hanger or clip marks.
To protect your tutu from dust, a breathable storage container is your best bet. Look for a garment or tutu storage bag made of a breathable fabric. Suffolk offers a great tutu bag that is perfect for storing or transporting one or two platter tutus. If you have several classical tutus, a bass drum case that has no lining is great for stacking several tutus together. Check your local music store for a drum case that is sturdy and not air-tight. Never store your costume when it is damp! Always allow your costume time to dry completely before storing.
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