The Tutu Project

The Tutu Project


Caroline O'Brien

Designed and built by Caroline O'Brien, Curator of 60 Years of Designing the Ballet in collaboration with The Design Exchange. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.

Just as the forest in The Sleeping Beauty keeps an intruding Prince at bay, this tutu creates an impenetrable boundary around the body of the ballerina. Layers of tulle and organza create the iconic silhouette that signifies her identity as Princess of the ballet. As the final wrapping, this garment frames the identity inside of the tutu. The dancer’s previous body in a sense vanishes and, as though in response to the structure of her attire, is replaced with that of the Princess. The tutu thus forms an integrated whole which allows our ballerina to assume the character of the Princess on stage, with the tutu becoming an extension of her identity. When adorned in her finery, the Princess of the ballet invites us to engage in a world of wonder, enchantment and desire.

Caroline O’Brien is a costume designer, writer and educator. For almost twenty years she served as Wardrobe Supervisor at Canada’s National Ballet School and enjoyed a rich freelance career designing costumes for classical and contemporary dance. O’Brien is a full time faculty member at Ryerson University in Toronto and is completing PhD studies at The National College of Art and Design in Dublin.

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Top image credit: The National Ballet of Canada tutus on display. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.