The “Dying Swan” tutu, worn by Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. It is part of a new exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. (AP)

The “Dying Swan” tutu, worn by Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. It is part of a new exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. (AP)

The Fashion Institute of Technology exhibit features 90 items, including ballet costumes, high fashion, and athletic wear. (FIT)

The Fashion Institute of Technology exhibit features 90 items, including ballet costumes, high fashion, and athletic wear. (FIT)

A Christian Dior, “Debussy” evening gown (front left) worn by ballerina Margot Fonteyn in 1950 (AP)

A Christian Dior, “Debussy” evening gown (front left) worn by ballerina Margot Fonteyn in 1950 (AP)

The FIT exhibit demonstrates how ballet costume affected clothing fashion through many decades. (FIT)

The FIT exhibit demonstrates how ballet costume affected clothing fashion through many decades. (FIT)

The Tutu and You

Posted: May 1, 2020

Nothing says “DON’T TOUCH” like an alarmed case with 37 screws holding it shut. What waits inside? You’d expect crown jewels or gold. Nope! It’s a feathered white tutu. 

Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova wore this tutu in her most famous role. She performed The Dying Swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet in 1905. The tutu has 1,537 feathers. It waits for adoring fans to come see it at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. 

The tutu is part of an exhibit called “Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse.” A muse is something that helps us think about beautiful things. Does that make sense when you think about the word “mus-eum?” A museum exhibit gives us a chance to slow down and think about things of beauty. Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Museum exhibits feature items from history. But they usually send a message too. This one says: Ballet connects to fashion. For decades, ballet has helped decide what kinds of clothes people like to wear.

The exhibit features 90 items. It includes ballet costumes. But visitors also see couture gowns—expensive, artistic dresses made by hand. They see athletic clothing influenced by ballet. Ball gowns or party dresses from top fashion labels are displayed along with the ballet costumes that inspired them.

Ballet in fashion? Patricia Mears, curator of the exhibit, says, “It’s ubiquitous.” That means it seems to be everywhere. Look around. Can you see the effects of ballet costuming on life? A fancy gown may remind you of a tutu . . . and it should. Tutus often inspire dresses. Women wear shoes called ballet flats all the time. They sport leotards and leggings too. Both are part of ballet. 

Have you seen The Nutcracker? If so, you may recognize a piece of fashion and ballet history on display at FIT. The Sugarplum Fairy wore this lovely long pink tutu. The costume has a satin bodice (upper part). Many layers of tulle (netting) make the skirt. And the exhibit shows off a work of fashion inspired by this legendary tutu: a stunning pink wedding dress.