Welcome, I am happy you found my blog. I am a passionate dancer and life time ballet fan who also is the proud mom of 2 girls who happen to take after the same passion. Guess what, this blog will initially talk about ... tutus, yes that's right.

Oh ... before you read on and go exploring, please take my short poll on this page on your prefered kind of tutu. Hope to see you back soon.

Picture above obtained from
http://thedesigninspiration.com/photos/balletbird .

Copyright please see author in the original source.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Rare vintage McCalls Tutu patterns #7990 and #7991

Paper tutu

I am soooo exited that I just had to share this with you.

Fairy costume
When it comes to tutu making patterns, you may be surprised to learn that there are not that many available out there. Sure you can find a whole bunch of kiddy costume ballerina or fairy patterns very easily.

But the real stuff? You know, the real ballet tutu that you can actually dance in? Let alone use it in competitions?

Wohow no, hell of a lot more difficult to get your hands on, even in these days of internet's easy access to information.

Sewing tulle and net
One would think that it can not be that difficult to make a tutu.

Well, that is true enough for the commercial models you can buy for about 40 dollers, and most probably made in China or Taiwan or something like that.

However, they usually come with only  3 or 4 layers of net at best and just some fluffy sadly hanging tulle at the worst.

Someone looking for a professionally made hooped tutu to be used for a competition, a performance or an audition will not find a 10 layer hooped tutu for that price, hence the fact that many dedicated dance moms are looking for patterns to make the wrestling with those meters of net a little easier.


Dollar dress
Like so many people, I have been searching the web for some specific patterns for quite a while a guess what? Yes!!! I finally was able to secure 2 vinatge patterns from McCall's and Simplicity. People seem to be dying to get hold of them without having to spend a small fortune.

A couple of themn the McCalls', usually sell for over a 100 dollars (or euros, have your pick), which really is more than I am willing to give for it. I have seen some go for over 250 dollars! Completely crazy. You may as well create a tutu with your dollar bills, now that would be original!                                         

But last week, I found some for sale on eBay at an almost ridiculously low price and almost no bidders for them! I could not believe my luck. I must have double checked the items at least twenty times, and yes, they seemed to be the real thing. So I obviously stayed very quit about it (hey, what did you expect?) , took my chances and yippie, I won the bid.

Amongst the community of many tutu makers the question of patterns is always up for discussion and the most coveted and searched for tutu patterns as being the most traditional are the McCall's # 7990 and #7991. As said above, there are few available tutu patterns within the retail sector, but apparently none compare to these McCall's pattern's.

I guess one of the reasons that these McCall's # 7990 and # 7991 are so sought-after, is that the patterns were 'ABT approved.' They are since long out of print and probably slightly outdated in terms of measurements as they were published in 1982, but what the heck! Everybody wants them anyway. I guess the whole point of the McCalls patterns is that as one of the big 4 it was 'more well known' as a pattern company and more accessible for mothers under pressure to produce a traditional costume that could match any expensively produced tutu on parade.

7990 Misses Ballet Costume/tutu ABT   
7991 Girls Ballet Costumes/tutu ABT
However, McCalls chose to discontinue them and and it seems they will not be reprinted, despite the many requests they receive for it. It is whispered that there would be some kind of dispute regarding the rights between them and ABT? If only they would see the light to stop the exploitation of these patterns. Oh, and for those that would be tempted, copying these patterns for redistribution is a serious breach of copyright...

Either way, I got hold of one of the coveted #7990 for a bargain price. I also bought a Simplicity #6204. This one seems to be less in demand, but looks quite good to me. I'll let you know if all the fuss around these patterns is really worth it, after working out the conversion of all these inches and yards to centimeters and meters. And if so, maybe I'll chase after the McCalls #7991 as well.

As my old loyal sewing machine passed away some weeks ago, I am waiting for Santa to bring me a new one to try them out, a Janome with a special ruffler and pleating feet, yippie.

Anyone already tried any of these and would be willing to share their feedback?
Happy sewing!


  1. What a find.... I hope Santa brings you that sewing machine and look forward to another post in the new year when you have tried out those patterns. x

  2. Thanks Julia, yes well, I have no more excuses now, my eldest really wants one like her little sister got at her birthday and of course I promised her to make one... What was I thinking? Found myself a nice Christmas project here!

  3. Have you seen the patterns/books/costuming kits at tutu.com? I am just learning about sewing tutus, but they seem like reasonable prices--especially compared to the Mccall's 7990! I'd love to know what you think, though, as this is all so new to me.

  4. Hi, thank you for your comment and question!

    Yes, yes I certainly have seen them as I have been scouring the web regularly and for a long time in order to find instructions and to see who is doing what.

    I don't have the book however, so I can not really comment on it objectively, but the author seems to be an absolute reference in the professional tutu industry.

    At some point I was about to order the book and the patterns - they apparently go together so you need all of them - everything was already in my basket, until I saw the shipping costs. Unfortunately, to ship to where I live, it costs just as much as the book and patterns themselves.

    Another point to consider is that the book really is written for "intermediate and advanced sewers", wanting to make a professional tutu.

    From comments I have read on sewing and dance forums, it would seem that for some people who are just starting out to sew tutus, it was too complicated and the different possibilities proposed were confusing.

    However for more advanced people it certainly seemed to have helped and provided several possible ways of constructing tutus.

    I guess you need to consider the purpose (professional or amateur), the role and the type of the tutu you would like to make. If it is not intended for a competition, an audition or a (pre)professional show, you do not really need a professional quality platter tutu. You could "just" make one following available commercial patterns and basic instructions.

    Probably it is a book to keep in mind and invest in when you will be more experienced.

    The thing is, there are not a lot of books available on the subject, neither in or out of print or on the web.

    I do have the "How to dress dancers" from Mary Kent Harrison. This is a good reference as well, if you are really only starting out it provides some basic instructions but probably not enough to make a professional one. I found it helpful and worth looking at and not too expensive.

    I have collected quit some books in the meantime on tutus, but most do not describe their construction in enough detail unfortunately.

    If you can understand French, there is a nice guide that talks a couple of pages on tutu construction as well. It is out of print so you would need to get it second hand. There as well, I have waited a long time before finding it at an affordable price as they are being sold at ridicoulous prices in the US. Finally I bought one online from France. It is called "Le tutu petit guide" by Martine Kahane from the Opéra Nationale de Paris; éditions Flammarion.

    Are you using a pattern and/or instructions?

    I am preparing a post on what other patterns are available out there, so stay tuned!

    Good luck with the sewing!

  5. Another pattern maker to consider is Suzanne Dieckmann from "Tutus that Dance" in America. She makes beautiful traditional tutu patterns that fit beautifully and are cut extremely well, she sells them and instructions through her website and also runs classes once a year in Las Vegas. Her patterns can be emailed straight to you which helps lots with the price as postage is non- existent! I have some of her patterns and have done fpher course.

  6. Just found your blog and had to comment on this... There was a time about 5-6 years ago when I had a complete set in all sizes of both the McCalls 7990 AND the 7991. I made the size 7 for my daughter. HOWEVER when it came to sewing the net onto the panties, I was tearing my hair out with frustration. I was not able to manage it in the end and went and bought a "half-tutu" or tutu skirt from the local dancewear establishment. This was a pity because the fabric I was using was pink and silver brocade and the intention was to make the skirt in layers of pink and silvery-grey tulle. In the end, I made a matching plate (top layer for the skirt) and put a pleated ruffle of the silvery-grey tulle around the outside edge of it and attached that to the purchased skirt. It looked quite lovely I thought, but I've since sold it (and the patterns!) on eBay.
    PS Hi Dani!

  7. I came across your website while looking to make a tutu myself. it's been very helpful. I just wanted to drop a line here for Jalie patterns, specifically this one: http://www.jalie.com/jalie2915-leotard-tutu-sewing-pattern.html

    I just happen to come across it at one of the home owned sewing stores in my area. It has 22 sizes from girls to womens in the one pattern. It's by a french woman so some of the translations may be a little off or so I've been told but I've been able to understand it perfectly well.

    it's only a four layer tutu but it's easy enough to add more. It also explains how to add a hoop. And it's only 12.99 and not in high demand.
    I thought you might be interested in it as it's more up to date :)


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