With its tight fitting, low-cut, sleeveless bodice and horizontal skirt sticking out from the hips, the ballet tutu is the iconic costume for the ballerina. Designers, however, have often conjured up costumes which stretch the boundaries of the conventions. This costume for George Balanchine’s ballet Bugaku, designed and made by Barbara Karinska, retains the overall traditions while adding enough reference, especially in the lacquered wig and kimono sleeves, to link it to the overall Japanese theme.
Most tutu skirts are composed of layers of net, but for Bugaku, Karinska devised a skirt of linked ‘petals’, each the depth of the skirt and highlighted by a rhinestone. The overall effect is much harder than the traditional tutu but is in keeping with the intellectually rigorous Balanchine choreography. The costume was worn in the wedding scene of the ballet with a long, diaphanous cloak; for the second scene, the tutu was removed to reveal the briefest of bikinis.