Who invented the tutu?

It's an item of clothing that is forever associated with ballerinas. But when did dancers first don the tutu? BBC History Revealed explains…

Ballerina Margot Fonteyn in a tutu

Let’s get to the en pointe here: the iconic ballerina attire made its debut at the Paris Opera in 1832. Celebrated Swedish dancer Marie Taglioni appeared on stage for La Sylphide wearing a tightfitting bodice and a bell-shaped skirt cut so high that it revealed her ankles. The outfit, which became known as the romantic tutu, had been designed by Eugène Lami and went on to define the style of ballet.

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The tutus kept getting shorter, with more and more frills and ruffles, to make movement easier and to show off the skills of the dancers.

But the tutu wasn’t always a practical garment. In 1862, Emma Livry’s skirt caught fire during a rehearsal. She had stepped too close to an exposed gas light, and died of her wounds a few months later.

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This article was first published in the September 2019 issue of BBC History Revealed