Dyeing a tutu in a swimming pool…

…And other adventures in Incendio costume-making!

Well, we’re about five weeks out from our Incendio performance (October 22-23 at the Hult), and in behind-the-scenes preparations, this means lots: press releases are going out, choreography is moving from the living-room-iPod-stage to the fully-fleshed out studio version, we’re fielding phone calls asking when single tickets go on sale (psst: you can get them now here!), and those of us in the company are bracing ourselves for the process of sewing a new pair of pointe shoes every week (we start going through them really fast with the number of hours we’re rehearsing right now).  Since BFan is known for our costumes, we know it won’t surprise our audience that costume preparations are also under way.  BUT we just tried something new in costume prep that was a little wild, even for us, so we decided to share this behind-the-scenes detail.

The costumes start out as a set of scribbled notes, magazine clippings, post-it notes, and fabric snippets. We organize a clear sheet for each dance, filled with these goodies!

Project 1: Magie Noire tutu for Leanne

Starring: BFan Artistic Director and lead costume designer Donna Marisa Bontrager and Costume Mistress Eryn MacNamara on a hot sunny day this September.


  • RIT dye of your favorite color (we chose this gorgeous tangerine color; see slideshow above)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Salt
  • Plastic swimming pool (we got ours on end-of-summer sale at Rite Aid for just $12!)
  • Large kettles, for boiling water
  • Stirring aid (we used an old wooden spoon, but note that you’re not going to ever be able to use it to cook again)
  • Old spaghetti sauce jar, for batching dye (again, something you don’t plan to use again for food)
  • Recommended: Bathtub, for washing tutu before dyeing process, and then rinsing it afterward.  Clothes you don’t mind turning new colors are also a good idea!
  • Also recommended: A large plastic reusable shopping bag for transporting the wet, dyed tutu back to the bathtub.  TJ Maxx sells them for just $.99.
  1. Wash the tutu you plan to dye.  (Ours is a beautiful professionally-made 10-layer tutu by Primadonna, and it’s been used on stage before.) We found a clean bathtub to be a great way to wash the tutu.  The tutu needs to be wet in order to be dyed, so don’t worry about giving it time to dry.
  2. Meanwhile, start heating your hot water using those bit kettles on the stove. Gradually add them into your swimming pool (we got ours for $12 on end-of-summer sale at Rite Aid–it’s a kiddie pool just the perfect size for a tutu, and very lightweight; but it does look a little funny being stored in our costume room!). When the pool is full, add some detergent to it.  Even though it’s a bit counter-intuitive, this helps the dye absorb smoothly.  Tip: We placed our pool out on the patio on a hot summer day to keep the sitting water warm while we were heating more on the stove.
  3. Meanwhile, mix your dye in the jar with a bit of hot water and the salt (this will help all of the dye to dissolve more manageably before you place it in the swimming pool).  Add the hot dyed water from your jar slowly into the hot water in your pool.
  4. Slowly lower the wet tutu into the pool, upside-down.  Weight it down with one of your pots (can be filled with stones, if desired).  We found the best time for our tulle tutu was approximately 40 minutes; the tutu absorbed the dye beautifully!
  5. Carefully fold the tutu insides together, and transport it to the bathtub (this is where that reusable shopping bag came in very handy!).
  6. Rinse the tutu with progressively cooler water in the tub.
  7. Hang tutu dry over bathtub with a skirt hanger.  Tip: It’s almost always best to hang your tutu upside down to preserve its perky shape.

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Bonus: A few other behind-the-scenes looks at works in progress after long labors this weekend…