A Blackburn Market stall holder has danced to a degree of success with a unique qualification.
Mandy Phillips, who owns Girlie Bits, began by making colourful party tutus for children on Blackburn Market, but has since studied a short course in how to create the intricate tutus worn by professional ballet dancers.
The one-week intensive course at Nottingham University teaches students how to create a specialised tutu base and bodice for classical ballet dancers and ballet students. Classical tutu making is not a widely taught subject and is rarely taught to a professional standard.
Mandy said: “Making classical tutus is a specialist skill, and the people trained to do it are few and far between. There were only six of us on the course, with one woman coming from Hong Kong to take the class.
That’s how in demand this skill is.”
Mandy made her first classical ballet tutu for her granddaughter, Madison, 13, who regularly competes in dance competitions.
“My granddaughter is one of the main reasons why I wanted to take the course. I wanted to be able to create the professional tutus for her to dance in and show off.”
However, making a classical tutu is not a simple process; each tutu can take up to three weeks to make and uses over eight yards of strong Italian net. These tutus can sell for upwards of £300 each.
Not content with mastering the delicate skill of classical tutu production, Mandy has already booked her next short creative course.
Mandy added: “The course in Nottingham taught me how to make non-stretch tutu bodices, but my next course in October at Gloucester University will teach me how to make stretch bodices, so the bodice can be worn by younger dancers and it will grow with them.”
Mandy currently makes her tutus at home due to the complexity of the designs and concentration involved, but says she wants to be able to make them on Blackburn Market once she gains experience.
“Making the tutus is really amazing to watch. “I’d love for people on the market to be able to watch the skills involved and the work which goes in to making these costumes.”
Girlie Bits is a one-stop shop for girls, providing a menagerie of bits and bats for every need. From fancy dress items, to hair accessories, wigs and funky make-up they have it all and a range of dance wear and theatrical makeup.