Posted on 18 September 2019 By Alexia Petsinis

The tutus for the Mirlitons in The Nutcracker are as pretty as a candy cane – and are designed to resemble a freshly wrapped Christmas present.

The Mirlitons variation comes in the Kingdom of the Sweets section of The Nutcracker. Two ballerinas perform a delicate variation with lots of precise footwork to sweetly piping music. 'Mirliton' is a play on words - it's both a reed pipe and a tube-shaped pastry. Often, the dancers in this variation hold little flutes. For Peter Wright's production, designer John F Macfarlane has them holding candy canes, and he takes the Christmassy stripes over into the design of the tutus, which are made from stripes of ottoman silk (also used extensively in the coat for Drosselmeyer the magician), satin and velvet. The skirt is made of layers of net hand-dyed in shades of dove grey, and the dancers wear long gloves hand-dyed carnelian.

Photography Kate Longley

Usually, most of the work of making a tutu is in the skirt, even if the bodice is hand-beaded. However, there is so much labour-intensive matching of geometric shapes in the bodice of the mirliton tutu that each bodice took around 100 hours. The full tutus each take around 170 hours to make.

Eloise Fryer. Photography Lynette Wills

The festive striped 'ribbons' of the tutus, which stand out from the skirts like the decoration on a gift, are wrapped around segments of pool noodles when they're offstage to keep them perky.

Photography Kate Longley

The effect on stage is rich and bright.

Sharni Spencer. Photography Jeff Busby