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Custom Costuming Advice w/ Vagina Woolf

What is the first thing you notice about a burlesque performer when they appear on stage? Their costume! The glitz, the shine, the beautiful accents, the mood it evokes or the humor it presents. A well-crafted costume can take a burlesque performance from at-home bedroom dancing to a stage-worthy performance. Burlesque is an escape from reality and it is the performer’s job to transfer the audience from real life to a beautiful and lustrous world beyond.
For me, creating costumes was one of the biggest draws to burlesque. With a background in fashion design and fine art, creating something tangible, designed to move with the performer, was very appealing. I found myself creating costumes in my head before I ever had the desire to dance on stage. Although I prefer to create my own costuming, many performers do at times order custom pieces from industry sources or work alongside a local seamstress on a shared project. So, let me share a few secrets with you on how I begin the costuming process. Every person is different in their techniques, but mine draws from pure inspiration and gut intuition.
 
1. Set your tone, know your mood, create a color scheme. These three items are completely cohesive. The colors of your costume will tell the audience how you are feeling and how you expect them to feel. Dark colors such as eggplant, black, and deep blues will create a moody feel– whether it be sad, mysterious or a little sinister. Pastels seem playful and flirty, youthful and fresh. For more vibrancy and energy, choose bright colors like yellow, lime green or hot pink. Set the tone with your colors and make sure it matches your dancing and music. If I am creating a costume before I have a song picked out, I am often inspired by one particular item such as the fabric of a robe I already own, a beaded fringe I fell in love with or even the colors on a piece of china in my home.
 
2. Choose a silhouette. Once you know your mood, you want a costume silhouette that will match. Some examples of silhouettes could be a classic hourglass shape, a softer floating silhouette, or perhaps a more natural silhouette showing a lot of skin. This will help you decide what types of pieces you want. Here are a few examples: an hourglass shape may include a form fitting gown, a corset and lifted bra. A softer floating silhouette could be a sheer babydoll robe or or softer fitting lingerie. A natural silhouette may be a mesh bra, panel skirt or harness. Of course these pieces could mix and match, but you want to consider the initial shape you are presenting on stage.
 
3. Choose your embellishments. Is your character high glamour? Simple? Over-the-top? Do you need movement in your costume? Will any of your dancing be restricted by certain embellishment layers or additions? These are all things to consider when you order the abundance of shiny items you will need to take your costume from basic bra and panty to performance level.
Here are some things to remember when choosing embellishments:
a. Fringe can add movement and interest which is great for fast shaking or twirling. Beaded fringe has even more show however it is not great if you plan to be sliding across the floor a lot or if it could get caught on something like fishnets.
b. I love a fully embellished bra however using only rhinestones is expensive. Consider creative options to fill space. I love to use a variety of appliques, with sequins, beading and rhinestones. Also, different sized stones fill more space and add textural interest. Covering a bra with shiny or sparkly fabric can also fill gaps.
c. Embellishment will make items heavier! I have definitely over-embellished a panty before and had a hard time keeping it on. Especially if the piece is small or made of a thinner fabric, be careful not to get crazy with the sparkles.
d. Create a unifying pattern. To bring all of your various pieces together, you want to have one set design that unifies everything. This design can be literal or just decorative. I have created designs to look intentionally like fish scales or stars, but sometimes I just want a gorgeous and interesting layout. Take inspiration from fabrics, textures, geometry, things in nature! Anything can be transferred into a pattern. Look around you and take pictures of patterns that you like and stow them away for future use.
e. And finally, create costumes that can mix and match and transfer to other routines. I spend a lot of time on my costumes and I want to make the most of them. I always make sure that at least my base layer (bra and panty) is something classic that I could mix with other top pieces in the future. This will ensure that you get to reuse pieces in the future and provide options when you need a last minute costume. It also make it feel like your costume wardrobe is much larger than it truly is. Sometimes a costume just won’t ever match anything else, but if 70% of your items mix and match, then your options double.
 
Always be creative and feel truly inspired. I pay attention to small details and try to imagine how every piece will look from offstage. Every new costume is my new favorite and I try to make each more beautiful than the last.

Doll Parts: Performance Rituals

With all types of performance, there is a certain amount of preparation to do before you go out on stage. Everyone has a routine or a ritual they go through before they walk out on stage, here are a few of ours.

Desiree De Carlo: I always twerk, bounce, & writhe in front of the mirror, often lip synching, to the songs leading up to mine. Gets me super amped. I also have to stand around naked for at least 10 minutes before costuming. Air bath!

Phyllis Thriller: I wear my grandma’s rhinestone jewelry in every show. She was also a performer in her youth, so I feel like I am bonding with her when I am onstage with her accessories.

Frenchy LaRouge: I have to show up super early or I feel off all night. I just like to get everything set up and have a moment to stretch or chat with the owners/bar staff. If I’m singing I go over the lyrics in my head several times in the back outside of the dressing room, by myself.

Lula Lawless: Before every show (that I’m able to) my beauty routine is as follows: candle lit bath with atomic lounge music. Then I curl and pin my hair and perform my makeup ritual to either doom metal or booty bounce music (usually depends on what character I need to become for my routine). Bad bitch night? or Eat you alive cunt? I also try to stretch and have 1-2 cocktails to loosen up.

Trini Bikinii: I just need a congratulations on how big my hair is from my man.

Gurl Haggard:  I always sneak to the back and set my intention for my performance before I walk out. I say how I want the audience to feel out loud either in gibberish adjectives or an actual sentence.

Patsy Blue Ribbon: I always make sure we coochie crunch. It’s an all-hands-in tradition that I did pre-show in New Orleans and happens all around the country. It’s the official pep talk of the show and sets the tone for everyone to go out there and kill it on stage and give their all.

Vagina Woolf: I like to take a long shower with candles lit and lounge music playing. I spend at least an hour preshow stretching and meditating. I always put a drop of lavender oil on my wrist and take yogic breaths before going on stage. I really like when another doll touches my tummy before going on stage to ground me.

How to Keep the Glitz, and Add the Weird!

By Kelzey QuickLee

Burlesque is about a lot of things, but somewhere at the core is sexuality. So, it stands to say that becoming a burlesque performer involves becoming acquainted with one’s own sexuality. One must also come face-to-face with one’s self-view. Are you a diva? A queen? Are you submissive? Subversive? Commandeering? Coy? Deviant? Furthermore, what is your character going to be like? Is he/she a glamorous stage presence? A goofy clown? A cheesecake pin-up? As you build your character you must figure out what of your personality and sexuality you can comfortably fit into that mold.

My stage name for the very first Rocket Doll show was Sin Dee Licious. It didn’t suit. I am not that overtly sexual. I am not a fuckin bowl of ice cream. I discovered that what i really wanted to do was avert the attention from sexiness. I aim to make people nearly forget about my toplessness – or even to be disturbed by it. This aesthetic is in direct confrontation with the presentation of classic burlesque, which, as we Dolls like to say backstage, is all about making people LOOK AT IT. Classic burlesque is about detail, glamour, sheer confidence, epic costumes, small, beautiful dance movements, long pauses, slow peels. So, how does one combine that with the weird, character-driven, often “ugly” aesthetic of Neo Burlesque? It took me a long time to figure out how to get the raw feeling i wanted without scrapping all of the glitz from the stage (because there should still be some glitz). Below is some of the best stage advice I’ve stumbled into after 5 years of being RDR’s resident oddball.

1) WHAT WOULD YOUR CHARACTER DO?

This is the first question of neo-burlesque. With neo, one is 8/10 times creating a character and a storyline. You will refer back to this question often. Just keep it close and use it often.

2) GLITTER

Let’s talk glitter. I hate the shit. Boyfriends hate it. Girlfriends hate it. Roomates find it in their goddamned lettuce. Let me fill you in on something wonderful: you DO NOT have to wear glitter. Refer to step one. The question is: would your character wear glitter?

3) RHINESTONES

Another burlesque staple that you do not HAVE to use. However, open your mind up a bit on this one. Would your character use rhinestones? No? Okay, what about the stage version of your character? Better yet, would rhinestones add shock value or visual appeal to your act? Let me give an example: One of my trademark acts features a corporate pig. He has no use for rhinestones on his suit (he is not Vegas Pig, he is Corporate Pig) but, his belly calls for attention. Lots and lots of attention. Hence, rhinestones.

4) MAKEUP

The makeup tips for a neo act differ greatly from the makeup tips for classic, beautiful stage face. But, i would venture to say that makeup in a neo act is one of the most important touches. Refer to Step 1. Now, RESEARCH. Go all out. Do not be afraid to look messy or over the top. You probably do not – you probably look like a character deserving of a stage. Invest in spirit gum and liquid latex.

5) HAIR

Sometimes I feel a little weird when the other gals have their hair all curled and did and mine is… Not. DO NOT GET IN THE HABIT OF NEVER DOING YOUR HAIR. Your hair is still important, no matter the act. That does not mean that you have to do all the classic pinup styles. It DOES mean that your hair should suit the routine. Put a wig, mask, or hat over it. Tease it, twist it, braid it. Just do something to it.

6) FABRIC

If you decide that your act does not call for so much sparkle, try to add some interest with texture. Use various fabrics to create interesting focal points.

7) STORY

If your body and your presence are not to be the purpose of the entire experience, then your story and your character must be. Ask yourself if the story you are trying to convey is relatable. Create a beginning, a middle, and an end. Maintain the character throughout OR develop a change in character. This also translates to the striptease. In a situation where you are not simply a beautiful glamazon there to take them on a magical journey of the flesh, the audience must understand WHY your character is taking off their clothes. Don’t just get onstage dressed as a giant donut and take off your clothes. Use music choice, dance, and narrative to make the strip make sense. Examples: Trini Bikini has a signature act as a gigantic cheeseburger. She uses the song “Any Way You Want It” to create narrative. I have an act as a cyborg. I become human and use dramatic music and dance to create the feeling of breaking free.

8) DANCE/CHOREOGRAPHY

Dance is an important aspect to all of burlesque. There are many different levels and types of dance represented in burlesque. But, no matter what level you dance at or what type of routine you are creating, it is important to choreograph the main bits. Know when you will take things off/put things on. Know when you will look at the crowd and when you will look away. These little nuances can pull together all of the story.

9) PROPS

Props can be fun and even important. DO NOT USE TOO MANY. Until you have had quite a bit of experience – and sometimes even then – props have a way of making an act look messy. Limit yourself to 5 – and even that might be pushing it. Do not be afraid to mime! Miming can be magical.

10) COMMIT

Be your character. Know your character. Know your story. For the 2-5minutes you are onstage, DO NOT stop being that character.

11) HAVE A GOOD TIME

… Dammit!

How to Get Into Burlesque (by Frenchy LaRouge)

How do I get into burlesque? It’s a question we get a lot from fans and friends. It’s a question most established dancers get on a regular basis from other ladies (and sometimes gentleman), and we’re not the first, nor the last I’m sure, to finally just post a set of guidelines on the internet for those who are curious. So here it is, folks, Frenchy’s advice on how to get started in the world of burlesque:

1. RESEARCH. Go to shows, read about the history of burlesque, watch videos of experienced performers online, talk to performers in your area about what the community is like. Get as much info as you can! We may make it look easy on stage but trust me when I say, we did not wake up like this. If you’re doing it right, burlesque takes a lot of time, effort, and (usually) money. I personally have to book an act 3-5 times to recoup my costume expenses, for some people it’s more or less than that. Figure out what you can put into it as a hobby, what you’d like to get out of it (are you an entertainer at heart or do you just want to experience the thrill of the strip a few times?), and what you might be able to offer the community as a whole.

2. Take a class, or find a mentor. Would you pick up an instrument without finding out how to play it first? Burlesque is no different than joining a band, or trying out for a play. You should know what you’re doing before you get on that stage! If you can find a class in your community, take it! If you can’t find a class in your area, see if you can find someone who is willing to mentor you, someone who has been in the game for several years and can give you solid, honest advice on how to put together a performance and get booked in a show. Find someone who can tell you WHY they’re qualified to teach you the art of the tease, and can back that up with facts and experience. Having a mentor can save you time and often money on costuming as well. Learn everything you can! Never stop learning.

3. Pick a name! Picking a stage name is important, and fun. Do yourself a favor and steer clear of overused, typical “burlesque” names. They might sound fancy and exotic to a new performer, but once you get further into the community you’ll wish you didn’t have the same last name as 15 other girls, trust me. If I could go back and tell noob Frenchy one thing it would be to pick something other than LaRouge. Choose something that tells the audience who you are, and make sure it’s something they can pronounce and chant. Also, once you decide on something, GOOGLE IT. It’s no fun getting a message from someone who’s been using the name you picked for 10 years already.

4. Network. Introduce yourself to performers and/or producers at shows, get their email address or business card if they have one, and send them a quick, professional message that you’d love to help in any way you can. Volunteering to work the merch table or stage kitten a show is a great a way to get behind the scenes and develop relationships with people you want to perform for or work with. They can’t book you if they don’t know you!

5. Develop an act. Come up with a solid, unique routine that you can shop around to individual producers or troupes. I always suggest starting with something that isn’t specific to a certain theme, that way it’s easily repeated and can potentially fit in anywhere. Some troupes have auditions, and in that case you will want to be able to show them a fully realized act. If you can, get video of it to send to producers, even if it’s just on your phone in your living room, that way they know what they’re booking. A lot of cities, Indianapolis included, have at least 1 regular showcase for new and independent performers that are a good place to get some experience under your belt.

6. Be professional, honest, and open. It’s ABSOLUTELY ok not to know everything, and to ask questions, and to need help. A good attitude and willingness to listen will take you far in this community!

I hope this is helpful for anyone passionate about getting into striptease. It can be an extremely rewarding hobby/career and something that has definitely changed my own life in so many ways I can’t even begin to explain.

Thanks for reading!

xoxo,

Frenchy LaRouge

Total Dollmination

We have so much in the works! Check our facebook page (www.facebook.com/therocketdollrevue) for daily updates on things Rocket Doll related.

We’ll be posting a new promo video soon, and we have a monthly collaboration with the Society of the Golden Garter coming soon to Mass Ave! Plenty of chances to see us jiggle our bits.

Stay tuned!

Wink!

Have you been to our new monthly burlesque & variety show at Crackers Comedy Club in Broad Ripple? You should definitely check it out! It’s only 8 bucks, AND it’s 18+!

Wink is a chance for us to give performers and burlesque students from around the city, and other comedy and variety performers, a chance to get on stage and show their stuff!

Every 3rd Wednesday starting at 9pm!

Check out our promo video for the show here:

Burlesque 101

Bunny Barebuns begins teaching a new session of classes tomorrow, January 9th! Art of the tease- a burlesque class for performers and non-performers alike- is gearing up for 9 weeks of shakes, shimmies and sassiness plus burlesque theory and character/act development. She is also debuting a new flexibility class where students at all levels of flexibility will be led in a 45 minute thorough stretch as well as learn tips for inching towards any flexy goals! Bunny is the flexiest, stretchiest, and bendiest, this class is definitely worth your time and money! Both classes will be held at Motus Dance Theatre’s studio and will begin at 7:15 (stretch) and 8 (tease.) Take advantage now of Motus’ offer to buy either class in a complete session and save!!! (both classes are also open to drop ins.)

http://motusdance.com/rocket-doll-revue-burlesque-101/

http://motusdance.com/stretching-with-bunny/

Email us at rocketdollrevue@gmail.com for any questions you have about the class, or find Bunny Barebuns on fb.