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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.

Additions to our Dollhaus!

Please help us welcome a few new additions!  We recently added Phyllis Thriller to our lineup as Stage Manager/Comedienne extraordinaire (and someday, Doll!), and Lula Lawless, our newest and fiestiest Rocket Wrangler!

We’ve also recently held auditions for a new MC, as Marv O. Luste has left the troupe. Don’t worry, we still love him to pieces! But unfortunately work and life have left him without enough time to be a part of the Rocket Doll Revue, so we’ve had to say goodbye to our wonderfully sleazy Marv. We’ll update you soon on his replacement!

We were also recently featured in an article in Nuvo! You can view it online at www.nuvo.net/indianapolis/DigitalIssues/Page, just click on the Nov. 21st issue. Thanks to Paul F. P. Pogue for such a wonderful description of our little troupe!

And as always, don’t forget to check our Events for all our upcoming shenanigans!

Xoxo,

The Dolls

We have a new website!

Isn’t this fabulous?! Take a look around, check out our Doll pages to learn a little more about your favorite burlesque ladies, and make sure you peek at our Calendar page to see what shows we have coming up! You’ll notice our Merch page says coming soon- we’ll get some fancy things in there for you eventually, don’t fret!

Thanks to all our friends and fans for your constant support and attendance at our shows, without you this website wouldn’t have been possible!

And thanks to Chris at 801red.com for putting this amazing website together! Please check him out if you are in need of some wonderful web design!

xoxo,

The Dolls