One Pasty At A Time: High Fashion Is Where Her Money Goes

Oh damn y’all, I need a costume. [Editor’s note: some images may be slightly NSFW, depending on where your particular W is.]

In the midst of planning a routine, selecting music, and actually finding time to practice, I’d neglected to actually start preparing an outfit. Sure, I’d pick up a little something here or there: a pair of six inch purple kitten heels that look as if they were sent from Divine above, huge fake flowers that were supposed to adorn my hair, loose makeup sparkles, and fake eyelashes donned with feathers and sequins. Theres a real joy in finding these items and their known purpose, but the thing is, it still has yet to “all come together,” and I’m sorely lacking in what I’m actually going to be putting on my body, even if its not that much.

Perle Noire's Josephine inspired beauty. Image copyright Leland Bobbe.

It’s possible to spend days, potentially weeks, looking at other perfomer’s costumes (FYI, if you ever decide to do so, try not Googling  the general “burlesque costume,” unless you are okay being met with a cross between Ricky’s Halloween “sexy” costumes and “Pink Marmalade” gone wrong, unless that’s your thing, in which case, get it girl). It’s a perk: part creative spark, part costuming and theater know how, part DIY turning rhinestone ashes into gold. I love being surrounded by this air of craft and creativity, harkening back to the reasons why I decided to become an artist. But see, back in the days when I thought my dream was to take the New York art world by storm, art still existed in a very narrow box for me, one that was defined by MOMA and whatever was being hocked in Art Forum. It only took me leaving the art world to realize that this perspective was seriously damaging, and that art was a massive term that meant everything and nothing at all. It’s funny how that always works out.

She's in her sixties and has flaming pasties. Contest over. Burlesque Hall of Fame Dancer Satan's Angel, image copyright Brian Smith.

But back to costumes. I’d been gazing at Luma Rouge’s work as a starting point to figure out how exactly one begins to create a costume. Luma Rouge is a lady after my own heart, a talented woman whose work focuses on strippers, burlesque dancers and fetish queens and “capturing the beauty, creativity and spectacle of New York’s neo-burlesque dancers and their community.” It was only when I saw her sketch for a friend’s Kermit-inspired ukelele act, that I quickly fell in lust and began looking at her work more to understand exactly how costumes should look and move on a very basic level.

Plucky Charms amazing Kermit inspired ukulele act. Image copyright Luma Rouge.

But to just point out one reference is like taking a cup of water from the Atlantic and saying I’ve been in the ocean. It’s also like saying I’m an expert oceanographer, which, for a lady who’s just begun to dip her toes in, can be a touch lofty. Still, costumes are such an amazing part of burlesque that it’s hard to pinpoint just one that’s something to refer to for inspiration or know how, and ultimately the genesis of my own.

The minimal is calling me this time. As much time as I’ve fawned over elegantly crafted corsets and full body pieces that are reflective of the “hell yes I can do it” attitude of burlesque, I’m drawn to the outfits that are more initial skin being hidden behind fans or props for the moment. This isn’t to say one is better than the other, but that one just feels more right for now.

The amazing Rhinestone Follies in classic pieces. With Beelzebabe (Siren of Sodom), Kita St. Cyr, Hazel Honeysuckle, and Ginger Brown. Image courtesy of The Superlative.

So I’m planning to troll the garment district to finally find those delicate little pieces of magic I need – the tassels, the fringe, the rhinestones (oh god, the rhinestones”¦), creating something that I’ve only gushed over on others. I’m raising my sacrificial wine glass to the sky, hoping that the creativity gods will bless me in this moment and that the spirit moves me as much as ass tassels move on some ladies asses. Until then, I’ll keep telling myself, “Just keep rhinestoning, just keep rhinestoning.” Seems like a good way to go.

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