Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I hope all of my American Readers have a great Independence Day tomorrow and everyone else has a pleasant Saturday.

This week’s tip harks back to last week’s about tissues.

Handkerchiefs are classy.

I stand by my tip that having a packet of tissues to hand is a useful thing, but also consider carrying a handkerchief. They are so much nice for weeping into, patting your glowingly damp brow, waving farewell, flirtatiously dropping, and surreptitiously wrapping up leftover petits fours.

Gentlemen, this goes for you too!

It’s thoughtful to give a crying friend a tissue, but so much more of a gesture to hand over your hanky. (If you’re on the receiving end, offer to launder it after you’ve used it. It’s a great excuse to get together again.)

It’s not so easy to find handkerchiefs for women these days. Men’s are usually available where suits are sold. Just make sure they are actually handkerchiefs and not pocket squares. Pocket squares are excellent and should be worn, but they are for decoration only.

Vintage handkerchiefs are easy to find and often inexpensive (I can usually find nice ones between $3 and $5). Here’s a few from my collection:

Hankies are also very simple to make. Cut a square of fabric (linen or cotton are traditional). 13×13 is a good size for a lady’s handkerchief, I’ve found. Add a narrow hem and you’re all set! If you’re that sort of person, you can add all sorts of embellishment — lace, embroidery, &c.

I’m still rather proud of this “something blue” handkerchief I made for my sister:

It has an embroidered initial, decorative hemstitching, and handmade tatted lace. Obviously you don’t have to go all out like that.

M2

Published in: on 1 July 2015 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Always carry a packet of tissues.

They are so useful! Besides blowing your nose or drying your tears (something I’ve had to do a bit today #lovewins), you can use them in all sorts of pinches: to blot sweat, remove your makeup (you are using Drag Eraser, right?), pick up icky things, separate your toes for pedicure repair, as emergency toilet paper, &c.


I got this charming pocket-sized tissue case from Pinky Shines at BurlyCon and it’s been in my purse ever since.

M2

Published in: on 26 June 2015 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In Memoriam: Blaze Starr

Dear Constant Reader,

The world has lost a burlesque legend. Blaze Starr, famed for her flaming couch, black panther, affair with the governor of Louisiana, and unrepentant attitude, died last week. You can read her obituary in the New York Times, if you like.

I’m not going to recap her fascinating life story here, for that you should read Blaze Starr: My Life as Told to Huey Perry, which I reviewed here some years ago.

At that time The Boston Babydolls were creating Madame Burlesque: An Evening of Tributes, a show inspired by the stars of burlesque’s Golden Age. For the most part, we weren’t doing tributes as most burlesquers use the term, meaning a re-creation of a legend’s signature act, but new acts that were inspired by those legendary performers.

Betty Blaize was creating a Blaze Starr-inspired act for one of her numbers and Scratch wanted permission before bringing it to the stage. Miss Starr generously granted it, via email, requesting that the act be “in good taste”. Betty performed a slinky, sultry striptease climaxing with the famed flames.

I was told that when Blaze’s couch burst into flames, sometimes she would holler “barbecue tonight, boys!”. Every time Betty’s flames ignited, she really, really wanted to follow suit, but it would have wrecked the mood she was creating and therfore violated the good taste request.

We’re really honored that we were allowed to present a piece in Miss Starr’s name and with her blessing.

Recently Scratch acquired this fabulous piece of Blaze Starr memorabilia:

It means a lot to us because of the Boston connection. The Pilgrim Theater was in the Combat Zone, where burlesque fled after the redevelopment of Scollay Square, and was probably the last true burlesque house in Boston. A number of big names performed there in the mid 1970’s and I suspect this handbill was from 1974.

Bold, brash, larger than life, and a good businesswoman, Blaze Starr made a huge impact on the world of burlesque (and politics!). She will not be forgotten.

M2

Published in: on 22 June 2015 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

To help quell motion sickness, have a piece of candied ginger.

Whether it’s a dance with a lot of fast turns, touring in a crowded van, aerial spinning, or doing burlesque on a boat, sometimes one gets a bit queasy. Ginger helps soothed a troubled stomach and the candied version is delicious, not messy, and easy to keep on hand.

M2

Published in: on 19 June 2015 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Harburlesque Sets Sail!

Dear Constant Reader,

Yesterday The Boston Babydolls set sail on the Music City Queen for our first Harburlesque show! Our hard-working tech crew and Scratch had spent a great deal of time figuring out how to turn the lower cabin into a theatre. (Why does it seem like we’re always turning non-theatres into theatres?) By the time I got there last night, everything was all set up: lights, sound, and a section of the galley for our dressing room. We even had a full-length mirror and a costume rack (thanks, Scratch!).

Performing on a boat is a tad challenging. There’s the space issue — there’s just not a lot of it, but we’re used to that. There’s the height issue — the ceilings are very low. I had to re-choreograph parts of my fan dance because I couldn’t do a lot over my head. And Betty is going to have to be very careful. And there’s the movement issue — boats rock. The Music City Queen is pretty stable, but occasionally you’d feel it. I had to make split-second decisions about whether a dance move was viable or not, but in the end I had no problems.

The audience had a great time and the folks from Mass Bay Lines were very happy (which is good, since this is something of a gamble for them). Two things I like to hear! All the Boston Babydolls were weren’t performing were in the audience and a bunch of our regulars came out. There were also some people for whom this was their first burlesque show.

The performers were Brigitte, Stella, and myself with Elsa Riot kittening and Scratch hosting. Given the lovely riverboat setting, we picked acts with a classic style. I know, we’re usually classic, but we went *really* classic.

  • Brigitte opened the show with the public premier of her Mystery Box Challenge act to a modern remix of the jazz standard “Diga Diga Doo”.
  • Stella did a glove & gown strip right out of the 1950’s to “Real Gone”.
  • I did a piece to “The Mooche” with boa and panel skirt. Actually all 3 of our first numbers used boas.
  • Then Scratch did something impossible with a deck of cards
  • Brigitte did her signature sultry strip to “Tombstone Blues“.
  • Stella and Scratch did a bit of comedy which lead into…
  • Stella as a poor hitchhiker trying *anything* to get a lift, to “Burlecue“.
  • Scratch destroyed the laws of physics with a pastry bag and coffee stirrer from a nearby Starbucks.
  • Stella sang “Too Darn Hot” while I fan danced.
  • Next week the performers will be Betty Blaize, Devora Darling, and Evie Sphinx! Join us!

    There was a photographer, so eventually there will be pictures, but for now I will leave you with the obligitory selfies that Brigitte, Elsa, and I took.

    M2

    Published in: on 18 June 2015 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! I’m delighted to be in Chicago for the Windy City Burlesque Festival. Tomorrow morning I’ll be teaching a class all about corsetry. I thought I’d give you a little teaser for your Friday Tip.

    When unfastening a corset, start at the top and work down. Or start at the bottom and work up. Just don’t change directions in the middle.

    The middle clasp is often the hardest to unfasten, because there is the most pressure on it. Leaving it for last puts even more pressure on it. This can cause your busk to bend, which can wreck your corset. Make sure your lacings are nice and loose, especially at your waist, before you start to unfasten. Don’t give up on that middle clasp, it gets easier after you’ve got it undone.

    Want to know more about how to wear and remove corsets? Come to Getting Tight: A Guide to Corsetry at 11am on Saturday at the Windy City Burlesque Festival!

    M2

    Published in: on 12 June 2015 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Costume-Con 33

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I know I’m very late with this missive, but I also know you forgive me.

    A couple of weeks ago I ventured to lovely Charleston, South Carolina for Costume-Con, the annual gathering of the International Costumers Guild and a mecca for all things costume-y. You might remember that I attended last year in Toronto.

    Last year I was solo, but this year I was part of a group of fabulously talented costumers, putting together an entry for the Historical Masquerade. It’s a particularly challenging competition and we only added to the difficulty by living far enough apart that the first time all nine members of the group were together was Friday night. I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for Facebook — it’s how we communicated and shared our progress. More about our specific costumes later.

    The first costume-related event of the weekend was an unofficial one. A couple of us grabbed our mermaid tails (or monofins, depending on the progress of building said tail) and went down to the pool for a swim. Rae’s tail is really gorgeous, but has a *lot* of drag. Mine is better for swimming, but is not as stunning. We’ve got plans to make new ones that suit our needs more.

    The event had the theme of “Buccaneers, Belles, and Bootleggers”, all things for which Charleston has been famous (or infamous) and the Friday Night Social was a Speakeasy. I put on a 1920’s-style dress, after carefully pining the shoulders so they didn’t accidentally break away. Yeah, I originally made it for stage.

    It was nice to see/meet all the members of our costume group. I spent most of the evening admiring outfits — there were vintage gowns and recreations and stunning outfits that nothing to do with the theme at all. I was please to see a lovely reproduction of of Cyd Charisse’s green costume from Singing in the Rain walking around as I had admired it on display in Toronto. The libations at the bar were uninteresting to say the least, but the refreshments included some southern specialties (pulled pork, crab dip, and peach cobbler).

    I managed to stay awake for the Single Pattern Competition where the contestants get creative with a pre-selected pattern. I should have entered — all the patterns were from Folkwear, which I love, and none that I had made before. By the way, the dress I’m wearing for the social was made from one of their patterns. Hopefully I inspired someone, who had given up that pattern because of the weird cut of the skirt, to try again because of my successful results.

    Saturday I was at loose ends for most of the day as all my roommates prepared for the SF&F Masquerade that night. I browsed the vendors (sadly, that didn’t take too long as there were only two), Miss Lizzie’s Traveling Fashion Show, the Guest of Honor’s display, the doll competition, and the quilt display.

    It seemed a crime not to leave the hotel and see the actual city of Charleston (we were technically in North Charleston), so I called a cab and sped off toward adventure. Okay, really I had done a little research and found a restaurant with good reviews, serving local cuisine. I was deliberately early so I could walk around and see some of the city. Sadly, I wasn’t really near anything famous or historic, but I did see some nifty architecture. Doubly sadly, I had forgotten to change into flats and ended up with some epic blisters.

    Dinner, however, at The Hominy Grill, was fabulous. I had she-crab soup (pictured), which if I’d known how good it was going to be, I probably would have had a bowl and made that dinner. Instead, I had a Nasty Biscuit — a biscuit (naturally) with a slab of fried chicken, cheddar, and sausage gravy. And there were boiled peanuts too, something I’ve always heard about but never tried. I was going to pass on dessert, although the buttermilk pie sounded intriguing, but the waitress sold me on their chocolate pudding. I’m so glad she did.

    I was back at the hotel in plenty of time to dress and attend the Science Fiction and Fantasy Masquerade. (Photo by Leslie Johnston). And see my roommate win various awards.

    Sunday was a busy day. We had to rehearse our presentation (and none of us were available at the same time), which we did by the elevators on our floor to (I hope) the amusement of the cleaning staff. We had a tech rehearsal on the stage. And we met with the judges to have our costumes examined minutely for their workmanship. This is really important for many historical costumes as there are often underlayers, structural garments, or interior finishes which one cannot see from stage. There was also frantic work to help one member of group actually finish sewing her costume before the pre-judging.

    Eventually there was nothing left to do but get ready and here’s the result:
    (Photo here and below by Ken Warren)
    Our concept was what if the Victoria’s Secret fashion show was actually Victorian. Each of us chose a 19th century inspiration for our fantasical undergarments: Egyptomania, a Tiffany lamp, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, a Faberge egg, flowers, and Queen Victoria’s coronation. We also had one inspired directly by the modern fashion show — The Million Dollar Corset. Also, a showgirl who turned our title cards, and our celebrity host, John Philip Sousa. Note the wings and other absurd accessories on the models.

    I made the chemise and bloomer, corset, and mantle (as much as it might have been fun to have wings, we needed a few wingless costumes and I volunteered, knowing my luggage would be restricted by flying). The crown structure was made by Rae Bradbury-Enslin and rhinestoned by me. I’m really happy with how it all came out, especially the corset. It’s cream brocade, bound with white satin, and the pattern on the brocade is picked out in varying shades of gold rhinestones. It was a pain to bone, with lots of tiny boning channels to sew, but worth it. Expect to see parts of this costume incorporated in a new burlesque act.

    Judging is done in three categories: documentation, workmanship, and presentation. I’m pleased to say that we won a recognition for the attractiveness of our documentation (that was all due to Rae’s hard work). Several members of the group received awards for workmanship, particularly Bill who won Best in Class in the Master Division for his flawless (that’s what the judges said!) recreation of John Phillip Sousa’s outfit. And in presentation…

    And because it wasn’t like Rae had enough to do wrangling all of us and making the documentation beautiful, she also made T-shirts:

    As much as I wanted to stay up and celebrate with the others, morning and my flight back to Boston was going to come way too early…

    M2

    Published in: on 8 June 2015 at 3:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Before I bestow your Friday Tip upon you, I just want to remind you that I’ll be teaching a delightfully informative, yet entertaining, class on Corsetry at The Windy City Burlesque Festival on Saturday, June 13th.

    And here is your tip!

    To keep the prong settings of rhinestones from catching on everything, cover them with fine tulle.

    The audience won’t notice the netting from stage. Heck, they probably won’t even notice it close up. You can just barely see the tulle in this photo taken mere inches away from one of my gowns:

    You’ll get sparkle without snags!

    M2

    Published in: on 5 June 2015 at 12:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

    Before you commit to a stage name, check to make sure it’s not in use already.

    It’s poor form to choose a stage name that someone else is using. You probably don’t even want a name that’s close to someone else’s. To use a ridiculous example, you probably don’t want to be calling yourself “Lita von Cheese”. It looks like you’re trying to be mistaken for a better known performer and that’s not cricket.

    This isn’t a situation particular to burlesque; the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) only enrolls unique names. The star of Birdman was born Michael Douglas, but since there was already an actor by that name, that’s why he’s billed as Michael Keaton.

    People can get very bitchy when their name is “stolen”, even if it was due to ignorance rather than malice. These days you have no excuse not to do your due diligence before investing in business cards. Google is your friend. Search for burlesque performers, pin-up models, roller derby players, porn actors, &c. that share your potential name.

    It can be so disappointing and even heart-wrenching to discover that a name you are already attached to is gracing someone else. Sadly, that’s show biz. What is it about that name that you love? How can you change it up to be different and yet keep those aspects that make it feel personal?

    One of my students once wanted to use her legal first and middle names as her stage name only to discover that a porn actress was already using them. She chose to keep her first name the same and picked a new second name that sounded more theatrical and burlesque-y, but shared a syllable with her actual middle name.

    Names have power and you want to make sure that your stage name is yours and yours alone.

    M2

    Published in: on 29 May 2015 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

    Having trouble getting your pasties to stick? Make sure your skin is clean and dry.

    Sweat and skin oil can keep adhesive from, well, adhering. If you have the opportunity to wash and dry your boobs, go for it! For most of us in crowded dressing rooms, that’s not an option. Cleansing wipes are a great way to clean up quickly. Just make sure they don’t have lotion or moisturizers or are going to leave a soapy residue, as that would defeat our purpose. The kind billed as “refreshers” rather than make-up removers are your best bet.

    M2

    Published in: on 22 May 2015 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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