Halloween at the Museum

Dear Constant Reader,

This Friday the first temporary exhibit at The American Burlesque Collection opened! Halloween Comes to Burlesqueland features costumes, photos and other items that celebrate my favorite holiday (maybe yours too).

I went up to help with the exhibit set-up and it was frantic. The museum closed at 5 and the guests coming for the inaugural arrived at 6:30. Even with the prep the staff and volunteers had done, it was not a lot of time. I was on costume duty, as you might have guessed.

The easiest set up should have been the Hedy Jo Star flame coat. One piece, zipper down the front. But I just had to get clever and do some swapping of mannequins and bases, so I’d get one that was tall enough, but also had arms. Only I discovered that there was no way to get the arms through the skinny, skinny upper sleeves. After that disappointment, in the process of removing a recalcitrant mannequin arm, I clonked myself in the forehead with it. And am sporting a charming  lump even now. It’s all glamour here.

One of the most creative displays (I had no hand in this one) is The Lost Girl and Bücher in “Creepy Doll” from The Wrathskellar. Since The Creepy Doll costume really should be displayed as creepily as possible, a standard fashion mannequin wasn’t up to the task. Instead, she’s on an articulated skeleton (’tis the season!) in one of her most disturbing poses from the act. For the final touch, a video of the act is projected just above the costumes.

I was most excited to work on a loan from Angie Pontani. She sent the museum her stunning Madame de Pompadour costume by David Quinn. This was a little tricky to display. We decided to put the undergarments on one mannequin and the over-garments on another. Makes perfect sense, right? Except the gown wouldn’t hang right without the underpinnnings. We came up with a very creative solution… Can you guess?

There are pictures of all these costumes and more are available to my Patrons. The rest of you will just have to visit the museum before November 15th!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 5 October 2020 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Another Friday is upon us! Here’s your tip!

Hand wash your rhinestoned costume items.

You do not want to be subjecting those babies to the violence of a washing machine. Dry cleaning chemicals can damage the finish on some stones.

Fill up the sink with cool water, add a little gentle soap, and give them a nice bath. Don’t twist or wring. You can roll them up in a towel to get out excess water. Then let them air dry.

I often just take my little bits, like g-strings and gloves, into the shower with me after a show. 

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 18 September 2020 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New Bikini

Dear Constant Reader,

Recently Scratch bought me this vintage pattern:

Yes, that’s a bikini, designed by famed pin-up and photographer Bunny Yeager! The pattern has only one size, no seam allowances, and directions are fairly minimalist. This is not for the beginning seamstress.

I decided to try it out without any alterations, just to see what size the base pattern was. I picked some fabric I didn’t care much about in case this was a major fail, but was still pretty in hopes that the garment worked. First step was tracing the pattern (you don’t cut something of this historical value!) and adding my preferred seam allowances.

There was a note that the bikini should be lined in white cotton broadcloth, which was a great suggestion. Not only would that reduce any see-through issues with the fabric, but the bottoms were designed with only two-pieces, which would leave a seam at the crotch. With a lining, all seams would now be enclosed.

Cutting and sewing the bottoms was pretty straight-forward. However, there are no instructions for working with the elastic. I frequently make panties, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal — and it wasn’t. To my great surprise, the bottoms fit almost perfectly. The only hitch was that my elastic was on the older side and wasn’t as elastic as I thought, so things bag a little more than I expected.

I had my doubts about the bikini top, as the sole pattern piece was a rectangle with a casing on the top and the bottom. I expected a darted triangle, but I’m game for anything. Thanks to a clever neck strap, the cups are adjustable, attractive and support very nicely. Admittedly, I’m not as well-endowed as some of the BeauTease, but there’s not an insignificant amount to lift and keep covered.

And here is the final result!


Photo by Scratch

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 15 September 2020 at 12:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Here it is, Friday again. Time for a tip! But first a few announcements…

On Tuesday, B.A.B.E. will be presenting “Burlesque” Means “Comedy”, a brand-new workshop from Mr. Scratch. Some of the most famous American comics got their start on the burlesque stage. Burlesque has its roots in a long comic tradition — and a lot of modern comic traditions have their roots in burlesque. This class is a look at the evolution of burlesque from the commedia dell’arte of the 16th century to the modern day.  Through video, readings of actual burlesque comic scripts, and a discussion of the rise and fall of the comedian in the world of burlesque, students will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what burlesque was and can be.

Please fill out this survey about classes at B.A.B.E.! Help us bring you the class experience that you want!

The Boston BeauTease have a new show premiering in just a week! To celebrate the second season of The Umbrella Academy, we are presenting The Underwear Academy. This streaming show is like nothing we’ve ever done before, in so many ways! Join us Saturday, August 1 at 8pm. Get your tickets here!
Note: All tickets are exactly the same regardless of price. Once you purchase a ticket you will be emailed a link and password to access the show. You also get access to a post-show Zoom with the cast!

And now for your tip!

Make a pattern to cover your bra cups.

Sure, you can work free-hand to cover the cups, but making a pattern beforehand in scrap fabric reduces the chance of mistakes which will end in tears. It’s especially recommended if you’re working with expensive fabric or doing any kind of pattern matching or mirroring.

Also, if you use a particular style of bra a lot, you can save yourself a lot of work by having a pattern ready to go! When I cut out my tags, I tack them to the pattern, so I know the size and style.

If you want more information about converting a commercial bra, check out Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 24 July 2020 at 2:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again! How do you know? Here’s a tip!

This week your tip is from special guest contributor, Devastasia!

Threading elastic (or whatever) through things with a bobby pin of some kind is 1000x easier than using a stupid safety pin..

Brilliant!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip Devastasia if you liked this.

Published in: on 15 May 2020 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve been having a lovely time, however you chose to celebrate this season. This is your last tip of 2019! Thank you so much for reading my humble missives this year.

Secure your bead fringe.

A lot of bead fringe is strung on a single long thread, so when you cut it to the right length, the beads fall off the end. And keep falling off…

I like to sacrifice one strand of fringe to get a piece of thread long enough to tie a knot. Tie a tight knot right up against the next bead and then dab some glue on the knot for extra security. Then I grab a needle and take a few stitches with the thread into the apron of the fringe and knot it again.

If you would like a tutorial on making your own beaded fringe (which is much more secure than commercial fringe), leave a comment here!

Your next tip will be next year! If I don’t write before then, have a wonderful New Year’s celebration!

M2Like this costuming tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 27 December 2019 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

When making tear-away cup bras, use two bras.

It may seem like the logical thing to do is cut the cups off a bra and then reattach them to the bra with fasteners. Trust me on this, you are only setting the stage for sorrow.

In order to have a good structure, you want underwire on both the cups and the frame. So, get two bras. From one cut the cups from one just below the underwire — these are going to be your cups. From the second cut the cups just above the underwire — this is going to be the bra frame. I know it’s a bit wasteful, but you want both pieces to have that wire. I salvage the straps and hardware from the now-cupless (and useless) frame for other projects, so it doesn’t all go to waste. If you’ve got other ideas of how to use the leftover bits, I’d love to hear them!

If you want a little extra lift, or you need to conform to decency laws that prohibit underboob, instead of cutting away the entire cup, you can leave part of it attached to the frame. Don’t forget to finish the edge! A little bias binding works great for this.

Attach your fasteners (I use snaps) so the underwire of the cups sits on top of the underwire on the frame.

Have fun tearing away!

M2Like this costuming tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 27 September 2019 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Tale of Two G-Strings

Dear Constant Reader,

Ever since I realized it was okay to wear G-strings (both that I was pleased with how I looked and that it was legal in our venues) I’ve been making my own.

Mostly I make what I call the “Old-school G-string”. This is the type worn by Legends in the ’60s, which I learned how to make from Dusty Summers, Las Vegas’s Only Nude Magician.

It’s a simple, but very clever, design and has minimal material requirements. You get barely-there coverage, especially in the back. Because it’s not made from stretch fabric, I always recommend taping this style of G in place. It’s easy to adjust or change out the elastic. Despite the small amount of surface area, you’ve still got a good space for decorating. The other thing I really like — I can knock one of these babies out in no time.

Here’s one in action, both sides!

     

Mina Murray Mina Murray

Photos by Kenneth Ingham at ABurlyQ 2017

You can learn how to make your very own in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming. I’m thinking of putting together a video tutorial for my Patrons. If I get four more Patrons, I will!

Last night I made an adjustable G-string as designed by Christina Manuge of Manuge et Toi. You’ve probably seen her stunning costumes on performers like Roxy Dlite and Kalani Kokonuts. Through her Patreon, she’s been producing video tutorials called Tips on Tap. They are so worth the subscription!

The videos are only available for a short time (for the Patreon tier I support), so I watch them several times and take copious notes. This tutorial was accompanied by a downloadable pattern (for personal use only) and a second video on how to adjust the pattern to fit you.

Unlike my go-to G-string above, this one required some specialty material, like rings, siders, and lingerie elastic, all of which I got from a bra supply vendor. The only item that came from my stash was the black stretch satin. It took me an evening (having previously created my pattern), and that was working slowly, so I didn’t screw up, and with frequent breaks for cat snuggles, dinner, and other important things. Stitching the elastic took the longest and required the most precision. I learned some great little tricks along the way. I’m sure next time it will go faster. I particularly like the straps and how they adjust, just like bra straps.

Here it is! (no back view because I couldn’t get a good shot of my own butt)

It fits perfectly!

It’s quite a different look from the old-school G-string, but there are certainly advantages to each one. I expect I’ll be incorporating this style into my costuming repertoire as well.

And here’s a side by side of the two styles. I think you can figure out which is which…

Do you make your own G-strings? What’s your favorite style? Do you buy them? Who’s your favorite designer?

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 3 September 2019 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Stripteaser’s Education

Dear Constant Reader,

I performed “The Stripteaser’s Education” at Hot in Topeka’s fundraising show in June. It’s an act that’s been around for a long time and seen some changes.

It’s adapted from Gypsy Rose Lee’s famous talking act. Rather than do a strict recreation, we changed and updated some of the wording. She references people and places that wouldn’t mean anything to our current audiences. Our version has changed over the years and we’ve thrown in a few New England references. For example, Gypsy used to say she’d attended Sweet Briar; I say Wellesley. Neither statement is true.

When I performed it in Topeka, I checked with the producer about using some local references. She gave me some suggestions and I worked them in. Instead of Wellesley, I used Washburn University plus a few other references specific to Topeka. From the cheers, they went over really well.

When I first started performing the act, I just wore gowns and gloves from my wardrobe, nothing special. In 2011, we gave the act to Devora for Madame Burlesque. We had a costumer for that show (our first tour!) and she made a lovely costume for D.D. based on a photo of Gypsy.

        

I used mostly the same costume when I did the act (we had to make a matching bra to fit me).

When I got the word I was going to do this act in Topeka, I decided to upgrade the costume, really make it match the photo. I had asked for advice in finding a hat like that when I learned, to my shock, we’d been laboring under a false assumption. That wasn’t Gypsy! It was Burgundy Brixx *as* Gypsy! Clearly our costume designer hadn’t done her research very well, but I admit, I hadn’t looked closely enough.

Well, there was absolutely no reason to recreate someone else’s interpretation of Gypsy. I went back to photos that I know were actually of Gypsy and picked out some of the hallmarks of her costumes — full skirt, modest blouse with a big collar, stockings, wide-brimmed hat.

The skirt came from The Wrathskellar. It was sort of inspired by a saloon girl look, with alternating panels of black lace over black jacquard and embroidered green lace. It has matching panties and a bra, so I figured I would use them. I also had a garter belt that coordinated nicely. The next challenge, the hat and the blouse.

I didn’t want to use the hat D.D. is wearing above. It doesn’t fit me very well and it doesn’t pack easily. I wanted to do this trip with just a carry-on and I also wanted to be able to have my ubiquitous sunhat. After some fruitless searching, I was in Emporium 32 and they had the perfect hat! Big brim, black straw, good price. I decided I’d give my signature leopard-print sunhat a break (I’ve been wearing it every summer for almost 20 years) and make this my new everyday hat, as well as use it in this performance. If I’d had more time, I would have added some big white roses and a new hat band for the show.

I looked all over for a blouse with the right look and just found nothing. I ended up grabbing the blouse from my “Li’l Red Riding Hood” act, but while it has the right shape, it’s a sturdy white cotton and didn’t blend so well with the lacy skirt. Fortunately, I still had some of the two kinds of lace I used to make the skirt. I used it to make a big collar, like Gypsy had in some iterations of her costume. It helped tie things together, and since it was just pinned in place, I can easily transfer it to a more appropriate blouse once I find or make one.

Lastly, I upgraded the pasties. They had just been black brocade with a ring of green rhinestones around the edge. Good for The Wrathskellar, but not exactly projecting glamour. Some radiating lines of more stones and they had sufficient sparkle.

And here’s a bit of the act on stage at Jayhawk Theatre.

Photos by Sarah Kietzman

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 7 August 2019 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! And happy August! Here’s your tip!

Make your own bias tape.

Bias tape is great for finishing work on costumes, especially where you don’t want much bulk, like the edges of corsets. Its ability to smoothly curve makes it perfect for binding necklines, armholes, and hems.

Sure, you can buy it, but there’s a limited range of colors and most are a polyester-cotton blend. I think having a perfect match to your fabric makes for a more polished look.

It’s not as hard as it might seem with a couple of simple tools.

  • A rotary cutter, mat, and ruler. Use these to cut the bias strips. Make sure you’re cutting on the true bias, diagonally across the grain. Sometimes very slippery fabric shifts around making this s difficult process. You can read about a solution for that problem here.
  • A bias tape maker, as seen in the photo above. This simple little tool is the key to easy bias tape. The most tedious part of making your own tape is pressing the tiny little seam allowance under. This tool folds the long raw edges under for you! Feed the bias strip through the wide end and then pull with the little handle along the strip. Neatly folded tape comes out the narrow end!

    Tape makers come in multiple sizes for most standard widths of tape. Pictured is a 1/2″ tape maker. I also have a 1″, and you can get 1/4″, 3/4″ and 2″ as well. These tools make single-fold bias tape. If you want double-fold, you’ll need to make a tape twice the size of the desired result and then press it in half length-wise.

  • An iron. As you move the tape maker along the strip, press the tape as it comes out the narrow end to set the fold.
  • That’s it! You’re all set to make yards and yards of tape in no time.

    M2Like this costuming tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming.

    These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 2 August 2019 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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