Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Tomorrow I’m off to RuffleCon to teach my corsetry class and perform with The Boston BeauTease. If you’re an alternative fashion enthusiast, I hope to see you there!

If using a front-closing bra, replace the plastic closure with something sturdier.

At right, you can see a front-closing bra with its original closure. These are only made of plastic and many fastenings and unfastenings, as one would do in rehearsal and performance, can weaken them until they fail unexpectedly. Also, you have a contents-under-pressure situation with a lot of strain on that point, which is meant to separate. In a back-closing bra, you have a solid piece of fabric up front to take the stress.

Remove the plastic widget and replace it with a coat hook & eye, a whopper popper, or a ribbon tie. Any of these is much stronger that the original style of closure, easier to unfasten, and less likely to experience catastrophic failure.

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

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Published in: on 10 November 2017 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday. Here’s your tip!

Zipper sewing needs a zipper foot.

I have heard people insist that one can sew a zipper using a regular machine foot, and while it is not impossible, it is also not recommended. A zipper foot is like half a regular foot, so you can sew close to the zipper without actually going over the teeth (a bumpy situation) while still keeping proper tension on the fabric.

The foot on my machine (pictured) can slide to either side of the needle, to easily stitch on both sides of the zipper. It’s also a great foot for sewing piping and beaded fringe. If you don’t have one for your machine, it’s a worthwhile addition to your arsenal!

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 22 September 2017 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Zip!

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m bringing back an old number (one of my first!) for Cover Girls on September 30th and the costume needed a little upgrade. This is an unusual act for me in that I wear trousers. In the past, I just took them off, which can be kind of awkward, so I wanted to get a new pair that I could make break-away.

In the past I’ve used Velcro and snap tape, which require a sharp pull and I wanted a slower remove. Clearly, it was time for zippers. I’ve probably told you this before, but when you’re stripping, you don’t want just any kind of zipper. Forget about metal teeth or those “invisible” zippers. You want chunky plastic teeth — the kind of zippers found on winter jackets.

I was fortunate in my shopping. The black pants I found at Primark rang in at three bucks and my local fabric store had two (and only two) yard-long separating zippers in black. The store has an amazing selection of stuff when you go in with an open mind, but if you’re looking for something in particular, it’s hit or miss, so I lucked out. They’re two-way zippers, which is a feature I didn’t need, but shouldn’t get in my way.

I started by opening the seam on the outside of the legs (someday I’ll tell you about my amazing seam ripper) from cuff to waist. Before buying the pants, I had made sure that they had a seam which went all the way up through the waistband. Then I laboriously pinned the zippers in place and carefully tried on the trousers. Then I realized I had put the zippers in upside down and redid all my work. Just keeping it real, folks.

My vintage Singer made short work of sewing the zippers in place. Because the fabric had a lot of stretch, the zippers kind of undulate, but it’s not noticeable from stage. But I tell you these things, Constant Reader, so you know I’m not as perfect as I look. : )

I tested the zippers at rehearsal last night and they work very nicely. The only thing left to do is add an extension to the waistband at each side so I can put in a single closure at each hip. I don’t want the unzipped pants falling off until I’m ready!

You can see them on and off me at the end of the month!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 18 September 2017 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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From my Closet

Dear Constant Reader,

Summer is winding down here in New England and it never got terribly summery, but I’m glad I made these shorts.

They’re 1940’s-style high-waisted chorus girl shorts in crisp linen, like these I made years ago.

The big difference is that I put in pockets. It really makes me crazy when women’s clothing lacks pockets and they’re pretty easy to add. Such a big improvement!

Also, the originals have a button closure in the back. I was too impatient to try out the buttonhole attachment for my vintage sewing machine, so I just added a flat hook & bar. I’ll replace it with a proper button and buttonhole eventually. Yeah. Eventually.

I’m particularly pleased with these because it’s been quite a while since I sewed any everyday clothes for myself. I really should change that. maybe I’ll have another Dress Me contest (although the previous two have not had the most stellar results on my part).

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 5 September 2017 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I’m at the ABurlyQ! Burlesque & Sideshow Spectaculár, but I would not forget your tip. I can’t believe I never shared this one before, but apparently not…

Attach a tassel or other decorative item to your zipper pull to make it easier to grab.

At the right you can see Devora Darling illustrating this tip (see it up close and personal at Cover Girls tonight in Salem and tomorrow in Dover, NH). Of course, it doesn’t have to be a tassel; you could use ribbon, trim, bits of jewelry. You’re just trying to make it easy to find by touch.

The other advantage to this is that you are extending the zipper pull, like those extra-long pull-cords on overhead lights for us short people. You won’t have to reach up awkwardly high to pull down the zipper — a boon for dresses with a high back.

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 18 August 2017 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! This is my 300th tip!

Plan to decorate your costumes in stages.

We often don’t have the time or the money to realize our costume dream all at once. If you plan out how you are going to decorate in phases, you end up with a coherent design that looks good at any time. Create an over-all plan, which you can break down into stages.

For example, you’ll start with a spattering of rhinestones on the cups of a bra, but you’ll place them so you can add additional stones in other colors and sizes later. Next time, you’ll add some fringe, which is easy because you made sure to keep the fringe area clear of rhinestones in your first phase. Then, some more rhinestones, which integrate into the ultimate rhinestone pattern. Later, some swags of beads. More rhinestones. &c ad infinitum.

The bra to the right, isn’t the best example of this, but it’s the one I had to hand. And I know how much you love pictures. I think it took 3 decorating sessions, with performing in between, to get to this point. Betty is really terrific at this form of incremental decorating.

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 7 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 21 July 2017 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again and time for your tip again!

If you need to cut fabric in straight lines, a rotary cutter is your best friend.

If you need a lot of strips of fabric, like for can-can ruffles, corset binding, or quilts, a rotary cutter is the way to go. It’s fast, easy, and accurate. you will also need a special cutting mat and acrylic ruler, but the investment pays off in saved time. Use the lines on the mat to line up your fabric. Set the ruler as a straight edge and run the cutter along side it. Before you know it, you’ll have heaps of fabric strips (or squares or triangles). Just be careful — those cutters are sharp — and close the safety cover when you’re not actively cutting. And replace the blade (it’s easy) when it starts getting dull.

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 16 June 2017 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Big Time Approaches

Dear Constant Reader,

Our new show, The Big Time, opens on Friday! We’re all very busy putting the finishing touches on our costumes and props for dress rehearsal.

Here’s an early look at my not-yet-decorated prop for my new act.

I also made a new costume. My Patrons got a backstage look, but the rest of you will just have to wait until showtime. Hint: part of it was made out of these fabrics:

I’m really excited to unveil this new act! We’re calling it “Heavenly Body” — you’ll see why this weekend

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 17 May 2017 at 3:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip:

When working with slippery, slithery, or otherwise difficult fabrics, baste them in place first.

Yes, it takes extra time and thread, but you’ll thank me later. I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 12 May 2017 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On Wigs

Dear Constant Reader,

I don’t have great hair. I love the color and the way it curls, but it’s very fine and rather thin and doesn’t grow very long before it starts looking straggly. I rarely seem to have time to go to the salon to keep it nicely trimmed and besides, my favorite stylist, Diamond DeVille, works in a different state. This is why I generally have my hair pulled back in a simple twist. When Scratch suggested I try wigs, I was resistant. It was like admitting I had terrible hair.

I had worn a wig before, at BettySioux Taylor’s first Salute to Bettie Page. Everyone wore Bettie wigs, so I was okay with that. Several people commented how different (and good I looked), but I was still sure wigs were not for me.

My first real wig wearing was because I was doing a tribute to a Legend who had a black pageboy in her heyday and my red head just would not do. Fortunately for this wig novice, I had the expertise of Sydney Lauren Robinson to help out. She took me wig shopping, styled the wig, put it on me the first time, and made me helpful videos demonstrating how to wear it.

Having seen me do the same act with the wig and without, Betty Blaize commented that I moved differently when I was wearing the wig. It did help get me into character to be wearing the wig and I became a little more of a convert. But not completely.

I ended up getting a couple of wigs to wear as The Diva in The Wrathskellar, which was okay, because she wasn’t me. Like in the above tribute, I was playing a character.

Somehow I realized I wasn’t sacrificing my personal integrity or anything if I wore a wig on stage. In fact, I began to embrace wigs. I could change my look for each act. I didn’t have to spend the time curling and pinning my hair. I didn’t have to worry if I was having a bad hair day. All good reasons for going with a wig.

A couple things I’ve learned about wearing wigs.

  • Use the right pin for the job
  • Net wig caps are easier to pin into than the stocking-type ones
  • A folding wig stand is a life saver
  • Get a good wig brush
  • And here are some backstage selfies (and one on-stage shot) of my different looks:

    My standard wig — taken backstage at The Teaseday Club last night

    Another standard, usually worn for French Champagne, although The Diva borrowed it for this picture

    The Diva again

    Yet another look for The Diva, worn with a smashing black coat & tall boots

    The Faerie Queene

    These days I am completely sold on wigs, although I still can be found with my real hair on many an occasion. How about you, Dear Reader? Are you a fan of wigs?

    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

    Published in: on 3 May 2017 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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