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.

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Published in: on 18 September 2017 at 3:55 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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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! I’ve been working on a new costume piece for The Big Time and that reminded me of this tip:

    Canned food makes great pattern weights.

    I like to use short cans, like tuna (I always get the kind with the mermaid!), pineapple, or water chestnuts.

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

    Published in: on 28 April 2017 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    A Costume in Search of an Act

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Before I was a performer, I was a costumer. Thus when I am creating an act, the first thing I think is “what will I wear?” and that often dictates the choreography.

    Sometime I make or acquire costumes and I have no idea how they want to be presented on stage. Case in point, this beauty.

    Untitled

    When I joined the costume presentation “Victorian Secret“, I told myself I’d have to reuse the corset in a burlesque costume (I decided the chemise and drawers were exempt). Since then I’ve added a bra, garter belt, and side-tie panties. A skirt is in the works. Possibly gloves. Maybe a headpiece. It’s going to be stunning, if I do say so myself.

    Except I have no idea how to use it. Nothing is coming to mind. No concept, no music, no hook. Nothing.

    Alas. I shall keep working on the costume in hopes that inspiration strikes. However, soon I am going to have to set it aside in favor of costumes for Wrathskellar Tales.

    M2

    Published in: on 23 August 2016 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    As your read this, I’m on my way to the Windy City Burlesque Festival where I’ll be teaching 3 costuming classes on Saturday. If you want to learn all about corsetry, costume care, or closures, I’m your gal. I hope to see you there!

    Here’s a little tidbit from one of my classes:

    If you’re going invest in a corset, make sure it fits you!

    A properly fitted corset should be comfortable and supportive. It should feel like you’re being hugged, not squeezed. You should be able to walk and breathe normally. The lacing should be secure, but not digging into your back and you should be able to leave a gap of a couple of inches. Bones shouldn’t poke you at all. Take the time to have a fitting before buying. If you’re making your own, do a mock-up first, bones and all. You’ll look and feel fabulous!

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

    Published in: on 24 June 2016 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

    When making pants tear-away, start with a pair that is at least one size larger than usual.

    The easiest way to make tear-away pants is to cut open the outside seam and add snap tape (we’ve used velcro and don’t like it). However, the creates an overlap and thus reduces the size of the pant leg. Your leg is going to create pressure on the snaps if the pants are too tight and you’re at risk of premature poppage.

    The picture to the right shows Brigitte and me in our “Factory Girls” overalls. Because I’m leaning over and putting some tension on the fabric, you can see the line of snap tape at the overlap. It would have been better if those overalls were maybe one size bigger, but they were originally made for someone other than me.

    You can always make pants fit better with a larger overlap at the waistband. We like to use a whopper popper at the top to keep everything nice & secure and then release them right before the tearaway.

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

    Published in: on 25 March 2016 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    The Expo: Costume Exhibit and The Atheneum

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Here we have two of my favorite things, costumes and books.

    The costumes…

    Ever since The Expo moved to Cambridge we’ve had a costume exhibit, ably curated by BettySioux Tailor, with the assistance of Baroness Blitzen von Schtupp for the last last *eight* years. As always, there was some fantastic stuff!

    From L to R (top row and then bottom row): Scarlett Letter, Dita Von Tease, Miss Mina Murray, Hedy Jo Star (pink), Hedy Jo Star (green), Jacqueline Hyde, Dangrrr Doll, Red Hot Annie, Sailor St. Claire, Matt Finish, Scarlett O’Hairdye, Raven Roland, Angie Pontani.

    The two Hedy Jo Star costumes were gifted to The Expo from a costumer working in Tokyo who found them in the storage room of her theatre company. We have no idea how they got there or who wore them, but pink one has the name “Nancy Lee” written inside. Any thoughts? Pictures can not do these pieces justice. I hope you got a chance to see them close up.


    We also had an exhibit in memory of Blaze Starr, who passed away over the summer. It included several photographs (two with Boston connections!), video of a couple of her film appearances, the costume Angie Pontani wore for her tribute to the Legend at Miss Exotic World 2006, and Blaze’s own powder puff and hand-made red evening bag with a handwritten note.

    And the books…

    The Atheneum was a new addition this year. Librarian Jennie put together a collection of relevant books and magazines in the breakfast/tea party room for people to browse during the day. Counterpoint Press was good enough to donate Leslie Zemeckis’s Goddess of Love Incarnate and Margo Christie sent her novel, These Days. Other books came from the Library at Stately Babydoll Manor and from Jennie’s own collection.

    I have a collection of “Cavalcade of Burlesque”, an industry magazine published in the early 1950’s by burlesque agent Jess Mack. They’re valuable documents for our community and I wanted to share them, but as you might expect from 65-year-old pulp paper, they’re rather fragile. So, I carefully scanned all my issues page by page and had them printed them up to be as close to the original as possible. I’m so happy to share this bit of history while keeping the originals preserved! (By the way, I’m on the look-out for the May 1953, March 1954, and May 1954 issues…)

    I certainly hope The Expo continues to offer The Atheneum and it becomes a bigger and better resource.

    Up next, shopping!

    M2

    Published in: on 2 March 2016 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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