Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday! How about a tip?

When sewing velvet, only pin within the seam allowance.

Velvet has a lush look and catches the light in interesting ways which makes it a  natural for adding drama on stage. However, the pile can crush easily while you are sewing it and the marks are very hard to get out. Pinning where it won’t show on the outside is the key to keeping your velvet beautiful. And a pinboard, but that is a tip for another time.

M2

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 18 Patrons. Welcome to my newest Patron, peter hopmann. 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 4 November 2022 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Review: The Costumes of Burlesque

Dear Constant Reader,

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to review this glorious book. Scratch brought me back a freshly-released copy from the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in 2019, so it’s recently celebrated its third birthday.

The Costumes of Burlesque 1866-2018 by Coleen Scott, 2019.

Coleen Scott (aka Rosey La Rouge) is a costume designer with a passion for burlesque. Her first book, The Pastie Project*, focused on that specialty adornment unique to burlesque. This tome shows everything.

It’s a chronological look at burlesque costumes from the 19th century until the present day, with each chapter spanning a couple of decades. Every chapter is illustrated with images of burlesque performers in costume and color photographs of extant costumes. The absolute best part is that Scott shows you all the layers when possible. It’s one of the challenges of displaying burlesque costumes (as I well know from mounting exhibits at the American Burlesque Collection), seeing only one part in isolation does not give you a full appreciation for the design of these costumes.

There are not a lot of extant early burlesque costumes, so she fills out the first chapter with images of performers and existing costumes for similar performances — ballet, cancan, circus, bellydance, Loie Fuller. As the chapters progress, more and more extant costumes are included (many from the collection of Nez Kendal) and we get to see details, sometimes even the insides. Still, photos of performers, posters, and other ephemera probably outweigh costumes. She touches briefly on a variety of costume styles, like half-and half acts and drag.

The very last chapter — Modern Burlesque Costume Design — features layer by layer photos. Dirty Martini, Cheeky Lane, Gin Minsky, and Darlinda Just Darlinda wear their costumes and strip for the camera, showing every piece as they go from full ensemble to pasties. They’re each on a plain white background which highlights the costumes in a way that’s impossible on stage. There are also close looks at individual components. It’s probably the best view of each costume possible, short of having the  owner show it off in person.

[Please note that while most of Gin Minsky’s quick-change costume was made by Garo Sparo, her Screen Siren G-string was created by Manuge et Toi Designs and the blue gown was rhinestoned by Canova Studio, who were not credited. I’ll assume that was an oversight.]

It’s a lovely book to just flip through and look at the gorgeous photographs, but the text is enlightening too. There are interviews with Legends, current performers, and costume designers. There are notes at the end of each chapter and a bibliography in the back. Throughout the book words in red can be found in a helpful glossary of terms for those unfamiliar with burlesque and its specialized language.

It’s impossible for one book to be completely comprehensive on any topic, and there are, of course, omissions, but Scott covers a lot of ground and has created a beautiful work. It’s not inexpensive, even in softcover, but worth it.

M2

*Which I don’t own…

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 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 20 July 2022 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Making Do and Mending

Dear  Constant Reader,

VRA few years ago I made a costume for the Historical Masquerade at Costume-Con 33. You can read all about it here. Short version: what if the Victoria’s Secret fashion show was actual held in the Victorian era. Thus, Victorian Secret! I made a historically accurate Victorian corset — that is, accurate in pattern and construction, not the thousands of rhinestones decorating it — and drawers and a chemise. The mantle and crown are because my theme was Victoria’s coronation.
(Photo by Ken Warren)

MISSMINAMURRAY_AnthonyJColegaI spent a lot of time and effort on the corset because I knew I’d use it again in a burlesque costume — which I did. I also entered said costume at Costume-Con 37 and you can see it in our show on April 30. However, I didn’t think I’d ever wear the drawers and chemise again. I hated to just have them hanging in the closet, but it’s not like I frequently wear Victorian attire and they were vital to the costume presentation.
(Photo by Anthony J. Colega)

I realized recently that the drawers and chemise would make great summer lounging attire. It gets hot in my atelier, despite the ceiling fan the ever-thoughtful Mr. Scratch installed, and the underthings are made of thin, nay, even  translucent, cotton (I’m wearing pasties under them in the above picture. Just in case). The pretty pintucks and lace are just a bonus.

Unfortunately, the drawers had fallen off the hanger to the floor of my closet and during a mouse infestation, got nibbled. There were wee holes chewed hither and yon. The good news was they were only on one leg. The bad new was that they were so numerous and wide-spread that patching was not an option.

Fortunately, I had just enough cotton left over to cut one new leg. Then I stalled because I really didn’t feel like doing another set of pintucks, especially when the first ones were so even and matched so nicely on each leg.

Then I had an inspiration — I pinned the old leg and the new leg together and marked the stitching line for the first row of pintucks. I cut the old leg above it and the new leg below it. Then I sewed the new leg and the pintucked bit together just at that stitching line, using my stitch-in-the-ditch foot (also called an edge joiner). You can’t even tell  there’s a seam there!

Because the fabric is so sheer, the seam allowance was visible from the outside if I pressed it open, so I flat felled the seam toward the tucks and sewed it down with very teeny hand stitches behind the first pintuck where the extra fabric hides the seam.

Mended Victorian DrawersTada! I can’t even tell which leg is the mended one unless I turn the drawers inside out. I’m glad I was able to salvage these from the ravages of rodents and I’ll have something cool and comfy to wear this summer whilst I sew.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 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 March 2022 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again! How does this keep happening? Here’s your tip!

Clean your iron.

The sole plate can get caked with starch and other residues and the steam vents might be clogged with mineral deposits. A dirty iron can transfer schmutz to your beautiful fabric or garments.

First clean the tank by filling it and then turning the iron on. Hit the steam until all the water is gone.  Ironing an old towel helps catch any deposits that are flushed out. Turn the iron off, let it cool, and empty any remaining water. If there’s any crud in the steam vents, use a cotton swab to get it out.

Then clean the sole plate. I recommend checking the manufacturer’s directions here.  You might need to  use a commercial iron cleaner — just follow the directions. Otherwise, dampen a soft cloth with distilled white vinegar and wipe off the sole plate. Rub with a clean cloth. More persistent stains can be removed by gently rubbing with a paste of baking soda and water. Wipe off with a damp cloth and then rub with a clean one. The important thing is never to use anything that might scratch the sole plate.

I’ve always been told that you should clean your iron once a month. Like that’s going to happen…

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 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 14 January 2022 at 4:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Vamps and Roses

Dear Constant Reader,

After a really intense week of working on and performing in Vamps After Midnite, I’m glad for two days off. We’ve got four shows next week — get your tickets now!

IMG_3149In Vamps After Midnite I play the Mother Superior of an order of vampire hunting nuns, The Little Sisters of the Thrusting Shaft, and spend most of my time wearing a wimple. (Here I am with Devastasia, who plays Mary Daguerreotype, a Lay Sister.) I can’t style my hair because the wimple fits rather closely. That wouldn’t be a big deal, if you never saw my hair in the show. However, at the end of my first scene, due to a “pointless flashback”, I remove my habit and wimple to perform La Vie en Rose. Usually I just have a single hair ornament for this act, but I also usually have styled hair. I needed something to distract from my boring (and flattened) hair.

Time to make a headdress! (Because it all came together so quickly, I forgot to take progress shots, so these are after the fact.)

I started with a cloth visor, like this one. Amazon said the one I bought was “rose”, but when it came out of the package, it was bright pink. That certainly would not do! I started to overcomplicate things by making plans to cover it with more appropriately colored fabric.

But then I remembered this stuff!
IMG_3165
Perfect for a quick & dirty project like this. A mere few minutes later the visor was red.

While waiting for the paint to dry, off to the dollar store for a bouquet of roses. The first step was to cut them apart from the central stem, using a wire cutter. Then I grabbed my hot glue gun.

My initial plan was to treat the roses like feathers on a showgirl headdress, but that meant the flowers were basically in profile and I decided I wanted the open blossoms to be visible. Also it was just a little ridiculous looking. I mean, more ridiculous than I was willing to wear. Fortunately, it’s easy to remove hot glue.

I clipped the roses completely off the stems and glued the calyx to the visor, tucking in some leaves to fill a couple of gaps. I covered the band with more leaves. After wondering for a bit how I was going to finish the back of the visor, I glued on two rows of individual petals. Then just because I could, I added a few red rhinestones here and there on the roses.
IMG_3151

Voila! Active construction was about an hour (not including letting the paint dry or the walk to the dollar store and back) and I wore it in that night’s show.

This was taken post-show, since I don’t have any downtime during the show while I’m wearing the headdress in which to take a photo. You can see it in action this Wednesday through Saturday at Vamps After Midnite!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 26 October 2021 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s October! I, for one, am very grateful because September was an awful month. I know changing the calendar page doesn’t automatically make everything better, but at least it feels like there is potential for things to be better. To start things off right, here is your tip!

Don’t be fooled by glitter-dot fabric.

It may look like a cheap and easy way to get some sparkle in your costume, but then you run it through the sewing machine only to end up with gummy needles that dull quickly, wonky tension, splitting thread, and sorrow. 

It’s a little more manageable if you’re hand sewing, like covering bra cups or headdress bases.

 

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 1 October 2021 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

New Sewing Project — with your help

Dear Constant Reader,

I am (slowly, too slowly) turning my mountains of fabric into useful items. I came across this fabulous feather print:

IMG_2836
You can’t tell from the photo, but the highlights are metallic silver. It’s a cotton fabric, about 45″ wide and I think I have 5 yards.

What should I do with it? I think it could make a very interesting dress, but beyond that, I’m stumped. I turn to you, my faithful readers for suggestions.

I have many fine qualities and skills, but draping is not one of them, so a picture of an existing garment is going to go nowhere. A commercial pattern suggestion is much more helpful.

If you’ve got a thought, share it in the comments below. I’ll pick my favorite and post my progress here. I think Patrons will get a video dress diary as well.

How should I let my feathers fly?

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 12 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 22 September 2021 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday! Here’s your tip!

To strengthen a piece of stage jewelry, glue it to a sturdy fabric backing.

We all have cheap jewelry that looks great on stage, but it’s not very strong and doesn’t last long before something breaks. As a preventive measure, or to salvage a broken piece, you need some white glue, a paintbrush, and some fabric that won’t fray. I use Ultrasuede, but felt works fine. Bonus if you can find or dye a piece close to your skin tone.

Spread the glue (I use the same glue I use for rhinestones) on the back of the piece and then press it onto the backing. Replace any broken bits in their original location. Let it dry.

After the glue is dry, take fabric scissors and cut away the excess fabric. Get as close to the shape of the jewelry as possible . If you want, use a craft knife to get between the stones, but I don’t think it’s so necessary if you use fabric that matches your skin.

Voila!

If you are one of my Patrons, you can see me demonstrate this process in a little video.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 15 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 26 February 2021 at 1:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

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  
Tags: ,

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  
Tags: , ,