Burlesque Beginners Dos and Donts

Aug16th2015-13

I’ve finally begun performing burlesque, and it’s been super hard work and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s had me somewhat creatively distracted for a while too, so it’s about time I check in with you guys here to teach you something new, in my usual by beginners for beginners format, with the help of my new partner Riley Strange!

So you’re intrigued by burlesque and you’ve never done it before, so you want to give it a shot. To go to shows and see the finished product on stage can feel pretty overwhelming when you have plans to try it out yourself. Just how does it all come together? If you don’t have a mentor to guide you you might be totally lost. Let us lay down a few simple dos and donts to get you started.

Riley prepared to go on stage for her Alice in Wonderland routine

Do…

-Your research. Learn by taking a class if there are any in your area, watching youtube videos, going to shows, reading up on burlesque history, and perusing informative websites such as 21stcenturyburlesque.com. Jo Weldon also has an awesome book on the subject that covers way more than I can here in a puny little blog article.

-Cut the damn tags off your clothes. As a performer you are delivering a fantasy. Tags and other flaws like stains, wrinkles and tears take the audience out of the moment.

-Be creative with your costume. Even if you must wear something off-the-rack, try to alter it in some way to make it one-of-a-kind. The last thing you want is someone in the audience pointing and going “Hey, I have that same bra at home!”

Adding rhinestones to these Victoria’s Secret panties add a little special sparkle

-Choose a song you absolutely love. With rehearsals you’ll have to listen to it a hundred times, so if you don’t love it, it’s going to be a nightmare to perform to once show day arrives.

-Be aware of what your audience will enjoy while not compromising your own tastes.

-Go big or go home. This is not a movie or a photoshoot, and there are no close-ups. Makeup and movements need to be seen from the back row. You WILL feel silly, at least in the beginning. You’ll get used to it.

-Make sure your stage name isn’t already taken by somebody else. A Google search should be pretty much all you need here.

-Make the most of your abilities. Any abilities. Dancing, acting, costuming, comedy, acrobatics, the list is endless.

-Be prepared for people to have misconceptions. Don’t get offended, it’s part of the deal. It’s up to you if you want to work towards changing their mind or not.

-Try to find a mentor if you can, to guide you through this stuff or just keep you company while you’re gluing on rhinestones.

-Consider the length and pacing of your song. You don’t want to feel rushed, or end up with nothing to do because the song was too long or slow.

-Be reliable and professional. This might be a fun job, but it is a job. It deserves to be taken seriously.

-Come to your show prepared. Remember not only the elements of your costume but makeup, pastie tape, a Tide stick, etc. This is the huge packing list Riley and I had last time we did a show, and this is only for three acts between us.

All this shit for less than 15 minutes total stage time. Also handy to make sure you leave nothing behind at the venue at the end of the night.

-Plan something achievable. This is something me and Riley have personal experience with. We kept coming up with extremely ambitious routines that were just way above our level. If you keep doing that you’ll never be able to complete the process to see it come to life on stage. You can keep having ambitious ideas, just tuck them away for a future date. A routine does not have to be difficult in order to be entertaining.

April 1 2016 - Heart-Shaped Box

Don’t…

-Think that the performances you see are the rules. This is art, there are no rules. You don’t have to wear a corset, you don’t have to choose a jazz song, you don’t have to know how to dance (although it helps) and believe it or not you don’t even have to be sexy. Let this be an expression of who you are, even if it only relates to one of your many facets. Well ok, there is one rule, and that is that you must be entertaining.

-Wear anything flat black unless your character depends on it. It’s too drab and somber. Either add some sparkle and shine or choose something more lively. Or better yet, both.

-Limit yourself. Explore new horizons and keep things fresh.

Just a backstage selfie with Adore Delano. No big deal 😛

-Focus on reasons why you “shouldn’t” do burlesque because it’s just not true. Any adult age, any gender, any body type, and any ability level (there are even burlesque performers who use wheelchairs in their acts) is accepted. This is the real beauty of this art form. It’s about celebrating what makes you you.

-Forget your face in your choreography. It just won’t look good if you look like you’re taking a shit while you get undressed.

-Be a diva. Ok this isn’t just a burlesque tip, this is a life tip. There’s a difference between honestly expressing something that’s important to you and acting like a spoiled child about it. You’re not above anyone.

-Panic if something goes wrong. Because it will, even to seasoned performers. But guess what, the audience probably doesn’t know, and if they do they’ll think highly of you for being able to just move on with the act instead of freezing in a panic. Riley and I have both performed to the wrong track when the DJ made a mistake, and neither time could anyone in the audience tell. Keep in mind we are both still beginners. It happened to Riley on her second day.

-Make excuses! You’ll just keep missing out.

13 Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas

Shit. Halloween is coming up really damn quick and you still have no idea what to do. Well that’s scary. What are you going to do? Here are some pun-free ideas for men and women, boys and girls, individuals and families, sexy and non-sexy, all more clever than that dumbass “nudist on strike” idea you thought you’d have to resort to.

Paper Bag Princess. This one is empowering! Get a yard waste bag (there are a lot of those this time of year) and cut a hole in it for your head and arms. You can hem (i.e. tear) it to as long or short as you want. I also thought of tearing the bottom into strips up to the knees or thighs and curling them outward to be all stylistic about it. Use more paper bag or yellow construction paper for a crown. Works for people (mostly females) of any age.

– Alternate version – If you want a more fetish version, or if you want to make it into more of a couple’s/boy’s costume, you could be the garbage bag prince or princess. Make a duct tape crown. You can even use duct tape as a belt and/or harness. Somebody will have to cut you out of it at the end of the night 😉 Sexy! Seems like it would be slightly more wearable too.

The Mad Hatter. Just wear your strangest clothes and a pile of hats. I did this last year and put it together in about half an hour. This costume is suitable for anyone of any gender or age.

Charles Manson. This is best for men with beards. Basically just dress like a hobo, put a smiley face on your forehead (because swastikas are still bad, mmkay?) and walk around with a crazed look in your eye. If you have a lady partner she can dress up like a hippy. Add some blood. If she’s blonde or has a wig, you can have her put on a white dress and be Marilyn Monroe. You can be Marilyn Manson! Ok, so that’s kind of a pun. But you have to forgive me for that one because it’s awesome.

Zombie. Dress like a hobo again, tear your clothes up, and get it really dirty, and add some fake blood and deathly makeup. Works for any age/gender/sexiness level.

Photo credit: Mommyish

– Zombie Baby. Pregnant? Stick some doll limbs to your belly with fake blood around them. AHH IT’S BREAKING FREE! Although you can probably do this even if you’re not pregnant (or even a woman) too. Google image search “zombie pregnant halloween” for epicness.

Sheet ghost. This one is a classic, and I did this when I was 21. It was a huge hit. Get the ugliest sheet you can find and put eye holes in it. Only takes five minutes! Also works great as a couple’s/group/family costume, especially if you have a girl to go as Lydia Deetz. Oh, and make sure to walk around going “WOOOOOO!!!”

Sugar Skull. Wear a cute black dress, lots of hair flowers, and the rest is all makeup! Guys can do this too, but wear a suit instead of a dress, and no flowers. Unless you feel like it.

Rosie the Riveter. Jeans, work shirt, red bandanna around your hair. It’s almost not even a costume!

Doctor/Mad Scientist/butcher. Some of us took science in college. Others of us are just strange. People like us probably own a lab coat. Put it on, and the rest is up to you.

Lydia Deetz. I’ll admit I did a terrible job with this last year (which is Why I changed my mind and decided on The Mad Hatter at 3am the morning of work), because nobody got it at the party I wore it to. But basically you just put on a plaid skirt with a longer black skirt underneath, white shirt, and black sweater. Best if you have black hair or a black wig and make yourself pale. Awesome when combined with a sheet ghost. Can be a dark version of sexy school girl or just normal, but keep in mind for better or for worse the normal version is very warm.

Morticia Addams. Elegant black dress, black hair/wig, red lipstick. Fucking DONE.

– Teenage idiot, also known as “unlicensed even dumber Karen Smith.” This is for irony and it’s hilarious. Just put on lingerie and rabbit ears, and when someone asks you what you are, point to the ears and go “I’m a MOUSE, duh!” Oh shut up, it’s funny.

Excellent!

Rago

I’ve often said in places where large crowds gather – Especially the Red River Ex, oh god – “this place desperately needs a spanx booth.” And really, it does. Way too many people are going around looking like giant blobs of dough. Ladies, come on. Have a little dignity. Though you have to admit, Spanx aren’t the sexiest thing in the world, despite what Tyra Banks might try to tell you. They’re just not. They’re also a little sissy if you ask me. Women these days are so afraid of being the least bit uncomfortable that they won’t wear anything that isn’t barely more effective than their usual underwear. Ladies, grow a pair. A real girdle is very sexy, and not at all uncomfortable.

I’m so grateful I discovered Rago at the lingerie booth at Viva. I had known for a few years from various internet sites geared towards vintage and pinup culture that it was the best. So I really wanted to try them out. What I found was a special-for-viva-edition red and black girdle and bra set. Normally this model only comes in pink and black. I also found Doris Mayday, who made me look like a 12 year old boy standing next to her. Sigh. She swears by Rago too. And Angela and I were so pleased with what we tried on that we each got matching girdles. I picked up the matching bra too.

I’m going to go ahead and start with the bra. I wanted something that wasn’t a bullet bra, but not round like a grapefruit either. This bra has no padding, but is simply cut to look natural. It’s red satin with black lace, and has a wide band with no underwire. This thing is comfortable as hell. It’s fantastic, by far the most comfortable bra I own. Mike loves it too because there’s no padding in the way of real human boob. He also just likes anything different. I also want to mention that the band is wide enough not to give you back fat. It’s just great.

We tried both zip-up and roll-on girdles, and honestly one was not easier to put on than the other. They both required a bit of effort. So we went for the roll-on version because if they’re going to be the same you might as well not have a zipper to potentially dig into your hip. (For the record, my vintage zip-up girdle does not have this problem. I was just trying to make the best choice of two equal girdles.) This girdle is beautiful, comfortable, effective, and even lifts and firms your butt. And did I mention it’s red and black lace? I mean come on. The only issue I could find is that without stockings to hold it down by the garters, it tends to ride up when you sit. Angela and I were forever trying to tug our girdles down in various airports on the trip back home. In non-traveling real life, this is not that big a deal.

But please, if you do have stockings to wear with this, do. It’s just glamorous as fuck. And isn’t it nice to look sexy without wearing a pushup under-wire and a thong? You don’t actually feel sexy in that. I know you don’t, because I don’t either. This on the other hand is perfect for daily life, which means seduction starts way before the bedroom. And you’ll look hot all day instead of like a big lump of dough. Meow!

The Art of Seduction, done right.

Vargas Girdle Review

So at the time of this writing (ok, ages ago) I just got my Vargas Girdle from Kiss Me Deadly in the mail, and as we all know how much I love lingerie, I thought I really should write a review for you all. Especially considering girdles have become so uncommon these days, the information could prove to be extra useful.
It took six weeks to get this, because at the time of my purchase it was out of stock. My initial reaction is to be a little mad at Fairy Goth Mother for not indicating this on their site, however this was quickly rectified with emails explaining the fact, and some very quick replies. And it came in exactly the amount of time they said it would, so that doesn’t leave much to complain about for the service.


The first thing I should mention is how nice it is when a product looks the same in person as it does in the ads. This is one of those products. There are some very minor flaws, so minor that I didn’t notice them in the pictures, but upon further inspection they were there. I’ll get to that a little bit later.
The girdle is indeed lovely. Mike doesn’t care half as much about my clothes as what’s under them, but I think I got a decent reaction. He seemed to like it, and I was very pleased with it too. It’s vintage and modern at the same time, so I get the look I’m going for without going so far in that direction that I feel like an old lady. It’s a very young and sexy look compared to the average person’s impression of what a girdle is. The only minor things I noticed, that can hardly be helped as far as I can tell, are that the back scrunches down a little, and can create a bit of a bumpy look under the back of your clothes. Also the bottom back edge of the girdle slightly cuts into the rear for a bit of an odd silhouette, but only when you look closely. And just as they say, the bows do flatten will under clothes, but if you’re wearing something a little less forgiving, they’re easily removed. As far as the garters showing through your clothes, I think this is more a good thing than bad. A little hint of the sexy secret you’re hiding isn’t something I can see too many people complaining about, unless of course you’re at work.


It’s also WAY more comfortable than girdles seem to have a reputation for. Yes, it is a little bit scratchy at the garters and a bit of the side seams, but barely. It’s hardly worth mentioning when you compare it to your average ill-fitting bra or pair of high heels.
The effectiveness of the Vargas Girdle is where I find it falls the most short, and unfortunately this is the most important part, otherwise what are you buying it for? I suppose I’m satisfied with the waist shaping, though slight, because it’s pretty much impossible to find something that does this at all besides a corset. Waist-high Spanx will nip you in slightly too, in much the same way, but let’s be honest, they’re not sexy. The Vargas girdle is. So I guess I can’t fairly ask for much more. The tummy shaping, well… honestly I didn’t see too much flattening at all. Since I was able to hook it up on the smallest set of hooks, and you’re supposed to wear a new bra on the loosest ones, I’m left wondering if maybe it’s just slightly too big. Vanity sizing maybe? That’s a subject for another article. But as it stands, they don’t have these in XS, so this is the best I’m going to do. In the meantime I sewed in an extra front panel of non-stretch black satin, and did see a slight improvement.
So I am satisfied with the Vargas Girdle, but I wouldn’t say I’m completely over the moon about it. I have heard better reviews from other women so I think it’s fair to say that your results will have quite a bit to do with your individual body shape. It’s true that Kiss Me Deadly makes their lingerie for pear-shaped women because this is the most common shape, while I myself am hourglass. If this is why I’m failing to see results as good as the other women who have used this, it’s certainly through no fault of a company that knows their market. If anything, it leaves me excited to try out more styles.

Taking a Stand Against the LBD

All too often you hear the LBD, that’s the Little Black Dress, being touted as THE must-have clothing item for women. That it’s something you just can’t live without because it’s perfect for day or night, and almost every occasion. But I’m writing here now to take a stand against the LBD, sort of. Why is that?
The little black dress is not a crutch.
I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to own. I myself don’t own one, by some mind-boggling freak occurrence, but I think it’s something that I really should have. I agree with what they say that it’s great for every occasion, but often I see this being said as though when it comes to dressing we’re expected to be these shrinking violets, these shy, delicate little things who have every reason to be terrified of making even the slightest fashion faux-pas. Well nuts to that!
Fashion is not a formula, it’s an art form, and I’m convinced that the best results are achieved when it’s treated as such. Sure you can accessorize to your heart’s content, but the whole reason the LBD is so popular is due to its simplicity. Simplicity is a great thing, don’t get me wrong, but taken to its extreme, especially when it’s almost the only thing people see you in, it comes across as just plain BORING. So much so that in the effort to be perfect, to never make a fashion mistake, you run a huge risk of not only fading into the background, but looking just like every other woman around you who was playing it safe. And that’s a mistake in itself.
There are definitely some times when you’re going to be completely at a loss for what to wear. Sometimes you’ll want to be extra simple, extra sleek, have that easy sophistication that we all love. And that’s ok. I would never tell anyone not to wear something that they truly WANT to wear. I just don’t think it’s ok to come to rely on it absolutely every time the occasion calls for you to wear anything beyond a pair of jeans. The whole thing almost seems to encourage laziness, while putting some effort into your look beyond that can actually be a lot of fun that you could be missing out on. That’s not fair to you at all.

If you do choose to wear a little black dress, I have one favorite tip I’d like to share with you: red shoes. As someone who’s been involved in the goth community for many years, I’ve learned something very important, and that’s that there’s a difference between looking dark and looking depressing. Head to toe black can look flat, sometimes sad. A pop of red shoes takes it to the next level, from afternoon at a funeral to night on the town, and will help that dress from fading into the background. You can go with any color you like, preferably a bright one, I just find red is the sexiest. A matching hair clip, belt, and bag complete the look for a result that’s far from boring. So you see, even when playing it safe a little creativity can go a very long way.

So I’m going to continue my search for my own perfect little black dress, and just hope that I don’t have to wear it too often 😉

Telling the Difference Between a Proper Corset and a Fake One

One of the biggest issues I have with corsets is that so many women don’t know what defines a real one that they continue to waste their money on what constitutes little more than tacky lingerie. The worst part is they never know that they’ve been had, and the problem is so common that I’m sure many of these “corset” sellers have no idea that what they’re selling isn’t actually a corset at all. Ebay is riddled with shops selling these ripoff items that actually have positive reviews because the buyers didn’t know any better (or just had really bad taste), and message boards are full of even more of these buyers who just can’t figure out what went wrong.
When it comes right down to it, nobody can really be blamed. I’m infuriated at the sellers who knowingly show pictures of quality corsets and then sell horrible knockoffs, but this is a problem that can be said for a lot of products. Overall, people are simply in the dark about this issue. I believe the root of the problem is simply that the corset as a garment has evolved over time just like any other garment, so that we kept the title even though they’re completely unrecognizable in their current incarnation. Here’s where the words “Victorian Corset” come into play. I’ve heard it asked many times what this means, and I believe it’s referring to authentic corsets as they were and are meant to be, rather than the cheap imitations we see today. So now I have to get to the point. How can you tell the difference? Here’s a list of what I look for, in order of importance.
Sizing. Truly the most important thing to look for is steel boning, but I’m listing this one first because invariably a corset sized S/M/L does not have it, so looking for this will save you a lot of time. A proper off the rack corset (made to measure and custom don’t come in sizes, they’re made individually according to your measurements) will be sized according to how many inches around the waist is. Commonly this will range from 20-40, and you should get one 4 inches smaller than your natural waist size. I’ve also noticed that “corsets” of the plastic type often come with a g-string and feature a model that looks like a porn star. This is a sure sign that what you’re looking at is crap.
Cost. Also not technically the most important, but a price too good to be true usually is, and a sure sign that this isn’t what you’re looking for. I have seen very expensive junk, but I have rarely seen a good corset for less than about 100$, and finding these is a skill best left to more knowledgeable and experienced bargain shoppers.
Steel boning. If it’s not steel, don’t even think about it. This is officially the number one rule for finding a quality piece. Plastic is not only horribly unflattering due to the way they bend and buckle, but this can also be painful, even dangerous. Plastic bones that bend too easily will jab you in the stomach, under the ribs, and in your armpits. In extreme cases they’ve been known to snap and puncture through skin. There’s nothing good I can say about plastic boning, unless it’s sturdy and strictly worn decoratively on top of a proper corset boned with steel. At the very least, I beg you to NOT attempt tightlacing a “corset” boned with plastic. Lace it just enough to be snug, but not tight. Spiral steel has the required flexibility to curve with your body while also being strong enough to properly support you with comfortable even pressure. One way to instantly tell the difference in person is by weight. A plastic bustier will feel extremely light and flimsy compared to the heavy sturdiness of a proper corset.
Multiple layers cotton coutil. No doubt about it, a corset requires strength. And all the steel in the world won’t do any good if the fabric between it tears under the pressure. This is one of the reasons it’s unsuitable to take a bustier and try making it a proper corset by replacing the boning. The thin layer of fabric just won’t hold up. A good corset is made with usually three layers of strong cotton coutil, with the decorative fabric over top.
Waist tape. I’ve heard of corsetieres claiming that their corsets were extra strong because they use waist tape in the construction. I call bullshit. EVERY proper corset should have waist tape. It’s not special, it’s the standard, and it should always be mentioned that this is part of the design. This is important for reinforcing the waist, which undergoes the most pressure. Without this the corset could quickly tear.
They specifically say the corset is for tightlacing. I don’t doubt there are some dishonest sellers out there, but those people won’t be in business for long. A good corset is suitable for tightlacing and will always say so.
Proper lacing. There are indeed some good corsets out there with improper lacing, but this is a sign that the corsetiere has not fully done their homework and so the overall quality might not be as good as it should be. Corsets should NOT be laced like a running shoe. This creates extra friction, and the laces passing in between the panels will prevent the corset from closing all the way. If this is the only problem you see, it’s simple enough to just re-lace it yourself. A worse issue is when the laces tie at the top or the bottom. Sure these can be re-laced too, but I wouldn’t trust anyone who does it this way to know what they’re doing. This is just obvious beginner stuff that any reputable retailer or corsetiere should know. If you’re trying to draw in the waist, why would you tie it anywhere else? It just doesn’t make any sense. Not to mention this makes lacing much more difficult. The seller might claim that this is so the laces can easily be hidden, but come on, that’s much less important than actually doing it properly so the corset is able to do what it’s supposed to, isn’t it?
Wrinkling in the fabric. I’ve worn many good corsets in which the fabric didn’t lie perfectly flat, but if it does, all the better. This is simply a sign of quality work and attention to detail, and makes for a more attractive and solid-looking corset, with a smoother silhouette under clothing. While not 100% necessary, it’s strongly preferred.
Now I just want to mention one last thing, and that’s grommet placement. A couple people have said to me how strange it is that the grommets or front prongs are unevenly placed, while what they’re referring to is the fact that they’re closer together at the waist and belly respectively. This is actually a very good thing, again to compensate for the increased pressure in that area. So don’t worry a thing about that if you see it, just rest assured that this is even more likely to be what you’ve been looking for!
Good luck!

What Is A Slip?

When I was growing up, a slip was just a typical fundamental part of a girl’s wardrobe when wearing a skirt or dress. If you didn’t have one you ran the risk of your clothes not lying smoothly, or even being see-through in the sun. Princess Diana caused a bit of a shock when she was caught in a picture with a long skirt, back to the sun, that distinctly showed off her legs due to her lack of a slip. So because of this, I always assumed it was just as normal for everyone else. I could buy them cheaply at Walmart. I was, I suppose, blissfully ignorant.


Last summer I wanted a new one, not really for modesty’s sake as my dresses are of fairly opaque fabric, but because they’re hand-wash only, and I wanted to keep them cleaner for longer by having something easily washable between me and the dress. I also wanted something much prettier than what Walmart had to offer.


So I went into La Vie En Rose, asked where the slips were and… was met with blank stares. Not even the woman working there who was older than my mom knew what I was talking about. Even after I explained it, they were still confused. Had I just stepped out of a time machine? They tried instead to sell me nightgowns. Pretty, sure, but all those ruffles would leave my clothes looking pretty lumpy, so no thanks.


A friend told me later that this could be because as far as she knew, slips were being called crinolines now. This left me even more confused because crinolines are underskirts that are intended to give volume to a skirt, like a 50s swing skirt or a Victorian skirt. I have a crinoline. It’s not a slip. Nobody wears puffy underskirts made of tulle under wiggle dresses.
So slips are being called crinolines, merry widows and bustiers are being called corsets, what next? Stockings are pantyhose? Camisoles are bras? What’s going on? You would think that in a society where women still wear lingerie the terms wouldn’t get so horribly confused. In our world of minimalism, is lingerie now slowly beginning on its way out? Maybe one day I’ll write a glossary.


Back to the slips. As I said earlier, a slip is something you wear under a skirt (half slip) or dress (full slip) to smooth it out, keep your modesty, and keep the inside of your dress or skirt clean. They can even help keep you warm in the winter and are great for keeping you comfortable in scratchy fabric. Think of it as a liner. And yes, they can sort of look like nightgowns.
Where do you get them? Walmart still has them, I think. The better solution though, is specialty and vintage shops.
For the real deal at good prices you can search Value Village, Goodwill, and yes, Etsy. The ones I have found on Etsy are gorgeous, and in my current financial situation it’s driving me a bit nuts to see all those beautiful things.


Some people don’t like the idea of used lingerie in any capacity, and besides, sometimes a vintage slip just won’t do under more revealing modern clothes. In this case there are places for new slips, such as Her Room which include slimming styles from brands like Spanx. Their way of explaining what a slip is is romantic and spot-on.


So go have a look, and you might discover that slips are not only functional, but another way for you to feel feminine and fabulous every day.