Welcome back to the second part of our mini-series about making burlesque work on a beginner budget. Last week, performer and Academy of Burlesque & Cabaret hen party teacher Daiquiri Dusk offered some tips on working out your first costume budget, this week we’re onto some DIY advice and some embellishment ideas.
There are many incredible costume and prop makers in the world of contemporary burlesque. Dita’s exquisite threads are the beautiful handiwork of burlesque superstar and costumier extraordinaire Catherine D’Lish and are envied worldwide. Her stunning luxury boas and lush feather fans will set you back into the triple digits for one piece, but if your piggy bank is bursting with pennies rather than pounds, fear not. This is where we come to the role of the DIY ethos in burlesque.
A huge number of performers of all levels make their own stuff. Some come from crafty backgrounds, others don’t. Some are self-taught and some have taken classes. YouTube offers hundreds of video tutorials, so it’s possible to teach yourself just about anything if you persevere.
The easiest example is tassels. When I was just getting into burlesque, I bought a couple of pairs, which cost somewhere between £5-£10 for a basic set. I began making my own pretty much straight after and have done so ever since. Tassels are one of the simplest things to make, so if you want to have a shot at making your own, here’s a video tutorial I made to get you started.
Once you can start making your own burlesque accessories you’ll find you can save a handy buck or two. Cash outlay will just be your materials; obviously your time is precious, so do factor it in when working out the final ‘worth’ of your costume. But when you begin in burlesque, you’ll find that you probably do have more time than money so use that to your advantage and get creative!
The Importance of Embellishments
Adding some fringing, an appliqué or two and a sprinkling of crystals can instantly add that much-needed vava-voom to any burlesque ensemble. One of the most obvious indicators of newbie acts is plain, straight-off-the-shelf underwear. You can have the most amazing costume on top, but if you strip down to plain old undies it’s a bit of an anticlimax in the routine. But again, tight purse strings don’t necessarily mean a shoddy costume; it’s about what you can make out of what you have.
Most of my main costume bras started life as simple black or white Primark bras. Depending on the costume, I’ve adapted them in a number of ways:
* Shoulder straps replaced with ribbons for halter neck tie
*Side panels cut out
*Plain base covered in fabrics
*Crystals / appliques added
*Fringing around top / middle / bottom added
*Lace / feathers / other trims added
Trimmings can be a little pricey, especially fancy beading, so it can be worth looting the jewellery section of your local Primark or New Look for strings of beads and other sparkly bits at bargain prices. Also, around Xmas and new year, Poundland and other such shops can be a glory hole of sparkly beads, which can make perfect costume additions.
My final note on the subject of budgeting for beginners is the value of putting away a little bit towards future costumes when you can. It can be tricky, but if you can pop away even half of your fee (which I appreciate will be very modest to begin with) then in a few months, you’ll have a bit more to play with when it comes to working on your next act.
Good luck with your costume crafting, we’d love to see how you get on so please do share with us in the comments section.
If you missed part 1 of this series, you can check it out here.