Like so many fashion related things, burlesque outfits and costumes are so much about the accessories. The typical burlesque look is really a combination of burlesque-style lingerie and various accentuating pieces that pull the whole look together.
If you’re simply looking for a burlesque-style costume, the sky’s the limit since you won’t have to consider how your burlesque accessories will behave during a performance. Burlesque dancers always have to pay closer attention to the look and suitability of their costume for a performance.
Here are a few types of burlesque accessories to keep in mind when you’re putting together your look:
There are a million styles of hats from fedora to mini top hat, that when carefully chosen will really make your outfit pop. For a performer, the hat will be carefully considered with some thought put into its appropriateness for particular choreography. If it’s just a burlesque costume you’re putting together, just pick the style hat that best shows off the rest of your outfit.
If you’ve been to a burlesque show, you’ve definitely seen more than a few numbers that feature costume gloves. Satin and silk gloves are an instantly elegant throwback to bygone eras and are such a core piece of burlesque and neo-burlesque. Dancers put a lot of time into perfecting the “glove tease” routine, and can really make the gloves a focal point of their number. I think that a burlesque outfit is not complete without a pair of sexy gloves.
Makeup and Glitter
Sure, makeup is not technically an accessory, but what an important aspect of burlesque. Makeup is such an art, whose careful application will accent features, create a mood, dazzle viewers and transform a performer. Burlesque performers become bombshells and divas with makeup, and so can you! Bold lipstick, eye shadow and dark (or even dramatically colored and unnaturally shaped, if you go with one of the many amazing faux varieties available today) lashes, as well as glittery highlights on the lips and eyes, are a very important part of the burlesque look. For some inspiration, check out Blood and Glitter, the website of our friend, makeup artist and performer Ginger Snaps, for some great ideas.
Hosiery and Shoes
Every burlesque performer loves hosiery and shoes. These burlesque accessories are so easy to change up everytime you dress up, to create a fresh new look. Of course burlesque dancers will carefully choose the type of hosiery and shoe to go with the rigors of their choreography. The stockings and shoes have to be easy to manage and remove! For the non-performer who is looking to create a burlesque costume, your options are endless. Be bold, select stripes, patterns and retro inspired shoe styles like the one pictured here. We also recommend that you learn a bit about hosiery to help you make a good choice for you.
Jewelry can be worn to add a little vavoom to your burlesque outfit. Just as with hats and other accessories, jewelry can be a little tricky for performers who must think about their choreography going smoothly. To fit in with the burlesque look, retro, goth, and steampunk chokers work well, as do all sorts of flashy rings. And don’t forget about earrings. Remember that your burlesque outfit is one that should draw a lot of attention, so sparkly, showy jewelry can really make it unforgettable.
Masquerade and Mardi Gras masks are IN right now. Nothing creates more mystique than a beautiful and seductive mask. Whether you’re performing or just putting together a burlesque costume for a party, definitely try on a few masks. Styles to look for are ones with long feathers, shiny beads or interesting painted details. Masks really help you escape into a different persona and create a little mystery. They create such a strong style, that some people have put together an entire outfit starting from an amazing mask that they found in a shop and couldn’t pass up.
Burlesque is not an activity that tolerates insecurities. It’s an artform that demands absolute confidence. Luckily, burlesque is also an artform that celebrates style and beauty of all varieties, and rewards those who are willing to trust their own abilities, and their audience. There are many women who love the burlesque style, but find themselves saying “I could never do burlesque. I’m not pretty/thin/stylish enough!”
You’re wrong. You’re beautiful, but you’re wrong – particularly if your weight or body shape is the main barrier to your participation in burlesque. Here’s why:
Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but bigger is certainly different!
Variety is absolutely the spice of life. Burlesque is not a Vegas showgirl line, with strict requirements dictating everything from height to cup size. Burlesque is about appreciating a unique and individual style. So show yours off! Worry less about minimizing your ‘flaws,’ and focus more on nailing down your signature look. Don’t limit yourself only to what you think will be the least revealing, or most constricting outfit. There are many plus size burlesque outfits designed to fit you, not just mold you into an unnatural shape. Corsets are lovely garments, but before you start tight-lacing your tummy, look into a mirror and decide whether or not it needs to be sucked in at all.
You’re in Good Company
If you’re new to burlesque, you may be surprised by how many amazing plus size burlesque performers there are. You’ll also be surprised by the vast variety of backgrounds each dancer has. No matter what your shape, you’ll find that you’re in excellent company. Sometimes, all a new dancer needs is a reminder that there’s something to appreciate in every body. If you’ve been dancing for a while, take time to encourage new members of the troupe, regardless of what their insecurities may be. The best cure for stage fright is knowing that both the audience and fellow dancers will appreciate and support you.
Designers are paying attention to you
Plus size burlesque outfits and plus size lingerie are not rare any longer. Designers have noticed the trends, and have started to accommodate a greater variety of body shapes. Plus size burlesque lingerie is easy to find, and it’s very, very sexy. Don’t assume that you have to dress any differently than a size 4 dancer. Burlesque isn’t about hiding things (at least, not for long!), it’s about showing them off.
Confidence is far more beautiful than a silhouette
A silhouette is two dimensional by nature. Confidence exists in three dimensions. An audience will reflect what is projected to it, and if you love every moment on stage, chances are, we’ll love it too. Confidence is a far better asset than music, set, or even a killer burlesque outfit. It’s also something that you can fake, but only if you spend more time working on it than you spend worrying about how you look.
We know that each and every burlesque dancer works his/her butt off to put on a successful show. But there are just a few little things that I think can hold back a great performer. As an audience member, you get a whole different perspective on this art form, and sometimes you can see that a tweak here or there could make all the difference in the world. Ever notice that at a burlesque show, one performer may get polite applause, while another completely brings down the house? Here are a few things I’ve noticed:
1. Forgetting About the Audience
I know this seems like a silly thing to mention. How can someone in a burlesque outfit, on a stage, in front of a club full of people forget about the audience that is staring them down? I know it takes some serious guts to get up there, but what I mean is that the best burlesque performers realize that the audience is part of the performance and remain engaged with them throughout the entire number. You can tell that some of the best dancers are constantly gauging the audience reaction and playing off their energy during the show. I think it’s a talent that some dancers just have more or less of, but the difference between someone simply playing in front of the audience and someone playing TO the audience can be quite dramatic. A great example of someone who’s got that gift is Coco Lectric of the Jigglewatts. If you get the opportunity to see her perform, take it!
2. Poor Musical Selection or Awkward Transitions
Sometimes I’ll watch a burlesque number that’s part of a themed show, and I’ll think, “How does this piece fit into the show?” I’m sure that because burlesque performers usually have a dance background, they find music all the time that they really connect with. Choreographing the perfect number to a favorite song is awesome, but it’s stellar if it fits in neatly with the theme of the show.
Another awkward musical situation that often arises is when a performance spans a medley of two or more songs. I love it when a number has different parts, costume changes and mood changes, but those transitions between songs need to be smooth and subtle. It can be very jarring for the audience if musical transitions are not handled with care. Any burlesque dancer is wise to seek input and opinions from fellow troupe members, and even her sound person if possible, about her music and transitions.
3. Lack of Eye Contact
This is the biggie! Everyday we communicate with other people using our eyes. Glances, winks and stares can say volumes about what we really think. Burlesque is no different, and of course the performer is communicating sexual cues and all sorts of things. Sometimes, I see a burlesque dancer with no chemistry with the audience, and it’s because she maintains a distant stare and just has no eye contact. Good eye contact is such an important detail that should not be overlooked. Frequent readers of Lingerie Unlaced may recall who I think has the best eyes in burlesque. Many of our favorite performers in Austin are great at playing to the audience with their eyes, and it always makes the performance more interesting to watch.
So there you have it, my advice on the top three burlesque performance mistakes to avoid, from an audience member’s perspective. Keep these things in mind when creating your routines and of course on performance night, and you’re sure to have the audience hanging on your every move. Wow ‘em and make them feel like you’re performing just for them, and you’ll keep ‘em coming back for more!
Color plays a huge part in how we perceive the world around us. Don’t believe it? A famous experiment in the 1970s showed that color has a strong effect on appetite. Test subjects were given steak and French fries under colored lights. When the food was shown under normal light, it was revealed to be tinted shades of blue and green. Some participants became physically ill as a result. Appetites don’t always relate to food, either. There are ways to make the most of color in your burlesque style, too.
Color Theory Basics
Color theory 101 always starts with a color wheel, which is where you should always start when picking out a color palette for your burlesque routine. Because burlesque is an art, why shouldn’t you take advantage of art principles to perfect your burlesque style? Things like color, composition, and contrast are all key things to factor into everything from your set to brainstorming burlesque outfit ideas.
In the traditional color wheel, there are primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), secondary colors (green, orange, and purple) and tertiary colors (all the colors in between). The color wheel is a great place to start planning your burlesque look. Color palettes can be made using analogous colors (colors next to each other on the color wheel), or complementary colors (colors opposite each other).
Here’s an example of burlesque style with a complementary color palette:
The green dress is complementary to the red lipstick and fingernail polish because these colors are opposite on the color wheel.
Here’s an example of an analogous color palette:
The yellow-greens and blue-violets of this burlesque outfit are close together on the cool side of the color wheel, and play off of one another, creating a harmonious yet vibrant look.
Another important aspect of color theory is the way colors look against other colors. A vibrant color on a black background will really pop, which is why primary colors like red, or secondary colors such as green, paired with black, are classic combinations. Softer burlesque styles can be accomplished by putting a nude or a pastel color against white. This will reduce contrast, and give a gentler overall appearance.
The ideas we connect to colors can play an enormous role in how we view a burlesque style. For example, a red or a hot pink might suggest sultry or erotic. A pastel pink or a nude can suggest youth or frivolity. Whites and pastel blues can suggest icy aloofness or the brilliance you find in diamonds or silver. Jewel tones like rich greens or purples suggest opulence and decadence, and bright pastels suggest spring.
Certain eras can be evoked with color, such as the red white and blue of a retro pinup navy costume. Khaki and red can also suggest military themes, while cool pastels and white can suggest Rococo France. Gold and white can suggest the height of Greek Hellenism, while black can allude to Victorian or Edwardian eras.
Take advantage of color when brainstorming burlesque outfit ideas, or creating a burlesque style for your next show. Pay attention to what your colors mean, and choose them to suit the theme of your show.
As with any endeavor, networking is a key to success and the way to open doors to new opportunities. Savvy burlesque performers, troupes, entertainers, photographers, and sponsors are constantly looking for new ways to meet people and get the word out about what they’re doing. You should, too! Here are a few tips from some of our burlesque friends, and also from personal experience. See if they work for you.
Let’s start with the obvious. The center of the online world for anything burlesque is usually Facebook, since it is by definition social. Facebook is great for building a fanbase and keeping them informed. Getting people to “Like” you is fairly passive, but be careful with how you go about “Friending” artists, performers and such. You don’t want to be a friend collector where you don’t even know the hundreds of people you add. Be selective; don’t spam Facebook; and get to know the people you’re friending. You’re looking to network with real people, so you’ve gotta be real, too!
Sometimes Facebook feels like such a vast sea of people and interest groups. People are often too busy to interact, and it can be a bit impersonal. So what else can you do?
Go to Burlesque Events
This is a simple enough thing to do. Seek out your local burlesque community, the performers, the shows, the shops and start meeting people, IN PERSON. :) Become a real burlesque fan and go to shows to support the performers. If you do go, you’ll likely meet other performers and photographers who are in the scene. You never know who you might meet and how you can help become a part of the next event. That’s what we do as Kuhmillion Lingerie. Often times we become burlesque show sponsors and set up a burlesque lingerie booth at the venue. If you’re an aspiring burlesque photographer, you can ask to take photos at a show and, if you’re good, the performers will want to work with you pretty darn quickly.
Local Shops and Hangouts
Let me be clear: I’m not talking about creepy stalking. :) What I mean is that you can go to events or find out where the “cool kids” hang out and go yourself. The burlesque community is usually pretty small and has its favorite places and bartenders. If you’re into burlesque lingerie, visit shops that sell costumes and burlesque style clothing and see if you make a connection with the people who work there. Recently my wife & business partner, Beth, and our friend Rouge Dubonnet were in New Orleans and discovered a very cool shop called Trashy Diva. They left with a new burlesque performer contact, simply because they dropped in to check out the shop, loved it, and chatted with the sales gal. Other things you might try: Find crossover events that have a burlesque aspect to them, like band showcases or street fairs. Also, many burlesque and pinup photographers have gallery openings or other public showings of their work where you can meet the artist and make a connection.
Go Beyond Local
Using Facebook and other types of social media is an excellent way to meet burlesque enthusiasts from all over the world, but you can also reach out when you travel, and the connections you make may be richer than those made online. Once people know your face, doors and opportunities can really open up. Visit burlesque shops in other towns; tell them where you’re from and what you’re doing. Go see shows in other cities; write about them and share it with others. People will love you for it!
The main thing to remember when you’re networking in the burlesque community, is to step away from the computer every now and then, and get out there and meet some people. You’ll be amazed at all of the unique, cool and friendly people that you meet out in the world. Making real connections with people, and finding new ways in which you can collaborate and help each other out is the key!