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.