Costumes – fastener inspiration

Currently at Miss la Belle’s House of Burlesque, we have Radiance class, which are the class that goes on to perform at Frolic Lounge Student Showcase.  Things like choreography, costumes, make-up, theme are all on the minds of the student glamazons getting ready to hit the stage.

Making or putting a costume together can be a bit tricky for a number of reasons and here are some ideas for costumes and fasteners.

Costume makers

  • We are fortunate enough to have Flo Foxworthy in Wellington.  She makes costumes for burlesque performers such as Roxi D’Lite and Catherine D’Lish.  She is a lovely lass and loves costumes.  And may not cost as much as you think.  She makes amazing feather fans too.  She also highly rates….
  • Cathy Tree.  Cathy was behind some of the inspiration and costumes for Monster Burlesque.
  • Debbie Eve aka LadyTramp Designs – specalises in sequins and nipple pasties.
  • For off the rack corsets and costumes – Mellypop is local, she has a shop, also you can shop online.
  • Trade Me is also a great place to find costume bits.

Of course you can take existing costumes, such as that amazing 1980’s sequin frock and change it into a burlesque stripping frock.

A quick general write up about tear away costumes by transforming an existing costume.  And here’s a little more instruction from the same Ehow website.

General advice from me is, if you want an existing garment (one you haven’t sewn) to be transformed into tear-away, sometimes getting a size larger is best.  Unpick the seam you wish to tear away.  Finish the seam again if you want to use this costume a bit more than once or twice.  And then sew snap domes along the seams.

I haven’t had a lot of tear away costumes but here’s some of the pros and cons of fasteners.

Velcro

Pros

  • Simple to sew on (straight lines)
  • Once closed, wont come apart mid performance
  • Come in a range of colours

Cons

  • Once closed, wont come apart mid performance, without you really having to yank it
  • The bristles can damage delicate fabrics such as lace and netting
  • Makes a noise when you are opening.  Riiiiippppp!
  • Matching colours can be hard to find.
Advice – sometimes the velcro dots are a better choice, being that they are a smaller area of grip they should come apart easier than say, a whole armpit.

Buttons

Pros

  • Quiet to undo
  • Come in a range of colours

Cons

  • Takes ages to sew buttons and button holes
  • Hard to undo with gloved hands
  • Takes longer to undo – cant pull away
  • Have to look the part

Gorgeous vintage snaps.

Snaps

Pros

  • Quiet to undo
  • Can pull away – fast
  • Small (audience may not notice them)

Cons

  • Take ages to sew on
  • Sometimes can get damaged if you accidentally stand on them
  •  Only come in two colours, black and silver
  • Can pop open around stress points (tight areas such as hips and curvy areas)

 Hooks and eyes

Pros

  • Quiet to undo
  • Small (audience should not notice them)
  • Easy to undo
  • Wont come open in stress points

Cons

  • Can be hard to undo with gloves
  • Can get snagged on fishnet tights, corset laces etc.
  • Takes a while to sew
  • Again, selected few colours

Ribbon or ties

Pros

  • Looks pretty
  • Quick to attach

Cons

  • Can get knotted easily
  • Can come undone and item falls off mid performance.

Advice – quite often you aren’t looking when you untie your bows, which may result in pulling the wrong part.  I suggest adding flair such as fringe or beading to the ends (something that feels different to the bow) or a sequin to the ends of the ribbon, so your hands feel for the sequin or beads and you can feel confident pulling that part.

I also advise grosgrain ribbon based on an experience of my  bustle falling off mid performance.  I used satiny ribbon which slipped it’s knot and came undone and fell off from underneath my frock.  Grosgrain is not satiny, and has a sort of rough surface and therefore has more grip.

Test, test and test some more. I have a show apron that ties behind my neck.  I never fully tie it up, and just do one knot.  I know that I can move around for up to two minutes before it starts slipping, its made of cotton and therefore not slippery.  I also know that previously when tied properly that I have had ‘that’ moment practising when it knots itself and I can’t get it to come off.  Since it’s worn on top of the rest of my costume, its a fairly huge risk.  Simply tying one knot, no bow, and leaving the ends in a place I can easily find them works.

Snaps and fasteners available locally

Zips

Pros

  • Lovely smooth sexy reveal
  • Quiet
  • Effortless
  • Come in all colours

Cons

  • Not great for a fast reveal
  • Have to find zips long enough.  Some places you can custom order by length
  • Once damaged, fairly laborious to replace

There are other options, such as pins and safety pins, magnet fasteners and even glue.

Have you got any favourite fasteners – or links to costume makers?  If you need more inspiration look on You Tube for costume sewing, or search for bellydancing costume tutorials.

Looky Links – – >  Frank’s tear-away suit  Jo Boobs Weldon on Costumes   Interview with Melody Mangler  Main Features to a burlesque costume

2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Hester says:

    I’ve been using some nylon snaps (http://www.greenbeans.co.nz/snap-presses-snaps-die-sets.html) and quite like them. They are stronger than the teeny sew-on ones and come in a bunch of colours. You can get them in three sizes, which means different strengths. I have only used the size 20 (largest) ones so far but will probably try the small ones for things i want to tear away more easily. They’re also pretty cheap. The downside is that you need a press to apply them, which costs about $70 including a die set. People in Wellington can use mine, though, and others can ask around on http://thenappynetwork.org.nz/forum/viewforum.php?f=46&sid=7d470f860fdeea48f8b1dec888cd5b11 (yes, they’re used in making modern cloth nappies, which are awesome) because plenty of people are happy to let others use theirs.

    Also, on zips, you can get continuous zip (cut to the length you want) at Spotlight. It’s bigger, um, gauge(?) than dress zips so should hold up to wear and tear better and be less inclined to getting stuck, but I haven’t actually tried it. Jo Weldon mentioned that she uses “sleeping bag” zip for costumes and I think this may be similar. It only comes in a couple of colours – I think black and white but may be beige.

    Apologies for writing an essay.

  2. Miss LaBelle says:

    Thank you for your essay Hester. Very helpful.

About Miss La Belle

Hi. I'm a Wellington burlesque dancer and dance teacher. I enjoy having a great giggle in class whilst I teach lovely lasses to dance and to enjoy feminity. Vintage dresses and lingerie are my passion. I love chocolate but dislike pumpkin. I love coffee but loathe licorice. In 2010 I won Miss Burlesque New Zealand with a housewife turns pirate act. You can follow me on Facebook.
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