Behind the Scenes: Constructing for deconstruction; or, the art of making a burlesque costume

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the June 20, 2013 edition

“An act shouldn’t be all about your costume, but it’s one of the most important things. It can dictate choreography, it can dictate mood,” said Cherie Blondell, a performer for The Ooh-La-Las Burlesque troupe.

Blondell’s costumes, all of which she makes herself, are some of the best in the Columbus biz of bouncy bits. A workspace downstairs in her Dublin apartment is packed with props, wigs and bras, panties and boustiers dripping in sequins and crystals.

“We will never out-rhinestone Dita [Von Teese] but we can sure try,” she laughed.

As her troupe prepares for its monthly showcase of amateur burlesque at Shrunken Head (Saturday is the second edition of amateur tassel night), Blondell offered some sneak peeks into the secrets of making an awesome burlesque costume.

- Cut the tags. Do this before you even start to alter your undergarments. Nothing says “reality” quite like a tag peeking out from a bra. And ain’t nobody got time for reality during a striptease.

- Alter something. Add sequins, fringe, something! Blondell’s got flower fans, hand-beaded bras, feather headpieces, bustles. “Never hit the stage in something that is not altered. Get creative,” Blondell said. “Burlesque is hyperbole.”

- Don’t go over your head. It’s just like it sounds. Design your costume so you never have to pull something over your head to take off a piece of clothing. You spent a lot of time getting that hair perfect; don’t ruin it.

- Invest in some E6000 super glue and a hot fix glue gun designed for applying crystals to fabric. Only recently did Blondell actually start sewing her costumes.

- When sewing (or hot glue gunning!) fringe onto a pair of panties or a belt, remember that fringe doesn’t stretch. Tack the fringe on so that there are a few extra inches of fringe between each section.

Blondell’s not sharing her recipe for making tassels, however, which she sells and says are the most important part of a burlesque costume (“They keep us legal for less,” she said).

Some things a girl’s gotta keep close to her almost bare chest.