How terrifying is it as a strip tease artist when you get stuck in that dress or that corset and you are running out of bars til that final reveal? We have all been there. Running to the side of the stage to get the help of a kitten to release us from that prison. Or the time when that bra kept coming undone before it was supposed to come off. Those are the lowlights of our worst shows.
Some of those costume malfunctions are avoidable.
Here are my top 7 least favorite malfunctions and what I do about them:
7 Popping Pasties
6 Poorly designed releases
5 Too close for comfort
4 Tights coming out
3 Losing wigs
2 Failing head pieces
I have never popped a pastie in the last four years of performing burlesque. Well…more like my pastie didn’t come off because of lack of adhesive, it came off because my swivel loop caught on my tights as I high kicked and ripped that baby right off!! Luckily it was my last kick after my act was done and I was walking offstage and the lights were dimming. That’s why I don’t count it as popping a pastie.
If you want to learn how I tape my pasties to avoid the undesirable POP! Read here.
Poorly Designed Releases
Whether your costume piece comes off too soon or you can’t get out of it in time, some of those malfunctions can be avoided with properly designed releases. My favorite way to get out of costumes are hooks and snap tape. They take more time to install than zippers, but they are easier to release when your adrenaline is peaking onstage.
Another way to avoid release mishaps is to rehearse in costume. I know it’s a huge pain to keep taking it off to redo all the fasteners and then take it off again, but rehearsing and getting a feel for the chosen releases can do wonders for your confidence onstage. That’s what you want right? A confident performance?
Too close for comfort
I was gifted a pair of trunks to wear under my ballet tutus when I was a young girl. I didn’t understand why until I got into a professional company. They protect your costumes from you and the need to wash them all the time. Personal g strings work the same way.
When I arrived at Jubilee, I had to be schooled. I had no idea what the use of a cloth triangle with an elastic band was for. But they required that I buy some and wear them under my fishnets.
I was thankful for them. They protected my lady parts from the rigors of wearing fishnets for 5-6 hours a day. They also helped keep my costumes clean. (I miss having a dresser to maintain my costumes…)
As a burlesquer, my movements are more open to the audience (i.e. wide leg forward fold facing away from the audience without pants on anyone?) So I prefer to wear a personal g under all my costumes. It keeps the maintenance time spent down on cleaning and allows for a bit more modesty, which I happen to need.
Don’t let a panty slip prevent you from getting booked again. Slap on an extra pair of panties and protect yourself and your costumes.
Tights coming out
One of the things I see the most often at burlesque shows is women’s tights hanging out of the tops of their panties. It was absolutely unprofessional to let your tights hang out at Jubilee—like allowing the audience a peek up your skirt. I’m sure that before my time the dancers were fined if it happened.
It is easily avoidable. All it takes is a sewing needle and a few medium sized hooks to sew into the inside of the panties to “catch” the panties from leaking out at the top. It looks more professional and adds value to you as a performer.
Ever lost a wig onstage? It’s embarrassing and destroys the façade of the illusion you created in the first place. Luckily, it can be avoided—even with a pixie haircut underneath.
I like to sew a hair comb into every single one of my wigs and falls. That’s the trick. Super easy and you’ll never have a fail. You can pin your wig or fall in on the bottom to leverage and you’re golden.
Failing head pieces
This is another one of those avoidable issues. It can be distracting to you and your performance if you haven’t secured your head piece or fancy fascinator to your head. I’ve seen MANY performers lose something or rip it out during their act because it was malfunctioning.
My favorite ways to combat that are to sew combs and/or horsehair to pin into when securing it to my head. And if you need it to come off during your act? Plan for it and rehearse for that. That’s what a dress rehearsal is about. Getting all the bugs out—hair, makeup and all.
And now, my number one least favorite malfunction?
I hate them with a passion. They are my arch nemesis and anytime I employ them onstage or in real life, they fail me.
There really isn’t much recourse to prepare for a failed zipper. Except to NOT use them. But sometimes you must. Prepare to take that dress or skirt in many times to have the zipper replaced. It’s just the nature of the beast.
One thing that can help is to “soap the zipper.” It is a method of lubricating it so that it opens and closes more smoothly.
A lot of costume malfunctions you experience can be avoided by simply rehearsing over and over. As well as maintaining your costumes in good working order and making them or paying someone to make them to last for the long haul. Getting in and out of costumes can wear on even the best made costumes. You just have to prepare for it and improvise if and when it fails you.
I hope these tips help! If you want to learn more about maintenance and constructing costumes for sustainability, join me in my Showgirl Shortcuts Series beginning April 7!
Tell me about your worst malfunctions and how/what you changed to avoid it from happening again.
Athena, aka Gazella