Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Burlesque Costume - Kiss of the Cobra Woman

Today I'm posting about one of my burlesque acts, called "Kiss of the Cobra Woman", specifically the costume and how it came into being. It's a homage to the Sci-Fi Queens of 1950s B movies and to date is the most complicated costume I've ever made. It took months of head scratching, frustration and eye twitching before it was ready for the stage.

I had a picture in my head of exactly how I wanted the costume to look and even though at times I thought it wasn't physically possible to achieve it I kept trying and am very proud of the finished results. It's had a few tweaks since its first performance and there are still little bits that I think could be better. I like that it's evolving as it goes along though.

In my last post (found here) I showed a picture of the pattern I used to make the dress, which was to be the outer layer of the costume. After I'd pinned the pattern I deliberately left extra fabric below the original calf length line, tapering it along the seam lines so that I could turn it into a longer, almost hobble, dress. Once I'd decided on the final hem length the back split was altered so that a zip could be inserted right to the bottom, although not being able to find a zip long enough I had to compromise and use a couple of heavy duty press studs to close the few inches gap above the hem. Above the waist I followed the pattern exactly and after the pieces were sewn together it took a few adjustments (ok about 6........ish) to make the waist sit as tight as I needed it to be. I was pretty smug pleased with how neat my darts were! To finish off the bottom hem I attached gathered layers of bronze netting to make a stiff frill which took the whole length of the dress pretty much to the floor.

Excuse the awful quality photos - I never imagined I'd ever put them online!
The hood was unfortunately nowhere near as simple as the dress to construct and was the main cause of the previously mentioned frustration and eye twitching. It needed to be sturdy but lightweight, able to stand up on its own but also fold away behind me during the act. It needed to detach easily and I wanted it to come off before the dress but have no visible straps across my body or around my shoulders. I'd set myself a challenge hadn't I!

I don't want to write in too much detail about the construction of the hood as it's a very specialised piece of work that I don't want to be copied but after experimenting with various types of corset boning, wire and wooden struts (which were pretty much ruled out before I'd even tried, knowing how easily costumes can get damaged or accidentally crushed in suitcases) I found the perfect (and completely bizarre) combination of materials to keep my hood "perky".

Then the really fun part began. Embellishments! When I first started to gather materials for the costume I picked up a black and gold snake skin fabric that I originally intended to make the whole dress with. I changed my mind for a couple of reasons; it was too thin and wouldn't hide the second layer of costume at all unless it was heavily lined and I wasn't sure how well the print would work as it's quite a small pattern. In the end I decided to use that fabric for the gloves only and decorated the dress with a black sequin applique I'd been waiting for the right project for and a mixture of gold bugle beads and sequins spreading up the dress from the bottom frill.

After a few performances I wasn't happy with how it was looking so I cut them all off and had a re-think (two days before I was next due to perform the act - probably not the best idea). I went back to the snake skin fabric and made a pile of diamond shaped appliques out of it, spreading them in a snake-like pattern up the dress. Once they were sewn in place I picked a few diamonds to highlight with sequins and also covered the left shoulder with gold bling. Much better!

Playing around with trim

Hood nearly finished
I wanted the underneath layer of the costume to have softer colours, almost like the underbelly of a snake, so I chose pinks and soft golds. The bra was covered with gathered chiffon and edged with gold braid. The straps were converted to a halterneck with a hook and eye fastening. I added a few pinky coloured sequins to add a subtle sheen under the lights and some beaded trim under the cups.

The panel skirt used the same pink chiffon, gold braid and beaded trim with another hook and eye fastening for quick removal.

The finished dress and hood!

For those who live in the South of the UK I'll be bringing this act to Kinky and Quirky on Saturday (27th August 2011). There are only a few tickets left so snap them up quick if you fancy coming along!

Here's a sneaky pic of the "Cobra Woman" in action, taken at The Wet Spot Burlesque & Cabaret show in Leeds by InaGlo Photography.

Scarlett  x

1 comment:

  1. Having seen that in action on the Honeys stage, it's fab to see it taken apart like that. Bravo lady - it's a bloody triumph! :)

    Gem x