Burlesque :: The Kapowder Room Secrets

The Kapowder Room Secrets is a fortnightly column in which Konnie Kapow investigates the various themes and styles to be found on Folksy.

Let’s uncover some masterpieces, blow off the dust from those ole boxes and switch on the big light over there…

… ooh! What’s this?  Behind a giant fan there’s a box marked “Burlesque

So what is Burlesque?

There seem to be differing opinions around as to where the term burlesque comes from.  However, they all seem to come back to a joke or mocking imitation.  The word itself dates back to at least the 14th century and denotes a performance incorporating elements of the risque and sometimes the grotesque.  Burlesque performers are usually women who often dress up as men as part of their act  which has evolved to incorporate elements of the striptease. The great burlesque performers include Sally Rand who pioneered the fan dance and Gypsy Rose Lee, subject of the stage and film musical Gypsy.

Nowadays, burlesque has been re-popularised by performers such as Dita Von Teese and Immodesty Blaize who have brought it into the mainstream and caused the term to become prevalent in fashion and lifestyle.  Sue Mochrie of Folksy shop Talulah Blue says “many pubs and clubs up and down the country put on “Burlesque Nights.”  Dancers and a jazz band are hired and the public all turn up wearing vintage style clothing and hats, creating the ambiance of a speakeasy.  The performers do their fan dance or comedy act, which usually ends with a flash of near nakedness and a twirl of their “pasties,” that’s nipple tassles!”

What does burlesque look like?

For Red Sarah of Red Ribbons, burlesque “can look like anything because it imitates life, but the generic media sense of the word is usually associated with glamour, victoriana, sparkle, feathers, vintage“.  Hannah Ashmore of Dolly Bird Boutique describes it as “a treat for the eyes; you get to see beautiful glamorous girls or boys (boylesque) wearing weird and wonderful costumes performing elaborate and exotic moves often set to a soundtrack of vintage beats.” Victoria Hopkins aka Pink Burlesque says, “today the word burlesque conjures up images of fantastic little costumes of feathers, tassels and glitz, seduction with a sense of humour and an sense of sexual female freedom.”

Burlesque style is everywhere at the moment from stars like Scarlett Johansson, Lady GaGa and Katy Perry styling themselves with a distinct nod towards pin up style clothing and make up to the packaging of cosmetic brands such as Benefit and Soap and Glory and Dita Von Teese appearing on the packaging of Perrier water.

Red lipstick is essential to the burlesque look and Talulah Blue points out that “Bettie Page had the most famous burlesque image of modern times and many dancers and fashionistas today emulate her look, the hair style being a short rolled tilted fringe and long bob, with 1950s “the new look” big skirt with petticoat.”

Why has it become so popular?

Participation is a big element of burlesque performance, Sophie Cooke of Imogen’s Imagination says “I see people of all ages, sizes, budgets and looks making a supreme effort to make the best of what they have naturally and looking great for it…if you’re going to a night and don’t know what to wear the simple rule is anything goes as long as you make an effort.”
It’s great too to see that one does not have to be a size zero to be a burlesque performer.  Many are curvy girls with no need or desire to conform to the modern airbrushed images of female perfection.

Dolly Bird Boutique believes that the increase in popularity “is in part due to the huge desire for all things vintage in the fashion world.  There is a real love now for old school glitz and glamour” an opinion shared by Pink Burlesque who attributes the burlesque revival to “nostalgic for the spectacle and glamour it offers with its old world seductive charm.”

How can it be applied to crafting?

Folksy has many shops selling burlesque style wares in addition to boasting several sellers who themselves are burlesque performers.  Red Sarah, award winning burlesque performer and owner of Folksy shop Red Ribbons says “every burlesquer loves to sparkle and are akin to magpies in their need for pretty things, costumes and props.  They need them to be matching so often get them hand made or make them themselves.” Hannah Ashmore of Dolly Bird Boutique is also an award winning burlesque performer under the stage name Miss Dolly Bird, she too loves “creating new pieces of jewellery from recycled items” as a burlesque performer she owns “a lot of costumes and accessories and realised that a lot of the pieces she was creating  were inspired by burlesque and the cute pin up aspect of it”.

Imogen’s Imagination believes that “burlesque and creativeness go hand in hand.  We don’t all have uber budgets to have Mr Pearl design and make our corsets a la Dita…but if you can get a second hand corset on Ebay and are a bit handy with a needle and thread, you can whip yourself up something very special.”

So darlings, there you have it, for info on your nearest Burlesque Events, a good place to start would be The Ministry of Burlesque.  Why not plan a night out and get to work on an amazing outfit!

About the Author of this post…

“Konnie Kapow sells handmade greetings cards and some knitted jewellery she makes when she finds the time and Mr Kapow! her enigmatic and secretive husband paints stuff too! Kapow! Whap!” Connie has a great sense of humour which combined with her talent in design, is what makes her greeting cards so popular! Pay a visit to Connie’s shop to see what she’s been making recently.Twitter :: Blog :: Facebook

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7 Comments

  • August 24, 2010

    Hilary

    I love these photographs – they are pieces of art in themselves.

  • August 24, 2010

    Sue

    Wow, what a great blog you’ve put together. I love reading all the contributions by our various lovely folksy sellers and of course some beautiful photos. Many thanks for adding my bits and pieces and congratulations on your fab post. Will be off to tweet etc ♥

  • August 25, 2010

    Victoria

    Brilliant article, a nice little insight into the world of Burlesque.

  • August 27, 2010

    Lesley

    Great article love the pics quite an insight

  • August 27, 2010

    amyorangejuice

    brill article, great photos!

  • August 27, 2010

    Glenn, SteamPunkGlass

    Great article!

  • September 9, 2010

    Burlesque Life Italia

    Nice article..you should write for http://www.burlesquelife.com !
    Cheers form Italy!