Tear You Apart: in front of everyone and Dolly!

EE791333-030B-459B-8C81-948C2E850496Occasionally I am either gifted or find glorious dresses that would make fantastic burlesque costumes, but since my rack-ready body has never arrived, I’m unable to use them as they are built and have to get creative. The blessed day these beautiful vintage gowns arrived was actually years ago. That lovely little… and I mean little… blue number on the bottom of the photo waited patiently for several years before inspiration and motivation stuck on how to morph it into a haute couture Bearcat dream.

The Costume:

The original lining, shoulder pads, and poofy tulle sleeves were sent out to pasture and I also cut off one sleeve entirely to have some spare pieces of the sequin applique to spread around. I thought I would be able to just add a slit down the back and up the leg and that would be enough to give me room, but oops… I gained like 50 pounds since the first time I tried it on and it didn’t fit then so no amount of butter and wishful thinking would slide me into it now. I had to keep slitting lower and lower down the back, higher and higher up the leg, and add another slit on the opposite side to make space for my body. I was left with flaps of old beaded blue gown sadly flapping on my body like a shredded kite. Some spare “nude” fabric later and I was able to make some kind of structure happen.  I added some godet type features to the bottom to give shape.  I used a yard of fancy fabric to create “applique” by cutting the shapes away from the mesh, a cost friendly alternative to buying dozens of applique. I realized that my beautiful abstract dream dress had several peep show treasures where my body showed, which was part of the objective, but also a serendipitous feature of how much I had to reveal to make it fit on me.  I wanted to get the most of these parts, so I added tear-away pieces over a few fleshy spots. They aren’t the best in regards to construction, but since they were made with scraps and as an afterthought, I’m still pleased with it.

GloveGloves –  it’s a burlesque staple, so why not? I wanted another item to remove besides just the dress. But what do you do when you shove your meaty forearm into a glove and it splits like a hotdog in the microwave? Well… just make the glove as abstract as the dress I suppose. I had to trim the edges with extra pieces of the applique to make a purposeful peep hole on the side. Then I thought, “While I’m at it, I’ll just cut off some of the fingers since the entire finger area was snug on my rockbiter hands”. I was delighted with the beautiful absurdity of the glove. Not need for gloves.  One was perfect.

ShoesBy the time I got around to the shoes, I had no money to spare. I shopped around until I found a pair of used shoes online and spent my eBay bucks. I dyed them blue with a homemade dye of sharpie innards and alcohol, and rhinestoned them to the point of obliterating any recognition of their former selves, like they were entering witness protection. Lately, I’ve been replacing all buckles on shoes with snaps. it’s proven a valuable asset since I neither want to 1: attempt to contort my achy potato sack body to buckle shoes in a graceful manner, nor 2: ask for help (It’s a problem I have.  It mentally hurts me to ask for help. I’m working on it.)

I built the feather fans myself, so they aren’t perfect, but I’m pleased with how they turned out.  I didn’t have enough money to get feathers as long as I would have liked, but I had four layers worth, making these very full in the middle, better to hide me with my dear. (Feather fan building tips post will happen in the future.)

Goonies.jpgI wanted the under layer to be just as odd as the outer layer. I just started forming things together and ended up with a situation on the side that reminded me of the necklace from The Goonies I coveted as a youth. As it turns out, I did not grow up to find pirate booty, but I subconsciously built myself treasure panties.

The Challenge: 

Soarking OakI wanted to challenge myself to be more serious and sexy, or at least not to be funny or default to my usual self. I also wanted the challenge of pairing this glamorous costume with an unexpected song.  So shuffling through my music, I landed upon “Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge.  Perfect.  Also perfect because I had to tear the dress apart to make it and would be tearing it apart on stage.

The Experiences:

I have had the fortunate opportunity to perform this act for several different producers in the MD, DC, VA, PA area and I hope to continue to find opportunities to share it. I was able to use this act repeatedly in an immersive theater series.  It was a rare opportunity to do an act over and over in front of an audience to actively refine it. I am so fortunate to have been part of TBD Immersive’s Cabaret series, and will forever remember and appreciate the people I met, the unique venues where I performed with them, and the stores told within that series.



Bijou MarqueeBijouI was thrilled to have this act accepted to the 2019 Smoky Mountain Burlesque Festival. On top of that, I would be performing at the Bijou, a beautiful historic theater in Knoxville. Those feelings of excitement and terror jiggled inside of me for months. As it turns out, they’d be amplified by learning that DOLLY PARTON would be watching the show. We share a birthday and now we’ve shared space.  The festival is amazing enough, having Dolly Parton there was gilding the lily, and the magnolia. One of my favorite moments was backstage after the show, just before taking a group photo when she said “I haven’t had this much fun since filming Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and hearing this subtle, but charming collective breath that the performers all took after she spoke. It was the audible evidence that this moment would be remembered and valued proudly by everyone huddled in that sparkly heap of entertainers, all with eyes glued on one of the best entertainers and people around. Thank you Dolly! Thank you SMBF!

DOlly 1Dolly



Let Me Be Cake

cupcake.jpgSometimes, you just don’t get it right the first time, or the second, or third. And that’s ok! This is the case of my cake act. There I was, in my living room with Johnnie Moxie trying on a plain cheap white hoop skirt that I had other intentions for, when I pulled it up to my neck and she gleefully proclaimed that I looked like a cupcake. We both wore it and essentially reenacted the YouTube video of the little girl running around her room shouting, “I’m a cupcake! I’m a cupcake! I’m a cupcake!” and that’s why I now have a cupcake costume.

dc-front.jpgI have this uncanny ability to get in over my head just the right amount. That combined with my need to be thrifty, I decided that I was going to build this costume using hundreds of yards of ribbon from the Berwick Offray outlet nearby to represent icing. Let me tell you about the glorious bounty that is the Berwick Offray outlet!  It’s a little corner shop of the factory building in Hagerstown, MD filled with boxes of ribbon you can procure for pennies! You can buy a spool with hundreds of yards for a few dollars, or if you’re super stingy you can buy the bags full of loose ribbon for like a quarter or less and just wind it up at your leisure. I had a completely different color scheme in mind, but as true outlets go, you have to work with what they have. I settled on purple, pink, and white. Thus began the tireless and frustrating journey of turning a hoop skirt, corset, bra, garter and old slip into an icing-ed dream. I made the ruffle trim using the ribbon – a monotonous, but not difficult task. Then I had to painfully sew layer upon layer of trim to the base pieces. I used silver wired ribbon to make a “wrapper” on the bottom. One particular day, I was crafting with my pal Lady Bladie. I was about 90% finished this delicious monstrosity when I abruptly stopped and just had myself a quiet tantrum moment. “I don’t want to do this anymore” was my sweaty, tired, teary mantra for at least ten minutes before returning to my machine.

Sewing complete (for now). How did I get it wrong? I tried to make an act. Nothing fit.  I performed as cake to several songs, adding some cute sparkly oven mitts at one point, and it just didn’t fit.  The glitter goddess felt pity on me and my pile of ribbon and fed my brain an idea. I decided not to start as the cake, but end that way. I mean… that’s all I wanted anyway during my living room laps, just to be a cupcake. Let me be cake! Let them eat cake. Good job brain. Back to the costuming to create a new way to start the act. Fortunately, because this happen in phases I had had plenty of time to get over my stitching and bitching. This latest version feels like the right recipe. Like always, it has costume and choreography repairs, but it’s a better product than it was. I performed it the 2018 DC Burlypicks mainly for the opportunity to do the new version and ended up placing second runner up. This made me proud and I’m hoping to finish some more work on it and have the opportunity to perform again sometime next year.

With the new storyline, I needed some Rococo hair. I loathe wigs and also needed the ability to remove the hair to place my cherry at the end.

My solution: Build a hat that is hair.

My dilemma: How do I do that?

My problem: How do I do that and make it secure for much of the act, but easily removable?

My other problem: How do I do that without money?

My other other problem: How do I do that at 2:00am when I should be sleeping, but I’m building costumes instead.

I rummaged around until I decided that I would cut up an empty plastic pretzel tub and use Modge Podge to build white curls, one layer at a time. Well, sure. This is what’s in my brain. I also decided that I would solve my problem of fastening and removal by cutting holes on opposite ends and using a stick passed through one hole – through my real hair in a bun – then through the other hole. It worked. It’s Sturdy enough to stay and I have the ability to remove it with just the sliding of a stick. What I don’t have are progress photos. I color my hair with temporary white spray and use a wrap I made out of ribbon that clips on the back along my lower hairline.  This hides my hair when the “hat” is on and leave something pretty for after I take it off. Problems solved! My good feelings about this one started to replace my bad feelings, which was enough to motivate me to make matching shoes.


SUCCESSES: I made a unique costume and powered through the lengthy process of continuing to upgrade, add costume pieces, and finding the right music and meaning. I got over my need to have multiple uses for footwear and made a specific pair of shoes devoted to this act.

faceOOPS!-ORTUNITIES: There is a tear away ribbon skirt attached to the corset that is done in such a way that the corset needs to be a specific width to match up to the snaps.  It’s a bit of an annoyance, but more importantly… I’m not the same size. Until I have the time to change it, I’ll be trying to put 10 pounds of sugar in a 5 pound bag. The costume itself is cumbersome and does not make for a quick costume change as a second act. The white hair somewhat prevents it from being a first act.  This act must come as a solo performance or with enough time for costume or hair changes.