nz burlesque

Night & Day | 1920’s Burlesque Costumes

Night & Day | 1920’s Burlesque Costumes

If you’re a follower of New Zealand burlesque, you’ll already be enamoured with Dahlia and Trillian, the Ballet School Dropouts. If you’re not, get acquainted with them now. You won’t regret it. (I mean now, hit that link already!)

The Ballet School Dropouts perform as duets and soloists, delivering gorgeous 1920’s inspired performances. They capture the breathless extravagance of the era like no other act I’ve seen. Their Night and Day act pays tribute to the artwork of Erté and the music of Cole Porter, encompassing the beauty and decadence of the Art Deco period. When they approached me with their concept I knew it would be a challenge, but I was also absolutely in love with the aesthetic they were after.

Ballet School Dropouts Night and Day Art Deco burlesque wearing costumes by Velvet DeCollete 4


The Costume Concept

All costumes start with inspiration. Dahlia and Trillian are wonderfully organised, and sent me images of Art Deco statuettes, Erté illustrations and rough sketches. Their theme was dusk and dawn, incorporating flowing fabrics with heavier drapes, Grecian influences and colours borrowed from the sky. My job was translate their inspirations into garments that were beautiful, durable enough for stagewear and met some very special requirements for their choreography.

While designing I focused on the fluid lines of Erte and Paul Poiret, since uncluttered elegance would highlight the visual strength of the Ballet School Dropout’s tableau style choreography. The headdresses were already under construction by the talented Skull Stylist, so I sent photos and fabric swatches to ensure our costume pieces were cohesive.


Ballet School Dropouts burlesque wearing night and day costumes by Velvet DeCollete 5

Ballet School Dropouts Night and Day Art Deco burlesque wearing costumes by Velvet DeCollete 4

Layers, Fabrics and Construction

Heavily sequined fabric forms the top layer of drapery. Lined with satin and sparkling in silver and antique gold, this layer represents the sun, moon and stars. I carried the metallic tones into the painted vege-leather arm and neck bands.

To capture the essence of sunrise and sunset I chose diaphanous shot silk chiffon for the base layer of drapery. As the fabric swirls the colours shift between blue and purple, dusky rose and orange, just like the sky at daybreak and sunset. During this part of the act, the sheer drapery magically transforms from an asymmetric gown to an open cape attached to both arms. The mechanism behind this enchanting reveal took more than a few trial runs to perfect! Hemmed with a very fine rolled edge, the chiffon is unadorned, allowing maximum fluidity.


Ballet School Dropouts Night and Day Art Deco burlesque wearing costumes by Velvet DeCollete 4

Ballet School Dropouts Night and Day Art Deco burlesque wearing costumes by Velvet DeCollete 4


Art Deco patterns informed the lingerie and armband design. The shimmering harness draws two triangles on the torso, continuing the top line of the underwear.  Hand cut sunray vege -leather embellishments on the arm and neckbands reveal chiffon sandwiched between their layers. The bands themselves glitter thanks to geometric beaded trim.

I hand painted the underwear with sunray motifs in graduated tones, to match the chiffon and beading on the garters. ( I really love making beaded tassels, so they swing from the neckband and garters of this costume.) Dahlia and Trillian did a beautiful job of rhinestoning the painted areas to match their sunray pasties!


Ballet School Dropouts burlesque wearing costumes by Velvet DeCollete 1


A huge thank you to Roxy of Paradox Photography for these performance photos.
I don’t often see garments once they leave my workroom, so I got butterflies seeing these on stage!

If you’re in the mood for more burlesque costumes, you might like to explore my Flamingo Follies post, or the costume I created for international burlesque performer MisRed Delicious.

With Style and Sass,

Velvet DeCollete

Posted by velvetdecollete in FASHION STORIES, 2 comments
Flamingo Follies | A Razzle Dazzlers Burlesque Duet

Flamingo Follies | A Razzle Dazzlers Burlesque Duet

We’re flamingos!

I had so much fun teaming up with my girl Clementine for this hilarious tropical duet at The Blue Moon Ball. The fantastic thing about working with your close friends is that choreography comes easy (along with laughs, dorky expressions and an artery clogging dose of cheesiness!). We named ourselves The Razzle Dazzlers as an homage to the sequin encrusted vaudeville shows of old.

Taking flight to a mix of Sway by the Puppini Sisters and Merengue from the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack – possibly my favourite album ever just by the way – this act was all about shimmy fringe, sequins and synchronised showgirl moves. Oh and cute facials, can’t forget the cute facials!

Here’s a selection of my favourite action shots from Showtime Photography, Peter Jennings and Nicolas Plaire. Take a stroll over to Clementine or I’s facebook pages if you’d like to see more, we’d love to see you!

peter jennings The Razzle Dazzlers flamingo follies

Peter Jennings | The Razzle Dazzlers Flamingo Follies

Flamingo Costumes

We designed these costumes to be utter 1950’s / 1060’s kitsch. With one wing each, we can create one whole flamingo, or two iconic flamingo profiles. With all our shimmy shakin’ we also needed a rodeo worth of fringe to show off all that movement!

Our bras and torso fringing connect to the knickers so they stay night and taut while we’re moving, but can be removed with the flick of a wrist.

Peter jennings | The Razzle Dazzlers Flamingo Follies

Costumes | Clementine & Velvet Decollete

With Style and Sass,

   Velvet DeCollete

Posted by velvetdecollete in FASHION STORIES, PINUP, 1 comment
Character Development & Stage Emotion | Insider Secrets from Lilly Loca

Character Development & Stage Emotion | Insider Secrets from Lilly Loca

We’ve all had it. The light bulb moment when someone dishes some truth and leaves you wondering why no one told you years ago. Whatever your industry, insider secrets are gold. Luckily for you I’ve been working harder than a film noir sleuth, tailing talented creatives and making back alley deals to bring you a briefcase full of shiny, gold insider secrets…

This week’s wisdom comes from the multi- talented Mistress of Disguise, vaudevillian Lilly Loca!

As performers and human beings the worst thing we can do is stop learning, there’s always opportunities to improve yourself and your craft! which is why I’m so happy that Lily has graciously shared some of her top tips for developing character and emotion in your acts. Usually reserved for her students, this is your one chance to get your hands on some high quality insider product.

” Hello! My name is Nat (aka. Lilly Loca). I have many hats, but the ones I’m going to pop on to delve into a few of my ‘insider secrets’ are my drama teacher, burlesque teacher and performing artist hats. Below are a few simple tips on how to develop a characters physical movement, how to portray emotion and simple tips on the basics of communication with your audience. To get more, you’ll need to attend some of my classes!

  1. When developing how a character moves, I find it best if you (quite literally) start from the ground up.
    Explore walking around the room, moving your weight to different parts of your feet. To start, walk around in neutral (aka. your own walk). Don’t exaggerate it, just start to notice how you walk. Are you slightly pidgeon-toed? Do you let your arms swing about beside you? What kind of tension do you hold in your body? Now, once you’ve observed yourself for a while, try walking around on your tippy toes (i.e. All your body weight is on the balls of your feet). While walking around, notice how your body compensates for the change in weight (i.e. Are you standing up taller? Are your arms more rigid? Is your chest open or closed? Is your chin pointed up or down?).Now, with every couple of steps heighten the movements until you’re totally over the top. Then start thinking of what kind of stereotypical person may walk around like this. What kind of voice would they have? Are they male or female? Old or young? What key personality traits would they have? I typically do this exercise with a group of people and at this point I ask for them to go and interact with another person in the group. You’ll find quite interesting results! But if you’re by yourself, just feel free to observe. Now do this exercise by putting weight on other parts of your feet, etc, This will help you to get a base idea for how your character (depending on who exactly your character is) might walk and how they might fall into a stereotypical category. For example, a lot of the time, a common character people come up with for tippy toes is a snooty, posh elderly lady or a ballerina. ( Certainly not her road working alter ego pictured below!)
    Lilly Loca Drag King | The Beckoning Blog
  1. I was trained in the teachings of Stanislavski. There’s many “methods” out there, such as Meisner, etc, but I prefer to use Stan-the-Man (That’s how we will refer to him from now on).
    He believed there was important principles that a actor should follow in order to portray a character as realistically as possible on stage. Some of these principles don’t quite work for burlesque, but one I will tell you about is Emotional Memory. As humans, we feel. It’s a part of what makes us, us. Stan-the-Man believed that we should use our emotional experiences to empower our roles on the stage. So, for example. If you are developing an act where you are portraying a strong emotion such as grief, you’d meditate on your own personal experiences of when you’ve felt grief in your life. What key emotions flood to the surface when you meditate on this? Not all acting or performance is Shakespearean and over-the-top. If you honestly FEEL the emotion you are trying to portray, your audience will too.
    Sometimes the most moving of acts are the most subtle physically, but the emotion roars and vibrates louder than any physical act could show.

Lilly Loca Burlesque

  1. The way we as humans know how other people feel is by three simple factors: facial expression, body language and tone. We all know when someone is angry, happy, sad, etc.. Because we ourselves have experienced this. Although we may all be vastly different personality wise, we all tend to react to various situations, or recognize others reactions to situations, in a similar way.
    So, when you are on stage, really think about how you are communicating with your audience, are you making eye contact? Are you open or closed with your body language? Are you inviting them in or shunning them away?

Lilly Loca Burlesque

  1. “The Fourth Wall” is a concept created by thespian Bertold Brecht. He believed that the audience should be whole heartedly invited into the action of the play or performance by removing what he called “The Fourth Wall”. Think of a stage. Now think of the four sides of the stage having walls. Now think of removing the wall between the audience and yourself. Now, breaking TFW is more than just consciously removing a metaphoric wall, it’s about inviting your audience in by communication (see post above).
    Circus and burlesque shows are very much involved in breaking TFW – they even go as far as having performers intermingle with the audience themselves. Keep it in mind when you develop your next act – you know you are not just bound to the limitations of the stage.

I run my own academy called Bambina Burlesque Academy, where I teach drama and burlesque to anyone and everyone who is keen to give it a go. I like to think my background in theatre and being a qualified drama teacher helps give me an edge that perhaps other burlesque teachers don’t have. I offer private lessons as well as group lessons, so if you’re keen to give my classes a go, see the below links!


If you’re a performer who hasn’t seen Lilly Loca onstage, I strongly recommend you do. She’s incredibly versatile and is a fine example of someone who hasn’t pigeonholed themselves into one style. I haven’t attended one of her classes yet (because this broke showgirl is saving for a trip to CUBA!), but due to her mountain of technical knowledge they’re on my to do list.

PS:  Lilly has a beginners burlesque half day intensive coming up on July 23rd – RSVP and check out more info here.

Posted by velvetdecollete in PINUP, 1 comment