My signature act is When You’re Good to Mama, sung by Queen Latifah. I debuted as a burlesque performer with it and I’m pretty protective of it, I love it so. However, I knew that after 3 years, it was time to update it. I had a very focused idea on what I wanted to change so my act was still recognisable but had extra pizazz! I’ve realised that quite a lot of my acts have black costumes (what can I say, it’s slimming!) and I wanted to move away from defaulting to black all the damn time. As I planned around the changes I wanted to make I started researching things like prison dresses, quick changes and even glue! It’ll all make sense soon… promise.
So although this version of the act always went down a treat, I know Mama needed a little more colour and sparkle. I wanted to evoke the drama of the fantasy sequence of the movie but ground it in the idea of the prison. I grabbed onto the idea of a quick change move, but despite all my searching I realised that the move is a closely guarded secret among the magicians of the trick. I had to improvise.
I settled on the idea of having a drab, too big ‘prison’ dress, with a gown hidden underneath to be revealed at the right moment. I found a massive button down denim maxi dress in a charity shop that I shortened to knee high, and cut away the small amount of frippery to turn it into a basic, utilitarian dress. I intended to hide snap poppers behind the buttons for ease of removal, but I realised that by using an elasticated belt to hold the reveal dress underneath I could forego the snap poppers, place the buttons over just so and be able to unbuckle the belt and remove the denim dress in one fluid motion. The reveal dress was more difficult to find, so precise was my idea for it. Eventually I just pulled out my sewing machine and hit the fabric shop. I found a gorgeous bronzed gold fabric (on sale!) that was 2 way stretch. I took photos of it with and without flash to see how it would look, and I was so excited to work with it! Easily enough, I turned it into a full length wrap dress with a deep cut back. I fastened Velcro dots in two hidden places at the front, although I’ll probably replace them with magnets eventually.The photo below doesn’t do it justice, it drapes beautifully! While at the fabric shop I also found striped black and gold material which I loved, sort of the mix between the prison and fantasy, as well as looking like prison bars! I made some high waisted pants and covered the cups of a (frankly amazing) Primark bra*.
I was almost done. Even though I still want to do more to the costume, time got away from me. I was due to perform at Flaming Tease Edinburgh and I’d lost a few days to injury. I was confident with what I had though, and couldn’t wait to see how my vision translated into reality. In front of an audience mixed with people new to the act and people who loved it, I was looking forward to seeing the reaction. Ever get that fist pump, fuck yeah I nailed it feeling? Yup. My gold dress was folded up underneath and completely hidden, so when I dropped the denim dress the audience went wild! I’m grinning so hard just thinking about it. When I came off stage I stood shaking for a solid 10 minutes with pure adrenaline. I didn’t even have that reaction after my very first performance!
Like I said, there’s still more I want to do to the costume. A burlesquer’s work is never done! I want to add black AB crystals to the black stripes of the bra and knickers as well as the gore and wings of the bra, add embellishments to the gold dress that’ll not weigh it down, and get a prison guard badge for the denim dress. I also want this wig, and to update my dollar fan (read – make bigger!). Finally, I’ve spoke to Lady V about doing me new pasties, which I think will look awesome as dollar signs, of course. Mama is all about money, honey!
All in all, I’m super happy with the changes I’ve made to the costume and to the routine. I may have lost the funny ‘can’t get the glove off’ bit, but I’ve gained an amazing new dress from it! I’ll be looking at the make up I’ll now be doing in another post, but for now – whatcha think of my new goodies? When I get the video from Flaming Tease I’ll update this post with it so you can do a proper comparison, I just couldn’t wait to write about this til then!
*I’ll be doing a separate post on this bra. I’m the first to admit I’m a snob about bras, but this may change my mind on Primark bras!