Monday, 30 January 2012

Vintage Events: An interview with Blind Pig Brighton's organiser Carolyn Watt

Hush hush! It’s a Dresscapade exclusive!

Today we have a rather special interview with Carolyn Watt, the lady behind Blind Pig, Brighton’s only burlesque-pole-dancing-speakeasy!

Carolyn is especially welcome here as she is not only a performer but a textiles student with a passion for making her own costumes. I met Carolyn for a chat at the yummy Redwood Coffee House on Trafalgar Street and we had a chat about how she came to be running Blind Pig, her performances and some of her favourite costumes:

FD: So how did you get into organising Blind Pig?
C: Well originally it was as a fundraiser for our final year degree show for textiles that we’re putting on in June. But it was at a time when all of the BA students were still on their placements and it was up to the ten masters students to get started. And in my head I though, this is the only night I know how to put on, mostly due to my experience performing and it’s the kind of night I like.
Unfortunately the other students felt like it wasn’t making quite as much money as we’d hoped so I decided that this event is the first one that’s not going to be a fundraiser, more of a side project for myself.

FD: That’s a quite impressive side project! I guess what I’d like to know is how you got into textiles?
C: I’ve always liked textiles, fashion and costume. I worked on fine art in Edinburgh and started to get more into textiles and applied for Brighton and continued working on it there.

FD: And what about performing and making costumes?
C: I started pole dancing in Edinburgh, doing a course with my friend, then continued when I moved to Brighton. The person that was teaching me here suggested that I should perform at a night that they run (FD: Sirens if you’re interested) so I started doing that and gradually got more and more involved in making my own costumes and making them more dramatic.
Later on I’d did a placement in New York and started working with silks as I didn’t have my pole! From that I became involved with some circus groups in London and got really into it and started helping out with costuming for them. So my work has started heading more towards costume design now. Particularly specialising in aerial costumes. Particularly adapting fabrics and designs for performances to reinforce your clothing and stop it wearing out, all my silk costumes have a little hole on my back where it rubs away. I’ve also been working on adding padding in costumes in certain places as performing can hurt…
Carolyn performing at the O2 in London
FD: It must be quite a work out!
C: Yeah. Laughs

FD: So of the costumes you’ve made for performances do you have any favurites?
C: One of my favourites that I made was for a Black Swan pole dance. So for that I made a basic white tutu with a really beautiful white corset, but underneath I had black tassels and a mini black tutu that was completely hidden. I got my friend to do amazing Black Swan makeup – Its definitely one of my favourites.
Black Swan Pole Performance
I also did a silk rope performance for Greenwich Circus festival where I worked with three other girls dressed as fairies, two good, two bad. This costume was my first real attempt at knitting support panels for body control and extra panelling to stop the costume wearing away. So I really loved those costumes too!
Fellow performer Kirsty wearing the 'evil fairy' costume as part of a show at the Greenwich circus festival
FD: I was also wondering if you had a person or era that inspires you?
C: In terms of Blind Pig I just love flappers! I went to a Charleston day while I was in New York and I think that’s where it all started in my head. Everyone was dressed up and it made me feel like I was in the Great Gatsby or something and I loved reading that when I was younger.
Personally though I just love the 50s, because of the silhouette, that Christian Dior, New Look, hour glass style.
Mad Men's Betty Draper in 'New Look' chic and The Artist's Peppy Miller as a 20s flapper
FD: They're very contrasting looks.
C: Yes I’m torn between the corseted hourglass and the straight up and down flapper look. So yeah, completely contrasting!

FD: The speakeasy nights and electro swing have really taken off, especially in Brighton- but I guess its something you can easily dress the part for.
C: Yeah even if you don’t’ want to go all out you can still get the accessories, the feathers, the pearls and join in. It’s a bit naughty and carefree too.

FD: So do you have any thoughts on what you want to be when you grow up?
C: I do a lot of different things, obviously I run this night but I love performing pole and performing on silk ropes too but I’d love to get into freelance costume design as well, I teach burlesque and pole too… and maybe even silks eventually.

FD: So a bit of a portfolio career then?
C: Yes, while I’ve been at Uni I’ve been trying to do as much free work as possible and hopefully someone will pay me for it eventually (Laughs). I’m also so glad I had the opportunity to work on Blind Pig, it helped a lot to work on it under the fundraising umbrella, it made me feel more secure to just go for it.

FD: Speaking of Blind Pig - You had a mixed line up last time, including a male pole dancer, what can you tell us about the line up this time?
C: Oh yes Ethan (FD: the pole dancer mentioned above) is back! I’m quite excited about the line up this time, I don’t just want to show burlesque but a bigger variety including pole dancing so we can show other ways it can be done. We also have a double pole performance. Which is going to be more acrobatic and a bit more unusual. We have Cherry Bella doing fire again. We have four pole acts and four burlesque acts, one of which is a comedy burlesque husband and wife double act. Then we are going to have a band too - with some upbeat gypsy swing when the acts finish so we can get everyone up dancing. Finally the DJ to take us into the night!

FD: The variety you have is a really entertaining combination!
C: Its good if you don’t really know burlesque, it means there are lots of different things so there’s something for everyone. That’s what makes it exciting. Oh that and the fire…

FD: And the entertainment fits quite well with the Speakeasy theme…
C: Burlesque is linked to the vintage thing so sometimes seeing pole is surprising. Pole has far more of a stigma attached to it, but it can still have that vintage appeal- depending on how its done. But done in the right way it can be quite confidence boosting. I’d recommend it to everyone.

Blind Pig Returns takes place on Friday the 3rd of February at the Proud Brighton Ballroom at 10:30pm.

Tickets are available online or at To Be Worn Again in the North Laines.

You can also follow Blind Pig on Twitter for more updates @BlindPig1920

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Cosplay Inspirations: Ms Marvel

In a months time on the 25th-26th of February I’ll be reporting for Den of Geek from London Super Comic Con!

Alongside queuing to get my comics signed by some of the UK and US’ leading writers and artists - including Stan Lee!!! I’ll also be taking pictures, watching panels and dressing as Ms. Marvel.
Ms. Marvel as drawn by Sana Takeda
This was an interesting choice for me. Ms. Marvel is one of the few Marvel books I have read and I really love the art of Sana Takeda on the late runs of her more recent outing.

Plus I already had the blonde wig so that went some way to help make the decision for me. 

This is the closest I have come in a while to vastly modifying a costume, and will require sewing a lightning bolt on to a black t-shirt and making the red sash for my waist.

I’ll post photos of the progress nearer the time.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Hair & Beauty: The Many Uses of MAC ‘Fluidline’ Gel Eyeliner

Its time to let you in on a little secret! Eyeliner is a not only a girl’s best friend - but also a costumer’s secret weapon.

Dita Von Teese - Queen of Eyeliner
I am quite a big fan of that 50s flick look made famous by Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, Lucille Ball and, most recently, epitomised by Dita Von Teese, and tend to wear black eyeliner almost every day.

My particular favourite is Fluidline made by MAC in Blacktrack.
RRP £14 which may sound a little bit steep but one pot lasts about 8 months of everyday usage… which is a pretty long time.

This eyeliner has a gel-based formula that you apply with a separate brush, also available from MAC (on a side note it is worth noting that it is best to splurge on a good quality brush!), and can be used to apply in various styles.

Here are a few examples from my photo album!

50s Flick

20s line

But! I have also had the opportunity to try it in several other circumstances:

Painting on a mask as Black Cat

Adding seams to my face as Sally

A single thick dark line around the eyes for Ballatrix

Darkening my eyes under a domino mask for Harley Quinn

I really can’t recommend it enough!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Wedding Planning: Scenes From An Impending Marriage

Last weekend my fiancé surprised me with a package from Amazon – and it made me smile so much that I thought I’d share!

A few of you may know that I am planning a wedding and I’m sure any of you that have planned or are in the process of planning a wedding will be aware; it can be a stressful business.

This little Amazon package contained a book: ‘Scenes From an Impending Marriage’ by cartoonist Adrian Tomine.

This is a small book, roughly 5 inches square, and around 40 pages in length. It is comprised of short comic strips featuring conversations and actions that occurred before the authors wedding. Running through events such as choosing a DJ, keeping both family traditions alive and trying to please everyone on the guest list.

I believe it was published as a wedding favour for guests and certainly pokes fun at the whole process of wedding planning.

It is the kind of book that when you read it you think – ‘Oh my gosh! That’s just like us!’

I won’t go into too much detail of the stories, but it manages to remain sweet and poignant and is really worth a read if you need to let off some steam during your wedding planning. 

Monday, 16 January 2012

Casual Cosplay: Sherlock Holmes - The Case of the Uninspired Wardrobe

Hello ladies and gents,

Never have I come home from the cinema and felt quite so compelled to write as after my recent trip to see Sherlock Holmes: A Game ofShadows but don’t worry, you won't be getting any analysis of plot or in-depth translational cinema discussion here.

The thing that inspired me: The Clothes

It is perhaps a strange choice (…or probably not given the context of my blog) after all there have been many more lavish or historically accurate costume dramas over the years but something about this movie really made me take notice. There is, however, the distinct possibility that this is because the lovely Robert Downey Jr reminds me and awful lot of my fiancé in this film (what with the scruffy stubble and shaggy hair) but I'd like to think there's a little more to it than that.

I have long had a love affair with Victoriana and Victorian fashion, its just so… inaccessible! It is a style that champions the hour glass figure as much as the 1950s and as a natural hourglass (a gift and a curse ladies) that instantly appeals to me.

Get Waisted! Marilyn Monroe and Rachel McAdams
I remember back in the day, early naughties if I remember rightly, that ‘Victoriana’ made an appearance in Topshop and other high street retailers. With ruffled corset tops, long skirts and even the velvet military jacket making being available as part of mainstream fashion. It was not to last however and fashion shifted in favour of something a little easier to wear, jeggings, and the Victorian inspiration disappeared into the same bargain bin as shoulder pads and those bracelets that you needed to slap on.

A favourite Victoriana staple for me however was the Victorian boot. This lace up classic seems to have never gone out of fashion, with adapted versions hanging around in shops (does anyone remember Jennifer Lopez’s combat version from Jenny From The Block?). One place that does always have a variation of the more classic Victorian Boot is Clarks - I’ve had a pair of theirs in my wardrobe for the last 10 years.
The two leading ladies were dressed to impress in this film, Rachel McAdams wore a beautiful hat/jacket/bustle combo in the opening scenes and Noomi Rapace inspired me to attempt a slightly gypsy look the next day (although I really needed a cropped jacket for this, but you make the best with what you have!). 
The flowing midi skirt boots and fitted jacket combo is very flattering for a lady with curves and well everyone loves a hat (but it does remind me of a Jennifer Lopez video again though?)

But perhaps the most important success of this film (outside being number one in the box office in several countries) was helping my lovely fiancé get inspiration for his wedding suit. There was a moment during the film where he turned to me and said ‘That is exactly what I want to wear for the wedding’. Who knew men could react in such a way. Needless to say, I was very pleased... I just need to work out where to find it! 
I'll let you 'detect' what it is :D
And lets not forget Holmes is right at home on Fancy Dresscapades as he’s a man that loves a good costume!

One final note before I retire for the evening, this was yet another movie of 2011 with a vintage wedding dress (I know its a period film, but still...) and a lovely one at that:

Perhaps if you've not seen it this will inspire you to do so? (I thought the plot wasn't half bad too!)

See you soon for more Dresscapades!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Vintage Outfits: The 1980s Ball


I’m back from my break and kicking off 2012 with a bit of a retro dresscapade today.

Way back when (approximately December 2009) I shared a house with two law students who asked my friend Sadie (of The Vanity Case) and I to do a Lindy routine at their Christmas Law Ball.

In exchange for a free meal (and lets just say that most dancers are easily bought with a free dinner…) we agreed to do a small performance before they opened the dance floor to the Lawyers.

I’m not going to lie… the performance was dreadful! We were so nervous we forgot a large portion of the routine and I’m sure the look of horror wasn’t disguised too well.

But that’s not important!

What does matter is that the Ball was 1980s themed! Which meant dressing in a suitably bright way with big hair and bright makeup.

I tried to take a bit of inspiration from the Human League for the make up, and Alex from Ashes to Ashes for the hair.
80s makeup inspiration

Make up wise wasn't about being subtle for me, I rarely stray away from that classic black eyeliner look so I think I went a little bit over board with the blue. The high cheekbone blusher is ESSENTIAL for that 80s look and rounded off with a bright pink lipstick.
Now I'm no D.I. Drake, but clearly we both have impeccable choice of colours
The hair was quite short at this point so I rolled it during the day to add some curl and volume and sprayed it to make it as big as possible- with a big bow to make it a bit more girly.

For the outfit itself I had a shiny electric blue swing dress with cut batwing sleeves and an inbuilt petticoat that I purchased from a vintage seller from eBay for around £5. I added a classic 80s style patent waist belt and some gloves- it was a ball after all!

I couldn't resist a bit of lomography for that 80s feel :D
Sadly, I was wearing my dance shoes in the photo so you can’t get a sense of footware… nevermind. Pixy boots would be the perfect way to finish this look I think.

So that's it for now!

Just one side note, I had my tickets for London Super Comic con confirmed so I'm currently working on a costume for that- as what you ask? I'm not telling... yet... but watch this space!

Until then- Happy Dresscapades!

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