This month we got a chance to catch up with one of our favourite costumes designers! Based in Wellington, New Zealand, Flo Foxworthy has been creating costumes for dancers and performers for over fifteen years and has has taken the burlesque world by storm with her delicate hand embellished and expertly constructed burlesque finery. Many of the ABF2012 performers wore pieces at this years festival, including one of the directors, Dolores Daiquiri.
Here at ABF HQ we adore Flo’s creations and had a little chat with her to find out more about this lady behind the costumes…
- What was your first experience of burlesque, and how did you start making costumes for burlesque dancers?
It didn’t happen overnight, it’s more like a life-long passion that finally found a market!
I’ve been fascinated with showgirl costumes since i was young, and have been collecting burlesque, showgirl and pin-up memorabilia since i was in my late teens.
In the 90’s i began making pin-up style lingerie inspired by my growing collection of vintage Playboy magazines. Since then i’ve made costumes for exotic dancers, the Royal NZ Ballet, run a G string bikini business and spent four years at Weta Workshop making creature suits and film costumes.
I was following the rise of burlesque in the US, and then in 2007 I joined forces with Eva Strangelove and Courtney L’Amour to form The Sisters of Strangelove, one of New Zealand’s first burlesque troupes.
Since the end of 2011 i’ve been working for myself full-time, making burlesque costumes. It’s like fulfilling a life-long ambition, and i’m so incredibly happy that there are people out there who want to enlist me to make pretty things for them!
- Do you have a signature style? What makes a Flo Foxworthy creation identifiable?
I love using strong, bright colours and sparkling embellishment. If I had my way, there’d be very few plain black costumes out there – I’d love to see more performers choosing vivid head-turning colours rather than safe black or white options.
My costumes are usually very feminine, and I really enjoy the little details such as beading and hand-stitched finishes.
I try to design costumes that are effective when viewed from the stage as well as beautiful when viewed up close – I love creating pieces that make the wearer feel special.
- For many creatives you could be seen as to be living the dream, creating your art for a living! Have you come across any challenges and do you have any advice for those wishing to get involved in burlesque without being in the spotlight?
I adore my job, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to make a living doing what I do.
It’s not a terribly glamorous job though – I work really long hours by myself, 50 to 80 hours a week (often 7 days), and if there’s a deadline i’ll work through the night to get the costume finished.
The best advice I can offer to anyone who want to follow a career in burlesque costuming is to know their strengths and do the best they possibly can. When you love doing something, you’ll never stop learning and improving.
Figure out what you really enjoy doing, and do it well. For example, if you’re not so great at making corsets, but love making skirts then make the best skirts you can… There are lots of costumiers out there these days, and each has their own unique aesthetic and area of interest.
There are so many elements involved in burlesque costuming, the possibilities for specialising are endless – you can make hats, gloves, jewellery, shoes, pasties, wings… anything at all! The beauty of the internet is that the whole world is your market.
- You have some very well-known clients such as Imogen Kelly (Reigning Queen of Burlesque), Catherine D’Lish (USA) and Dita Von Teese to name a few, what is the most memorable project you have worked on?
I’ve been really lucky over the past few years to have had the chance to make pieces for some incredible performers.
For some performers, such as Catherine D’Lish and Dita, I simply make tiny G strings to be worn under their main costume, so I can’t take any credit for creating “costumes” for them – although it’s great to know that my G strings are involved in some little way 🙂
For other performers, such as Imogen Kelly and Roxi Dlite, I’ve had the pleasure of making some really fun pieces.
When Imogen contacted me about making the undergarments for her BHOF performance, I was already familiar with her Flamingo costume, so it was really fun to make pieces to go with such a popular act. The weekend of BHOF I was on the edge of my seat waiting to hear the results, I was so excited for her!
- Lastly, What would you consider essential costume items for a budding burlesque performer to invest in?
I think every performer should have at least one costume that really stands out from the crowd, a costume and act that makes that performer memorable. Choose a unique costume in colours that you love, and perfect an act to go with that costume.
It’s all very well having the basic black / white costume that can be mixed & matched with various accessories to create lots of different looks, but why take the easy route and blend in with the chorus when you could be the one who people remember instantly?
Basic black totally has it’s place but in a show full of performers wearing black lingerie and stockings, everyone in the audience will remember that one dancer who wore bright yellow!
- We look forward to seeing more of your creations around the globe! Thank you for keeping us in sparkles! xx