Costume Tips

Your Costume is Your Companion on Stage

Your Costume is Your Companion on Stage

By Jacqueline Hyde

BIO-Since 2005 Jacqueline Hyde has performed, produced and educated burlesque across North America, Europe and Australia. She is winner of the Boston Burlesque Expo, and the Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania Burlesque Festival. While not performing Jacqueline runs a shop and a studio in the Seattle area. She brings her diverse training and performance background, as well insights to performing, producing and learning tips to The BurlyQ, to help bring sass to the stage.

Designing your costume is like designing your prop. A costume can tell just as much as you need it to an act, and needs to lend itself to being more than just something you hang on your body. Let’s quickly explore the effective methods of costume creation to aid in the “story” of your act.

Use the word story very loosely here. I realize that many just want to have pretty acts and do not necessarily have a plot point story with a punch line. However, your costume is part of your act. You remove pieces like a story plot line and when you are curating your act you need to think about how you want your costume to aid in your delivery.

For me, when I create an act, I think of the costume backwards. What do I want to reveal to? By thinking what you want to get to you are able to successfully plot point backwards to the beginning. This helps you to figure out how may pieces you will need, and potentially how long you have to remove one item. Knowing how many pieces you need and how quickly they remove is critical because this helps knowing how many zippers, snaps / snaptape, or hooks you will need, and how quickly you would need to account for potential hazards of stuck zippers, snaps or hooks. (We all know what this feels like).

Then I think about color! Color is so important! What does the music tell me is the primary, secondary color? Does the color aid in conveying the theme of the act? Often times I have heard people say, “Don’t Use Black!” Hogwash! I use black, but I always need to make sure that the fabric selected lends itself to aiding the overall presentation of the act. Careful consideration must be made when you are submitting a black or extravagantly dark costume to shows, as we don’t always get the necessary lighting track to really aid in the display of the garment.

Then I think of fabric types! Oh my do I love this conversation, and have my own opinions on it. Many may or may not agree. Heaven forgive me I do like s good sparkle dot fabric. I have a couple of costumes made from it. This was not a novice choice but rather, it was the color that lent itself to the story, accessibility of materials AND PRICE! I also use the sparkle dot fabric for rhinestone placement. Don’t get me wrong I do love a good shiny sequin, but it is challenging to acquire sequin fabrics for a reasonable cost. Remember you are the one that makes the decisions for your act. You will also want to make sure you use fabrics that will be durable. Case example, the sparkle dot fabric well, needs to have a backing of cotton, satin, or even duck cloth (I use it on occasion for my personal corsets). I do not recommend stretch fabric as a backing to the sparkle dot fabric.

Then I think of accents! Will I be purchasing from Glorious Pasties and her wonderful under garments, or will I be doing my own because I have the time? Will I need to source or create my own applique’s? Will I need to order chunky jewelry and add that to my garment? And even more importantly do I need to source special zippers or rhinestones? Rhinestones and bling is deeply important to me, because that can get pricy real quick. I have a number of resources to get stones on the cheap with a wonderful company in Hong Kong. Even when I am planning to source my extra things, I look at what is needed NOW, and what I can get along the way. Accents are an important touch as it helps to aid in the costume feeling complete. If you cannot afford all the pieces right away, you have your wish list in to evolve your act!

Your costume is as much a part of the character of the act, it has its own identity. You will want to incorporate the costume as part of your choreography and think of it as a prop! Your costuming should be a companion to your work. Take the time to plan. Engage with your costume designers. Create what brings you joy and brings additional life to your acts.

For more information on the process of construction, you can follow my #CostumeFiles at and see the evolution of my process from start to finish!