It’s a little different this month! Instead of interviewing another performer from the Burlesque industry, I thought I’d take you behind the curtain to describe what it’s like to prepare the costumes for, and compete in, the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.

The Folly Mixtures are a London-based Burlesque troupe that I co-founded in 2010, following around three years together with my fellow Folly’s in Miss Polly Rae’s troupe Hurly Burly. Glitter has been in my veins (and in my carpet) since I turned eighteen. Our road to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend began back in 2019 after concluding “oh screw it, let’s just go for it” and applying to enter with one of our favourite acts. Three years, two postponements (sod performing online, we wanted a holiday!) and one pandemic later, eleven of us bundled into various planes. Multiple plane-wines later, we toppled out into the heat of the Nevada desert, ready to shimmy twenty-two super sparkly Crystal Parade-Sponsored pasties in what is essentially, the Olympics of Burlesque. Let’s go on a journey to Sin City…

Applying and preparing…

Choosing an act and applying

Our initial decision and the application was masterminded by Head Folly’s Ooh La Lou and Ella Boo. Having steered this sparkly ship for over ten years, they get a mega shout-out for all the emotional effort, late nights, personal money and hours of gluing they have invested in this project. They have kept the troupe going through numerous challenges including: precious cabaret venue closures, being financially screwed over by producers and more line-up changes than the Sugababes. I firmly believe they’ve got one Kris Jenner eye on the next generation of Folly babies that are now in the world, for The Folly Mixtures pt.2 in 2042…

The act we chose to apply with was our “Trash Models'' number. This act began its life, as all the best things do, over a wine-fuelled chat. Ooh La Lou and I decided to commiserate being the only two Follys unable to go on a lovely gig in Milan, as we had to stay in rainy London for our day jobs in a school and on shopping TV, by going to the pub. To cheer ourselves up, we decided to create a new duet act for our next show in our monthly residency at Madame Jojo’s (RIP) in Soho. Slight issue. No money. No fear, we used bin bags and decided to parody the 90s supermodel chic model aesthetic.

The act started with overly-serious posing, dressed in bin bag couture and moved into a trashy rock and roll soundtrack with corresponding choreography, revealing lingerie made of fast food rubbish. The crescendo of the act being a reveal of actual fast food hidden in our hats and shoving it disgustingly into our partner’s mouths and faces. Kudos to Ooh La Lou for eating a Mcdonalds burger that once fell out of the headpiece prematurely, landing naked on the utterly gross nightclub stage floor. That’s commitment to the act. The duet eventually morphed into a group act and was performed with a big group of us in our show at the London Wonderground. We adapted the first half of the act to pastiche a typical Victoria’s Secret runway, with Dave the Bear as the guest vocalist singing Taylor Swift. It was once again re-imagined for eleven of us for our BHOF application, adding many more position changes and allowing every performer to have a little moment to shine. I’m really proud of the evolution of this act. It’s our favourite type of content to put on the stage as a troupe, when we’re given free rein to make what we want to and can do stupid stuff, rather than requests of “can you please bring us a showgirl act to an obvious song for our show?”. When given the option, we’ll always rather do things like peeling out of tiger onesies and pouring two litre cartons of milk and full boxes of Frosties cereal over ourselves (sorry, stage kittens…).

Following rehearsals, we rented stage space with professional lighting at The Hippodrome Casino and usefully skilled Folly husband Gaz Twist got roped in to film the piece from multiple angles and levels of close-up. He then edited the video to highlight both the overall effect of the number of performers on stage and the individual facial expressions occurring. He also edited our track professionally (helps to be mates with a musician!) to be the correct length for the application requirements before syncing the video and perfecting it, ready to send off with our online application. Once the video is sent, you aren’t allowed to make any changes to the choreography/costume/act itself if you are selected for the competition. It must stay as it is in your video application. There are also strict rules regarding mess/ glitter/ fire and the like, so read the guidelines closely. Basically, don’t plan to make a mess and don’t make a surprise mess.

When we got the confirmation that our act had been accepted, Ooh La Lou video called each Folly individually and recorded their reactions. Responses ranged from screams, stunned silence or swearing, to running manically around a park (you can find it on our Instagram). We excitedly started looking up flights and planning rehearsals. Then March 2020 happened…

Long story short, we passed on the offer to perform in the 2021 virtual showcase and opted to roll our entry for a further second year to perform in 2022’s return of the in-person Weekender. Time passed, slowly, and we began to re-form the squad to prepare. Flights were booked and I started to think about costumes.

Designing and creating the costumes

Not wanting to miss this opportunity to get my PMC costumes on this momentous stage, I offered to make eleven sets of crystal illusion pasties and embellish a new batch of thongs. After chats (over wine, naturally) we decided to go for nude high-waisted thongs, to replace the previous black thongs and black rhinestone pasties. Pretty Little Thing provided the goods and things were all on track until the thongs turned up with the brand logo written in ugly lettering across one hip. Nothing ever runs totally smoothly… Not one to be deterred, I adapted the embellishment to become an asymmetrical design, with large sew on stones used to cover the text, plus round non hotfix rhinestones and crystal shapes in a spray coming out from the hip across the front of the pants. I stuck to a design on the reverse that focused on the centre of the top of the thong, with crystals gathering around a few sew on stones pointing upwards and outwards.

A design choice I’d made with these costumes was to use clear crystals and clear AB shades that had more of a blue-tinge to them, rather than the green/pink hues you’d get with a usual AB colour choice. We ended up going with “Moonlight” and “Clear” crystals from both the Preciosa and Zodiac ranges in SS10- SS30. The lovely Poppy from Crystal Parade very kindly agreed to sponsor the costumes and provided our sparkle and a 10% discount code of FOLLY10 for our followers.

A bling marathon weekender was pulled at Ooh La Lou’s house. Many snacks were eaten. Every cushion in the house had a thong stretched out over it. Tiny little mushroom forests of drying pasties rested on top of shot glasses. Crystals were hoovered up by pugs. Empty cocktail glasses were abandoned left, right and centre and two days later we had ourselves our costumes. All that was left was to buy a few rolls of bin bags and get every Folly back on the well-rehearsed mission of visiting fast food restaurants with “excuse me, this is a weird question, but I’m a primary school teacher and we’re doing a project about recycling. Would I be able to get some empty burger boxes and chip packets?...”.

Rehearsing, preparing and travelling

In total we got together for two afternoon rehearsals and two full-day rehearsals, in a range of dance studios across London. We polished shapes, timing, spacing, faces and tried to get every possible thing to go wrong with the costume removal so that we had back-up plans to handle issues smoothly. Repeatedly getting dressed in a Covid mask, in a heatwave? Not the one. We rapid-flow tested before every rehearsal and yet still managed to have a major panic when a Folly seemingly tested positive for Covid after we’d just spent a full day together and all had our online Covid tests to travel in a few days’ time. Most stressful forty-eight hours of my life. That was a very nervous WhatsApp group as the results trickled in slowly throughout the day. We could all have been taken out just before the finish line. Praise be, her two lines magically seemed to be a dodgy test. We all passed our online video tests and were ready to fly the next day.

We’d been advised by the competition organisers to fly with our costumes in our hand luggage, to avoid anything going missing. This resulted in an excellent moment in the security bag-check with a dude pulling out a handful of empty Burger King wrappers from Ruby’s bag and then trying to unravel her entire whole roll of bin bags, saying “what ARE you planning?!”. We are all travelling in small Folly squads, arriving within a few hours of each other, and had planned to meet up in Margaritaville in The Flamingo Casino - our hotel of choice. Great location, best pool, best hotel fragrance.

Our last trip to Vegas was in 2014 for Ooh La Lou and Gaz Twists’ wedding at the Little White Wedding Chapel, so we’d arranged to arrive a few days before the competition to make the most of Vegas. In all honesty, those days were a blurry fuzz of sightseeing, pool parties, zip-lines, outstanding shows and hundreds of frozen cocktails. Absolute girl’s holiday joy and carnage in equal measures. Ella Boo, spotted on the Coyote Ugly bar at 2am the night before the competition.

On the day..

Before the show

It’s the day of the show. We met in the lobby of the Flamingo, bin bags packed, with the aim to get Ubers to The Orleans Casino, where the competition is held. Stepping outside the front door, we encounter a lovely gentleman who says three glorious words to us “Party bus, Ladies?”. Yes. That’s exactly how we’d like to travel to the Burlesque Hall of Fame, thank-you Sir. A dash of Britney and Ginuwine later, we pull up and are ushered into a side corridor to the casino’s main theatre to await our allocated tech slot time. There are two people rehearsing an epic gymnastic-style routine next to us. On closer inspection this turns out to be Medianoche and Ivory Fox of The Midnight Foxes. We’re given a goodie bag with an assortment of goodies from the competition sponsors (living my best Academy Awards life!) and have a bit of time to rehearse some spacing in the narrow corridor.

Now, the tech slot. We were in the Large Groups category so had a tech slot allocation of five minutes. I believe soloists may have four minutes but could be wrong. We had no instruction on what we would be allowed to use this for, or stage measurements ahead of time, so we’d had to prepare for multiple eventualities. For example, if we were just given the stage to ourselves there were three key positions we needed to block, or if the lighting and sound technicians needed us to answer their questions, then a couple of Folly’s would look for areas in the theatre to take as visual cues for our key positions. With eleven performers onstage, we needed to be clear on our spacing so that when we are standing in a line we are evenly positioned, or could do things like reach over to each other to undo a piece of costume. When we arrived, the technicians asked a couple of questions to clarify any key lighting moments/ colours required (they had clearly watched our application video in preparation) and then asked us to run the act whilst they tested their lighting choices live on the number. Whilst performing, we noticed the stage had been pre-marked with a variety of coloured tape. Some experienced legend had picked out suitable spacing for “V” shapes, front lines, back lines etc. All we had to do was pick the colours to refer to. Word to future performers, the stage is quite slippery, so pull out your best scissor/ hairspray shoe tricks! There was also a box of rosin in the wings to use to combat this. It’s also considerably wider than the majority of UK theatre stages.

After our tech slot, we weren’t allowed to watch other performers due to it being a competition. Instead we went hunting around the casino to find a spare room to create our costumes and get ready. We must have been the only performers in that competition that were stapling together costumes ninety minutes before the show! Most performers were staying in The Orleans, so were preparing in their rooms, but we managed to successfully locate an entire unused ballroom that allowed us to spread out and create some trash-based masterpieces.

There is a backstage area to the theatre with two mirrored rooms, adjoined by a central green room with kitchen facilities, sofas and a screen to watch the rest of the show. There were fruit and cheese platters thoughtfully laid out for competitors. You were allowed to use the backstage areas during the act of the show you were in and had to change over in the interval, moving your stuff out of the way. You are able to watch the other half of the show from seats at the back of the theatre, so I was able to watch the entrants for Mr and Miss Exotic World. I fully endorse Tigger!’s suggestion of moving to “Mx Exotic World”/ similar next year by the way! The show is long and goes on past midnight and you can jump in and out easily to visit the bathroom and the bar.

We turned up backstage around thirty minutes before the show started and were very much looked after by the caring and friendly backstage team. Other competitors were just so lovely and approachable, especially Margo Mayhem, Samson Night and Madison Jane. You could sense the nerves and tension but everyone I spoke with was open and kind to each other. Lots of people are quick to want a chat and distract themselves from the pressurised task at hand. I made a point to approach people I admired, like Zyra Lee Vanity and Moscato Sky, to tell them I enjoy their work. Costumes that looked totally epic close-up belonged to Elektra Cute (a Christina Manuge spectacular!) and Joy Rider’s incredible gold fern skirt.

Our troupe was determined to make it a fun experience. This was a last hurrah for us all to get together, now that lots of Folly Mixtures’ lives have evolved in different directions. It was a chance for me to dust off my own tassels from my performing retirement around three years ago. I was, of course, also on the PMC hustle and left a few pairs of pre-made pasties in the green room with a note saying “leave $20 if you’d like to grab a pair!” and managed to flog a couple. I don’t know which performer bought them, but please make yourselves known!


The performance itself went really well and we felt like we did the act justice and were happy with the quality of what we presented on the stage. It had helped to do a run through just before in the corridor watching each other’s’ facial expressions, trying to make each other laugh with the OTT-level of commitment. I felt I was able to relax into the choreography and enjoy the feel of the act. I could see the faces of audience members, choc-full of performers and Burly experts, which I found really fun and was able to interact with individuals. I went offstage feeling like we did the UK proud, being the only British act this year. All of our costumes, besides pasties and pants, went straight in the bin. More room for shopping!

It was an ultimate tick off the career bucket list that I’d never previously dared to pencil in. I honestly never thought I’d get anywhere near this stage, so was not miffed in the slightest not to win our category. Props to Fat Bottomed Burlesque, who put on a cracking act and were also lovely to chat with backstage.

After the last competing act performs, there’s a returning act performance (ours being by the fabulous Mod Carousel) and all competitors have to make their way to the wings and are lined up in categories to reunite on the stage for the trophy presentations. We decided to wear our Folly team jackets, in subtle shades of neon, and fast food rubbish hats. Classy. As the results are read out, you can really feel the community support for each other, with performers being visually genuinely ecstatic for their friends’ wins.

My thoughts and tips for readers

After seeing the quality and content of the range of acts I watched in the competition, tips I’d give people wanting to apply are:

  • use an act that is unusual and clever, with unexpected and well-rehearsed costume releases if going classic in style
  • have everything prepared before you apply and have the act professionally filmed, lit and edited to show wide angle and close-ups
  • create something that expresses what is special about your personality, showcases your unique flavour and your technical skills. Go with something you’ve test-run and played with on the circuit, is the best version it can be and ensure you feel confident within the act
  • things that stood out were special moments, unexpected twists, clever props and seeing people just letting loose, within refined technical skills. Anyone that knows me, knows I dig a forward roll made sexy (hard to do!), so shout-out to Aria Delanoche, who added a full run-up into a flying forward roll. I was straight out of my seat, cheering.
  • The competitors’ costumes are strong, I can’t lie. But they’re not everything. Some people had epic crystalling but their acts weren’t as memorable to me now, two months on. The stage presence, energy and momentum-building within an act are the things that made people seriously stand out. Jake DuPree, Lou Lou la Duchesse de Riere and P No Noire had me eating out of the palm of their hands.
  • Don’t rush it, don’t apply until you have something you are confident is representing you. And if you have no luck, book yourself a minibreak and go and involve yourself in the weekender. Apply to be a stage kitten, do the workshops, go to a Q&A with a Legend, hold a stall in the bazaar, meet people from around the world. Everyone is so friendly, you’ll have a lovely time nonetheless!

The Afterparty

Best networking opportunity of my life.

Everyone within four walls. I shamelessly met and gave my social media QR code to everyone. It was an amazing opportunity to both meet clients and collaborators from around the world that I have worked with in a costume context (like Jessabelle Thunder and members of the Noire Pageant team like Chola Magnolia), and to meet my Burlesque Idols that have looked up to for years like Tigger!, Frankie Fictitious, RedBone and Sweetpea.

Top afterparty moment being “Who has a birthday soon? Get up here, you’re all getting lap dances from the best Burlesque performers in the world”. I mean, this was next level in terms of technical skills! Quick time check and it’s already 3:30am, so it was off to bed. I had a date with the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum the next morning, before our flight home. Perfect way to end a week of unbelievable memories full of ridiculously talented people.

Vegas, it’s been real.

To explore more of my work, you can find me as @primpmycostume on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook. The link to my Etsy store, selling bespoke pasties, tassels and embellishment services, can be found in the bios on all my socials.

Stage photos are by @Cchhaassee

Performance costume

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