Our newest Teacher in Training, Amara Strutt, comes to us with a background in costume design, and here she talks about her creative process and some tips and tricks for costuming burlesque acts!

AOB: Where do you get inspiration for costumes?

Amara: My process in terms of act creation is music, and quickly followed by costume. I can’t do an act first and then figure out a costume.  It’s really different from dancing, for example, where you dance, and then you find a thing that lets you move freely. Burlesque is about the tease of pulling your clothes off, so it depends heavily what your clothes are.

I do keep Pinterest boards, I think they’re very useful. I see things all the time and I get ideas,and it’s a way to organize those ideas and colors. I actually tend to shy away from a lot of colors in one act. Black, white and grey can show off texture more. I find contrasting textures very interesting. Sparkly is beautiful, but things have become so sparkly that there seems to be this fear of leaving anything unsparkled. I think the idea of a beautiful fabric, like a satin, by itself is really striking.


AOB: What is your process for creating a new piece?

Amara: I don’t always sketch my full ideas, but with some acts I have so many ideas that I have to sketch to organize.

I kind of stumbled on my sketching process. I found these templates online with figures and lines ready for sketching. I used the different views of them, printed all them out. And then took pencil and sketched them on there and figured out what I wanted, did the final lines and then scanned them in. I did one where I actually went a colored the whole thing in by hand like I did in the past. Then it was hard to change things, so out of curiosity I scanned it in and then in Photoshop I was able to do the final draft. Now I will always do it this way. Not only is it easy to go back a change a thing, but then I can share them digitally.

I’m more and more using made things that I can alter, rather than building something from scratch. Time is way more valuable than we seem to think it is, and way more scarce.

I start collecting the pieces that I need. I kept on my list app on my phone. I had lists of costume needs – all the little pieces I needed to collect on there. If I was in a store I could look that up and check them off.

I do as much shopping as I can at thrift store. Frequently you’ll find better materials, and it’s thinking outside the box. I get everything I can online – the rhinestones and everything. It’s so much cheaper and you need way more than you think.

And then while they’re in process I keep the materials for each costume organized in drawers.


AOB: What pearls of wisdom to have for eager costumers out there?

When you’re collecting materials, look at curtains! Especially tapestry, or chiffons, which are way cheaper. They’re already cut and hemmed, so if you’re making a panel skirt for example, you’re basically done.

Also, if you want to make a pattern, go to Goodwill and find something that fits you, then take it apart to copy for a pattern. But before you do that, cut it in half and keep one half in tact. That way if you get confused constructing your new garment you can go back and see how it all fits together.


Amara teaches our teaser classes and bachelorette parties.