DIY Burlesque Costumes

Burlesque CostumeSo you've been invited to a fancy dress party and you're not sure who or what to go as. You did Batman and Robin last year, and your Cher wig is well past its prime. Well if the exhibitionist in you wants to peep from behind the curtains then why not try do it yourself a burlesque costume? You'd be surprised at how much stuff you have lying around that could be used to make up a cheeky little number in no time at all. If you’ve always wanted to try burlesque but never quite worked up the courage, fancy dress is the perfect gateway. And you might just want to use the costume again…

For those not in the know, burlesque was originally conjured up in the 19th Century as a form of theatre that satirised and ridiculed some of the more serious plays and performances of the time. These days it has come into its own as a form of theatre high on double entendre and low on sexual repression.

Popular burlesque started off in the 1930s with stars like Gypsy Rose Lee. More recently, it got a huge boost from the Hollywood take on Moulin Rouge at the turn of the century.

Burlesque costume basics

So, let’s talk about finding yourself a costume. The first thing to do is to see what you have at home. Rifle through your drawers, closets and piles of shoes to see if there is anything you can use. If you can find out any lacy clothing or anything with frills, bows or feathers, then you're well on your way to getting the basics sorted.

Better still, if you can find any lacy bras or fishnet stockings that you'd forgotten you had then you've already saved yourself time and trouble. The important thing to remember here is to keep the colors as co-ordinated as possible - nobody wants the whole party to see a hot pink bra underneath a figure hugging lacy black top!

Once you've exhausted your own clothing, then shopping at discount stores is the next step. You may be able to find a cheap bodice (but probably not a real corset) and feather boas are much more common than you'd expect. A good corset makes a good burlesque outfit, even it if it’s combined with a very basic blouse and skirt.


Thrift store scan also be a treasure trove for wigs and gloves and cheap jewellery. Don’t be afraid to buy items that look like your grandmother might have worn them. If your grandmother was alive and dancing in the 1930s she might have been a lot racier than you assume.

To top your DIY outfit off, look for a hat that suits the rest of your costume. You might want to scour the vintage shops for a cool fascinator (you can also make these yourself, from feathers, buttons, coins, and costume jewellery), or maybe you think a bowler would suit just like Liza in Cabaret. There are endless ways in which you can accessorize a burlesque costume - and if you're planning to take off some of what you put on, then make sure it's easy to do so to save some embarrassment!

Published by Mr. Ben Gallivan. He likes vintage fashion and writes for

If you have any questions, please ask below!