Thursday, 4 October 2012

Building a Costume - Part 1 - The Cost of a Costume

How much does a costume cost?

This is a question I hear nearly every day... and it's still the hardest one to answer.

There are so many factors involved in creating a costume that it's almost impossible to reply to this question without a long list of questions in response.

Design ideas, performance requirements, design complexity, materials, embellishments, time limits... these are only a few of the elements that affect the price of a costume, and that's before you add up the number of hours involved (which must be charged for if the costumier is to make a living).

I decided a while ago that i'd write a series of blog posts about this subject, but kept putting it off because it seemed such a daunting task to tackle (much like working out a costume quote!), but today is as good a day as any to begin, so here we go.

Please note that these opinions are my own and are by no means the opinions of every other costumier ;)

Part 1 - Requesting a quote

Let's say you have a show coming up in a couple of month's time and you want a brand spankin' new costume for the event.  You've seen some pictures online that you like and you've chosen the costumier who you'd like work with... What next?

The best thing to do is to gather your ideas together so you'll be able to give the costumier a general idea of what you want. 

There are even some handy online tools that can help when compiling your ideas visually: Pinterest, Evernote, and Polyvore are all free and pretty easy to use. 

 Sketches, reference photos, video links etc are all very useful to your costumier.  It's ok to reference other performers as inspiration, but keep in mind that most costumiers won't be too keen on making you a direct copy of another performer's (or designer's) costume, as that's plagiarism.. and just downright uncool.

Be honest about your budget

One last piece of information that you should most definitely share with your costumier is your budget.
It's really important that you let them know how much (or little) you can afford to spend.  If the costumier doesn't know what your price range is, then they can't tailor the costume to suit your needs.
If the costumier knows up-front what you are willing to spend, then they'll know exactly how much to allocate to fabrics and trims and how much time/labour is allowed for etc.
And be honest with them - if your budget is low, then they may be able to offer suggestions for alternatives and work out how to give you the most bang for your buck.

If you're worried that the costumier might try to rip you off by charging you as much as you can possibly afford without really following through on value for money, then do a little online research and look at their work.  Facebook, Twitter, Etsy etc are all great tools for checking up on potential costumiers.

Preparing the quote

Once your costumier has an idea of what your costume will involve, it's time to work out a quote.
Preparing a quote can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 days (or more!), depending on the elements of the costume.  Even sourcing the perfect materials can take time - I once spent over 20 hours searching the internet for a specific trim to use on a client's costume, but it was worth it to get the right look ;)

The costumier will need to estimate the cost of the materials required and the number of hours it will take to complete the garment, as well as all the extra elements that go along with running a business.
People often forget that the cost of rent, power, phone/internet, insurance, equipment etc are all essential ingredients and must be accounted for when your costumier charges for their service.

Sourcing fabrics and drafting patterns is only a small part of creating a costume

Some costumiers will charge a fee for preparing a quote, as it involves a fair amount of time (and time is money).  This fee may or may not be applied to your final costume price - every costumier works in their own way.

Is your costume made-to-measure or ready-to-wear?

If your costumier makes their garments from scratch, then the cost will naturally be much higher than if the garments are bought ready-made and then embellished.

A custom-made garment involves planning, sampling fabrics and trims, measurements, drafting a pattern, sewing up a toile (mock-up) of the pattern to test the fit, altering (if required), possibly repeating these two steps a few times in order to get the pattern perfect... and only then does the actual garment construction begin.
If you and your costumier are in a different cities (or countries, as is often the case), then the toile will sometimes be sent back and forth a number of times - so the cost of shipping must also be added to the quote.

A costume made using ready-to-wear garments will be lower priced, and usually a bit faster than made-to-measure.  This type of costume will often begin with plain base garments (Bra, Corset, Panties etc) which the costumer will then decorate with various fabrics and trims.
This is a great option if your budget won't stretch to a custom-made outfit or if you only want the costume for a one-off event.

Custom-made isn't actually expensive... mass-produced is just really cheap

Most of us don't often stop to think about how much time and money went in to making the things we use every day.
Take your shoes for example:  Someone (or more likely a number of people) took the time to design the style, create a pattern, prototype it, source the materials, arrange the manufacturing, market the product and then make the sale.  You may have bought the shoes for $50, but it took hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get the shoe to that point.

A large scale manufacturer will easily sell a hundred, a thousand, even ten thousand of a particular item, and can therefore spread the cost of the development so thinly that each item costs only a few dollars at the wholesale level.

When a costume is made to order, the costumier will need to recover most of the associated costs we've discussed so far in that one item, and all these things must be taken into account when preparing a quote.
That's a basic difference between the price of a custom-made garment vs a mass-produced one.

But don't let this scare you away, it may not be as expensive as you think...

If a one-of-a-kind costume is something that you want, then just go ahead and contact your favorite costumier.  Now that you have an understanding of what goes into a costume, you might just be surprised at how reasonable the prices really are!
Many costumiers will allow you to pay for your costume in installments, but be prepared to pay a deposit up-front before they begin working on your design - as we've discussed already, there's a lot of work involved before anything reaches the sewing machine ;)

Choosing your costumier

There are so many costumiers out there these days, each with their own unique aesthetic.  Search the internet, ask other performers who they use.. it never hurts to ask for referrals. 
Check them out on Facebook and see if people are leaving happy or unhappy comments on their page..  Do they have lots of pictures online that you can look at - particularly pictures that show the costume being worn by a person?
What is their policy regarding changes/alterations if the finished costume doesn't fit or breaks when you wear it? 
Take your time and do a little research, and you're sure to find a costumier who shares your vision!

Whew!  So much has already gone into creating this costume and we're only just getting started!
It's becoming apparent that the price of your costume is more than just the cost of fabric and rhinestones.

Tune in next time for Part 2 - Fabrics and embellishments: The wonderful world of sparkly stuff!

Further reading:

Here's a great article about the differences between a good quality corset and a cheap knock-off, courtesy of the Lingerie Addict blog.
This is not to say that all mass-produced garments are bad, but it really shows why the knock-off costs so much less than the hand-made piece.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Social Media links!

Behind the scenes photos and other every-day stuff..

Do you use Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr etc..?
I use a few social media apps on a daily basis, so I thought I'd post some links for those of you who are interested in seeing what I get up to.
Photos of sparkly crap on Twitter

Most photos are of the projects I'm working on - fabrics, samples, trims etc..  with a few random photos of my morning coffee thrown in for good measure.  I try to post different things on all apps, because it can get a bit boring when you see the same posts from the people you follow on every app.
Random photos of my workroom on Instagram

My #1 app is Instagram.  I mainly post work-in-progress photos and pics of my workroom:
If you're in Instagram, your can find me by searching for username: flofoxworthy

Next up is Twitter, where I post  photos of finished garments and assorted sparkly things.

Pinterest is fun, but I must admit that I don't have as much time to spend on this app - I post a few times a week when I have a chance to sit down and check it on my laptop rather than using my iPhone.

It goes without saying that I use Facebook on a daily basis.  I've been running an internet based business since 2000 and over the past couple of years I've found Facebook to be one of the best business marketing and networking tools ever.

Tumblr is something that I rarely remember to update but I still check up on at least once a week (mainly to see what the people I follow are posting).

More random photos of my workroom via Instagram

Venus Starr - Burlesque Showgirl

Venus Starr (NZ) 

Burlesque & Circus performer

Venus Starr photographed by Jocelen Janon
Venus Starr is a popular circus performer and showgirl based in New Zealand - you may recognize her as the blonde bombshell who models the Bikinis on my website.
I love making costumes for Venus - with her platinum hair, incredible figure and colourful tattoos she's become one of my favorite clients and a spectacular model.

In these first two images, Venus is wearing a black sequin corset & bra with white skull detail and red beaded fringe.  Venus often performs at tattoo conventions, and this costume works well with that aesthetic.
Venus Starr photographed by Jocelen Janon

This these next photos, Venus is wearing a metallic gold costume which I made for her earlier this year.  The costume consists of a bra, corset, shorts, G string and pasties with matching shoes - most of which she removes during her hula hoop act.
Venus Starr photographed by Jocelen Janon

Venus Starr photographed by Penny Nichols
 I'll post more photos of this gold costume shortly - including work-in-progress pics I took while i was making the various pieces.

And finally,  here's one of my favorite images of Venus - wearing a skull print Bikini in LA photographed by Victor Rodriguez.  Gorgeous!
Venus Starr photographed by Victor Rodriguez

For more Venus Starr:
For Jocelen Janon:
For Penny Nichols:
For Victor Rodriguez:

Friday, 17 August 2012

Matchless Snaphots Photography

Matchless Snapshots (Australia)

Featuring costumes by Flo Foxworthy

Strawberry Doll (AU) photographed by Matchless Snapshots (AU)
One of my favourite Australian photographers is Rachel Mia @ Matchless Snapshots.  Her work is clean and crisp, with a very feminine aesthetic.
This first image is from a recent shoot with Strawberry Doll, and features a pair of ostrich feather fans which i made for Rachel earlier this year.  The fans are hand-dyed a lovely shade of peach and have white acrylic staves with Swarovski crystals in the pretty shade of Hyacinth AB.

Amelie (AU) photographed by Matchless Snapshots (AU)
This second image is from a shoot Rachel did with Australian burlesque performer Amelie.
The Poison Ivy costume is one I made earlier this year for Amelie when she entered Miss Burlesque Australia 2012.
I've already featured other photos from this shoot in a previous blog post, but i just couldn't resist posting this new image - i love the clean background, it really brings out the colours of the costume (and Amelie's stunning red hair!).

For more about Matchless Snapshots:

For Strawberry Doll:

For Amelie:

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Kat Attack Photography

Kat Attack Photography (CA, USA)

Featuring costumes by Flo Foxworthy

These gorgeous photos were taken by the absolutely incredible Cat Pettus @ Kat Attack Photography in California.  Her work is just fantastic!
Venus Starr photographed by Kat Attack Photography
This first image features burlesque and circus performer Venus Starr (NZ) wearing a gold costume i made for her (those beaded tassels were all made by hand!).   Venus is one of my most loyal clients and is a truly incredible performer.

Sophie Nova photographed by Kat Attack Photography
Cat photographed the stunning fetish model Sophie Nova wearing a lemon silk/black lace corset and matching pasties which i made last year.  You can't really tell from the photo, but the whole set is covered in Swarovski jet beads and rhinestones.  I think this might just be one of my favorite corsets :)
Sophie Nova photographed by Kat Attack Photography

To see more of Cat's work:

For Venus Starr:

For Sophie Nova:

Monday, 11 June 2012

Poison Ivy costume - photos!

Earlier this year i made a Poison Ivy costume for Australian burlesque performer Amelie
This month, Amelie teamed up with the incredible Matchless Snapshots for a photo shoot, and i'm so happy with the results!

The costume consists of an emerald green silk dupion corset, in a high-backed underbust style with garters.  The corset is embellished with custom-made embroidered lace leaves (made in metallic green & black thread) which have been beaded using Swarovski Jet bicone beads.

The Bra has a light nude base with emerald silk cups and is entirely covered with black french lace to give a delicate touch to an otherwise severe costume.  I also made a pair of matching lace french-cut panties and embellished both the bra and panties with Swarovski flat-back rhinestones in Jet, Emerald and Vitrail Green.

Worn under the corset, bra and panties is a pair of pasties and a C-string with the same embroidered lace leaves as the corset - all designed to give the appearance of near-nudity..  Very saucy!

Thank you to my gorgeous client / Model / Hair stylist / Makeup artist: Amelie
and to Rachel at Matchless Snapshots in Victoria, Australia for her incredible photography!

A costume fit for a (burlesque) Queen!

A HUGE congratulations goes out to Australia's Imogen Kelly for being crowned "Reigning Queen of Burlesque" at the Burlesque Hall of Fame 2012 in Las Vegas last weekend!This is a huge honour in the burlesque world, you could say it's like winning the award for Best Picture at the Oscars! 

I am delighted to say that Imogen was wearing costume pieces made by me underneath her extravagant feathered costume, head dress and boa (not made by me). 
For Imogen, I made a Bra and Panty set covered in baby pink beaded fringe with Swarovski rhinestone embellishment:

The bra was front-fastening, and the Panties had a keyhole at the back for a cheeky peek-a-boo effect.

Worn under the Bra and Panties was a Dlite G string with matching Pasties and a Sandrina (a classic burlesque costume style - essentially an underwire Bra without cups). 

Each item was made in a medium beige lycra and heavily embellished with Swarovski rhinestones in the following colours: Crystal, Light Rose, Light Rose AB, Rose, Rose AB
I'll post a link to Imogen's award winning performance as soon as it's available online!  In the mean time, go and check out some of her other acts on youtube:  and visit her website:

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Miss Burlesque Australia 2012

It's been a while since my last post - but i have a good excuse, i promise!

I've been a busy little beaver over the past few months, making costume pieces for five entrants in the Miss Burlesque Australia 2012 extravaganza.

This year i created pieces for Bunni Lambada, Briana Bluebell, Dezzie Damned, Alyssa Kitt and Amelie - and i'm very proud to say that the girls have done extremely well in the competition!

New South Wales:
Briana Bluebell - First place - Miss Burlesque NSW
I made a royal blue silk corset for Briana, which she embellished herself to match the costume she made.

Bunni Lambada - Runner up - Miss Burlesque Sydney
For Bunni, I made a sparkling costume in shades of peach and apricot.  The outfit consisted of an underbust corset, halter bra, panties, G string, pasties, sheer gloves and hair accessories.

South Australia:
Dezzie Damned - First place - Miss Burlesque SA
Miss Damned was performing a vampire-themed act, and i made her a deep red velvet costume - Long fishtail skirt with matching bodice, worn over a nude satin & black lace corset with matching pastie and G string. All pieces were heavily embellished with Swarovski flat-back crystals and beads in Jet, Siam and Silk.
I also made Dezzie a lace mask/headpiece trimmed with feathers - here's a photo of the mask before i began beading the front.

Alyssa Kitt - First place - Miss Burlesque QLD
Alyssa performed a tribute to Jenny Lee, so i made her a chiffon panel skirt with matching pasties, a feathered headpiece and a G string with sparkling Swarovski crystal bead fringe.
I have no work-in-progress pics from Alyssa's costume, so here's a little video of the beaded fringe as i was making it - please excuse my dye-stained hands and the muffled rockabilly in the background haha!
For Alyssa's second costume, i made a sheer mesh underbust bodysuit which she embellished herself to match her black satin suit.

Victoria ... This weekend!
And finally I made Amelie a Poison Ivy themed costume, with an underbust corset, bra, lace panties and matching ivy C-string and pasties.
The pieces were embellished with custom-made green metallic lace ivy leaves and beaded with Jet Swarovski crystal beads.