By: Dapper John
The past few years have seen an explosion of new talent, with performers, producers, and choreographers popping up everywhere and putting on creative and interesting shows. Many participants in this burgeoning burlesque scene, however, are worried about how to protect their ideas from unauthorized borrowing. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is not flattering to spend months perfecting an original routine, only to see it performed by someone else a few weeks later. In this article I hope to clear up some of the confusion over copyrights and trademarks, and describe, in general terms, how each may be used to protect original ideas.
Please note, this article is a brief overview and only scratches the surface of a very complex area of the law. It is intended to provide general guidance only and should not be viewed or utilized as legal advice to be applied to fact-specific situations. Contact an attorney for any specific questions or for advice regarding a specific situation.
What is the difference between a copyright and a trademark?
Copyrights and trademarks share many similarities. Both are registered with an agency of the federal government. Each one gives the owner exclusive rights to the work, meaning the owner has the right to prevent anyone else from using their work. What exactly is the difference between these two forms of intellectual property protection?
A copyright protects the expression of a person’s ideas, and is focused on the originality of the piece. Copyright protection is given to creative works like writing, computer programs, music, choreography, lyrics, graphic designs, sculpture, photographs, movies, and sound recordings. The expression must be “original,” which, in this context, means a work that is not an exact copy of another work. Copyrights are also self-executing, meaning that an author is automatically protected by federal copyright. Nonetheless, copyrights can be registered with the Library of Congress, and certain remedies for infringement require registration.
A trademark, on the other hand, protects something that is used to identify where a product or a service comes from, and is focused on distinctiveness. An example of a trademark would be a distinctive logo, like the Pin Curl logo on the cover of this magazine, which is placed on products to inform consumers that the product came from that particular company. The logo itself is not trademarked, but its use in connection with a particular product or service is protected. Just like a copyright, a trademark can be established without formal registration, although, as explained below, the protection will be limited in scope. Trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
There can be some overlap between the copyright and trademark. If you paint an original picture, that picture is protected by copyright. If you use that picture as a distinctive logo to advertise your business, it can be registered as a trademark. Both protections will be there, and it is only a question of which protection you use to enforce your rights in the work. That, in turn, depends on how those rights are violated. If your picture is just copied, it’s a copyright infringement. If it’s used to sell a different product, it’s probably a trademark infringement as well. In the context of burlesque, copyright can be used to protect original performances and choreography, while trademark protects stage names and logos.
What is the time and geographic scope of a copyright and trademark?
One of the most important differences between trademarks and copyrights is that copyrights will expire. As a general rule, copyrights for your new work will last for your lifetime, plus an additional seventy years. Trademarks are issued for a finite period of time, but they can be renewed and, as a result, could last forever.
The Copyright Act provides nationwide protection of a copyrighted work. There are separate national copyright laws in each country, although international treaties—specifically the Berne Convention—facilitate protection of copyrights worldwide. Protection in one Berne country will be extended to other Berne countries. A list of countries who are signatories to the Berne Convention can be found here.
The geographic reach of a trademark depends on whether or not it has been registered. Trademark rights in the United States can be established through mere use of the mark in connection with the associated goods or services. Without federal registration, however, the rights established by use of the mark will be limited to the geographic area where the mark is actually used. Thus, later users who adopts the same or a similar mark without knowledge of the prior user may develop their own trademark rights to a different geographic region. For example, if you use a logo to advertise your performances in Texas, you will have trademark rights as to that logo in Texas. If another performer unknowingly starts using the same logo in New York, then that performer will have his or her own trademark rights in New York. Accordingly, a mark owner who relies only upon common law trademark rights may encounter obstacles to his or her ability to use the mark (and to exclude others from using its mark) as the owner starts performing in other places.
Luckily, a U.S. federal registration on the Principal Register confers nationwide “constructive notice” of the registrant’s ownership and rights in the mark, preventing a later user from claiming lack of knowledge of the original mark. A federal registration provides a nationwide scope of protection over later users of the same or similar marks in connection with the same or similar goods or services.
In certain foreign countries, federal registration within that country’s registration system is the only way to secure trademark rights, and the first to file an application for registration has priority over later registrants, regardless of who actually began using the mark first in that country or elsewhere.
Can you copyright the name of your troupe, your performance name, or the name of a specific show?
Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans are not protected by copyright law. Similarly, copyright law does not apply to aesthetic elements such as simple product lettering or coloring. To be protected by copyright, a work must contain at least a minimum amount of authorship in the form of original expression. Names, titles, and other short phrases are simply too minimal to meet these requirements. This is why you will often see books and movies sharing the same title.
Names, slogans and phrases which are used in connection with a product or service should be protected by registering a trademark, so long as they otherwise meet the distinctiveness requirement.
Can you copyright a burlesque show itself?
Ideas, procedures, principles, discoveries, and devices are all specifically excluded from copyright protection. As a result, a burlesque show itself, as an idea or concept, cannot be protected by copyright. Specific aspects of the show, however, such as original choreography or music, can be copyrighted. A distinctive name or logo for a show can also be trademarked.
Can you copyright choreography?
Yes, if it is original and fixed. Choreography is the composition and arrangement of dance movements and patterns usually intended to be accompanied by music. To be protected by copyright, choreography does not need to tell a story or be presented before an audience. Each work, however, must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which the work can be performed. Common methods for “fixing” choreography are a video of a performance or written choreographic notes. Keep in mind, though, that choreography that is only performed in front of an audience, without video or notation, cannot be protected. Choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded are unfixed and cannot receive copyright protection.
What is the scope of such copyright (eight count, one move, ect.)?
There is no clear standard on how many steps or other movements are required to create a copyrightable work. The Copyright Act itself does not define choreography. In one of the only cases to address the topic, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that “social dance steps and simple routines” cannot be copyrighted (so the two-step or a simple grapevine cannot be copyrighted), and went on to define choreography as “the composition and arrangement of dance movements and patterns, [which] is usually intended to be accompanied by music.” Yeah, not so helpful. Something tells me judges are not big dancers.
But what “series of moves” is original enough to be copyrightable? Newly-created steps, in isolation from any particular sequence, might be “original,” but are probably ineligible for protection, as they constitute “ideas,” “systems,” or “methods of operations” excluded from protection. Combinations of steps, however, could be original and copyrightable. Group of dancers performing steps in unison are also likely to increase the originality, and, therefore, the copyrightability (I’m a lawyer, I can make up words) of a work. Unfortunately, no court has provided guidance on this issue, so the lines remain fuzzy.
One interesting aspect of copyrighting choreography is that copyright in choreography is not tied to a specific piece of music. A dancer could, theoretically, infringe on another’s choreography by performing an infringing dance to an entirely different piece of music.
It is similarly unclear when a dance infringes on a protected piece of choreography. The general test for copyright infringement is whether the infringing work is “substantially similar” to the copyrighted work. Again, there is little helpful case law in this area, leaving choreographers in the dark as to when imitation changes from flattery to infringement.
Can you copyright or trademark a prop or gimmick?
Not really. Remember that a copyright protects the expression of a person’s ideas. A prop by itself is a device, and, therefore, is not likely to be considered an expression worthy of protection. A description of a prop could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the prop. An exception may exist for props that are themselves original works of art similar to a painting or sculpture, whose copyright protection would exist independently from their use in a performance. Additionally, a copyright of a performance may prevent another performer from using a substantially similar prop in the same way, because doing so would infringe on the copyright of the performance. This would not prevent a performer from using the prop in a different performance, however. Finally, a prop that is sufficiently unique may be patented, but patent protection is well beyond the scope of this article.
Let’s look at an example that ties all these concepts together. A performer performs under the name “The Doughty Brunette” and uses a distinctive banana logo in all her advertisements, business cards, and promotions. She also has a giant banana prop that she rides in an “original” way in her signature routine. For the past three years, TDB has performed this routine in an annual Banana Festival show that she also produces, called “The Phallic Fruit Extravaganza.” This show has been videoed a few times and is available on Youtube. What can be copyrighted, and what can be trademarked?
The names, “The Doughty Brunette” and “The Phallic Fruit Extravaganza” can likely be trademarked, as can the banana logo, so long as they are all distinctive. This protection will only cover the areas where she performs, unless she registers the trademarks. The specific, original motions or choreography she uses to ride the banana can probably be copyrighted, as least as they appear in the video. She should put a short “copyright: [name]” notice on the video, just in case (she can use that fun symbol: ©). Registering with the Library of Congress would ensure that she is protected. This copyright would prevent someone from riding a substantially similar banana in a substantially similar way. If the banana is unique is some way, like if it jiggles or turns into a chili pepper mid-act, she may consider patenting it. A copyright or trademark will not prevent someone from putting on their own phallic-fruit themed show during the Banana Festival, so long as it does not use the same (or a substantially similar) name or logo. Another performer may also create a similar banana prop, so long as she does not copy the same movements used by the copyright holder, or infringe on any patent. In all cases, the performer should consult her local friendly intellectual property lawyer.
The Lifespan of a Burlesque Act
By: Red Hot Annie
We’re delighted to have Chicago’s Red Hot Annie joining the Pin Curl team to contribute her insights on the business of burlesque! Have a question you’d like Annie to answer? Please title your email “Business- _your issue___” and send to editor [at] PinCurlMag [dot] com and we will send them right over to her!
Obviously, like all graphs or systems, a person could have some elements from a higher Phase and still have an act that is in the lower Phases, or vice-versa. It’s not fool-proof, but certainly a good tool when learning burlesque – or as a professional who finds herself stuck!
By: Kitch Coquette
It all started with a Japanese novella by an author named Banana. Well that’s not entirely true. One library shelf dedicated to what I consider to be the greatest form of pornography also had a lot to do with the recipe for this month.
But before I get ahead of myself, let me give you some back-story. I have utterly over-extended myself with my recent book club commitments — at one point having to read two novels in a one-week period. I had to read quickly while stopped at red lights on my way to work. I was forced to skim furiously while waiting for my barista to finish my latte. And I had no choice but to scan feverishly as I held a book in one hand and stirred my bolognese sauce with the other.
Every spare moment was spent reading because it was mere survival at this point — I just needed to get the gist of each book so I could avoid looking dumb or lazy in front of my fellow book club members. That is, until I read Banana Yoshimoto’s appropriately titled book, “Kitchen.”
Suddenly, my reading slowed, as I savored the complex flavors of Yoshimoto’s philosophy and words. It is a book about love, loss, sexual identity, and self discovery. The act of cooking is revealed as the ultimate act of catharsis, and the food itself became a reflection of not only the ingredients but the current emotions of its maker. I came away from the book emotionally exhausted, but physically starving for great Asian food. That is why Banana started it all.
But what sealed the deal was the public library. For a small suburban Texas city, my library has the greatest cookbook collection I’ve seen. At least once a week I peruse their collection, getting more and more giddy the longer I’m there. So much creative potential right at my fingertips. I tried to explain my excitement to my husband. He didn’t get it. I had to put it like this, “It’s like walking into a library and finding an entire row dedicated to the greatest collection of pornography. All of its free, right at your fingertips”. He chastised me and told me that movie memorabilia or movie soundtracks would excite him more…but he got my drift. Cookbooks are my pornography.
So last week, on one of my pornographic trips to the library, I found a cookbook titled Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan (the chef-owner of The Slanted Door). Upon finding this amazing book and still hungry from reading “Kitchen”, my new goal for June was to learn how to cook outstanding Vietnamese food — starting with pho. Phan’s chicken pho recipe looked amazing, although time-consuming. The recipe below cuts down on some of the time and complexity found in Phan’s original recipe. And the results were still amazing! Hope you enjoy!
(Adapted from recipe by Charles Phan in “Vietnamese Home Cooking”)
What You Need:
For the Soup:
1 – 2 inch piece of whole ginger (skin-on)
1 medium yellow onion
1 cooked large rotisserie chicken
16 cups of chicken stock (I use water with Penzey’s chicken soup base)
2 1/4 tsp kosher salt (don’t use salt if you use Penzey’s chicken soup base)
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
fish sauce to taste
1 bunch of cilantro chopped
1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced
1 (16 oz) package dried rice vermicelli cooked according to package directions, drained and rinsed with cold water to stop the cooking.
Crispy Fried Shallots (see following recipe)
For the Garnishes:
Thai Basil Sprigs
Mung Bean Sprouts
Limes, cut into wedges
Jalapeno Chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced into rings
Sriracha Sauce (optional)
What You Do:
1. Place Onion (with skin on) and whole ginger piece (with skin on) in oven. Cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
2. Remove all meat from chicken (shredding it with your fingers as you go) and set aside. Take all bones from chicken and set aside separate from the meat. Discard all skin and any tough chicken pieces.
3. Take the onion and ginger out of the oven when cooking is complete. Cut the ginger into 1/4 inch coins. Remove the skin of the onion and discard. Cut the onion in half.
4. Place stock, salt (if using), minced ginger, brown sugar, onion, ginger coins, and chicken bones in a large stock pot.
5. Cover the stock pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat until it remains at a gentle simmer. Simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours.
6. When the stock has finished simmering, take a slotted spoon or small sieve and fish out all of the large solids.
7. Allow the stock to sit for a few minutes and skim most of the fat from the surface. Season to taste with salt and fish sauce.
8. Assemble the garnish plate (excluding the sriracha sauce which is just served in the bottle).
9. Place some shredded chicken, cilantro, and scallions at the bottom of each bowl. Place some noodles on top. Spoon the stock into the bowl over top of the chicken, noodles, and herbs. Sprinkle with the fried shallots. Serve immediately accompanied with the platter of garnishes. If you like your soup spicy, put a little sriracha sauce in your own bowl and mix it in right before you take your first bite.
Crispy Fried Shallots
(You don’t want to skip this ingredient!!! It is so worth the little extra work!)
What You Need:
2 cups of thinly sliced shallots (approximately 4 large shallots)
1 cup of vegetable oil
What You Do:
1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. When you can drop a small piece of shallot into the oil and it starts to sizzle immediately, you know your oil is ready.
2. Put shallots into the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Some of the shallot pieces may still be in the oil.
4. Increase the heat to high. When you see the remaining shallot pieces turn darker brown in the oil, return all of the shallots back to the oil. Cook until well-browned (but not burned). This won’t take long, so be careful.
5. Immediately pour the oil and shallots through a sieve to stop the cooking, then transfer the shallots to a paper towel-lined plate. The shallots should come out crisp and surprisingly sweet. Feel free to save the now shallot-infused oil for future cooking.
Want more cooking ideas from Kitch? Try her Strawberry Pie Jam, Chocolate & Salted Caramel Matzoh Brittle, Pin-Up Pot Stickers, Blueberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies, Braised Corned Beef, Bacon Mashed Potatoes, Farmer’s Wife Avocado Salad, Kahlua Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, Ribs or Sponge Cake
Cora Vette and the VaVaVettes – The Biggest D.I.Y. EVER!
By: Cora Vette
Hi Pin Curl readers! It has been a few months since I have had the chance to write one of my D.I.Y. columns, and this is why…I had the chance to put together a line for the Viva Las Vegas Fashion Show in Las Vegas. I am just now coming up for air and wanted to share my experience with you.
A few months ago, after a particularly frustrating day, I saw a post on Facebook (you know, where we all get our news) that the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend was looking for fashion designers for their fashion show. The post said just send a link to your website and 5 photos of your designs. Well, I didn’t have anything ready to send down a runway, but I did have Coco Lectric model some of my previous designs about a year ago and a website, so I thought, “what the hell?”
The Viva Las Vegas Fashion Show only allows companies who specialize in designs based on vintage styles to participate in the fashion show. Eve Vette and I had opened VaVaVette a year ago, and we had great success with our accessories and pasties. This was perfect time for me to showcase my vintage sewing designs and debut my new line “Customs By Cora”. I sent my information in, and within an hour, I had an invitation to exhibit. Perfect. What an opportunity! What a lot of work I was in for. I had no idea…
I had only 8 weeks’ notice. I had nothing ready to send down a runway in Vegas.
I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to make it fabulous. So for the next 8 weeks, I sewed a TON, drank a LOT of wine and slept VERY little.
For the fashion show, I used only my 5 VaVaVettes as models (Eve Vette, Gigi D’Lovely, Lucy Britches, Chakra Tease and Sapphire Stone). Since I make everything custom, using my girls was the only way I could make sure that everything fit once we got to Vegas. It was a very unorthodox way to run a runway show. I had 5 girls and a total of 25 outfits to be shown in 8 minutes. We did it by setting up 5 chairs offstage and laying out the clothing unzipped and unbuttoned in show order so it was ready to go. I put a hamper next to each chair so as they strutted offstage they could strip, dump the clothes in the hamper and grab the next outfit. They did it and they rocked it!
I decided that since we had 8 minutes of stage time, I wanted to make it into a show. Why not? So I sang everything live to complement the ladies and we even did a little choreography that Lucy Britches put together. It was crazy and insane, but a great success and I am so proud of all my girls for making my hard work look amazing!
We also had a fantastic opportunity to have Andreas Koch (a pin up photographer from New Orleans) follow us around all weekend. If he hadn’t done this for me, I would have no record of the whole experience. I swear. It was that much of a whirlwind.
I have included in this article photos of some of the original vintage patterns on which I based my designs. I made tons of alterations in style, hem length, fabric choice, accessories, styling etc. but, I wanted you to be able to see where all these fashions came from, and what I chose to do with them. I hope you enjoy it!
To top off the weekend, I also hosted the Miss VLV Burlesque Competition night and the VaVaVettes did a group number with me (In costumes that I constructed, of course). What fun!
There is also a video of our portion of the fashion show here.
25 outfits in 8 weeks – Would I do it again? Probably not. Was it worth it? Hell yes.
We had a blast. Thanks to everyone who was a part of this amazing weekend (especially Misther Cellophane who was in charge of Hussie Wrangling and shuttling us back and forth the from the Gold Coast…next door…).
And now I sleep…maybe.
Xoxo Cora Vette
Burlesque Rates of the Union
An issue ago we finished up our Guide to Touring series. It was with touring in mind that we dreamed up the idea for our Burlesque Rates of the Union. We asked several gals from all over the country what to expect from their hometowns and compiled their responses into an easy to access reference table. Be sure and grab the Best of Spring 2013 for even more cities!
(Click images to enlarge)
By: Kitch Coquette
I doubt many of you can your own homemade strawberry jam. If you are like me, you remember your mother gathering macerated fruit in a cheese cloth, which she then hung above a large aluminum pan. The juice would drip, drip, drip all day long. Around dinner time, the seeds would remain in the cheesecloth, and the lovely juice would be in the pan. But it took all day long! What modern woman has time for that nonsense?
So I found an easier way to make strawberry jam, and it actually tastes better. Instant freezer jam! Freezer jams have been around for a long time, but I thought it was about time that the younger generation was exposed to this easy process. If you can cut strawberries, mash them, and stir – you can make homemade strawberry jam. Once you try this, you’ll never eat store-bought jams again.
The best part about this jam is that it takes such a short time to make, and it doesn’t require you to cook your fruit. This means that all of the fresh flavors of the strawberries are still maintained. Think about how ripe strawberries taste with sugar on them. Or think about a fresh strawberry pie. That is exactly how this jam tastes. I make a large quantity during spring and summer, but I freeze most of the jars. Then, all winter long I pull out my little mason jars filled with fresh spring taste. It’s like having a jar full of sunshine just waiting for you on those cold winter mornings.
This is great on toast, yogurt, ice cream, crepes, waffles, Dutch babies, blintzes, and much, much more.
What You Need:
4 lbs of fresh strawberries
1 ½ cups of sugar or Splenda
1 sachet of Balls instant pectin
5 – 8 oz jelly or jam jars (make sure to run them through the dishwasher before using them)
What You Do:
1) Remove all of the strawberry stems and cut out the center white part of each strawberry.
2) Wash the strawberries.
3) Slice the strawberries and place in a large bowl.
4) Use a potato masher to mash the strawberries. Mash until approximately half of your strawberries are macerated, and the other half are still intact.
5) In a separate bowl, combine the pectin with the sugar (or Splenda).
6) Add pectin mixture gradually to prevent clumping. Stir between additions of the pectin. Stir until well incorporated.
7) Ladle the strawberry jam into the clean jelly/jam jars. Close tops.
8) Place one of the jars in the refrigerator and the others in the freezer. The one in the refrigerator will be ready to eat in 30 minutes. When you want to use the ones in the freezer, just take out of the freezer and leave it in the fridge for 24 hours.
Want more cooking ideas from Kitch? Try her Chocolate & Salted Caramel Matzoh Brittle, Pin-Up Pot Stickers, Blueberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies, Braised Corned Beef, Bacon Mashed Potatoes, Farmer’s Wife Avocado Salad, Kahlua Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, Ribs or Sponge Cake
By: Kitch Coquette
Iʼm an Irish Jew, which means I’m a walking-talking oxymoron. This year, both St. Patrickʼs day and Passover fall in March. This unfortunate overlap means I have to choose between my two heritages for this monthʼs Pin Curl article. I can either make my famous shepherd’s pie or give you a recipe from my Seder table. Turns out the choice wasnʼt that difﬁcult. Passover is my favorite holiday of the year. When else are you religiously obligated to drink eight glasses of wine during one dinner?
The recipe I want to share with you is one of the easiest recipes in my arsenal. It starts with the simple matzoh cracker. Matzoh is also fondly referred to as “bread of afﬂiction” or “poor manʼs bread”. If youʼve never had matzoh, itʼs similar to a sheet of stale saltine crackers without the salt. Until I found this recipe, I thought the best use for these tasteless crackers was to secretly feed them to your dog under the table, build a 10 foot tall house of matzoh cards, or break and throw them at your friends like misshapened ninja stars.
So why would I start with matzoh? First, Jews canʼt eat leaven bread during the week of Passover. Second, matzoh turns out to be an amazingly crunchy delivery mechanism for chocolate, peanut butter, salted caramel, toffee, and pecans. This brittle recipe is basically Jewish crack. Once you take your ﬁrst bite, you wonʼt be able to stop.
What You Need
4 unsalted matzoh crackers
1 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup light brown sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate chips (at least 1 cup)
Peanut butter chips (at least 1 cup)
Toffee bits (at least 1/2 cup)
1 cup of chopped pecans
What You Do
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a lipped baking sheet with aluminum foil and line the bottom with matzoh crackers, breaking the fourth cracker to ﬁt the baking sheet. Set aside.
In a pot, melt unsalted butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Stir constantly until well incorporated.
Then continue to cook for 5 minutes more, continuing to stir. It will thicken as you stir.
Off the heat, add the pinch of salt and the vanilla extract. Stir to incorporate.
Pour the brown sugar mixture over the matzoh. Spread with a spatula to cover the matzoh.
Place in an oven and bake for 5 minutes. Take the matzoh out of the oven and immediately sprinkle generously with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and toffee bits. Let sit for 5 minutes until the chips are shiny.
Spread the now melted chocolate and peanut butter chips over the matzoh.
Sprinkle with chopped pecans then place entire baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight or until chocolate has hardened.
Break apart the crackers and serve at room temperature.
Want more cooking ideas from Kitch? Try her Pin-Up Pot Stickers, Blueberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies, Braised Corned Beef, Bacon Mashed Potatoes, Farmer’s Wife Avocado Salad, Kahlua Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, Ribs or Sponge Cake
Looking for a refreshing twist on the typical St. Patty’s Day cocktails? Try this relatively healthy Irish Tea recipe, which you can make by the glass or the pitcher!
What You Need:
4 Parts Sweetened Green Tea, Chilled
1 Part Jameson Irish Whiskey
½ Part Pernod Absinthe
Lime Slice for garnish
What You Do:
Combine liquid ingredients, serve over ice in a rocks glass, garnish with lime & enjoy!
Beloved Emcee and costume goddess Cora Vette, owner of Denver’s one stop burlesque shop VaVa Vette, gives us the lowdown on how to create your own custom fashions.
Zip Your Lip! – Cora Vette’s secret (well not anymore) way of making zippers easy!
Zippers are a mainstay in any burlesque dancer’s wardrobe. Hidden zippers for that surprise removal or a separating zipper for that easy, sexy dress. We use them in a million different ways. Also, vintage clothing has more than its fair share of zippers. As a matter of fact, a “simple to make” vintage pattern that I recently replicated had not one, but two zippers for a simple sleeveless top! Spandex was invented in 1959, so before this date, in order to get that close fit, a zipper was frequently used at both the neck and the side of a bodice. A little sewing history for you…
I hear so many people say “I hate zippers”. So for this DIY column I am going to let you in on my zipper trick. Shhhh…It’s fast and easy and will have you loving zippers once again.
First of all, I don’t put zippers in the way they instruct you to on the package. I cheat. I am proud to admit it. As a matter of fact, I thought I invented my way to put in a zipper until yesterday. I was sewing from an early 1940’s pattern and the directions for how to put the zipper in was EXACTLY how I do it. (I think the zipper foot was actually invented in the late 40’s, so this makes sense). The truth is, I lost my zipper foot somewhere in my costume room. I may never find it again.
So, here is how I do it. It’s simple and easy.
Use a long basting stich. (My machine setting is 4. You want the longest straight stich on your machine) Sew the seam closed where you intend to place your zipper.
Press your seam open. I encase my edges in bias tape for neatness.
Place your zipper with the pull facing DOWN and the teeth directly over the seam. Pin into place. I use dressmaker pins that you can sew over and I put them at a 90-degree angle so they don’t get caught in the machine when you sew.
Carefully turn the garment over and stitch roughly 1/8”-1/4” from the seam, squaring it up at the bottom and coming back up the other side.
Use a seam ripper to CAREFULLY open the seam. Don’t go too fast or it may slide off track and cut your fabric. Trust me…
Pull out the loose threads so the zipper doesn’t get caught. Pour a glass of wine, and enjoy your finished zipper. Heck, zip and unzip at will.
This garment is for the fashion show at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend in March. I am excited to have the opportunity for VaVaVette to be featured in the show! Here is the finished product. I hope to see you in Vegas!
Until next time – Zip your lip about my secret zipper method! Shhhh…
xoxo – Cora Vette
Part I in our Guide to touring got you on the road, so now that you’re there what should you expect?
First Scenario – The performer reached out to the producer.
If you’ve reached out to the producer to get the gig, make it as easy on the producer to say “yes” as possible. Here’s a few things to consider:
- Make sure you make it easy on the producer by giving him/her everything they will need in advance well before your trip:
- *high res* photos for press
- a brief bio or buzz words to use in promotions
- your tech/stage notes and music
- Your itinerary & your phone number
More advance Preparations you *must* make ahead of time:
- Have your lodging set up and choose a place as close to the venue as possible.
- If you won’t have your own transportation, do a little research to figure out the public transportation or cab system in the area.
- Have dietary restrictions? Travel with lots of snacks that do meet your needs or map out restaurants/groceries close to your hotel that you can hit up on the way.
- Make a list of what to pack and go over it several times, trying to plan for the unexpected. You don’t want to have a curling iron or stocking emergency in an unfamiliar town under a time crunch. Also, plan an extra casual outfit and dressy outfit so no matter where the after party shenanigans take you- you have the perfect outfit. (No one likes to ride a mechanical bull in an evening gown.)
- Make sure you have the producer’s phone number, email, and a secondary contact saved in your phone.
- If you are using merch as a way to hopefully bring in some extra money during your tour, make sure everything is ordered in time to arrive long before you leave so you can make any last minute changes if something is wrong with your tees/glossies/stickers/etc. Pack as much as you can to bring with you, or consider shipping them to the producer before the event if he/she is okay with that.
- Additional Gigs. Each producer feels differently about this, so make sure you clear everything with the original booker. You are on the road to make friends, not enemies. Once you get the all clear (and maybe even a list of places to start) from the producer, reach out to other shows and burlesque schools in the area to see if you can land a second show or workshop to help cover your travel costs. Make sure you can get to and from all of your gigs using either public transportation or cabs. It is unreasonable to expect a producer to bring you to someone else’s show by tech rehearsal.
- Plan some wiggle room in your plans to go to lunch before or go for drinks after the show with the producer or fellow performers, but don’t take it personally if no one is available to entertain you. While you may have a day free of obligations, others may have day jobs, children, deadlines, so don’t be hurt if you aren’t invited out.
After the trip
- A brief thank you card, or email sent to the producer is never a bad way to go.
- Follow up with the connections you made: performers, fans, producers, or otherwise telling them what a pleasure it was to meet them and how you can’t wait to see them again. (Only if you mean it.)
Scenario Two – The producer reached out to you.
In addition to all of the above, with this scenario, it’s a little safer to assume you will be hosted, though you want to be a gracious guest, so how do you navigate? The short answer, as Jo Weldon puts it, is *read your contract*! If you aren’t given a contract by the producer, consider having your own performance contract. If something is non-negotiable for you- make sure it’s in your contract!
- It is very reasonable to expect the producer to either bring you to and from the airport themselves, or have someone assigned to that role so you will arrive safely at your hotel/host’s house. It is also reasonable to think that transportation to and from the venue will be provided. However, you should always know where you are staying in advance, as well as where you are performing, so in case of emergency you can catch a cab or public transportation.
- It is reasonable to think you will be asked to join the producer or someone he/she has assigned to host for lunch, dinner, maybe shopping or sightseeing sometime during your stay as that is all part of being a good host, but please do not take it personally or be hurt if you are not asked. While you’re experiencing a new city, the rest of the crew is experiencing their daily grind.
- The tab question. Generally whoever asks, pays, and in most situations it is the producer. However, in situations where the entire cast is going out it’s understood it’s every man or woman for him/herself. The safe bet? If you can’t afford your meal- don’t order it.
- I’ve seen producers offer “welcome packets” when they know they are going to be too busy to be a good host (mainly festival situations) that provides sightseeing, dining, and shopping recommendations, as well as phone numbers for cab companies and places that will deliver food to your location. I always thought this was a great touch.
- It is unreasonable to expect the producer to run you about town for items you forgot, places/people you “must see”, or anything else that tickles your fancy. Have to see the Space Needle while you’re in town? Make plans to get there on your own.