KD: I’m very excited to have the fabulous Delores Deluxe on A Hopeful Romantic today. Delores is the best person I know to reveal to us a little of the delicious mystery that is burlesque.
Welcome Delores! I’m absolutely thrilled to have you as my guest. I have a confession to make; you’re one of my fantasy guestsJ I’m dying to know how did you get into burlesque, how did you get to be Mummy Kitten of the Kitten Club?
DD: I originally trained as an actor and was working as such for about 7 years. I was offered an audition to be part of a cabaret burlesque troupe that was about to be set up. I didn’t really know what burlesque was but I had a feeling I would like it!
I did the audition and was totally hooked – it offered so much of what I really enjoyed doing and obviously the opportunity to wear corsets for a living! I took a decision to turn down a much bigger theatre contract and do the pilot of the burlesque show which I ended up co-running with Kitten Blue and was named The Kitten Club.
Kitten Blue eventually moved to Vancouver with her Canadian Tomcat and I took over the business and show in London and haven’t looked back!
KD: I attended a burlesque teaser taught by one of your kittens, Tempest Rose, over at Sh! Women’s Emporium close to a year ago now, and one of the ideas that I found most striking, that made me want to learn more about burlesque, was the idea of women, not only in control of, but celebrating their femininity and their sexuality. What happens on stage at a burlesque performance seems so much different from what happens at a strip club. Could I ask you to address the differences and your views of those differences?
DD: Burlesque shows and strip clubs, as far as I’m concerned, have very little, if any, common ground. Striptease is only a small element of what burlesque is but I think many people associate that with stripping and strippers.
Burlesque is an art form which is as wide and varied as any other, while there is an element of striptease, there is also great emphasis on skill, storyline, costuming, comedy, message and spectacle. The point of a burlesque act is not how much clothing is removed but rather to entertain, tittilate and even educate!
Strip clubs are traditionally for men. Burlesque clubs are frequented by everyone ; couples, groups, hen parties, celebrations and a large percentage of our audiences tend to be women.
The performers are all in control of their acts which they will have created themselves and are being specifically booked and paid for. Although burlesque is sexy, it is not designed to ‘arouse’ men, nor is it gratuitous or sleazy.
KD: Perhaps this is a good place to ask for Delores Deluxe’s definition of burlesque.
DD: Burlesque is a sexy, sassy and skilled theatrical performance. Its roots are in variety and music
KD: I’ve only read sketchy histories of burlesque, which I’ve found totally fascinating, but I’m very interested to know what you see as the major differences between early burlesque and the recent revival of burlesque?
DD: There are many different types and styles of burlesque. British burlesque (traditional burlesque), American burlesque (classic burlesque), neo burlesque – also there is the Berlin cabaret and even Moulin Rouge. We are very lucky in London to have one of the most thriving scenes in the world at the moment.
Modern burlesque is amazing and unique in that we have so much history to look at and take inspiration from and you will see an astounding diversity of style at any one show, coupled with performers putting their own stamp and creating modern routines with contemporary music and style with ideas inspired by our burlesque ancestors. Burlesque is very specific to the time it’s created. Traditionally, it would send up high art or make a political statement or commentary which you can definitely see on our scene. I think the major difference would be the position of women in society now – many of our shows and venues are produced and run by women so it’s a very feminine strain of show business.
KD: What makes the Kitten Club brand of burlesque unique?
DD: The Kitten Club has a very ‘tongue in cheek’ style and the show is fairly quirky – I guess that comes from me and the type of act I find funny! We often describe ourselves as ‘Carry on Burlesque’ in style in that we really like to use parody, send things up and definitely don’t take ourselves too seriously!
KD: As well as performing at Madame JoJo’s and Volupte, you and the Kittens also offer burlesque courses through The House of Burlesque, and one of those course which I’d like to talk more about is a course to boost women’s body confidence. I don’t know many women who couldn’t use a bit of body confidence boosting. Could you share with us how that course came about?
DD: It came out of many things, firstly burlesque made me realise there is no one ideal. Having been an actor for years and often being made to feel like a freak of nature for not being a 5’4’’ size 8, chorus line blondie or just not being seen for certain jobs at all because I was the wrong size or shape. Finding burlesque was a massive confidence boost at the time and gave me the opportunity to challenge what pigeon hole people might put you in.
I found that many of the women who came to our shows would often approach us afterwards to tell us how much they enjoyed the show and seeing a variety of women with different body shapes. They would often want to talk about themselves and their hang ups , ask us about costuming, corsets etc and ask for advice on how they could buy similar. I also found this in the burlesque classes I was teaching – women wanted something more so I set up a body confidence class, which challenges women to look at themselves differently and focus on positive body image.
KD: If you could give women one piece of advice that would help them boost their confidence about their bodies, what would it be?
DD: Ignore the media – abandon celebrity magazines!
KD: I think that may be the best advice EVER, Delores! Thanks! That leads me to my next question. The gorgeous costumes aside, what has always struck me most about my limited encounters with burlesque is the unabashed, downright joyous celebration of feminine beauty. Is there something in the psychology of burlesque that just brings out the inner feminine?
DD: Burlesque is very elegant, sensuous and voluptuous. Curves are greatly revered and the syle of performance means that parts of our bodies we are conditioned to dislike are portrayed as sexy, beautiful and perfect.
KD: Burlesque has an amazing history, and is enjoying an exciting revival. Where do you see that revival leading?
DD: Long may it continue! Cabaret is fast becoming a number one night out. Time Out now has its own cabaret section with many people choosing a night out at a burlesque show rather than the theatre. There are so many clever shows on the scene with performers and producers really looking at new, exciting ways to interpret the style
I can only see it going from strength to strength with the wealth of talent and vibrance we have in the cabaret community.
KD: As the New Year begins, what does the future hold for Delores Deluxe and the Kitten Club?
DD: The Kittens are raring to go for 2012. The Kittens themselves, Vixen de Ville, Tempest Rose, Vicious Delicious and Tomcat, Christian Lee, are all also well established, successful solo performers on the scene as well as being part of the troupe. We will be continuing our residencies at Volupte and Madame Jojo’s and are looking at hopefully taking the show further afield later this year for a few one-off dates.
KD: Where can we see the Kitten Club perform?
DD: We work at Volupte – a fabulous dinner cabaret club just off Chancery Lane with an amazing cocktail bar and kitchen. We perform here twice a month – you can see full details of dates and book a delicious night out at www.volupte-lounge.com. We also perform at one of the oldest and most established cabaret clubs, Madame Jojo’s. We perform here on the second Sunday of every month and details are on our own website www.thekittenclub.com.
Come and join us!
KD: At my request, Delores has added a special bonus to this post, an introduction to that most mysterious and intimidating of all garments, the one that awes and terrifies. Yep, that’s right, the corset.
Corsets for the faint hearted!
There are two main styles of corset – overbust and underbust. They do pretty
much what they say on the tin!
Over bust covers your boobs
Underbust sits just under your boobs (can be worn with a dress, bra etc on
Corsets come in various lengths – depending on your preference, you can
have a longline which will cover yout hips or a regular length that will sit
just on or above your hips (depending on your height, build and shape)
They are measured by your waist – always read the information from whichever
paricular corsetier you are buying from but as general rule, you would buy
one 4 – 5 inches smaller than your natural waist measurement.
The corset has a front fastening known as busks – these are little steel
clips and the back of the corset is laced with the loops in the middle.
To put a corset on, you loosen the laces at the back and fasten the clips at
the front (I find top clip, bottom clip then the middle ones the easiest
sequence, but again, up to the individual)
The corset is then tightened by pulling on the laces at the back to get the
desired hourglass shape!
You can buy a steel boned or soft boned corset. The soft boned ones will not
give the same shape and waist reduction as the steel ones but are more
comfortable to wear as the boning is made of a firm rubber rather than spun
With the current trend for burlesque, you can now buy corsets in many high
street stores, however most of these are not of very good quality. Never buy
a plastic boned corset unless you are only planning to wear it once or
twice as the bones will bend out of shape very quickly and ruin the look of
I recommend investing in a steel boned one. Wear it at home for a few hours
to get used to it and it will start to mould to your own shape. Never lend
it to anyone else!
Once you get used to them, they are real fun to wear, can totally transform
an outfit and will maximise your shape, regardless of your natural figure to
make you look super feminine and curvy!
KD: Thanks, Delores! It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on A Hopeful Romantic. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing you and the Kittens perform again soon!