This was a costume which was custom created for me by designer Alex Herring, my longtime collaborator. It was a commission from Haus of Suarez, for their vogue ball themed Atlantis. The costume was the first in a trilogy of sea sirens, and inspired in equal parts by the lionfish, and the aristocracy of the Japanese Edo period.
I've been working with designer Alex Herring since 2018: we are co-artistic directors of Baubo Theatre, a design-led physical theatre collective. When Alex won a paid commission to create a costume for the Haus of Suarez Vogue Ball, she asked me to model the creation at the event, which took place in Liverpool's Invisible Wind Factory in October 2019, and was attended by over 1500 people.
The creation of the costume took well over two weeks, and it took me two hours to get ready for the event. Most of this time was spent in makeup, with makeup artist Laura Jade Sullivan. It also took me a day of rehearsing to be comfortable walking and performing with the headpiece, which weighs a couple of kilos.
The costume consisted of iridescent pleated isis wings hanging loosely behind me - outlining the silhouette. Fully opened, the wings reveal the full span of a circular halo and could be manipulated in a burlesque manner to conceal and reveal sensual body parts (seduction without nudity) Fan-like with concertinaed fabric attached to hinged spokes, the wing/fins offer endless movement possibilities - creating the illusion of floating underwater plastic.
Alex's description of the costume was as follows:
"The model enters as a sirene, geisha-esque creature, draped in a semi transparent kimono, peaks of the pleated origami style palazzo jumpsuit are visible - along with faint stripes and markings. A celebration of fans, pleats and origami, inspired by the decadent aristocracy of the Japanese Edo period. Influenced by traditional Japanese Kabuki Theatre, facepaint will be applied heavily to create a brightly painted mask and also feature a dramatic fanned headdress replicating lionfish fins.
Iridescent pleated isis wings are attached to the performers shoulders, hanging loosely behind the model - outlining the angular silhouette. Fully opened, the wings reveal the full span of a circular halo and can be manipulated in a burlesque manner to conceal and reveal sensual body parts (seduction without nudity) Fan-like with concertinaed fabric attached to hinged spokes, the wing/fins will offer endless movement possibilities - creating the illusion of floating underwater plastic.
The wrap-around kimono is easily unfastened and dramatically discarded to reveal a barely-there, see-through jumpsuit that enhances and beautifies the models natural curves. The lionfish’s distinctive markings will be painted onto an all over body suit with EL wire overlayed on the patterns - to emphasise the graphic lines once illuminated. A small hidden pouch containing the batteries/electronics will be concealed by the pleated wings, at the base of the spine.
The materials will be a combination of found beach fabrics and translucent layered plastics, adhesive tape and manipulated paper, emphasizing the ghostly translucent palette - later transformed with colour changing EL wire."
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