Do you want to know more about the history of the pastie and why the smallest costume pieces in burlesque are some of the most significant? Come listen to Rosey La Rouge, creator of The Pastie Project, discuss all of the above, and see beautiful examples of historic and modern pasties from around the world. Get an up-close view of pasties inside and out. This is a promotional event for The Pastie Project book- we hope you can make it!
My experience discovering the burlesque community in New York City was a lot like coming upon a magical field of unicorns, and then, turning into one. Like a lot of fellow performers, I had life experiences that led me to look for an outlet of artistic expression through performance. Unlike a lot of performers, my day job was as a costume designer, and I had been involved in the theater and entertainment industry for my entire professional life, behind the scenes. The combination of my love for colorful, sparkly, extravagant costumes, and the desire to personally express myself artistically through performance came together, and the early connections I formed with some of the most brilliant people in burlesque made me fall in love with this art form, and it’s history.
Finding my place
I would attribute the beginning of my burlesque career to a handful of performers and producers who instructed me, hired me, taught me magic and self confidence, and helped me understand the business, and what it means to be a good producer. To Veronica Varlow, Albert Cadabra, Gal Friday, Jo Weldon, World Famous * BOB *, Legs Malone, Runaround Sue, and Joe the Shark- you made me Rosey La Rouge. After being under your tutelage and gaining your friendship, I have performed everywhere I ever dreamed of in New York City and beyond. I have produced shows made with love and art, and with some of the most amazing artists I have ever seen. I have conquered my fear of singing thanks to Shelly “The Singing Siren” Watson, The Burlesque Choir, and Peter Aguero. I have met the love of my life and my artistic partner Ben Trivett. I have seen burlesque grow and change exponentially in just nine years, and I am excited to see it continue to burst into the world by way of new schools, festivals, and via The Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.
I have always felt that I was a good performer, and I love being on stage, but I know that when it comes to performance, I am a hobbyist. I was never the most famous, and I never strived to make a full-time career as a burlesque performer, but I now know that I have a very important and different role in burlesque. As a professional costume designer and historian, I feel that it is my personal calling to document the costumes of this art form, in a way that has not yet been done.
The history of burlesque has been documented by many historians, women’s studies experts, and in the biographies of individual performers. “Horrible Prettiness” by Robert C. Allen should be called the bible of the early history of burlesque. Gypsy Rose Lee, Georgia Sothern, Ann Corio, and many more, have fantastic biographies and burlesque books. There are even some writers and lovers of burlesque who have delved into the costume aspect of the art, most notably, Liz Goldwyn with her book “Pretty Things” and Jo Weldon with “The Burlesque Handbook”. It seems though, that no one has comprehensively photo documented pieces, and focused on construction and innovation through burlesque history.
As a costume designer, I understand construction and fabric. I understand costume history in depth. As a performer, I understand movement, reveals, and styles of burlesque. I believe, with my qualifications, that I am one of the most capable people to take on the challenge of documenting burlesque costume history. I also believe this is a formidable task. It is this daunting thought that led me to focus for the moment, on one part of the burlesque costume: the pastie. The most important part of what makes a costume ensemble “burlesque”, and a piece that was created because of laws about nudity ,many of which originated in New York City. The pastie is a part of what makes burlesque a truly American art form. Burlesque history has been a source of pride or shame depending on who you ask. Regardless of whether you think that burlesque is a legitimate part of American Theater History (clearly I think it is, and deserves documentation), there is no denying that the costumes themselves, and more specifically, pasties, are works of art. They are pieces of body jewelry as varied as the performers who wear them, and are influenced by their time period, and place of origin.
There is no way to document all of the pasties throughout time, and all of the wonderful artists who wore them. (In fact, pasties seem to be the hardest costume articles to track down when buying vintage pieces) There is no way to showcase the thousands of performers who currently take the stage with brilliant ideas, classic storytelling, legendary tributes, and boundary breaking acts. There is, however, a way to tell the history and evolution of the pastie and its construction that will inform and inspire. That is the goal of this project. Whether you are interested in The Pastie Project to learn more about costume history, or you just appreciate the art form that is burlesque, thank you. For the rest of you, who already know and love burlesque and this community, it is a pleasure sharing this beautiful world with all of you magical unicorns.
The Pastie Project is fundraising for the upfront costs of production on their book project. Please donate here if you can, and thank you in advance!
Copyright, Rosey La Rouge, 2016. All rights reserved.
The Pastie Project NEEDS YOUR HELP! Contribute to our GoFundMe to help offset production costs of our book. We are adding so many special elements to this publication, including original illustrations and historic photos. We will put you in the special thanks for your contribution! Thank you in advance!
Students entering the world of tassel twirling recite this before they make their first attempts. Special thanks to Jo for letting us document her class today, to her students, and to the talented Bettina May for capturing it all on camera!
You’ve been asking for it, and now, it’s up! A sample of our archive is posted here to give viewers an idea of how we are photographically documenting all the pasties shared with us. The collection posted is the personal collection of Rosey La Rouge.
All photos are by Ben Trivett. All rights reserved on written content, images and objects photographed.
We’d like to share our first official pastie picture! This set of pasties was bought from an antique vendor, and is thought to be from the 1940’s.
These pasties are the set that sparked The Pastie Project. It occurred to us that not only is a set of vintage pasties rare, but there is no comprehensive document on their history. We find these beauties fascinating in all their forms, and the history behind their existence makes them even more important, as they are a costume piece that was created because of changes in the law, versus costume items made purely for characterization or beauty.
The pasties are built on a conical, light buckram form, and they look like they have been worn, as there is adhesive residue/discoloration in their interior. The outer layer is a hand spiraled rich lavender rattail trim. The two most outstanding qualities of this “set” of pasties are their size difference, and the fantastic accents of large crystal rhinestones, set into long, flexible wire springs. We have never seen anything like them, and wish we knew more about their provenance. For anyone who sees these and might know more about this set specifically, get in touch!