– by Jess Topping
The 2015 Perth International Burlesque Festivals’ launch party, Corsets and Couture was a spectacular menagerie of style, creativity and expression.
After descending into a dark and unassuming back-street off Murray, on a cool but clear winter’s night, I was welcomed into the deliciously elegant arms of The Laneway Lounge. Stepping inside a luxurious warmth of light and sound, I was immersed in a motley celebration of feather, fur, glitter and above all – feminine glamour. This was a party oozing with classic charisma, conspicuous beauty and old-fashioned fun with none of the high-class snobbery or pretentiousness.
The majority of the crowd was adorned in their best attire and as I approached the bar to order something fancy, very adult and completely out of my budget, I couldn’t help but delight in the colourful array of fashion. There was the expected littering of buxom busts lacily confined inside corsets, as well as a wonderful selection of dapper gentlemen wearing their best bow ties, top hats, suspenders and suits. The manicured hipster beard truly revelled in its moment to shine.
It seemed everyone had taken this opportunity to excavate their favourite outfit from the depths of their wardrobe, as well as their best, soul-destroying heels — the ones that can crush men’s hearts and little toes in one walk . As well as sexy corsets and refined suits there were silken evening gowns, glittering garters, Venetian masks, sparkling showgirls, velveteen robes, golden bamboo suits, some steam punks as well as an 18th century French aristocrat who looked a little lost and very pissed. No matter the style, size or shape, everyone was feeling their finest.
The entertainment began with a red carpet walk of exquisite art fashion by local designers, under the narration of the nights’ MC, Famous Sharron. The ‘fashionista and Perthanality’ (can we please brutality murder this word and dump its bloated corpse in the river already) was purposely kitsch, and despite coming off as another cliché Dame Edna she did a good job keeping the crowd cheerful and expectedly entertained.
The sultry composition of local and international burlesque performers was truly first class. Not enough praise can be paid to these sumptuous goddesses who exuded nothing but raw feminine sexuality, causing men and women alike to go weak at the knees. It’s not just the obviously pleasing aesthetic of the female form adorned in risqué attire, but the contagious delight and confidence that emanates from women who love performing and enjoy their bodies, that really makes burlesque such an entertaining experience. Also the mystifying manner in which they can make their boobs spin this way, and then that way, and then both ways, and then opposite ways, just the left one, and then the right one, all with the particular movement of a shoulder or two. I’ll be practising for days.
Burlesque is something that everyone has to experience firsthand, and this world-class show combined with an enthusiastic crowd created an electric atmosphere and contagious festivity that made me feel I could get on stage myself. Deliciously crafted bacon and maple syrup cocktails obviously helped. The only disappointment was that the narrow space in front of the stage made it difficult for everyone to catch a glimpse of the show, although the TV in the bar made it possible to view it second hand in a more relaxed setting.
The mood was perfectly set and maintained by the delightful Jessie Gordon Quartet, a talented group of locals performing a seductive mix of swing, jazz and blues. The musicians were phenomenal and Jessie herself, with a cheeky sense of humour, captivating voice and enticing vivacity, deserved her place on stage amongst the vintage beauties of the night.
This was absolute burlesque at its best, set in a perfectly stylised saloon for an engaging variety of beauty, both on stage and off. A wonderful energy circulated amongst performers and punters alike, with everyone having fun and ready to socialise. I enjoyed great conversations with complete strangers, as well as giving and receiving many a compliment throughout the night. Honestly the only people who looked like they weren’t enjoying themselves to the fullest were those who were too shy to indulge in some dress up. It was fun, glamorous and sexy but most importantly, had maximum crowd immersion. Because at the end of the night you can have the most beautiful and talented performers in the world on stage but if you don’t have an equally enthusiastic and involved group of people to appreciate them, it will come out as forced and flat.
Corsets and Couture however, with its intoxicating ambience and refreshingly down to earth swank, was anything but. In one night of purely sumptuous razzle-dazzle, Perth proved it has class, culture, and can socialise with other people on a weeknight in the middle of winter.