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Burlesque on a Budget: Second-Hand Staples to Stock Up On

When creating burlesque costumes on a budget, it helps to plan ahead so you're not at the mercy of last-minute, emergency splurges. However, if shopping second-hand, you can't simply enter a store with a detailed, specific list and expect to find everything you need in the right sizes, colors, and condition. I've made plenty of trips and come home empty handed. It's hit-or-miss in the thrifting game. That's why it helps to have a running list of items you're always keeping an eye out for, to snag when you're lucky enough to find them and stash away for future projects.


Here's what I recommend as a "Stash List" when hunting your local thrift shops, consignment stores, and yard and estate sales:


  • Prom Dresses: Especially in solid colors and those with beadwork or rhinestones. Formal wear is typically well made using luxurious fabrics and finishes that look amazing on stage. And don't let outdated styles or wrong sizes sway you! You'd be shocked at all the ways you can modify and alter a finely tailored garment to create a customized costume. If you come across a good deal on a gown, snatch it up! Don't fret about damaged dresses, either. Stains can often be covered up with stone work or appliques, rips and tears can be mended, or you can even separate bodices from skirts to piece together your own bespoke creation. Depending on the fabric, you may even be able to dye... or paint the garment!


  • WEDDING DRESSES! For similar reasons as prom dresses. The quality of fabrics and embellishments make wedding gowns a perfect source for scavenging rhinestones and creating homemade appliques. They are also dyable (check fabric type), and can even be purchased exclusively for the underpinnings, if the price is right.


  • Lingerie & Loungewear: Specifically bras (check out your local family thrift store for black and nude/flesh bras for around ~$2-5), corsets and shapewear, robes, and vintage nightgowns. I find bras are always on the racks, but the other items are rarely found, at least in my neck of the woods. However, when I do find a treasure, like the navy, sheer kaftan with rhinestone embellishments for $6.99 at my local Thrifty Shopper (pictured below), it's like hitting the jackpot!


Image by @alexisinloveland


  • Shoes: I always seem to forget about the shoes when I'm creating a new costume ensemble. Finding a solid pair of heels, in the correct size that are both comfortable and easy to dance in is a rare occurrence, indeed. Always take advantage of the discovery of these unique treasures!


  • Rhinestone Costume Jewelry: This is another elusive item in my area, so when I spy these sparklies in a thrift shop case, I snatch them up! Especially if it’s a complete set with earrings and a necklace. As with shoes, I tend to neglect to plan these accessories when creating a new burlesque look, and I'm always grateful to have a stash of jewelry to raid when it's showtime.


  • Off-Seasonal Steals: Be sure to check out swimsuits in the winter and costumes when it isn’t the Halloween rush, for some potentially discounted deals. I once found a lovely black leather corset tucked away amongst cheap, generic bagged Halloween costumes in the back of a thrift store.

Thrift shopping not only helps keep your costume expenses in check, but the "thrill of the hunt" can make it an exhilarating and exciting experience. It will also ensure your custom creations are unique and truly one-of-a-kind! Having a second-hand stash in your workroom is both convenient and beneficial to your budget!


HAPPY THRIFTING!

Quick Reference:


Lulu's Second-Hand Stash List


PROM and WEDDING DRESSES

LINGERIE and LOUNGEWEAR

SHOES

JEWELRY

SWIMSUITS and COSTUMES


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