A chat with the fabulous
If you haven’t heard of Flo Foxworthy yet, you just don’t have enough sparkle in your life! Flo is one of the most well-respected and well-known burlesque and exotic costumiers around; having made teeny, tiny sparkling g-strings for Dita Von Teese and Catherine D’Lish and both g-strings and elaborate burlesque costumes for Roxi D’Lite, Imogen Kelly, Venus Starr and many others.
Flo has received many awards, including appearing numerous times on the coveted Top Costumiers list for the Burlesque Top 50 awards. She also works at the world-famous Weta Workshop where she creates costumes and creatures for the likes of the Hobbit Trilogy!
Flo really is all the “f words” (except the naughty one!) … fabulous, fascinating, fantastic, fun and freakin’ awesome!
So, without further blathering on my part, here is my Q&A with Flo Foxworthy …
1) Mumpty: What inspires you; what keeps you going at this wonderful work you do? ‘Cos I’m thinking there seems to be A LOT of intricate beading and gluing and such-like – do you get sick/bored of it?
Flo: I honestly love my work, and I feel really lucky that we live in a time and place where it’s actually possible to do this for a living. Each job is different and I’m always planning for the next one, so I’m always being inspired and I don’t have much time to get bored.
When it comes to putting in the long hours embellishing a costume, I binge-watch shows … did you know the entire series of The Golden Girls is available on Youtube? Haha!
2) Mumpty: How does Flo unwind – what’s your happy place? What would constitute a perfect day for Flo?
Flo: A cocktail with Mr Foxworthy and an 80’s horror movie marathon – that’s my happy place!
I’m a textbook workaholic, and am not terribly good at sitting still for very long … but I’ve discovered that I love yoga, so I try to fit in a bit of a stretch every day. I also have an ever-growing container garden out the front of the house, and I enjoy pottering around with that when I need a break.
3) Mumpty: If I were to come to you with a costuming idea – what would be the process you’d follow? What’s your favourite part of the process?
Flo: I’m quite fluid in the way that I work, so I often don’t work to a rigid plan or design. When a client comes to me, we usually begin by discussing their ideas – what their act will involve, colours, styles etc. It’s great when a client has reference images or sketches to give me an idea of what they have in mind – that’s always a great starting point.
The next consideration is budget and time – I’m usually booked solid about three months in advance, so the more notice a client can give me the better.
Depending on what the costume involves, I might make a toile (mock-up) for the performer to try on before I begin making the actual costume pieces, but often I’ll just jump right in and make it up as I go along.
Most of my clients are from overseas or out of town, so I rarely have the chance to fit them in person. I rely on measurements and luck!
I don’t have a favourite part of the process really, as each part is so different. I love the technical aspect of pattern drafting (I prefer flat drafting with a pencil and paper to begin with, rather than just draping on a mannequin.)
I find sewing very rewarding, and I love the relaxing aspect of sitting quietly in my office embellishing the costume at the very end.
My least favourite part is cutting the fabrics, as I have a nasty case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which gives me hand and wrist issues.
4) Mumpty: Do you have any hints or tips/tricks for performers with regard to bringing their costuming ideas to life?
Flo: Before you go to your costumier, it’s really helpful to collect images, sketches, video clips etc to give the costumier an idea of what you want. The more reference images you can find, the better understanding the costumier will have of your vision.
It’s also a very good idea to have a set budget in mind so they can work with you to get the most bang for your buck.
If you have to send measurements to your costumier, try to be as accurate as possible – even if that means finding someone to take the measurements for you! The extra effort will pay off with a costume that fits you properly.
5) Mumpty: Do you have a favourite costume you’ve created?
Flo: It might sound cheesy, but it’s true – each new costume becomes my favourite 😉 I am particularly fond of the navy lace ensemble that I created for Leda Petit though.
6) Mumpty: What is the most expensive embellishment you’ve used/heard of?
Flo: Time. Honestly, it’s not the price of the embellishment itself, but the time it takes to apply it that can make a costume cost so much. When you think about it, 100 Swarovski rhinestones may only cost $12 – $30, but they each take time to apply (including planning the design, marking it on the costume etc.)
A costumier has to charge for the time it takes to apply each rhinestone/bead etc, so you can imagine how quickly it can add up when you have thousands of stones on a costume!
7) Mumpty: Is there a fact or figure or secret about the industry that you can share that you think would shock or intrigue us?
Flo: No secrets – haha! The main fact is that costumiers do it for the love of it, it’s an unpredictable business and you never really know what’s going to come along next (if anything.)
A few costumiers I’ve spoken with have joked about giving it all up for the security of a mundane job answering phones, or stocking supermarket shelves, where there’s a regular income and the job is the same day in, day out – but in the end we’d never give it up because costuming is just what we do and it’s who we are.
Flo: I’ve been super-lucky over the past few years in that I’ve already been approached by some of my absolute favourite performers to make bits and pieces. If I were to choose a performer from the past to dress it would be Lili St Cy as she was so incredibly elegant.
9) Mumpty: Do you have suggestions for a “skeleton wardrobe” for a performer starting out?
Flo: That’s a tough one, every performer is so different! A bra that makes you feel glamorous, panties that cover the parts you prefer to cover (and reveal the parts you like to show off!) and a big smile.
10) Mumpty: Do you have any top tips for performer wardrobe maintenance?
Flo: Be nice to your costumes and they’ll be nice to you. No matter if you’ve paid a costumier to make them or if you stitched and glued them together yourself, they’re an investment in your performance, so it’s in your interest to take care of them.
Some costume pieces can be hand washed – I usually suggest washing them with a mild body wash rather than using laundry detergent, as it takes less rinsing to remove the soap. Don’t put them in the dryer!
For costume pieces that can’t be washed, try to air them out as soon as possible after wearing them – don’t leave them in your suitcase until your next show or they’ll end up stinky (or worse!)
I make a costume spritz formula that helps to kill bacteria, but you can make a home-made version using vodka in a spray bottle. Simply spray the vodka onto your costume (particularly around the sweatiest areas), and then let the costume air out in a dry place. Don’t soak the costume, just a light spray will do.
11) Mumpty: Do you have a “dream costume” floating round in your head?
Flo: I have a few of them – haha! I’m planning to make four costumes this year as a special project, and will be displaying them later in the year, so I can’t give away the surprise – I’m really excited!
12) Mumpty: Do you sew your own clothes? Make your own wedding dress?
Flo: I never have the time to make my own clothes, but I did make my wedding dress – it was a very simple navy pencil dress with little rhinestone buttons at the waist.
(Mumpty – And because I recently found this wedding photo of Flo’s on her Instagram account (@flofoxworthy), I am going to share it here because I think this quite possibly the BEST wedding photo I have seen!)
13) Mumpty: Do you have a favourite crystal colour or favourite embellishment you love the most?
Flo: I can’t pick a favourite, they’re all my favourites at one time or another! There are a few Swarovski colours which I particularly love using – Crystal Golden Shadow (a lovely warm beige tone), Crystal Moonlight (a subtle alternative to Crystal AB) and Crystal Silver Night (a sparkling steel grey.)
14) Mumpty: Do you find it hard to let your creations go sometimes?
Flo: Not really, because part of the enjoyment I get from a job is packing up a costume and shipping it to the client, and the completion of one costume means I get to begin another. 🙂
15) Mumpty: And last, but not least – where to for Flo Foxworthy in 2015?
Flo: I have so much planned for this year, and time is already running out! I’m making costumes for some gorgeous performers over the next four months, and then I’ll be focusing on my special projects till November.
I’m looking forward to a couple of collaborations with some really creative people, I can’t wait to see where the process takes us!
Thank you Flo for being such an AWESOME and generous interviewee! I so appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, and I KNOW my readers are going to love hearing about how you work and who you are behind-the-scenes. I for one, am VERY excited to see the results of your special, secret project later in the year!
Yours in sparkly, Flo Foxworthy rhinestone-encrusted g-strings …