Tips for Tuesdays: Shoes. Burlesque Shoes. (Burlesque Costume) (Burlesque Performance)

Your shoes should look as good as the rest of you when you're onstage. Students often ask me what the best shoes are for burlesque, and as always, there are many options depending on an individual's needs. Heels are expected but definitely not required! The choice of most burlesque performers is at the end of the article.

Some shoe options less common among burlesque performers:

Bare feet
I've been deeply involved with fetish, so to me bare feet are a gorgeous reveal, as on Lili St. Cyr, above. Many dancers make magic in bare feet from the beginning to the end of a number. Just be aware that there will be haters of the bare feet on stage.  If you’re a great dancer in bare feet and a mediocre dancer in shoes, fuck the haters, go bare.  Also, I have seen people dwell for years on unasked-for criticisms about their bare feet, so please don’t be a hater. People without shoes can still kick your ass.

There are various kind of footwear, both substantive and decorative, for people who want the freedom of bare feet. These can be purchased already decorated or plain and ready for your own creative embellishments.  Great on burlesque aerialists.

Ballet shoes
They are romantic, and suitable mostly for pointe numbers.  Rhinestoning is optional, but if the rest of your costume is or looks bespoke, it makes sense that your shoes should match. Shoes above are from Etsy.

Department store shoes
They look like department store shoes. This can be good or bad.  Up to you.

Customized Louboutins
Dita wears them, and her taste is the gold standard for modern burlesque showgirls. Above are her fetish boots. They are worn by few burlesque dancers because they are expensive, and not always comfortable for dancing even when not custom made. However, if you can afford them and you can move in them, go for it.

A few styles of shoes commonly worn by burlesque performers:

Character shoes
These have haters, since they are intentionally designed to not be noticeable, but they are classics and are ideal for what they are designed for: theater dance.  As with pointe shoes, for burlesque use, decoration makes sense. They are usually affordable, although the top of the line will cost you. Character shoes are favored by the Rockettes, and who are we to question their footwear?

Shoes in character:
Footwear that suits the rest of your costume, like sneakers for an 80s workout number, boots for a firefighter number, etc., are always a good choice. This can be crucial in cosplay burlesque, as on Indigo Blue, above. They can be made campy with rhinestones or higher heels than they'd have for any practical purpose.

Originally designed for go-go dancers in the 60s, these are my personal favorite for walkaround because of the comfort and quick change. I've been obsessed with these for decades and own at least a dozen pairs, including Patricia Fields, Betsey Johnsons, and Genie in the Bordello line by Pleasers, above. I buy a lot of deadstock, and they're worth having on search alert.

Pleasers Acrylics
The very symbol of stripper pride.  As much as I love my Pollys, I have to say there is nothing like that glass slipper of entrepreneurialism, no prince required (although I have danced to quite a lot of Prince in them). I can't handle anything above seven inches anymore, but when I slip on a pair of these lucite babies I literally feel like I'm stepping up in the world. The photo above is actually from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it's sweet to know they're appreciated as high art!

Tango/Ballroom shoes
When in doubt, this is the shoe to try! It is the shoe of choice among many burlesque performers. They come in a range of heel heights so the range is good for both people who move best on lower heels and people who want that showgirl height. Many dancers who do a lot of spins and splits swear by these because they have suede soles, so you have flexibility and traction. For me the only drawback is that I'd prefer a regular buckle to the quick release many of the inexpensive ones have. The ones above are custom made. Also, they aren't meant to be worn offstage, so bring your Pollys.

Ultimately, the number one rule is, wear whatever the fuck you want! Just be sure you create your choreography and rehearse in the shoes you'll be performing in, and everything will be fine.

Oh, and take the stickers off the bottoms, please!

And point your toes whenever possible.

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