Friday 8 April 2016

Interview with Odelia Opium Costumes

Odelia Opium in one of her creations
Photo: Marco Felix
Vintage Rebels
I am kicking off a series of interviews with burlesque/stage costumiers. I love costumes and for me it’s a very important part of the acts I go to watch at burlesque and cabaret shows. I personally think a costume can make or break and act and how fit, attention to detail, colours, patterns, materials, rhinestones, shapes etc can all have an huge impact to the overall look and feel of an act. In these interviews you will get up close and personal with the people behind the sewing machine! Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned performer these costumiers are worth learning about and seeing why they are so great at what they do. If you are considering your first ever pair of custom pasties, a full commission or costume overhaul you need to research who does what well, why and how before moving forward. These interviews are designed to help, give an understanding and show the blood, sweat and tears that goes in to making things sparkle and shine. It’s a skill to do what they do and such an important part of your whole act and persona. 

Odelia is a classically trained fashion designer who specializes in historical costume. She graduated from fashion school in 2005 and completed postgrad studies in costume design and theatrical millinery. She also hosts lectures and workshops on costume history and construction. Creating bespoke stagewear for showgirls is her passion! Learn all about her costume passion below

Lady May Den-Voyage in a bespoke costume by Odelia Opium
 Tigz Rice Studios
MUA: Miss Honey Bare
What is your background in garment construction and/or design and/or ornamentation? How long have you been costuming for? 
Bespoke bodysuit in the studio
I live and breathe costumes. I got obsessed with making period costumes around 1995. It was so difficult back then, without the internet to research everything, but I somehow managed! I knew instantly this was what I wanted to do and started my own business for bespoke period costumes in 1999. To get a professional education I studied fashion design in Germany and graduated in 2005. I never wanted to work in fashion though, as my heart belonged to costuming! My graduation piece was a collection in the style of gothic lolita, based on 18th century fashions.

How did you become involved in burlesque costuming? 

When I started taking burlesque classes in 2010 I had to design and make the costume for my graduation performance - coming from a period costuming background that was an easy transition for me and I loved my newly found creative freedom! I truly enjoyed that process, got very positive feedback from the public and thus decided to offer my services to other performers!

What are some of the challenges of burlesque costuming? 

Making everything beautiful and functional at the same time, and complimenting the act rather than overpowering the wearer.
Karen Helle Photography
Hair by Jackie McCulloch Temes
MUA Marianne Byrne
Describe some of your favourite projects? 

I loved making Miss Amarettease's "Stupid Cupid" costume in 2013 because it was such a challenge - creating hidden arrows within her costume that looked like she'd been shot! I very much enjoyed Miss Cherry on Fire's "Copacabana" costume in 2015 because it was so big and bold and rather unusual! And of course my very own very first burlesque costume, which was inspired by Victorian circus performers - I researched it for weeks and wanted it to be perfect!

Which performers can we see wearing some of your work? 

I've had the pleasure to work for Polly RaeMarianne Cheesecake, Miss Glory Pearl, Valentina del Pearls, Miss Cherry on Fire, Beau Jangeaux, Lady May Den-Voyage, Avdotia the Russian Doll amongst others!

 Who would you love to make a costume for? 

Many people! Dita! Immodesty! Lola Frost! and many many others! There are so many performers I admire and would love to see wearing my things!

Miss Cherry on Fire's bespoke
"Copacabana" costume
Have you always had a design in your head that you would like to fulfil? 

Too many to count them all! There's never a time when I'm not thinking about projects! 

What aspect of costume making do you enjoy the most? 

The research, the pattern drafting and then seeing it all come to life!

If a new performer was looking to get a costume commissioned/constructed, what should they consider? 

Find a costumier whose work/style you like and whom you can trust!

What difference would a new performer find from off the rack to commissioned pieces? 

First of all - FIT! You often see people in cheap corsets that don't fit at all and thus are not doing anything for the act. A specially commissioned costume will always make you look your best and fit YOU rather than a standard size! And then of course originality! You don't want another performer to wear the same thing as yourself, or even worse: when audience members recognise where you bought your costume from!!

Odelia's 18th century fan dance act
Khandie Photography
Do you do courses at all from pastie making, general repairs, how to embellish/crystal, etc or do you save you skills for your own work? 

I teach all of the above and everything else related to sewing and costume making, from pattern drafting to corset making!

What would you consider important performer must have items?  

A well-made high end corset/set of bespoke undies that compliments your personal style!

How long on average does it take to make a costume? 

Hard to say! Depending on details and number of items I'd say roughly between 30-50 hours.

What are you most asked for/popular items? 

Probably lingerie items! I started designing my own showgirl undies (especially knickers) in 2013 because I could never find the right pieces in shops!
What price range do your pieces tend to go between? 

Starting from about £25 (for a set of pasties, for example) to several hundred pounds for a full outfit.

Odelia's Sandman act
Khandie Photography
All costumiers tend to have a style of costume/way of making or presenting their work. Can you describe what you think makes an obvious Odelia Opium piece? 

I'd say excellent fit (because the good people in fashion school spend a lot of time hammering pattern drafting knowledge into me!), attention to detail (I'm a perfectionist), high end materials and the charm of bygone eras!

How should a performer care for their costumes? 

Always check them after each use, air them regularly, wash by hand if possible and store them in a designated place.

What costume faux pas do you hate to see? 

My number one pet peeve is definitely people wearing a corset upside down! lol

What advice would you give to someone looking to design/create a costume? 

Try to be unique and work within your own skills; otherwise you set yourself up for disappointment.

What would you like to experience in your creativity and/or your business in the near future? 

My first burlesque performance
& costume April 2011
Photo: Thomas Busse
I constantly work on developing my skills, take additional classes and learn new things. So I always aim to be a better version of myself and just keep doing what I do! It gives me great pleasure to see people wear my costumes, so the bigger the project the better! 

What are your long term plans for Odelia Opium costume business? 
1920s style showgirl
I'd love to work on a big stage production at some point (like Wondergound shows, or something like Strip Strip Hooray!) ! Working alongside other creative minds is wonderfully fulfilling! I also run two other creative businesses on the side - I have my period costuming business and I also own (half of) a mailorder company, selling sewing patterns and costume making supplies, so all of this is keeping me veeeery busy already!

Photo: Tigz Rice Studios
Odelia Opium in one of her creations 
Photo: Marco Felix Vintage Rebels

I would like to thank Odelia Opium for her time with this interview. Don't forget to check out Odelia's shopStay tuned for an interview with Odelia Opium the burlesque performer!


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