New Zealand Burlesque Festival 2013: Evening Done Right

This October, I went to the New Zealand Burlesque Festival. I spent most of my time enjoying the events, performances, workshops, and vendors. Sunday night, for the Burlesque Mixer, I got my camera out to capture some of the event’s style. With the holiday party season coming up, these photos are great examples of successful classy-yet-sexy evening wear for men and women.

Fashion magazines layer item upon item into “evening out” ensembles. And Wellington, the same week as the festival, was full of World of Wearable Art lady visitors out on an urban spree. You could pick out the out of towners by their big vivid bags, colorful necklaces, freshly coiffed hair, and other accessories. Bless! The burlesque performers and lovers, in contrast, seemed to have followed the old dictum of getting dressed and then removing an accessory to avoid overdoing it.

I didn’t notice a single pair of fishnet stockings or seamed stockings all evening. Note in the photos that jewelry and bags are minimal, throats and arms curve unhindered, shoes have clean lines. The clothes fitted, and undergarments were on the job. Some people wore cotton retro dresses on the more casual side of cocktail, and others wore full evening dress. There were many items with one special standout – one guy wore silver leather sneakers, some men and women had vivid pink or blue hair. And when I was editing these pictures, I only had to tone down one shiny forehead: women were clean and powdered and men were immaculate.  BonitaDangerDollandRubyRuinationBonita Danger Doll (left) and Queen of the Festival Ruby Ruination (right). What I like about each of them is that they’ve each got one complex visual item – Bonita’s leopard dress, Ruby’s multicolored hair topped with her tiara – and everything else is very simple.

SalaciousSugar-ESSSalacious Sugar shows us the value of perfect, perfect fit and unusual colors.

ScarlettDelight-ESSScarlett Delight has brought in a vintage accessory seamlessly. I also like the fluid drape of her dress – far more flattering than the stiff taffeta lampshades that endure in formal wear.

MissRedd-ESSNot going to lie: satin is a difficult fabric to wear. MisRed Delicious, one of the core festival organizers, makes it work with, again, distinguished fit.

RachelRougeandBelle-ESSTwo evening classics – an LBD and black-and-red- are refreshed by Rachel Rouge and Miss La Belle. Vintage accessories add light and texture. They both have structured and complex hair, and Rachel’s paler makeup is a fresh contrast against the dress.

HoneySuckle-ESSSometimes evening is the time to try a trend – Honey Suckle’s blonde-and-pink hair sets off her blush ensemble. Her dress has a lot going on, so her hair and accessories stay simple. And there’s pale makeup again.

DliciaMinx-ESSAnother black dress ensemble that has me admiring the sensuous, balanced revealed flesh. It sounds like I’m about to pounce on D’Licia Minx, doesn’t it? But these proportions are the definition of tastefully sexy – she has the 40% ratio just right.

SharpDressedMen-ESSSharp dressed men. Mmmm hmmm. Note how our redheaded friend has chosen lighter garments and shoes.

FlicCaracouandFriend-ESS  Flic Caracou and her friend interpret two contemporary evening frocks the same way, with dark shoes and stockings. It’s more modest, so if you’re a bit shy, take note.

FrenchieKissandJettAdore-ESSTwo of the stars of the weekend, Frenchie Kiss and Jett Adore. Jett is bringing the quirky circus to town – you can tell he’s someone special who also has a sense of humor. And why does Frenchie look so very good? Apart from that million-watt smile, immaculate grooming and quality fabrics add to her aura of perfection.

SadieandVelvetWhip-ESSWhat happens when two women – me and The Velvet Whip – wear green sequins? We admire each other’s excellent taste, of course.

NZBF2013CrowdA whole lot of party happened upstairs! This group shot happened in the middle of the festivities. By the end of the evening, everyone who came in stilettos was sitting on the floor. What stands out in this picture? Vivid hair, lighter frocks, shiny accessories and fabrics, and gray suiting.


  1. Wow! You Wellingtonians really know how to dress! Looks like you went to a masterclass in flattering eveningwear rather than a burlesque event (too often in London these can end up looking like a tawdry school disco, where the concept of burlesque has been so watered down as to be largely unrecognisable, or rather misunderstood), kudos to all of you for your excellent outfit choices. I’m curious to know, were a lot of these dresses bespoke or vintage/thriftstore, then altered to fit, or would they have been off-the-peg buys? If it’s the latter, the NZ high street seems to be much more in tune with what its non-teenage customers might actually want to buy. I especially loved the chic cover-ups; the jungle print dress with the matching bolero is gorgeous!


    • Sad but true that attempts at Sexy Dressing often lead to Sexy Dressing Fail with fishnets (which often have exactly the wrong level of detail for an outfit), too much black, and too much makeup. I took some pictures that didn’t make the cut because People Couldn’t Stop Dancing, or one person out of three had their eyes closed, or something – and I assure you they were all becomingly attired as well. Look at that crowd shot!

      Some items were bespoke, some were intelligently selected high street (Honey’s blush gown is Miss Selfridge), and some were thrifted or gifted. My own dress came from TradeMe and was a lucky find. I do get things altered regularly.


      • Funny how fashions come full circle, things that at first seem daring soon become so ubiquitous, then dated as people move on to fresher looks. Seems it happens in fashion subculture too as well as the mainstream. I love the looks in the group shot, especially the rainbow of hair colours!
        would you only get something altered for a special occasion, or would you be more likely to have a piece of reasonably priced work clothing altered so you would be more likely to wear it/feel more comfortable and confident wearing it? I’m helping a friend out with some clothing-specific aspects of a women’s charity she is setting up, and I wanted to get some opinions/feedback from people who see alterations as part of the clothes-buying process. Would I be able to e-mail you with some questions?


        • Sure! In fact, I could run a survey through here. I am a big alterations fan – because I’m short and curvy. Hems and sleeves come up and waists get nipped in. If I love it, it gets altered for me. What’s more, the alterations change it from “I like it but..” to staples that get worn often. Even with evening gowns because, well, my life.


  2. That’s wonderful, thank you! I shall email you a list of questions, if anyone else wants to weigh in or let me know their thoughts, they’d be more than welcome!


  3. I’m seriously swooning over Honey Suckle’s dress – it’s stunning!

    It’s always beautiful to see photos from things like burlesque events – everyone is so dolled up in a glorious way!


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