If there is one thing that I am particularly good at, it's looking the most onstage without draining my bank account. When I started burlesque I was still getting settled from my cross-country move to San Diego, a full-time college student with 3 barely paying jobs, and had limited time and resources. I learned to make the most out of the least while still building and finessing my glam onstage.
I am an avid preacher of shop your own closet first, but regardless of how many pieces and things that we can find amongst our own things, often we still have to purchase materials to create a cohesive look and tailor our clothes for costume conversions to be ready for the stage. So where do I look to get the most bang for my buck materials? Let me share.
Fabric and Textiles
Fabric shopping is one of my favorite things to do, but being that I'm tall, I usually have to buy between 5 to 7 yards if I'm making something full length or even just a panel skirt. Fabric quickly gets pricey, so finding a good price point is crucial for my budget.
National City Swap Meet Good to find stretch fabrics, basic chiffon, basic colors, and cheap pricing for multiple yards. Average pricing ranges from $1/yard to about $6/yard. Merchants are always trying to cut you deals. Saturday and Sunday mornings are the time to go. Bring cash or Zelle.
3200 D Ave, National City, CA 91950 | https://www.nationalcityswapmeet.net/
UFO- Upholstery Fabric Outlet
I like to find studier fabrics for belts, embellishments, and props here.
1919 Hoover Ave, National City, CA 91950 | https://www.ufofabrics.com/
Thrift & Consignment Stores
Thrift & consignment stores are hit or miss. Usually when I am already out shopping, I make it a point to look for any fabric rolls or scraps they may have. Typically they are with the home goods items or where ever they display their table clothes, blankets, or drapes. If I find something that catches my eye, I will pick it up to add to my collection.
NOTE: Goodwill's pricing has been a bit ridiculous lately, so check out some of your smaller local thrift stores first.
if you are up to the drive... LA Fashion District
If you are up for making the drive to downtown Los Angeles, the Fashion District is the place to go. Great for finding specialty fabrics, rhinestones, appliques, trim, and so much more. This is a whole day experience, so prepare for interesting parking and bring a safety buddy if you can. Cash is preferred, but many merchants will also accept card.
San Diego Florist Supply Store
Great to find random shiney objects to embellish and bling out your costumes.
2550 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104 | https://www.sdfsinc.com/
Gem & Bead Mall
Good for wholesale mid-grade rhinestones and beads.
Lost City Beads
Good for statement beads and embellishments.
Your own closet!
Before you buy anything, look through your own closet. I promise, often we have way more than we realize. Go in with new eyes and put your engineering brain on.
Woman owned and made here in San Diego, Aphrodite's Closet is one of my favorite places to get costume bases. There are a variety of panties and thongs, bras, and body cages that will help complete your look. If you don't see what you are looking for, ask because they are often happy to oblige.
6810 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115 | https://aphroditesclosetsandiego.business.site/
Theatre Costume Sells/Clean outs
This may require you to make some new friends or join online groups, but keep an eye out from your local theatres. Sometimes they will purge a variety of costumes and costume bases that are often already fitted for quick changes.
Swap Meets and Thrift Shops
Approach shopping for bases with the mindset of "How can I alter this?" and "What parts can I use or repurpose?"
Good luck with all of your projects! If you have good resources to add that are local, I would love to hear them.