There are elements in life that, no matter how hard you try, never mix: oil and water, cats and dogs, you get the idea. For a showgirl, the most dangerous combo of all time is—brace yourself!—fishnets and sequins.
I can’t deny how beautiful and sparkly costumes look onstage, but it never ceases to amaze me what cosmic disasters arise when sequins and fishnets work in concert.
I’ll never forget my first time working with sequins. I was doing a show that required several sequined quick changes. For those of you who don’t know, quick changing is a sport unto itself. They should add it to the Olympics. You only have 30 seconds to a minute to get it right, and there are an infinite number of things that can go wrong. Your instinct is to panic and come up with a “Plan B.” Which costume elements are you able to sacrifice to make it onstage in time? You start rationalizing: Perhaps the audience won’t notice if I’m missing a shoe, or maybe I could do without my underwear. The trick is to suppress that instinct and remain calm.
I learned this the hard way. I had to change into a dress made entirely of sequins. If not rolled in precisely the right way, the sequined chest portion of my dress would get stuck to the thigh portion of my fishnet stockings. How might that look? Picture Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame—in drag.
So, the pressure was on, my costume was a mess and I had just seconds to unravel myself. It was like being an expert in cat’s cradle as I tried to untangle each sequin from each diamond of fishnet, getting nowhere closer to freedom.
What’s a showgirl to do?
It happened to be my first experience ensnared in fishnets and sequins, and the other showgirls were laughing; they’d all been there before. What I didn’t know at the time is that you really can’t help someone in this particular situation. They must be quarantined, because sequins have no mercy.
One dancer looked at me with sympathy in her eyes and said, “Oh no, I hate when that happens.” Then walked right past me to get to her next costume change. But my sequins had it in for her, too. Like some evil plant’s tendrils from Little Shop of Horrors, my costume reached out and attached itself to her fishnets.
The next thing I knew another dancer made contact with my sparkly exterior and was entwined in our web of flesh, flash and filigree. This is not how I had envisioned my first ménage a trois. (Okay, I have another confession to make: It wasn’t my first, but that’s a story for another week.)
Sometimes you have to resort to drastic measures. Grabbing my fishnets in one hand and the dress in the other, I tried to separate them like my life depended on it. With a horrendous yet merciful rip, sequins flew everywhere and we had escaped! I made it onstage in one piece, but I can’t say the same for that poor, sparkly costume.
After that, I told my sequins that I needed some space. As a showgirl, my loyalties will always lie with fishnets, and some things just don’t mix.