Pasties! What are they and how do they stay…there?
Sticky bits, tips and tricks!!
An adhesive and glues guide for burlesque babes and performers.
Pasties?! What are they and how do they stay…there?
Before we get started, let's take a look at a brief history on pasties and why we wear these fabulous, and often sparkly, finishing touches to cover our bits!
The "pastie" (Pay-stee) is known as one of the greatest staples and finishing touches of any neo burlesque costume! But why do we wear them? To answer this question we have to take a brief peek back to burlesque in America and the ever present censors that policed the burlesque houses and theatres.
As Leslie Zemickis presents to us in her book Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America, different towns and states in America had laws that varied on what could or couldn’t be seen in burlesque theatres.
Usually this meant that dancers would have to have to keep a certain amount of clothing on in order to continue dancing without getting fined or arrested. “Attention all female performers must not at any time have on less than pasties (glued directly on body)” Zemicks, 92. 2013.
The tradition of wearing pasties was carried through to the revival of burlesque, known as the neo Burlesque movement as , not just a way of paying tribute to the performers who came before us and the history of burlesque, but to continue to comply with exposure laws. Venues must have a "cabaret" license, which is quite expensive to maintain, usually only held by traditional strip clubs, in order to have nude performers present, so keeping our pink bits covered with pasties and g-strings allows us to perform in many more venues.
Pasties can be made from a variety of materials, from craft foam, faux leather, buckram and plastic.
But how do they stay on??
There are a few different types of adhesives and methods of sticking these conical mysteries to your body and a lot of what finding out which products work for you is down to experimentation!
This list will hopefully make it a little less intimidating to attach your first pair of pasties, dance the night away and remove them as painlessly as possible once the champagne has worn off!
SAFETY FIRST: If you are using any adhesive for the first time, especially if you have sensitive skin, make sure to do a patch test first! This includes fashion tape and tapes that may not be medical grade or cosmetically safe. Take a small amount of the adhesive and apply to the inside of the wrist or behind the ear. This should be left on the skin for anywhere between 1 hour to 24 hours. If a reaction occurs, cease using the product immediately. If symptoms persist consult a doctor.
Spirit Gum is an alcohol/resin based adhesive that has been used by performers since the 20’s and 30’s.
Spirit Gum can be purchased in costume shops and makeup supply stores like Scotty’s Makeup, Barnes, and stores that sell Drag Queen essentials. It comes in popular brands such as Mehron, Ben Nye and Kryolan to name a few. Spirit Gum can also be seen and purchased in multiple stores around Halloween season!
Pros: The most common and simplest method of sticking anything to your body, arguably the cheapest option, easily accessible and hardworking when used properly.
Cons: FLAMMABLE! Do not use in conjunction with fire tassels! Needs its own remover, will leave a resin crust on pasties and on fabric, nasty to clean up when spilt.
How To Use (Tap, tap, TAP!!)
Spirit gum can be applied in a thin layer directly to the skin or to the outer rim of the pastie (at least 1.5 cm). Use a brush you want to sacrifice, cotton tips or the corner of a sponge.
Allow to dry for a few seconds and then begin to TAP the spirit gum with your finger. This makes the spirit gum tacky and the tackier it is, the less likely it is to slide or fall off. Most spirit gum solutions are tap activated, but if you are unsure just read the back of the bottle!
Once tacky, apply your pasties in your preferred position covering your nipple. I like to hold both up to my skin in a mirror before applying to make sure they will sit evenly. Apply pressure to the pastie for a few seconds to half a minute.
Spirit Gum will generally come with its own remover which can be purchased in a set or separately. You can also use Isopropyl Myristate or isopropyl Alcohol (found in speciality makeup stores) to remove. I advise using the proper spirit gum remover to remove the product if using this product for the first time. But others have had success using baby oil, coconut oil and oil based makeup removers. Wash skin after removal with soap and water to remove all traces of spirit gum and remover.
Spirit gum is hard to get out of clothing and off surfaces when spilt. When travelling wrap and tape the lid of the spirit gum bottle and double bag to prevent mishaps. Always have baby wipes or makeup wipes on hand for when spills occur on surfaces for immediate removal.
PROS AIDE/PROTAC ADHESIVE
My personal favourite and has not failed me since (touch wood!). Pros aide is a medical grade prosthetic adhesive and is most commonly used to apply prosthetics and special fx makeup! You can find pros aide at face paint supply shops, Barnes, Scotty’s Makeup and Kryolan to name a few. Pros aide cannot be used with silicone, it will not cure properly and will fall off. Latex and silicone do not mix!
Pros: Hard working! Waterproof (but will eventually break down with sweat), water based latex adhesive. Similar to an eye lash glue, but DO NOT use to apply lashes.
Cons: Less common than spirit gum and often slightly more expensive. Water based so it may ruin foam pasties over time. Can be messy to travel with and use, refer to spirit gum for travel tips to prevent spills.
How to Use (Two is better than one!)
First, know how big your pasties are and where you want to stick them. Apply a good layer of pros aide to both the skin (where you wish to place your pastie) and to the outer rim of the pasties (at least 1.5 cm). I use cotton tips to apply the pros aide, but you can use a brush or the corner of a sponge.
Applying the pros aide to both your skin and the pastie is important in order to get the most effective and strongest bond.
Pros aide will be white when you first apply it, so wait until the pros aide on both the pastie and your skin has dried to clear (a small amount of white is fine). This process can be accelerated with the help of a hand held fan or hairdryer. Press the pastie into your preferred position covering your nipple. Apply pressure for about half a minute.
Pros aide does not necessarily require a specific remover, but Isopropyl Myristate is the best product to use to remove it. Isopropyl Myristate is composed of isopropyl alcohol and myristic acid and is safe to use on the skin as a makeup remover. This can be purchased at all the same stores listed for purchasing pros aide.
Baby oil, coconut oil, oil based makeup removers and soap and water is also effective at removing lasting traces of pros aide from the skin. That or peel it off just like you peel off tried lash glue from your eyelashes.
DOUBLE SIDED TAPE
Tape is also a very common method for attaching pasties to bodies and now a variety of tapes can be found in lingerie shops, fashion stores and in Priceline.
These fashion tapes are usually double sided and are great in a pinch. Many artists also find double sided carpet tape or mounting tape works for them - just remember to do a small test on your skin first!
Pros: Easy to find and often cheap! No liquids means no spills and minimal removal and cleanup!
Cons: Some fashion tapes are not as reliable and hardworking as spirit gum and pros aide. Not waterproof.
How to Use
To use remove one side of tape backing and place onto the back of the pastie. Remove the other side of tape backing and place into desired position covering the nipple. Apply pressure to the pastie for about half a minute.
Peel and reveal! Just pull the pastie off your body and remove the tape. Easy!
Tips for a better stick!
Clean the area of your skin with Isopropyl alcohol 99% and allow to dry before applying your glue of choice. This will break down the oils and sweat on the skin leaving a clean dry surface for maximum stick! Isoproply alcohol can be found at the same stores as pros aide. Do not use Isoproply alcohol on the skin at all if you are using fire.
If you find you have some sticky residue around the outside of your positioned pastie after you have glued it down, take some translucent powder on a fluffy makeup brush and lightly dust the area. Do this before wearing costume pieces and clothes to prevent fibres from sticking to your skin.
What do I do if my pastie falls off?
If you follow my tips for the perfect stick this should be a very rare occurrence! But things happen in showbiz! Not to worry! If you feel your pastie fall off or start to fall off you have a few options.
Delicately hold pastie in place with one hand while continuing to perform
Or keep performing sans pastie, trying to cover with your props or turning your body to conceal.
Remember that venues that don't have a cabaret license may be fined for a bare bust, so take care to keep covered.
All of these application methods can also be used in conjunction with costume pieces that may need to be stuck down in place, makeup prosthetics for characters or for Halloween, sticking down wigs and showgirl cosmetic finishing touches!
So now you know how to glue things to your skin safely and securely! Remember, each product and method may work differently for each individual so don’t be afraid to experiment!
For online lessons in pastie making, as well as other costume staples, that you can purchase on demand and complete from the comfort of your own home, check out the modules available in our Virtual Academy.