Sewing for Raven Mandella. Death drop and high-kick proof leotards

Last year’s Valentine’s Day was fairly unconventional (yet worked out as rubbish as everyone else’s so, solidarity) and I pretty much skipped it. Much like I skipped the queue for Heaven when I delivered these leotards to Raven Mandella. Sometimes I think I’m way too old to be messing about in clubs but there’s no age limit on dancing and having a good time. Besides, I’m there for “work” right?


(* I’m still relevant, I know my werk from my work)


This one though. I love the bones of this human. Look at that death drop, how the hell these looks (and those shoes) manage to hold up, I’ll never know. but you see the kind of stunts I have to keep in mind when choosing fabric, designing and sewing. Most of my texts are “are you padding? Are you wearing foam boob? Breastplate? Any death drops, splits, high kicks?” …I should probably stop asking Raven the last bit.


L-R Jono Kitchens, Laura Reeve, Raven Mandella, Brooke and …..I’ll have to check

This one-sleeved leotard was for a Beyonce-inspired show at Heaven and has been worn at G-A-Y and at the Sink the Pink New Years Eve show. I wish the fabric was better represented here but it’s a printed metallic lycra and it has a broken shards of ice illusion. And it’s durable! Thank you, you patron saint of textiles!* This kind of fabric is everywhere in performance but it can be a gamble in regards to quality. It’s frustrating because the print can “crack” if it’s stretched or the underlying material can ladder. And then when it’s washed, the print can rub off, this has even happened just through sweat and it irks me no end. Still, I’m trying to look at it as a learning process and remember where and when the better fabrics are sold.

The second look was a massive fail on my part, which I saved in the end so Raven didn’t end up naked on stage, sorry patrons of Heaven. I completely messed up with fabric choices for the original idea and a lack of time to fit meant it just didn’t happen the way we’d planned. But, I whipped up this purple leotard and we were good to go.


All the glamour of backstage there. What you can’t see is the five suitcases of exploding drag, wigs, make-up, eye-lashes, shoes and the dog that belongs to the owner/manager (?) of Heaven wagging his tail and charming everyone. Incidentally, Raven has some magical power that involves causing a bag to open in an explosion of sequins and fishnets and managing to pack it all back in just as quickly as it flew out. I’ve seen this happen a few times, once all over my living room floor. It was incredible, stuff everywhere for a few hours, then I blinked and suddenly it was all packed again. I was convinced I’d find a boob or something behind my TV but no, everything disappeared.What sorcery is this? And how can I learn it?

Not much to say about the leotard, I’ve had to work and rework my leotard pattern to fit people with male bodies. I’ve used a commercial “leotard for men” pattern but it’s so roomy, you get that saggy balls look, which is fine if that’s the intention. There’s also some magic angle when cutting leotard legs at the back. I once made a batch that just all went straight up people’s bums but I’ve broken that habit and I think I can tell by looking if a leotard will cover someone’s bum or go up it. Of course, you need to account for different bums but that’s another train of thought I can’t get into right now.

Link for Raven’s full performance here

*There actually is a patron saint of tailors, I looked it up, so much for all those years in Catholic School. Going way off on a tangent here but I fell down the patron saint rabbit hole so I’m taking you with me. St Homobonus then, seems a pretty generous guy, gave to the poor and all that, patron saint of tailors, shoe-makers (obvious connection) and business people (wtf connection but we’ll roll it). Anyway, transpires that good old Homobonus, philanthropist that he was, has now become quite the thing in the corporate world and little statuettes of St HB were/are being sold as executive toys. Like the opposite of what he was about. (disclaimer, I’m not religious, just always curious)

About Vanessa

Sewing and assorted nonsense. For reasons that escape me, I left the sunshine and beaches of Australia for the crisps and glitter of London in 2001. I now live in the middle of some kind of feline drop-in centre in East London battling for space to make costumes and clothes. Over on twitter and instagram as @smittenness Email over here ------>
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1 Response to Sewing for Raven Mandella. Death drop and high-kick proof leotards

  1. Bloody hell! That looks painful and very easy to get stilletto in the wrong place. Raven is a great dancer and your leotards look fabulous. I am completely intrigued by the statues of St HB. Might be just the thing for next year’s secret santa. Xx

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