Shimmying into Spring with Tanya of The Burlesque Boutique.
To know Tanya Harris is to love her, no matter how you’ve made her acquaintance. She enchants as Ruby Mimosa (“The Island Flower”) of The Atomic Bombshells, shares shimmy secrets as an instructor at the Academy of Burlesque (“Bump & Grind” is her specialty), throws down tournament-level dance craze technicality as one third of Dance Belt, and in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, you might also know her as owner of The Burlesque Boutique. The sweetheart of an online store has many “touchy-feely” tendrils: there’s the pop-up shop at Pretty Parlor, the dazzling garden of delights found annually at BurlyCon vending, and the sparkly sundries ripe for the plucking at Seattle’s most stylish burlesque shows. The Burlesque Boutique is out in the community constantly. All that and Tanya still finds time to eyeball new merchandise offerings and talk to burlesque artisans and fans about what they’re making, and what they want.
Tanya comes by her passion for the worlds of burlesque, dance, and retail merchandising naturally. A little backstory: Tanya was born in Kaneohe, O’ahu where she studied ballet for 13 years. She whirled her way through both competitive gymnastics and varsity diving, eventually studying French and fashion merchandising at the University of Hawai’i. All these seemingly disparate interests paid off in spades when she discovered her great love: burlesque. (Though diving hasn’t yet been incorporated into her routines, there’s always tomorrow).
While interning and working for Betsey Johnson on O’ahu, a position opened up at Betsey’s Seattle location and Tanya packed her bags and headed to the mainland. She immediately immersed herself in the thriving swing dance and rockabilly circuit, where she soon made the acquaintance of Miss Kitty Baby and Jamie Von Stratton. Meanwhile, the crew from Betsey’s popular retail shop sometimes held meetings at burlesque shows and it was at such a meeting (at now defunct venue The Heavens, to be exact) that Tanya got her first glimpse of burlesque. It was an Orchestra L’Pow! event produced by The Swedish Housewife. In February 2007, Tanya saw Dita Von Teese with The Atomic Bombshells and knew that burlesque was something she wanted to do. An art form which so perfectly crystallized modern, sexy femininity with jazz and ballet training seemed too good to be true.
Tanya also recognized Honey D. Luxe (aka Jamie Von Stratton, whom she’d met via mutual friends from Betsey). “Oh my god! I know that girl!” she recalls thinking, incredulously. Jamie put our future starlet in touch with Miss Indigo Blue; Tanya signed up for an eight week “Bump & Grind” course (which later, she’d end up teaching); and the rest is history. A few lessons in Indigo recognized Tanya’s natural talent and suggested an audition for Kitten LaRue, who was looking for a new Bombshell. It was a perfect fit. By August she debuted as newest Bombshell Ruby Mimosa at the Triple Door, just six months after seeing the troupe with Dita on the same stage.
Through burlesque Tanya got to know not only innovative dancers, but the many brilliant designers and unique artisans among the burlesque community. She quickly recognized the need for a shop where people creating showgirl wares could present them. She dreamed of a way to combine all the aspects of burlesque that she loved- the wigs, the rhinestoned bits, the costumes and pasties, the socializing and camaraderie- all in one boutique. The Burlesque Boutique began as an online store around a year ago, at the same time appearing as a pop-up shop at shows and locations such as Dr. Jen’s Atomic Cosmetics. Kitten LaRue, Lily Verlaine, and Jasper McCann have also been early supporters of The Burlesque Boutique, entrusting Tanya with merchandising at many of their shows including the incredible spread of wigs, ornaments, Atomic Cosmetics, Danial Hellman underwear, Haute Under the Collar ties, Barones Lovey De Luxe jewels and more at Land of the Sweets 2012. Though she would love to eventually grow into a retail space where the community can shop or gather, Tanya recognizes that the uniquely social aspect of live burlesque shows is something an online presence can’t replicate. Currently The Burlesque Boutique has a pop-up shop in Capitol Hill’s Pretty Parlor, owned by local purveyor of all things lovely Anna Lange (aka Anna Banana). “Anna’s brilliant, she’s just such a great designer of things, and she’s so positive. She’s so supportive and it’s so nice to be there,” Tanya says of showing her sparkly bits among Pretty Parlor’s rich mix of vintage and indie designers.
Pretty Parlor will host a special Burlesque Boutique Trunk Show on Saturday March 30 from 3-7pm. The event will celebrate the ultimate tease- the arrival of spring in Seattle- with a fun shopping event including a little socializing and an array of spring confections for dressing up from head to toe. Everything from spring dresses to wigs, feathers, flowers, rhinestoned panties, pasties and more will be on offer, as well as gorgeous pieces from The Burlesque Boutique’s new lines Trashy Diva, Stop Staring, and Unique Vintage. Pastie cupcakes, mixed nuts, and some sparkling beverages will give you the strength to shop. Or watch fashion designer and aerialist Jamie Von Stratton (also a featured designer at Pretty Parlor) accessorizing the shop itself as she hangs from silks on Pretty Parlor’s pink chandelier. “It’s so awesome!” laughs Tanya. “The chandelier is gorgeous…There’s just so much light and color in there…”
To view The Burlesque Boutique Trunk Show’s Facebook event, click HERE.