Here at Playful Promises we believe in lingerie that shouldn’t be hidden away. Pesky social conditioning has told women not to show their bra straps, let alone anything else that might even vaguely constitute an undergarment. Remember the thong-above-jeans shocking trend of the 90s (thanks Britney)? That’s not even close to enough lingerie on show for us. Alas, walking around in lingerie is apparently unacceptable, because all lingerie must equate to sex, and female bodies must be policed ;)
So where can you wear your pants with pride without (hopefully) being judged? Where can you mix lingerie with other wardrobe pieces as a good old dress up? These are my favourite events in London where you can do just that!
Torture Garden is arguably THE biggest fetish club in the world, having hosted events as far as Japan, with its base in London. Running events almost every month since 1990, TG certainly knows its stuff! In the beginning the fetish scene was much more underground, which led to plenty of scandalous reports in the media as the parties grew. Attitudes changed, and the fashion world began to embrace previously taboo clothing such as rubber/latex. Subsequently, TG events began to attract bigger and bigger crowds in more mainstream venues.
There are a multitude of different people that attend (and are welcomed to) TG for all different reasons; the clubs are well known for their innovative fashion shows, performances and a host of different music. Personally, I go for the entertainment and a good night out rather than the sexual exploration - although there are plenty of rooms for couples and a dungeon, and there are no off-limits areas for sex, the spaces are so large that there are plenty of club rooms to dance and drink. In fact, touching anyone without permission, or any sort of harassment is strictly forbidden. This is especially important for those who wish to explore their dressing up options without fear of being mocked or touched.
What to wear: Set your imagination free - most of the best outfits are created from ready-made items, styled in a creative way. Some people make extravagant pieces or have them made; some people opt for rubber and some even go naked or with a little body paint!
Torture Garden team up with Bourne & Hollingsworth (known for The Blitz Party, Prohibition and The Chap Olympiad) for this debaucherous circus themed party. Although TG is a co-runner of this event, it shouldn’t be mistaken for a toned-down version of the fetish club (if you want a more introductory version, I suggest attending one of the smaller TG Boat Parties). Designed to be decadent, the crowds at Belle Epoque are encouraged to embrace the themes of vintage, glamour and fantasy with a dark circus twist. Think corsets, tassels, feathers and dandies.
B&H work on the atmospheric production, cocktails and theming while TG provide some of the most esteemed performances from all over the world. However it is worth noting that as this isn’t a fetish club, there isn’t a playroom, and though they don’t explicitly state that nudity isn’t an option, you are less likely to feel as comfortable in the buff as you would do at a TG event. Performances are also themed to suit, so expect burlesque, circus and sideshow acts rather than performance art (all equally talented, though!).
What to wear: Corsets, ballgowns, historical garb, feathers and burlesque-style pieces.
Headed up by impresario, writer, taxidermy shop owner and all-round interesting lady, Suzette Field, A Curious Invitation brings parties, workshops and lectures to London and beyond. Formerly part of The Last Tuesday Society, which created similar events, Suzette has recently penned a book all about the 40 greatest parties in fiction. Attend one of A Curious Invitation’s events and you can definitely see the influence of history and literature. Each ball has a certain theme, and are described as masked masquerades; from the “Gold and Silver Ball” to “The Rite of Spring”.
Clothes are considered optional at A Curious Invitation, and you will often see nude men and women of all sizes painted gold at the “Naked Feast”. For the majority of the crowd, dress is similar to that at Belle Epoque, but with a much more bohemian feel, you can really wear as little as you like as long as you are masked!
What to wear: Run with the theme but think fantasy, fairytale, venetian carnival and burlesque.
Described as “Over-the-top, non-stop, tip-top, animalistic, carnivalistic, magic, mystery and mayhem”, Rumpus is a whole festival in one evening. Not one for those looking for a quiet night, or for a mainstream club, the Rumpus team’s definition of a Good Party is live bands, DJs, performances, art and more. Being expressive and getting involved is encouraged, and what makes Rumpus one of the best parties there is, is their respect for performers and their encouragement of creative collaboration.
So much happens in such a small space of time, you are bound to be constantly entertained, and with each event a different theme, each party is different. Rumpus is all about dressing up, but unlike most of the other clubs listed here, it doesn't have a dress code so you won’t be turned away or looked down upon for not dressing up. Silliness is appreciated, and you won’t feel out of place (I’ve seen people that have made costumes out of light-up Christmas decorations) in this friendly club.
What to wear: Go crazy!
We suggest the Phoebe set from Peek & Beau, which is perfect for swooshy dancing
Best known for their steampunk Grand Balls, White Mischief is the place to go to see hand-constructed costumes, wonderful music and dozens of performances (much of which have reached some level of stardom). The White Mischief dates and themes vary throughout the year (toward the end of last year they ran a monthly event at Bush Hall, which was more of a sit-down cabaret rather than the grand sprawling events usually held at The Scala), and they often collaborate with other promoters/companies.
After a successful run the last few years, they also organize weekend retreats called “The Summer House” (or “The Winter House”, unsurprisingly, during winter), which encourages the exploration of creativity, self expression and intimacy. LGBT friendly workshops, talks, cabaret, film screenings and more are run throughout the weekend, giving various options and allowing you to enjoy the time as you see fit (while some workshops are aimed at sexual practices, they are never designed to make you feel uncomfortable and the weekend is very much about feeling safe and welcome).
To experience White Mischief at it’s most grand, make sure you attend the Halloween Ball, a full-scale multi-room interactive experience and great night out.
What to wear: Dressing up isn’t compulsory, but encouraged (and who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a bit of dress up fun!?). The team are helpful at suggesting costumes and places to rent from.
We suggest teaming the Black Vintage Stitch Corset with a floor length skirt and bustle for Edwardian chic!