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Dress Up! London Events For Flaunting All

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

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!

We suggest our Magdalene Harness Briefs with Matilde Pasties!

Belle Epoque: The Dark Circus Party 

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.

We suggest the Bluebella Sasha body, styled over the What Katie Did Maitresse bullet bra and girdlette. 

A Curious Invitation

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.

We suggest the Penelope set and Scarlett robe.


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

White Mischief

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!




What are your favourite clubs/events to prance in pants? Have you been to any of the above?

Elegantly Pastied – A Brief History of Striptease & the Emergence of the Nipple Pastie!

Pasties, and their whimsical cousin the nipple tassel, are the decorative body accessory du jour. Usually associated with burlesque performers, they've recently been spotted on the likes of Miley Cyrus, Rhianna and Nicki Minaj, marking an explosion in their popularity since they were originally brought back into mainstream consciousness by likes of the lovely Dita Von Teese in the 90’s. But don’t be fooled – they’ve been around a lot longer than that, and have a history intertwined with  art, censorship, moral outrage and cultural paradigm shifts…read on to discover more about the history of the humble pastie. 

Most people with an interest in cabaret history will know that burlesque wasn't always about the art of striptease – in fact its roots are more in a British music hall tradition of comedy, satire and song.  The fact that it was often performed by young, attractive women wearing costumes considered at the time to be revealing, telling ribald jokes and reciting material that was somewhat sexual in nature, gave the shows a thrilling edge in an otherwise repressed Victorian society.

The transition to a striptease element did not come for some time, with various dancers claiming to have invented the art with stories ranging from a snapped strap onstage to a performer who absently started changing out of her costume in view of the audience as she finished her act!

While it’s hard to put a finger on when exactly the pastie became part of the history of burlesque costuming, we can look as far back as the late 19th century to see photographs of dancers decked in exotic garments that resemble the smaller, modern-day equivalent. During this period a popular fascination had emerged with the study of ‘Orientalism’ – a largely imagined (and today recognised as being a fairly racist and colonialist) view of the history, traditions and mysteries of the East, which included Middle Eastern, Asian, and Egyptian culture.

Of course, not all of this interest was entirely academic, and titillating tales of harem girls, concubines and courtesans hinted tantalisingly at a licentious libertinism found in the far-flung corners of the world – feverishly gripping the imagination of a society characterised by its expectation of sexual constraint and moral forbearance.

Of course, various enterprising individuals realised quickly that sex sells, and hit on a way to monetise this fascination with a series of exhibitions at World Fairs, showcasing performances by  exotic-looking women displaying what was known as ‘muscle dancing’- an art form similar to belly dancing, which would have been an unthinkable show of eroticism were it not rendered innocuous by its presentation as an educational exhibit.

A distinct trend was emerging: dancers, presented as Eastern Princesses but frequently locals girls from Vaudeville backgrounds, would shimmy and shake their bodies onstage in dances such as ‘Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils’,  ‘Arabian Nights’, and ‘Temple Dance of the Priestess’ at shows with names such as the ‘Algerian Village’ or the ‘Persian Palace’.  

The most famous dancer in this style is undoubtedly the notorious Mata Hari, but other performers such as Little Egypt and Loie Fuller were also part of the movement. These dancers would wear risque costumes and remove items of clothing, but were rarely if ever fully nude, their modesty being preserved by bodysuits, elaborately jewelled bikinis and metal discs covering their breasts.

However, while this was happening in respectable establishments across Europe and America, the circus sideshow tradition had picked up on it and were presenting their own ‘educational exhibits’ in ten-in-one shows across the United States where dancers would undulate in costumes which left little to the imagination, to the delight of male audiences. Over time the pretence of these sensual displays being for purely educational purposes was dropped, the themes became looser, and the Danse du Ventre of the Victorian era made way for the ‘hoochie cootch’, where a fully nude finale was common if, when and  where it could be gotten away with. 

However, when the art of the striptease started making its way out of the sideshows and into Vaudeville shows in cities across America, so the sense of moral alarm grew and new nudity laws were enforced in venues wanting to showcase ‘burlesque revues’; nights which featured comedy, music, and beautiful, scantily-clad women.

These shows, such as the famous Ziegfeld Follies and the Minsky Brothers’ National Winter Garden, were no longer the male-centred spit-and-sawdust tents of the travelling sideshow fairs, but theatrical venues which attracted both men and women of all classes. The move from lowbrow to highbrow attracted the attention of police and politicians, who would wage a moral crusade on the nascent industry.  

Burlesque clubs were regularly raided, and dancers were often arrested if they were deemed to be showing too much skin. Here the pastie became a weapon in the fightback against the censors, and allowed dancers to perform nearly-nude with the addition of a g-string to cover their modesty. Different states had different laws, and burlesque dancers were particularly ingenious in getting around them – attaching a piece of string around the pasties in a halter neck style was enough to get them classified as a bikini, and is still known as wearing them ‘Boston Style’ due to the particularly strict laws in that state!

The pasties became an iconic image of the burlesque dancer. The performer Carrie Finnell is credited with inventing the nipple tassel – a woman of ample bosomage, her shtick as a ‘mammary manipulator’  saw her shaking her ‘educated bosom’ to spin her tassels up and down, left and right – a gimmick that has become so popular that it’s synonymous with the image of the bump-and-grind burlesque performer now. 

Striptease enjoyed a roaring golden age of prosperity and notoriety, its stars being celebrities of the day with tabloids reporting on their love lives, extravagant lifestyles, and their run-ins with the establishment.

Burlesque shows were a main staple of American entertainment from the 20’s to the 50’s – however its decline in the mid-1960s, when go-go dancing and miniskirts replaced the ubiquitous pasties and a g-string, marked the end of an era until the recent burlesque revival.

However, the pastie lived on, albeit in slightly less recognisable format – marketed as beachwear or a tanning aid with an occasional catwalk appearance under sheer garments.

However, like anything associated with the taboo and forbidden aspects of a woman’s body, the allure of the pastie has never quite gone away, and can be seen in fetish photography and fashion pictures from the 70’s to the present day, whether in the form of the jewelled and sparkly sets that go all the way back to the origins of the garment, or the instantly recognised punk aesthetic of strips of black tape crossed over the nipples.

These days burlesque dancers still wear pasties and tassels not just to circumvent venue licensing issues – a special permit is required to host events where nudity occurs – but also for the rich history and tradition they represent.

In fashion, lingerie trends are allowing women who love the look of pasties to buy them in all sorts of shapes, colours and designs. Whether they are worn to clubs or under sheer garment, or just a bit of boudoir naughtiness, we love pasties, especially when matched with open cup and quarter cup bras!

Here’s the PP selectionwhich will you choose?

Guest Brand: eLai

You may remember back in 2012, we held a design competition for budding lingerie designers to have their design make it into our collection. We had such an amazing response that we ended up choosing three winners and making the pieces into a mini-collection - one of those winners was Eva Lai. Since graduating, Eva has been working on a beautiful new luxury lingerie brand, eLai. We love her work so much that we've started to stock some accessories and bodysuits on the guest brand section of our website.

We had a chat with Eva to find out a little bit more about her brand!

What sparked your interest in fashion design? 

I have always loved drawing and anything crafty even as a child. Like most girls, I was really into clothing and fashion. The satisfaction of creating something beautiful from scratch is what drew me into design.

Is there anything in particular that lead you to study fashion?

Being a fashion designer was an ambition at a young age, and the skills required seem to be what I am good at, so I worked towards the goal, and fashion school was the natural path to get there.

 What is it about lingerie that you found the most interesting?  

I love all areas in fashion. But I think lingerie is the most personal and intimate item a woman can buy. It is such a specialist subject, having to think about the fit and how the garment could support and enhance the female body, and whether it'd be comfortable against the skin etc. Details are key in lingerie because the garments are so small. I enjoy the challenge of what I can do with a tiny little bra & knickers. It's amazing how every stitch is so visible and it is all about details and accuracy.

You're a recent graduate and your brand has developed so fast. What's your secret?

I wish it could develop faster! Haha. I haven’t got the funding to invest in advertising and the only way to bring brand awareness is though social media (so thank god for internet!) I just try to stay true to my creative vision, and do things my way, instead of the traditional way of what a lingerie brand “should” be. I want eLai to grow organically, so customers would appreciate the products for its design and quality, rather than because I just spent a lot of money on celebrity endorsement.

 Being a one woman team must be a hell of a challenge! Do you think about getting some extra hands on board? 

It is so hard to do it all myself, but at the same time it means everything is done to the way I like. I do however have a lovely team of models/MUA/stylists that helps me massively when it comes to imagery… my darling photographer Polly Hanrahan has been brilliant at bringing my work to life in all my lookbooks. I would love to have more young talents to make eLai bigger and better in the near future.

How has your work evolved since you began your own label?

The first few collections were so different from each other, I tried dark boudoir, cute & colourful, to glam sportlux. As I was still trying to find my style as a brand and figuring out who my customers are. But I have learnt so much since I started and now I have a much better idea of what works. I think it is important to constantly evaluate the business and change your direction based on current social and economical factors. It is good to show a different side as long as it stays true to your brand ethos.

What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it influence your work?

I am obsessed with sleek lines, so I’m really into the sportlux style at the moment, which shows in my Constellation collection. I’m also fascinated by Olivier Rousteing’s use of chains, embellishments, and the craftsmanship to create textures in his Balmain collections, which I find really inspiring!

What's eLai's ultimate aspiration?

To have my own atelier & showroom in London. I would love for customers to be able to just come in and have their pieces made-to-order.

hat's the main source of inspiration for your projects?

Usually something with a narrative- a film or a character. Fabrics/ materials. Certain fetishes. What I want to wear…

Who's eLai's customer?

Someone who values designs and craftsmanship in a made-to order product; who appreciates unusual pieces with a sense on humour; who thinks comfort is key; who wants to be effortlessly seductive; they would wear eLai for themselves because it feels good and empowering (and bonus that it happens to have a hint of naughtiness) 

What's the most challenging part about what you do?

The business side that involves lots of numbers.

And what's most rewarding?

When I receive emails from customers telling me how much they love wearing my designs…that’s when all the hard work feels so worth it!

What is the biggest lesson you've learned since starting your own company?

Don’t give up just yet…patience is key!

 If you could give some advice for a lingerie designer-to-be, what would that be? 

Love what you do, learn from every opportunity, make good relationships (it’s a very small industry) & work really, really, really….. hard!!!