A Fashion Expose

The chilly winter season is almost here, and thigh-high leather boots are on the shelves again for any exotic dancer thinking about adding a pair to her collection. On the way, too, is Super Bowl XXX and its attendant business, which should pump the Valley's thriving exotic dance industry full of happy, healthy-walleted tourists in addition to the normal waves of cheerful snowbirds and locals.

Women not sure where to begin might bethrilled to learn that, in addition to itsstartling number of gentleman's clubs, the Valley has proudly added another store catering to dancers--Strings, on East Thomas Road, which follows the success of spots such as Triangles and Smokin' Lingerie, both on Scottsdale Road. Aided byfriendly people who have done their research, a girl can walk out with anew outfit for anywhere from $25 to $200.

The aforementioned thigh-high boots, of course, can be a perfect complement to a patent leather outfit, but word is that the leather craze that's been all the rage this season--whether it's the dominatrix style with the swinging chain, or something sweet with a little lace trim--has reached its zenith.

Leather's popularity has always been a curiosity in the Valley, considering the material does little in the way of allowing one's skin to breathe. Perspiration is a common complaint, which some say is magnified by the prospect of being onstage in front of people they don't know--or worse yet, people they do know. At least until the outfits are off.

The classics, as always, are hard to improve on. Sequins, lam, a nice set embedded with rhinestone and mirror studs--these have illuminated the dance world for ages and are an exciting option for anyone willing to spend. They also require more than the usual care; for instance, rhinestone should never be washed with anything but bottled water.

Lycra spandex is more affordable, a staple of the bathing-suit industry that exotic couture mimics in any number of skimpier styles and colors. Stores like Triangles supplement the usually weak winter sales by offering swimwear in addition to dancewear. "We do skimpy bottoms up to full bottoms," says manager Paige Jarvis.

But remember, dancers, this isn't a swimsuit, it's a costume. Don't wear it out to the pool. And one must be conscious of how it will match the dress that will ultimately be discarded.

Other reliables are lingerie and cotton. Glowy neon things will never go out of style, what with all the black light bouncing from strategic points in the clubs. The Valley favorite, however, has been mesh, which in black light can be a bold and intriguing statement, because its see-through quality fades considerably, though not completely. A classier alternative is velvet, which not only looks fabulous, but feels good on the skin while offering a natural defense against snags--the accidental brush with jewelry that could send a Lycra outfit to the dark reaches of one's closet is far less of a danger with velvet.

The sexier and more flattering the costume, of course, the better one's demeanor and the ensuing tips--an unnecessary point to make with those who already own up to 150 costumes and pull in up to $400 on a good night. "If a girl's walking around with her chin down to her chest, you can bank on it, I'm not gonna flag her down to dance for me," notes Roland McNew of Strings. (He doesn't address the consequences for a girl whose chest is up to her chin.)

But where to put all those earnings when all you've got onstage is yourself and a pole? Well, there are only so many ways to design a garter, but every dancer must own one in black or white because, naturally, those colors go with everything.

Those working their way through college might go for the innocent schoolgirl look, while single moms might want the adventurous cage dress or the no-nonsense red leather bustier. Denim jackets speak loudly to blue-collar customers. "Of course, you want to wear something wild," says Jarvis, of Triangles. "But you don't want to detract from the girl."

The major trend this year is six-inch platform shoes, a sexy, decidedly retro height enhancement which able dancers have donned on the East and West coasts for some time, but have only recently reached the Valley. However, the shoes are difficult to maneuver in and, consequently, are not for everyone. Those who can manage will find them preferable to five-inch stilettos because, although they provide a higher lift, their angle is a far more comfortable one, albeit the angle is somewhat precarious.

And it might not hurt to add a pair of $70 platforms to one's stable, considering the turnover typical for active dancers. Black, white and red are the most popular colors in pumps, and those with spaghetti straps are usually the first to go.

Individual performance has a lot to do with it: Strap ties last longer if a girl just tiptoes around, but such generic footwork doesn't earn very substantial tips. As a result, the shoes might be more suited for table dances, where elaborate movement and feats of derring-do aren't so critical. Those of you (and you know who you are) who dabble onstage with acrobatic spins, twirls, flips and back bends will find stringy footwear meeting an early demise.

With all the business on the way in January, it might not hurt to keep convenience in mind as well--a tasteful, sheer topthat lifts up over the bosom might be preferable to a bikini that ties behind the neck and in back; 50 table dances in a day means tying the bikini a hundred times, and that kind of frequency calls for something convenient and functional as well as good-looking.

As a local exotic dancewear vendor is fond of repeating, "Life is a table. Do a dance." It's an idiom both convenient and functional--and, as they say, two out of three ain't bad.

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Marc Ramirez