Jo Weldon is the Headmistress of the New York School of Burlesque and the author of The Burlesque Handbook, which contains detailed and illustrated instructions for making pasties and twirling tassels in every direction. She is also the author of the upcoming fashion history book FIERCE: The History of Leopard Print, available for pre-order. For more on the history of pasties, see Rosey LaRouge’s The Pastie Project,
You can follow Jo at @joweldon
Tassel-twirling is a revolutionary performing art skill, rarely appreciated outside of burlesque striptease. It involves pasties, which are generally two circular and conical pieces of stiffened and spangled fabric, angled with a 20-45 degree forward from the edge to the tip, with a tassel attached to those tips, which are then glued or taped to the body, most commonly over the nipples. Once affixed, rhythmic movement causes the tassels to move in circular motions, most frequently vertically, through physics similar to those which cause hula hoops to twirl horizontally.
Throughout history, tassels have been attached to pharaohs’ jewellery, kings’ robes, prayer garments, curtain swags, and graduation caps, signifying luxury and accomplishment. Their significance at the tips of women’s breasts seems to have taken them in a new direction: a sign both of compliance with and rebellion against modesty restrictions for stripteasers.