Moulin Rouge is the name of a historic cabaret where cancan dancing originated, and is also used to describe the red-light-district nightclub life in Paris during the 1890s and early 1900s. Costumes can draw on this era or take inspiration from the 2001 Baz Luhrmann movie of the same name. A Moulin Rouge costume party gives its female guests the chance to dress as cancan dancers, saloon girls, courtesans or burlesque entertainers; however, male guests don't have to do much more than dress in tails with a top hat and cane.
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Cancan, Saloon or Burlesque Costumes
You can base a Moulin Rouge costume on cancan dancers, using details faithful to the costumes of Parisian dancing girls. Reviews of the time noted that their outfits had lacy, peep-show underskirts, black stockings, garters and frills galore. If you are making your own Moulin Rouge costume, begin with store-bought lingerie and add on lace, net, rhinestones and feathers for an over-the-top, revealing, show-business look. High heels are almost mandatory. Low-cut necklines, three-quarter sleeves, dresses cut high in front to show off legs and high headdresses also fit the bill. Saloon girl costumes usually are very close to cancan costumes, in bright colors, black accents and sequined garters. Accessories are key to the look: black lace fingerless gloves, glittering choker necklaces and feathered tiaras. Fabrics should be stripes and diamond patterns, satins and silks, laces and nets. Nothing is muted or subtle in a Moulin Rouge costume; colors are garish, ruffles are everywhere and no opportunity should be lost to add glitz with beads, jewelry, sequins, glitter and rhinestones.
The popular movie "Moulin Rouge" offers costume ideas, with its beautiful dresses, outrageous characters and detailed, gorgeous costumes. Several sewing patterns are available online to recreate costumes from the movie, such as Satine's performance costumes and dancing girls' dresses. But you also can turn existing items of clothing into movie-like costumes. Consider altering a red satin bridesmaid or prom dress by adding a bustle and pairing it with elbow-length gloves, or sewing netting and fur trim onto the bottom of a bustier for a bedroom peignoir. Glue rhinestones all over some black lingerie and a top hat for a homemade version of the "Black Diamond" movie scene, or find a silvery bra and sari outfit with tons of mock jewels, as in the Hindi wedding scene.
The classic Moulin Rouge men's costume is that of a show patron: Black tuxedo with tails, white bow tie and gloves, top hat and cane. However, men may want to try something a little different. For instance, a theater impresario costume might feature striped pants, waxed mustache and a sequined bow tie and hatband. Dressing as a character from the "Moulin Rouge" movie could open up some costume possibilities, such as a turbaned Indian prince, a bare-chested manservant or a tango-dancing Argentinean.