Whether you’re stunning crowds with your burlesque performance or walking down the aisle, L’exquisite Reveal owner Sean Bolte has a design that’ll make you look downright fierce.
Sean Bolte’s passion for fashion and design manifested at quite an early age, and he had plenty of venerable influences at the time.
“When I was young, I wanted to be either a Las Vegas showgirl or a fashion designer, and my favorite television shows at the time were The Carol Burnett Show and The Cher Show,” said Bolte. “They were costume overload!”
However, it wasn’t just television that sparked Bolte’s love for fashion design.
“My mother used to make outfits for me and my siblings,” said Bolte. “She was the one to teach me to sew, knit and crochet. The first outfit I remember she made for me was a robin’s egg blue leisure suit. I loved that suit! I was fascinated that she could measure, cut and sew pieces of fabric into a wearable garment. I am still fascinated by the process every time I construct something.”
Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising and Design, Bolte then moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he met his future husband, holding a number of odd jobs before finding work at a local alteration shop.
“Even though I only worked at the alteration shop part time, this is where I learned about fashion design and garment construction as a career,” said Bolte. “Connie Olsen, the proprietor, had formally been the head of costuming at the University in Lincoln, and she ran the alterations of the very chic J. Braggs. Connie taught me the differences between constructing clothes and constructing costumes. She also knew how to alter any garment. I think clothing alterations are much harder then constructing a garment from scratch and it is a lost art. People who are able to do it well are true artists.”
Bolte and his husband moved to Kansas City, where Bolte worked in retail management for 15 years, a job which eventually brought him to Minneapolis, where he met another highly influential person in his fashion career.
“I worked with local burlesque star Elektra Cute at my retail job; one day I wore a jacket that I had made myself, and she inquired about it,” said Bolte. “She thought if I could make a jacket for my myself, then I could make a burlesque costume for her and with that my career as a burlesque couturier was born. Burlesque costumes were not the direction I thought my design career would take but I have enjoyed every minute of it.”
Bolte expressed massive appreciation for the local burlesque community’s ingenuity when it comes to costume design, but also how it serves as a great representation of what burlesque is.
“It is whatever you want it to be and what direction you want to take the art of burlesque in,” said Bolte. “It is all sizes, all ages, all genders, all colors, all everything! I just hope my little part in this community has helped someone realize their burlesque dreams.”
Bolte describes his particular fashion style as vintage glam couture, with a twist.
“My love of old movies definitely has shaped my design aesthetic,” said Bolte. “I am constantly trying to recapture those costumes and give them a modern and uniquely Sean twist. Elektra and burlesque [have] been another defining factor in my design aesthetic. I would consider Elektra a muse for me. She and I just work so well together and usually have the same vision on things.”
In respect to his design work, Bolte says that he’s been warmly embraced by the Twin Cities’ GLBT community.
“The burlesque community here in the Twin Cities is such a wonderful melting pot of all things that make up our GLBT community,” said Bolte. “I have done mostly costumes and clothes for female presenting individuals as that is my wheelhouse, but I have had the honor to work with a few male presenting individuals also. I have not done a ton of weddings, but I am always looking to expand my repertoire and service as many individuals in our community.”
For the designs showcased in this particular photo shoot, Bolte utilized 1960s vintage French couture as a jumping-off point.
“I wanted them to be all about the structure and the silhouette,” said Bolte. “This collection is very pared down for me, but I really wanted the fabrics and the shapes to be the star of the show. The colors of the garments are not the traditional colors for wedding attire, but I think that is what makes them unique and beautiful. There are also a variety of silhouettes from which to choose from. We have a jumpsuit, a gown, a bubble dress, and a mini dress. There are also multiple different headpieces and veils to choose. I think the way that I styled them shows they could easily live within the realm of wedding attire.”
The shoot was held at the Grethen House in Edina—where Bolte works for his full-time job—and starred three local burlesque stars acquainted with Bolte: Dahlia Dulce, Nadi A’marena, and Elektra Cute.
“I used these individuals because I know they would make my clothes look beautiful, and I have worked with most of them before on numerous costumes,” said Bolte. “They are all so great in front of the camera so I really didn’t need to direct them. Emma Wondra was the photographer for the shoot, and they did a great job.”
“Emma was a referral through Elektra, and their style definitely complimented the clothing,” Bolte continued. “Mary, the owner [of Grethen House], does such a beautiful job landscaping that having a shoot there was a no-brainer. Not only did we have the beautiful front and courtyard to shoot in, but we had the whole 50th and France area to work with.”
Having made a name for himself in the Twin Cities and beyond with his fashion acumen, Bolte hopes to make burlesque couture a full-time gig in the next phase of his career.
“I am working on a website as we speak and working on expanding my clientele across the globe,” said Bolte. “I have had the distinct pleasure to make costumes for many of burlesque’s brightest and respected luminaries across this country, but starting a business that is 100 percent word of mouth takes planning and patience. I have a full-time career as a retail manager, and I have a full-time career as a burlesque couturier. I have given 20 years to the retail side of my career and I want to give the next 20 years to my passion. I may not be that showgirl any more, but I can make damn sure that every costume I produce will make my client feel like one.”
To check out more of Sean Bolte’s fashion designs and inquire about custom design work, visit www.facebook.com/Lexquisitereveal.
Photographer: Emma Wondra (@emmawondra)
Designer: Sean Bolte (@lexquisitereveal)
Models: Elektra Cute (@thetesla.oftease), Dahlia Dulce (@dahliadulce), Nadi A’marena (@nadi_amarena)
Shot at: Grethen House Edina, 50th and France Shops