Once upon a time, the word ‘burlesque’ referred to literary, musical or dramatic works in which performers in a variety of burlesque outfits parodied or mocked their subjects in a way that intended to make people laugh. However, over the centuries, burlesque slowly yet surely transformed into something different.
By the mid-19th century, the British developed Victorian burlesque, sometimes known as extravaganzas, which specialized in mocking well-known plays, operas, and ballet. The typical Victorian burlesque show featured a musical theatre parody along with attractive women dressed in burlesque outfits consisting of breeches and tights designed to show off their legs. These burlesque costumes were considered somewhat risqué for the time.
When Victorian burlesque went out of fashion, American burlesque took over. American burlesque was characterized by burlesque outfits that emphasized the female form, risqué elements, quick wit and short sketches. American burlesque shows featured things like songs, comedy sketches, acrobats, magicians and wrestling in addition to exotic dancing, but by the 1930s, striptease was the main attraction of the burlesque performances.
Burlesque fell to the wayside in the 1970s, but recently it became popular again with the rise of the neo-burlesque movement. Many people are under the mistaken impression that burlesque is all about stripping, but the truth is it’s more about the art of the tease.
Costumes have always been an important part of burlesque, and throughout the decades, there have been many variations on burlesque costumes. Take the world-famous Moulin Rouge cabaret for example. During the early 20th century, Moulin Rouge was particularly famous for its can-can dancing, which was part of the burlesque performances put on by the cabaret. Can-can dancers wore Moulin Rouge costumes that consisted of long skirts, petticoats, and black stockings. These Moulin Rouge costumes made use of extravagant drawers and petticoats that sharply contrasted with the black stockings.
Saloon girl costumes are another type of outfit popular amongst burlesque dancers. The term “saloon girl” originally referred to women who worked in saloons in the American West during the 1800s. Saloon girls were employed to keep the men at the saloons entertained and spending money on drinks and games.
Saloon girls would dance, sing and talk to these men while dressed in saloon girl costumes that consisted of mid-shin or knee-length ruffled skirts, colourful petticoats, stockings held up by garters and low-cut bodices. These skirts were considered scandalously short and were often decorated with fringe, sequins and other glittering ornaments.
One popular burlesque dance is known as the gown-and-glove routine. These types of burlesque dancers wear long evening gowns equipped with a back zipper and long opera gloves. The routine consists of a dancer slowly peeling off the opera gloves before taking off the gown.
Another well-known burlesque dance is the hoochie coochie, a form of belly dancing. Since hoochie coochie dancing is often presented as an Eastern European or Arabic style of dancing, hoochie coochie dancers wear outfits that reveal their bellies and are heavily influenced by the fashions from those regions.
Today, there isn’t any one style of burlesque costumes or dancing that predominates; the neo-burlesque movement seems to be more interested in reviving previous incarnations of burlesque rather than creating new ones. This means that burlesque audiences are just as likely to see burlesque performers wearing nipple covers and g-strings as they are to see them in basques, garters and silk stockings.
From fan dances to bubble dances and Josephine Baker tributes to Dita von Teese’s teases, burlesque is alive and well today. Beginner and professional dancers as well as women who enjoy dressing up in burlesque outfits for parties, show and parades have many choices when it comes to selecting their outfits and taking part of this memorable and colourful tradition.
Are burlesque outfits for you?
Here is a short quiz to see if you might enjoy being part of the burlesque revival occurring in the US and UK:
With how many of the following statements do you agree?
- You’ve often looked at Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, or Dita von Teese and thought: I really like her style. I wonder where she gets those clothes.
- You like to watch reruns of old TV Westerns like “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza” to see what the women are wearing.
- Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, and Cher are not just talented singers, they also have great taste in wigs.
- Too bad women only wear leg garters at their weddings
- You wish Madonna still dressed like she did in the 1980s.
- You love the clothing the female characters wear on “Mad Men.”
The more of these statements you agree with, the better you would fit in with the world of burlesque.
Burlesque clothing will transport you to a world of feather boas, corsets, fishnet stockings, and lace. The style is surprisingly versatile and can be reminiscent of a variety of time periods, from the Wild West of the late 1800s, to the movie star glamour of the 1920s through 1940s, or the era of Marilyn Monroe and Camelot.
If you have the opportunity to attend one of the many burlesque festivals held in the US or UK, you can channel your inner showgirl with items such as corsets, tutus, a saloon girl dress, or even a Playboy Bunny costume.
Although some burlesque clothing is appropriate only for wearing on stage or at burlesque festivals, other items, especially some of the dresses, project an aura of timeless femininity and sophistication that can be worn anywhere. A polka dot pin-up dress with a fitted top and a wide skirt that hits below the knee is perfect for dinner at a fancy new restaurant, as well as being perfectly burlesque. A vintage brooch can carry the look into the work week by adding a subtle burlesque touch to your regular office attire.
Best of all, burlesque clothing is friendly to all types of figures because it emphasizes and celebrates femininity and curves. Whether you are petite, plus-size, or anything in between, you can find something that will flatter your unique body.
In a world where women and men are increasingly told there is no meaningful distinction between the sexes, the revitalization of burlesque stands as a clear rejection of that premise. Women who want to regain and enhance their femininity are flocking to burlesque dance classes. Once they are ready to share their new sensuality with their partners, having the right outfit is a must. A critical piece of putting it all together is the burlesque wig.
Many burlesque wigs are based on old-school styles from the 1940s and 1950s, ages when women seemed more powerful in their sexuality in a distinctly feminine way than is native to women of the twenty-first century. There are styles based on the famous sex symbols of the era, like Bettie Page, or modern women have made the burlesque style their own, like Dita von Tease and Katy Perry.
The wig will have hair that can move and flow with a dance, but there are two major front-end styles. There are the high rolls or poofs, that leave long curls and tresses in the back. The Duchess style is known for its large front poof, but is surpassed by the Baroness style, which has an even larger front poof. The second type of front-end style is the bangs. The burlesque bangs are cut straight across and ideally hand just above the eyebrows. The main body of hair is quite long and drops sharply on each side of the bangs, creating right angles on either side of the eyes. The bangs are a cutesier style that emphasizes the drama of one’s eyes.
Since burlesque is all about indulging in a fantasy world, the wigs aren’t constrained by practical concerns. The wigs are available in a wide range of strong colours, from pink to blue to almost any colour once can want. They are also available in various shades of recognizable hair colours, which can make it fun to be a blonde or a redhead for a day. Using the colour of the wig to complement the outfit, as well as the complexion of the woman, can give an extra layer of polish to an entire ensemble.
There are also wigs that come with all manner of accessories or ornaments. This can range from (relatively) subdued feathers to entire birds (not real). Other types of ornaments can include fans, jewellery, and flora.
Today where revealing outfits are an everyday occurrence, a burlesque corset will add old fashioned glamour to your wardrobe. The corset allows the woman wearing it to be seductive and commanding without saying a word.
Wildly popular in the 1800s, Burlesque performances were cantered on the art of seduction. Performers tantalized the audience by being both feminine and alluring. In a time where pornography was not as mainstream as it is today, Burlesque performers were there to entice the audience with a sexy sophistication. Just as important as her routine, an exquisite corset was paramount to her performance. Cinched tightly at the waist and accentuating a woman’s best assets, the corset was a little naughty while creating the perfect curves.
Burlesque corsets are no longer just for the stage. Just like the performers, a beautifully fitted corset gives any woman a classic hourglass silhouette, adding a retro glamour to any ensemble. Not only can you expect attention in the bedroom by wearing a beautiful silk corset, but they are now becoming more mainstream. Any daring woman can weave a corset into her wardrobe for stunning results. By simply pairing a stunning corset with a skirt or pair of jeans, you can create a suggestive and elegant evening look that will certainly garner you attention. If you are hesitant to wear such a bold statement, throw on a fitted blazer or wear a wrap over your shoulders to tone it down.
Even someone who wishes to remain a little more subtle can incorporate a Burlesque corset into any outfit. Wearing a pair of jeans with a button-down shirt certainly has a low maintenance sexiness to it. Why not add a little va va va Voom to this simple ensemble, by wearing a corset under the shirt. By leaving a few buttons open, you are giving a suggestive hint as to what is underneath.
Add a little sex appeal and femininity to the office by taking the corset off the stage and into the boardroom. By wearing a glamorous Burlesque corset under a classic business suit, you allow just a peek, creating an intriguing look that will certainly command attention at the next conference, and give you a great boost of sexy confidence.
Incorporating a Burlesque corset into any ensemble will not only give you a sexy hourglass silhouette, but it will also give your audience a sultry peek into your alluring, glamorous self, which is exactly what Burlesque was created for; to give a hint of what was possible.
Nipple Covers – Pasties
Nipple pasties, also known as nipple covers, are adhesive coverings that are meant to cover up a woman’s nipples and areolae. They are thought to have originated in the 1920s. At that time stripteases were gaining in popularity at burlesque clubs. This presented a problem as full nudity conflicted with decency laws. Nipple pasties were used as a way around these laws, as although most of the breasts were still exposed, the nipples remained covered. These nipple coverings added to the eroticism of the performances and over time variations, such as the addition of tassels, were made for increased appeal.
Today, nipple pasties are still commonly used by burlesque performers, erotic dancers and strippers. While pasties are frequently worn to titillate, any woman may wear them as a form of undergarment. Some women choose to wear them beneath their clothing to prevent their nipples from showing through. When wearing a backless or strapless dress or top, pasties may be worn instead of a bra. They may also be worn when sunbathing to prevent tan lines when it is not appropriate or legal to go topless in public.
There are several ways that nipple pasties can be applied. Some are self-adhesive and will stick to skin that is clean and dry. Others require the use of spirit gum or double-sided adhesive tape to keep them in place.
Regardless of why they are being used, there are a variety of styles, shapes and colours to choose from. They are available in plaid, satin, velvet, faux fur, faux pearl or leather. For performances under bright lights, there are sparkling rhinestone or sequined pasties that can be purchased with or without attached tassels.
Tasselled pasties come in various colours, such as red, black, purple or multi-coloured, are also ideal for performances. Women will also find nipple covers in a wide range of shapes, such as stars, hearts, butterflies, daisies, and other floral patterns. For the holidays, special seasonal nipple coverings are available, including pumpkins for Halloween and pasties shaped like wrapped gifts for Christmas.
Burlesque is all about anticipation – the whole point is to draw out the suspense and the tension until the audience is wild with desire… and one of the things a burlesque performer reaches for most often when they need help doing that is the simple feather fan.
The feather fan is quite possibly the perfect accessory for the burlesque performer. Portable and fashionable at the same time, this tiny little fan can be used in so many ways, though its primary use and function is to hold the audience’s attention, distracting them, teasing them, drawing them out, and most importantly, giving them a glimpse here and there of the main attraction – the performers themselves! After all, that is the reason they paid to be there in the first place.
These burlesque-grade feather fans are not only useful, they are utilitarian. They come in a wide variety of colours and styles that will ensure every performer can find the feather fan best suited to their unique needs. Whether you are a 1920s-style flapper, or all decked out in fancy dress, these fans will only add to your ensemble. Appearing in a wide variety of colours including standard black, white, red, green, and blue, there is not an outfit in existence that can’t be made that much more special through the use of one of our feather fans! Additionally, some fans fold, allowing their user to do tricks and other special manoeuvres.
As far as size is concerned, these fans come in a wide range of choices. Of course, folding fans will be smaller (at least until it’s time to surprise your audience!), what with their being designed to be concealable. Mid-range fans also exist, and if you are looking for larger fans, those are available too, starting at feather fans with a 12″ (one foot) span.
In short, if you have got a need for a burlesque feather fan, we’ve got one that can fill it.
Feather boas are must-have accessories for a woman’s collection of fancy dress ensembles. Feather boas may be loosely wrapped around the neck or simply thrown across the shoulders to add to the attractive look of a stylish costume. Women have several feather boas to consider as they search for the perfect fancy dress accessory.
One classic favourite is the black feather boa. The soft gathering of feathers is available in a length of 180 centimetres. The flowy feathers of this boa lend an elegant, old-Hollywood look to any appealing ensemble.
Feather boas are also available in a variety of engaging colours. Among the colour options are lilac, pink, orange, and a shade of bright red that cannot be ignored. The selection of colours gives a woman the opportunity to pair the perfect shade of vibrant colour with her sexy ensemble.
Feather boas with a two-colour design are an attractive option for a woman’s fancy outfit. A feather boa that features a combination of yellow and black lends vibrancy to an ensemble. Alternatively, a woman who loves the colour red may prefer a feather boa that offers a colour combination of red and black. Depending on her outfit, a two-colour feather boa could be the finishing touch that makes an ensemble unforgettable.
A woman looking for a cute feather boa to pair with her ultra-girly outfit may select one in the enticing shade of bubble gum. The smooth feeling of this feathered boa against her skin will make it a permanent part of her fancy-dress wardrobe.
Feather boas in the deluxe category are sure to be the hit of an intimate party. Women may choose from popular colours such as shocking pink, brilliant yellow, and pure white all in an amazingly soft length of two meters.
If you enjoy the look of the legendary burlesque pin-up girl, Bettie Page, your dreams have come to fruition. Lingerie inspired by the art of the burlesque show has returned with a vengeance. Bustiers, bustle skirts and corsets, like those worn by burlesque performers for ages, have re-emerged as a fashion trend for all.
Lingerie sets that reminisce about the sexual dances and the style that emerged from them are a popular option in the styles of today. These sets of lingerie can bring an air of naughtiness to the private bedroom or lend a secret sense of sexiness when worn under business suits in the boardroom.
The styles of burlesque lingerie are plentiful. Hot pants and bra set or long line briefs and pasties are all a part of this lingerie fashion. Bustles are a visual reminder of the saloon girls of the old wild, wild west and even girdles take on a sexy side when worn in a burlesque fashion. Garter belts that secure stockings are a must for a complete burlesque style. Whether worn in the privacy of your bedroom on under the most modern of suits, these items of lingerie are sure to thrill and entice the men in your life.
A boned corset is a classic look of burlesque. Steel boning is the best type of boning to choose. A steel boned corset that is properly made is an investment that can last for years. The back panel should have a lace up over material option to conceal any skin after it is laced up. Corsets can serve the purpose of waist reduction or can just be a fashion statement. If the goal is waist reduction, choose a corset that uses proper lacing. Ribbon laced corsets are for fashion only.
If you want to pay homage in your dress to the styles of Gypsy Rose Lee, Tempest Storm, Sally Rand and Bettie Page, wearing burlesque styles in your lingerie will surely accomplish this goal. The style and glamor of these ladies brought burlesque lingerie to the forefront and put it on display before the masses of admirers who, continue even today, to be fans of the style and beauty that is displayed while wearing burlesque style lingerie.
Bold Burlesque Outfits
Burlesque outfits are no longer reserved for stage performances and costume parties. Real women are opening their minds to a different type of sexy while paying homage to this retro style.
Before the recent revival, burlesque style was not celebrated in everyday fashion. An embellished corset peeking out of a fitted tuxedo jacket was virtually unseen. Discerning fashionistas are now embracing burlesque-inspired fashions. While there are guidelines to achieving the look, the most important rule is to think sexy, romantic, and flirtatious.
Breath-taking burlesque formal looks appeal to any fashion sense. Full bustled skirts paired with a corset and fitted jacket are as appropriate as a short cocktail dress with a built-in corset. Bold formal burlesque ensembles can include black fishnet stockings, satin gloves, and high heels. Added lace detail makes basic tops, skirts and dresses appear burlesque-inspired.
Items such as fabric bows on clothing and pearls around the neck add delicate sophistication to the traditionally seductive burlesque look. A valued aspect of the look is the unparalleled way it combines sexy with an innocent femininity. A common misconception is burlesque is solely about seduction and sex. The truth is, burlesque leaves much to the imagination and employs leather, lace, feathers and frill in a fully feminine way.
Incorporating burlesque fashion into wardrobes is not saved for formal attire. Everyday looks for work and play inspired by burlesque are part of the mainstream. The corset can be paired with jeans, trousers, and short skirts for an excellent, tasteful nod to burlesque. While high heel shoes are the best option for completing a formal burlesque look, casual looks often include thigh high boots.
If a corset isn’t enough coverage, women pair it with a fitted jacket or wrap. A corset is not a must. Some opt to wear lacy, attention-grabbing bras or camisoles with a buttoned jacket or top. The key is to show just a hint of the selected undergarment. Bolder burlesque looks include showing a bit of garter belt with short skirts and dresses. Thigh high stockings with a garter belt are signature burlesque.
Women enjoy donning burlesque outfits on occasion to add variety and classy fun to their wardrobe. A burlesque ensemble is a visually stunning collection of feminine, sexy pieces. Having fun pairing existing items with new adds to the joy of testing the waters of burlesque fashion.