Sep 21, 2012

A History of American Burlesque Fashions

Kicking off our Silver Season of Theatre is Gypsy, America's most acclaimed musical that follows the life of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee and is full of comedy, honest drama, and vivacious musical numbers.

Burlesque got its start in America in 1868, with Lydia Thompson and her troupe of "British Blondes." Their costumes were much more modest than we are used to today, but did serve to highlight the female form.

Lydia Thompson (image source)

Pauline Markham of the British Blondes (image source)

Vintage postcard of a burlesque dancer (image source)

Burlesque really took off in the 1930s and 1940s with dancers like Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Lili St. Cyr. Their costumes were much more revealing than the earlier ones, often with details like sequins, ruffles and feathers.

Sally Randy (image source)
Gypsy Rose Lee and a fellow burlesque dance (image source)
Lili St. Cyr (image source)

Today, Burlesque has seen a big resurgence. Dita Von Teese is a very well-known modern burlesque dancer, and we even have our own burlesque troupe in Colorado Springs, Peaks and Pasties! Today, burlesque dancers are free to wear almost anything they'd like, but are often inspired by the costumes of the 30s and 40s. It is also popular for dancers to craft their own costumes and pasties (nipple covers).

Dita Von Teese (image source)
Ruby Sparkles of Colorado Springs' Peaks and Pasties (image source)

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