Burlesque performance has seen a recent rise in popularity. The performances are part comedy, part strip-tease, and part talent show. They often include oversized fans, pasties, corsets, and lots of glitter. Today”s performances are a bit different in that they”re more focused on the sexy, and often support body positivity and good self image. They”re also entities in and of themselves.
In the early days, burlesque performances were short, comedic interludes in a longer, perhaps more serious performance. “Burlesque” comes from the Italian word burla, meaning joke, ridicule, or mockery a spoof. It”s related to the English tradition of pantomime, which took serious work and parodied it (often musically). A modern-day equivalent would be Spaceballs or Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Though the humor could be downright crude, the audience was expected to understand the references and have a certain familiarity with more “serious” works.
History lesson aside, burlesque was popular for hundreds of years, and is nothing without its costumes and characters. By the 1890s, burlesque performers would gain a degree of fame in their circles, and promoted themselves and their theaters via “cabinet cards.” These cards were photographs featuring dancers in their costumes. Most were a bit risque, (at least for the late nineteenth century), as well as a bit funny. You can also see how standards of beauty changed in the past 120 years.
Fairies and mythological creatures were popular, due to how burlesque drew from classical works.
Based on Alice”s facial expression, this was probably taken later in the day.
Men”s clothing and military uniforms, tailored to fit women, was a popular choice in burlesque performances.
This outfit and the one in the next photo were designed around Renaissance-period menswear.
This costume borrows from the Greek national costume for men.
I don”t think this is regulation.
This might be a cheeky take on a sailor suit
This could be frontiersman-inspired.
A shiny tunic and leggings make this “armor” costume.
I actually think she looks great in that blazer.
It looks like stupid rubber horse masks existed before the days of the Internet.
Serious corseting all the time.
Many of the costumes are variations on corsets and bloomers, and some were only one piece, like a leotard.
This dancer is dressed as a statue in what appears to be the 1890s version of a morph suit.
It might be a granny nightgown, but it”s a sexy granny nightgown.
These costumes are pretty impressive, and they have a pretty good sense of humor. It seems like those Victorians had a fun side after all!