If you could say only one thing about Burlesque, it would probably be that it is a truly rich and excitingly varied art form. It is a genre that fuses an interesting combination of dance, comedy, variety and parody all rolled together in a delicious concoction of theatre. One of the most interesting things about burlesque is the fact that places nudity on a pedestal and has done so since its inception.
As something that was probably considered a somewhat taboo style of entertainment during the height of its popularity in the early 1900's, it is interesting that today it is a celebrated art form that empowers the female body. This is even more interesting when we consider that laws were actually passed in America in the 1920's making it illegal to wear skirts more than 7 1/2 inches off the floor, or 3 inches above the ankle (in Philadelphia and the state of Utah). It might well be that the burlesque strip-tease was born due to this type of sexual repression.
Ah, people rebel in the most wonderful ways, don't they?
But it's important also to note that burlesque isn't just a glorified form of stripping. It's not all sexy corset tops and nipple tassels. Burlesque is widely considered a credible art form that has stood the test of time. It is an interesting and varied genre, with a bold and striking style. And above all, it places the emphasis on the 'tease' rather than simply the gratification that comes with the showing of naked skin.
The Origins of Burlesque
While the genre seems to be enjoying a resurgence at the moment, largely due to the popularity of Dita Von Teese (she's pretty much the face of burlesque right now), we've already mentioned that the style was at the height of its popularity during the early 1900s (although there are records of burlesque dating back as far as the 1840s). But some argue that the styles roots go even deeper than that.
It's been suggested that the first 'strip-tease' dates back to Biblical times, beginning with The Dance of The Seven Veils. This was the scintillating dance that the temptress Salome performed for King Herod, and involved (you guessed it), seductively removing seven veils, along with all of her clothes.
This is just one example, but there are others that appear in historical fiction and art. The art of 'withholding' is a common motif. Take the historic play Lysistrata for example - an ancient comedy in which women actually use their flesh and sexuality (or the 'withholding' of it and any gratification that can be derived from it), in an attempt to end the Peloponnesian War.
The premise of the play (very basically) is this; no peace, no nookie. The women in the play withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a way of forcing them to negotiate peace. This could be regarded as an interesting example of how the art of withholding sex can be considered more powerful than gratification; just like burlesque. Remember, it's all about the clothes you leave ON.
The Evolution of Burlesque Style
As touched upon, burlesque was big in the 1920s. Clubs and establishments popped up in prohibition America to provide variety and entertainment to a somewhat repressed culture. But of course, this didn't go down well with teetotal politicians and authority figures, who found issue with the provocative nudity and also with the establishments themselves.
But the genre hit back in the 1940s with stars like Sally Rand and Gypsy Rose Lee taking centre-stage and pushing the boundaries of the style to make it new and relevant once more. The 1950s brought an even more exaggerated evolution of the style with the popularity of Hollywood movie glamour at its height, skyrocketing the 'pinup' style into popularity with stars such as Marilyn Monroe at the forefront.
So popular was Marilyn that burlesque dancer, Dixie Evans even adapted her stage persona to become a parody of the rising star. Her act proved so popular that she was later billed as the 'Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque.' It is this fusing of two genres; the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with bawdy vaudevillian entertainment, that is rather typical of the style.
Burlesque is all about richness and variety - and this is something that still shines through even today.
Burlesque Style Today
Today, the burlesque style mixes elements of the different defining periods of its own popularity, combining Victorian corsets with vaudevillian influences and even pinup and rockabilly styles. If you were to try to categorize burlesque style as one thing, you'd have difficulty. The beauty of burlesque is its diversity and the way it combines trends from different eras to create something totally unique.
Burlesque of today is sometimes referred to as 'neo-burlesque', because it does differ slightly from the traditional style. Nowadays the form encompasses a wider variety of acts and styles, including modern dance and drama. But still it remains true to the original style, wherein an emphasis is placed on 'sexy' rather than 'sexual'.
It's safe to say that the art of the tease is still very much alive, as neo-burlesque performance is widely regarded as being about art and self-expression, rather than mere sexual gratification.
The popularity of neo-burlesque performers such as Dita Von Teese has also contributed to burlesque inspired fashion becoming more mainstream, with a focus on vintage glamour.
How to Create A Burlesque Inspired Look
So how do you go about incorporating burlesque inspired clothing into your own wardrobe? There are a ton of different styles you could adopt (it's been around for a long time, after all), but certain must-haves remain the same across the different periods of burlesque fashion.
The mainstay of the burlesque style would definitely have to be the burlesque corset. Creating hourglass curves and a full 'pinup girl' style figure with a tiny waist is a definite nod to to the burlesque genre, however you choose to style your corset. Go all out with a full corset, paired with a pencil skirt, or create an hourglass figure more subtly by wearing an underbust corset beneath your clothing. The end result is the same: a sexy hourglass figure.
If you're looking to encapsulate elements of a style that oozes sex appeal, then it makes sense that sexy lingerie should be part of your burlesque style outfit (even if you have no plans on revealing it)! Hidden suspenders or embellished over-the-knee socks are a definite nod to the genre, along with pencil-lined tights and suspender-belts.
Bright red lipstick is a must-have if you want to create a burlesque inspired look, along with a dramatic dash of eyeliner. Create a bold wing with liquid liner, and don't be afraid to fill in those eyebrows while you're at it. The 'overplucked' eyebrows of the nineties are long gone, and burlesque inspired makeup is a perfect way to show off a thicker, more defined brow.
Retro, rockabilly dresses are typical of burlesque style - which is all about creating a fusion of modern vintage with a 'pinup' slant. Don't be afraid to don brightly colored dresses with vibrant prints. Or, you could go with more subtle tones like navy blue, to make your red lipstick pop!
(Very) High Heels
High heels ooze sex appeal, so it's no wonder they are a staple of burlesque-inspired fashion. Generally, the higher the heel, the better. Try pairing chunky platform court shoes with a pair of flesh-colored tights for a truly authentic 1920s burlesque style.
Do you have any other tips for creating a burlesque inspired look? We'd love to hear about it, so please share it with us in the comments section.
Title image credit:PRWeb