History of Burlesque and Corsetry

Billie rae-burlesque dancerThe association of burlesque with extravaganza started in the Victorian era where it emerged as entertainment to challenge the social norms. It involved beautiful young girls taking to the stage in lingerie and stockings that were extravagant in taste and which led to the popularity of the burlesque corsets which are in demand even today. The word itself comes from the Italian word burlesco, derived from the word burla meaning a joke, mockery or ridicule. This aptly described the Victorian era theater that parodied Chaucer and Shakespeare works and created a competing theater for vaudeville. This form of entertainment later made its way to America in the 1840s where it was popularized by Lydia Thompson, an English dancer, and her dancing troupe of British Blondes.  This was in 1868 and wearing pink tights, burlesque corsets and tops, and skirts above the knee, in that era was just scandalous.

These ladies flourished in their chosen fields despite outrage at the scandalous outfits and performances or rather because of it and paved way for American born burlesque performers like Belle Davis, Mabel Saintley and Dora Dean. Over the years the shows became infamous for the stripteases and revealing costumes. Although the art form morphed over time, the costumes worn, whether by Lydia Thompson or Gypsy Rose Lee, who was even immortalized in song by a punk rock band, were always designed to enhance the form of the female body highlighting its sensuality. For this reason, corsets became the base for burlesque costumes. Corsets were worn even in the 16th century to accentuate the curves of a lady.

bordello-burlesqueThe burlesque form of art slowly faded with the rise of bawdier strip clubs but the costumes have never really gone out of style. There are many sensational performers who have been known to take to the stage wearing corsets, Madonna one of the biggest names in the industry used corsets in her performances from the 90s and sometimes still takes to the red carpets in them as part of her power suits. She wore a Jean Paul Gaultier corset in one of her performances in the Blond Ambition tour of 1990 and cinched waists and cleavage have never looked better. Lady Gaga and Beyonce have also taken to the stage in burlesque corsets giving a nod to the Victorian era in this day and age.

victorian-burlesque-dancerToday sales of burlesque corsets are rocketing maybe due to the influence of these celebrities, as a way to accentuate curves and hide flaws or to pay homage to a lifestyle. The rock genre has always incorporated burlesque corsets in costumes used by rock artists and many followers of this lifestyle swear by burlesque corset. The resurgence of the burlesque corsets speaks to the current trend in fashion like the underwear as outer trend that speaks to feminists and rebellious teenagers alike and also of the weight factor.

This fashion garment has been in the middle of Victorian political satire, striptease acts of the 20s and musical phenomenon from the 90s to the present day. It does not matter whether burlesque corsets are being worn for their functional purpose or as a fashion statement; the journey of this garment should inspire every woman to have on in her closet just on principle.  I love the classical styling and burlesque patterns of these corsets: http://thevioletvixen.com/burlesque-corsets/ – the Violet Vixen makes some really awesome authentic corsets and are a wonderful bunch of fabulous ladies.