Burlesque. A performance art drawn from the Victorian cabaret and earlier vaudeville acts, it remains one of the most prevalent fashion influences in Western culture today. The idea behind true burlesque is to poke at the concept of feminine wiles and mystique through a satirical, uplifting, humorous, and glamorous performance piece that makes use of the beauty of the female form. And modern burlesque inspired fashion has done just that, spawning the creation of neo-burlesque, a genre of retro pinup styling that incorporates the tattooing and piercing arts into the aesthetic. In recent years this look has become particularly popular among celebrities, including Beyonce and Katy Perry.
Perhaps the best known modern burlesque performer is raven haired vixen Dita Von Teese. As the retro glamour of showgirls, pinups, and modern cabaret performers began to more heavily influence the fashion, jewelry, and body modification industries in recent years, Ms. Von Teese built a trans-global empire. Performing in live shows as she had always done, she branched out to include starring in ad campaigns for lingerie, makeup, and fragrances, as well as designing and marketing products of her own. And on the modification side of things, it bears mentioning that she’s among few women in the world to achieve a waist of under 20 inches through corsetry, an element common to traditional burlesque.
A revival of the burlesque art form has been on the upswing since the early 1990s, and seems to have hit its height in the past few years, counting among its spheres of influence several lines of popular jewelry and clothing.
The components most common to this flirtatious and innately feminine performance aesthetic include bubbles, beading, over sized gemstones, feathers, and various food elements such as classic alcoholic drinks, baked goods, and sweet exotic fruits.
The re-emergence of skillful burlesque style stage shows incorporating these elements and others has grown to include yearly or semi-annual events in Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Paris, Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada), Australia, London, and Nottingham (England, UK), and several other cities. During shows many participants perform singing and dancing, acting, various forms of comedic arts including mime and prop comedy, and Westernized striptease using poles or chairs. The costumes are glamorous and elaborate as well, as traditional burlesque counts among its humors imitation or parody of over-extravagant lifestyles.
In neo-burlesque styling, black jewelry is often used in facial piercings for this same reason, to appear as an imitation of beauty marks, which in original dance hall acts were often drawn on with makeup.
Here, we pay tribute to the style and substance of the original queens of burlesque.