How to Dress like a Vintage Burlesque Star

Today’s guest post by Caitlin of poleista.co.uk shares some advice of achieving a vintage burlesque look.  I have attended a few vintage style burlesque shows and I thoroughly enjoy the creativity of costuming in a fun, sexy, and classy vintage style. Enjoy!

What is burlesque?

The art of burlesque is now commonly regarded as a form of striptease, but originally it didn’t involve any stripping whatsoever.

The beginnings of burlesque are rooted in the British music halls of the 19th century, where it started life in the form of theatrical entertainment. Starting in the 1840s, burlesque involved sketches by the working classes, poking fun at the plays, operas and lifestyle of the upper class. By the 1860s, voluptuous and scantily clad ladies were added to the routines to keep the attention of audiences. In Victorian Britain, where as much as a flash of a bare ankle could be considered as daring, the idea of this sort of performance provided a great thrill.

British burlesque performer Lydia Thompson was instrumental in exporting the art to America. Her burlesque troupe’s show became the hottest ticket in show business and audiences flocked to see the ‘British Blondes’.

The rest of the burlesque story is, as they say, history. Throughout the years, the raunchy form of entertainment has shocked and enthralled audiences in equal measures. Though burlesque seemed to have become redundant and outdated for a while, it has recently experienced a revival. Dita von Teese exploded onto the scene as the new burlesque superstar, and catapulted the art back into the limelight. It is once again a much-discussed arena, with an associated style all of its very own.

How to get the Burlesque look

“Burlesque style is all about being a lady, albeit with a bit of a naughty side” says Caitlin from performance arts website poleista.co.uk. She adds, “while the performance outfits can be rather raunchy, it’s easy to inject some burlesque style glamour into your everyday wardrobe. Whilst there are many different looks that you can adopt and make your own, some of the basics stay the same.”

Vintage Burlesque

Black Chiffon Pencil Dress
Burlesque fashion today still has a very strong sense of 50s vintage styling. Starting with a classic vintage dress would be an ideal way to introduce burlesque to your wardrobe. Teamed with a pair of high heels and some show stopping accessories, you’ll achieve a look all of your very own. Vintage shops are now in abundance in most towns and cities, though can sometimes be quite expensive. Consider investing in a few key pieces to form the basis of your wardrobe. Alternatively, you could pick up some bargains at charity shops or car boot sales (that would be thrift stores and flea markets in American lingo.).

Burlesque Make up

Red lipstick is a timeless favourite and a must-have item in the make-up bag of any burlesque beauty. Applied properly, it brings a touch of sophistication and glamour to any outfit.

Smoky eyes are another favourite burlesque look but if you’re aiming for more understated style for the daytime, try a simple cat-like flick at the outer corners of your eyes with a liquid eyeliner.

Burlesque Hair

No self-respecting burlesque artist would leave the house without impeccable hair. Aim for an elegant, vintage look with plenty of femininity. Three popular styles are the pompadour, the feather and the flat top. All of these looks are based on tight waves and as a general rule, the curls should be as tight to the head as possible. This achieves a sleek and highly groomed style.

Burlesque Underwear

Strapless Lace Overlay Corset from Daisy Corsets
As all ladies know, the correct underwear should always provide the basis of an outfit. Well fitting undergarments will not only hold you in and push you up in all the right places, it will make sure that you’re feeling your most confident. This is the key to achieving the burlesque look. While the clothes will get you halfway there, it’s your attitude that will help you to fully achieve the status of glamorous burlesque siren.

In this department, feel free to be as elaborate as you like. Burlesque corsets, stockings, suspenders and lacy numbers are all great investments.

Burlesque Shoes

Michael Antonio Women's Lanelle - Cherry Red Floral - size 10.5
The correct footwear is vital for the burlesque look. The brightest colours and highest heels will ensure excellent poise and grace, as well as being a guaranteed head turner. In the world of burlesque, flat shoes just won’t cut it. With a little bit of practice, you’ll soon be walking confidently in your killer heels.

This entry was posted in Dance Fashion History, Vintage Inspired on by .

About Debbie Sessions

Debbie Sessions is passionate about wearing history through fashion. She and her husband, Oscar, have turned their hobby into a career by teaching others how to re-create vintage style with affordable new vintage inspired clothing and accessories. We connect shoppers to the best vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories and teach fashion history as it was worn by everyday people. Need more help? Contact us anytime.

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