The burlesque design aesthetic is a complex one that has changed over the history of the art form. It began as both a simple and complex play of cloth and jewels and almost instantly moved to the extremes of both. Some costumes are huge and draping with as many pieces of jewelry as possible fit onto a single woman while others are so simple, adorned with only a few pieces of jewelry that are tastefully placed. Given the nature of the burlesque art form, most of those images will not be displayed in this article. However, some Pinterest boards will help flesh this out (do pardon the pun) in a rather helpful way. To illustrate the simplicity of some of the original costumes:
Josephine Baker, a.k.a. Freda Josephine McDonald, is still one of the most popular burlesque dancers known. Her death in 1975 has not slowed the volumes of fans who flock to her images. That being said, let’s return to the original subject. She was considered a burlesque dancer, and her costume is considered a burlesque costume. It is her trademark banana costume. Notice that while the costume itself is sparse, the jewelry she is wearing is quite elaborate. The large dangling ear-rings and long, looping necklace were designed to move counter to Ms. Baker’s dancing. Much of a burlesque dancer’s costume was designed to accentuate the movements of the dancer’s body.
Let’s compare the image above to another period image:
You’ll notice that like Ms. Baker in the image above, these dancers are mostly unclothed. Their clothing, however, is mostly jewelry and rhinestones. This is a particular design theme throughout quite a bit of burlesque style.
Here is another, for comparison:
The above outfit, worn by Ossi Oswalda, is mostly jewelry with some tassels at the hips.
Through time, though, the idea and aesthetic have changed.
You’ll see that contemporary interpretation of the art form is much more complex in design. Sometimes. The corset has taken a rather central roll in most burlesque costumes made today. In fact, if a woman were to wear old-fashioned burlesque outfits now, without reference, it wouldn’t even be considered burlesque! Here are some more examples:
Even artists have begun to interpret the art form:
Even in the world of today-the year 2013-people are not comfortable or familiar with the art of burlesque, its clothing, jewelry, and style. It is somewhat interesting to see the interpretations of sensuous clothing from many, many years ago in contrast with the sensuous of now. And even the intervening years.