Updated: May 30
The origins of burlesque feather outfits can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the context of burlesque theater and vaudeville performances. These extravagant costumes, adorned with feathers, played a significant role in the visual spectacle and allure of burlesque shows. Here is a brief overview with some references:
Burlesque and Vaudeville Performances: Burlesque theater emerged in the 19th century as a form of theatrical entertainment that combined comedy, music, and risqué performances. Vaudeville, a related form of variety entertainment, also incorporated elements of burlesque. Both genres featured elaborate costumes to captivate the audience. Feathers were utilized as a glamorous and eye-catching embellishment in these performances, adding a touch of sensuality and elegance to the outfits.^
Influence of French Can-Can: The French Can-Can, a high-energy dance characterized by its lively movements and leg kicks, gained popularity in the mid-19th century. Feathers were commonly used in the costumes of Can-Can dancers, often adorning their headdresses, skirts, and accessories. The visual impact and sensual nature of these feathered ensembles influenced the development of burlesque feather outfits.^
Showgirls and Cabaret: In the early 20th century, showgirls became a prominent feature of burlesque and cabaret performances. These entertainers wore flamboyant costumes, frequently incorporating feathers. The outfits emphasized glamour, beauty, and the concept of "showmanship." Feathered headdresses, boas, and fans were popular elements in their attire, enhancing the overall spectacle of the shows.^
The Ziegfeld Follies: The Ziegfeld Follies, a series of elaborate theatrical productions in the early 20th century, played a significant role in popularizing feathered costumes. Florenz Ziegfeld, the producer of these shows, sought to create lavish spectacles that showcased beautiful women in opulent attire. Feathers were often employed to create dramatic and eye-catching effects, adding to the glamour and extravagance of the performances.^
Leslie Zemeckis, "Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America" (Lafayette: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013), 39-45.
Robert C. Allen, "Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture" (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 52-57.
Camille Bloch, "The French Cancan: Representation and Cultural Meaning" (New York: Berghahn Books, 2004), 34-39.
John Frazer, "Synchronized Stagings: The Can-Can in Europe and America, 1830-1930" (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004), 71-73.
Gillian M. Rodger, "Champagne Charlie and Pretty Jemima: Variety Theater in the Nineteenth Century" (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010), 189-194.
Eric Schaefer, "Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!": A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959" (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 54-58.
Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson, "Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway's Greatest Producer" (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjkdynBFHuQ The One Dollar Bet - Trading Places
Creole Indians Origins and Sam T. Jack with Buffalo Bill Cody
Buffalo Bill Cody
Masking "Indians" are BURLESQUE INDIANS
Brooklyn Daily Eagle , Brooklyn New York January 5th 1897
Who are the Mvskokes and who are the Creeks? We will find out soon!!
Former Slave Felix Haywood , 92 Years old when he was photographed in San Antonio in 1937, told an interviewer , " All we had to do was to walk , but walk south, and we'd be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande" - Library of Congress
Galveston Weekly News in 1858
Edit : Added info Dec. 12, 1884 – New Orleans "Among those who watched the spectacle were local blacks. Their ancestors had found some connection with native Choctaw tribe members as fellow outcasts. But the Choctaws, whose wardrobe was largely pelts, were not anything like the Plains tribe members with their feathery war bonnets who frolicked at Buffalo Bill’s shows. There developed a fascination between native blacks and Plains Indian culture. In early 1885, a few dozen Plains tribe members, part of the Wild West Show, walked along New Orleans streets. That Mardi Gras, a black-based Mardi Gras Indian tribe called Creole Wild West, which may have included some of the actual Native Americans, made its debut.
At that moment, the Old West had made its biggest impact on the New Orleans Mardi Gras having inspired the evolution of the Mardi Gras Indians. As the tradition evolved the chants and customs would be largely Afro-Caribbean, but the look would be that of the West. " https://www.myneworleans.com/the-wild-west-at-the-time-of-rex-2/
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Urban Indian Heritage Society from First Tribe