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From Colonizers to Chiefs PT 8 "The Chahtas vs. The Hell Nah"

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:

  1. 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.^[1][2]

  2. 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.^[3][4]

  3. 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.^[5][6]

  4. 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.^[7][8]


  1. Leslie Zemeckis, "Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America" (Lafayette: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013), 39-45.

  2. Robert C. Allen, "Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture" (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 52-57.

  3. Camille Bloch, "The French Cancan: Representation and Cultural Meaning" (New York: Berghahn Books, 2004), 34-39.

  4. John Frazer, "Synchronized Stagings: The Can-Can in Europe and America, 1830-1930" (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004), 71-73.

  5. Gillian M. Rodger, "Champagne Charlie and Pretty Jemima: Variety Theater in the Nineteenth Century" (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010), 189-194.

  6. Eric Schaefer, "Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!": A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959" (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 54-58.

  7. Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson, "Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway's Greatest Producer" (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015 The One Dollar Bet - Trading Places

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