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The Burlesque aesthetic has a rich history that dates back to the 17th century, undergoing various transformations to become the bold and flamboyant style associated with modern burlesque. This aesthetic has also inspired artists like (early) Panic! At The Disco and The Dresden Dolls and influenced their performances and visual identity.

Early Roots[]

A burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects. The word derives from the Italian burlesco, which, in turn, is derived from the Italian burla – a joke, ridicule or mockery.It often involved exaggerated and risqué humor, as well as scantily clad performers.

A Brief History[]

Early burlesque shows were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, and they frequently parodied highbrow literary works and classical theater. In the 19th century, burlesque evolved into a genre that focused on elaborate musical and theatrical productions. These shows were characterized by their combination of humor, extravagant costumes, and lively performances. However, they maintained a certain level of sophistication and often featured well-known stories with a comedic twist.

Decline and Resurgence[]

Burlesque experienced a decline in popularity in the early 20th century due to changing social norms and the rise of other forms of entertainment. However, the early 21st century saw a revival of interest in burlesque, This modern take on burlesque embraced elements of satire, sensuality, and empowerment. Performers often used elaborate costumes, choreography, and theatricality to entertain and challenge societal norms. The rise of the aesthetic can be traced back to the popularity of the film Moulin Rouge, and the song Lady Marmalade which was recorded for the soundtrack of the film. This then was followed by a resurgence in the burlesque aesthetic in terms of music videos and films such as Tim Burton's Big Fish and the music videos for Mr Brightside and Chelsea Dagger.

Musical Influence[]

American rock band Panic! At The Disco's first album A Fever You Can't Sweat Out was heavily inspired by burlesque and cabaret elements, shown in the lyrics, performance and fashion that the band wore at the time. The burlesque aesthetic can be most clearly seen in their music videos But It's Better If You Do and Build God, Then We'll Talk, as well as throughout their live performances - best shown for their infamous show, Live In Denver. Panic! At The Disco's aesthetic at the time definitely helped to popularise the aesthetic in the mid-2000s, and still inspires people to dress so today. The band showcased a blend of theatricality and a playful sense of drama reminiscent of burlesque performances. The use of ornate costumes, intricate makeup, and over-the-top settings in their visuals draws parallels to the theatrical nature of burlesque shows.



Some defining elements of Burlesque fashion would be

  • Corsets/Bustiers - An accentuation of the figure was prominent for Burlesque queens
  • Feathers - Feathered accessories, boas, and headdresses are commonly used to add drama and flair to outfits.
  • Sequins/Rhinestones - Sparkling embellishments like sequins and rhinestones adorn costumes, reflecting the spotlight's glimmer.
  • Gloves - Long gloves, often reaching above the elbow, add a touch of elegance and sophistication to outfits.
  • Fishnet Stockings - Fishnet stockings or tights contribute to the sensuous and provocative element of the aesthetic.
  • Lingerie Inspired - Lingerie-inspired elements like lace, garters and corset-style details are often inco
  • Bold Make-up - Clown-like makeup is a very important part of the burlesque aesthetic - good examples would be the make-up in The Dresden Dolls and Ryan Ross's makeup looks in Panic! At The Disco. The exaggerated make-up style adds to the theatricality of the look.