Vintage Burlesque Outfits That Entertain & Entrance

When you hear the word burlesque it conjures up images of sensual women doing suggestive and cheeky dance routines wearing fantastic vintage burlesque outfits. Mention the Moulin Rouge and you think of a spectacle of glamour, and Toulouse Lautrec posters of a chorus line of high energy girls, dancing the can-can and high-kicking to the Galop from Offenbach’s opera bouffon Orpheus in the Underworld. 

If you belong to a burlesque dance class, you may want to hold a themed party and dress up as a Moulin Rouge chorus and perhaps do a cheeky dance routine for your guests. 

There are many choices of vintage burlesque outfits in the style of Moulin Rouge costumes available, but to stay true to history, to get the look of an early Moulin Rouge dancer, you would have to wear a longish skirt, a zillion petticoats and not much flesh on view, plus knickerbockers and black tights. Not as daring by modern standards, but in those days, when just a tittilating glimpse of a pair of knickers and tights was erotic. The more modern version of a Moulin Rouge performer would be minus the longer skirt and petticoats, just a basque, maybe with a bit of a frilled short skirt, black stockings with suspenders and garters. 

A costume can really bring out your femininity. Make the most of your natural assets. It’s all about flirting and seduction. It’s an exhilarating combination of being elegant, but saucy.

It’s a complimentary look for well-rounded women, even the Rubenesque get a look in. Display your womanly curves and be proud of your body. Plumper women have an advantage, as they can really make the most of their bust, by wearing cleavage revealing dresses. They can look amazing, and tame their ample waists with waist cinchers and corsets. 

You could choose a red satin basque, suspender belt and garters, sexy black stockings and a full petticoat and skirt. If you want to go the whole hog, add a feather headpiece, lace gauntlets and a choker to complete the look. 

Slimmer women can push up their cleavage with lace up corsets and bustiers to make them look more voluptuous, especially if that is combined with a bustle, to give an impression of a more rounded derriere.

There are several websites displaying burlesque Moulin Rouge costumes, to get ideas for the look you want to create. From glamorous showgirl look to raunchy wild west saloon temptress, you can be anyone you want to be. 

Vintage Burlesque: History

Burlesque, a form of expressive, often erotic, dancing, evolved from the cabarets and music halls of the nineteenth century. Originally a form of satire, it developed over time into a sensual and sexually charged art-form, with its peak popularity occurring in early twentieth century America. While it became unpopular during the middle of the twentieth century, its revival in the past couple of decades has led to a huge increase in the number of burlesque dancers, both professional and amateur, preserving and developing the form. This revival, begun and led by a handful of strong women, has now spread widely, and has influenced popular culture as well as inspiring retro fads.

Modern burlesque is seen by its aficionados and participants as being a way for women to express their confidence and sensuality. While it is often sexually charged, any performance in this genre should principally be about firing the imagination. It is often recommended as a more subtle, empowering and low-impact alternative to pole-dancing, and it is certainly less rampantly sexual, favouring subtlety and glamour over blatant display, despite its associations with the (related, but not identical) art of striptease. However, as with striptease, what is NOT displayed is generally the key to a dancer’s success.

Professional burlesque dancers are generally well respected within the entertainment industry, as the form requires a level of discipline that speaks volumes about their dedication. From the almost mandatory corset training to the rigour of impeccable daily grooming, as well as physical training for the dancing itself, these dancers have to dedicate a great deal to their art. Of course, on a more amateur level, it is possible for women to gain a great deal of pleasure from the art of burlesque without committing to these levels of dedication, and many amateurs become excellent dancers over time.

As well as seeking to emulate the best burlesque dancers in terms of performance, many women also choose to incorporate aspects of this striking art form into their everyday style by adopting touches from their vitnage burlesque outfits into everyday or party wear. These dancers are to thank for many previously shy women developing the confidence to wear striking and suggestive vintage-inspired fashion. 

Burlesque Dresses

Burlesque dresses are not limited to cabaret artists and fancy dress parties; anyone can enjoy the outrageous beauty of the dresses irrespective of the occasion. It promotes lace, sparkle and fishnet, the necessary ingredients for a successful burlesque wardrobe. The burlesque look is based more on the retro fashion statement that is right back in fashion again. Some things truly never go out of style. This style continues to remain popular regardless of other fashion trends that come and go. 

What’s the key to creating a successful style with these dresses? The more glitz available the better; sequins, feathers and other accents that are highly embellished enhance the look beautifully. Try the one shoulder blouson style dress or a sequined tank dress, or better yet the fully sequined, above the knees dress with appropriate leggings. Get togged up with lipstick and eyeliner, classy modern-style shoes and a fashionable hairstyle, but through it all let the dress be the centre of attention.

There are several stars that have chosen to adopt this retro look as part of their everyday wardrobe, apart from the onstage wardrobe they use. Christina Aguilera loves her sequins and Dita Von Teese is a fashion model for burlesque. By concentrating on the kind of clothes in use as early as 1950 or probably earlier, it is possible to put together a really fashionable wardrobe. A sneak preview of Teese’s wardrobe might bring on the creativity to get a personal wardrobe started. Teese uses burlesque dresses that are totally focused on femininity complete with full skirt and bodice, and don’t forget the corset underneath.

It is possible to wear these clothes that are not outrageous, just tastefully designed and stylish when worn. There are of course outfits that belong on stage or fancy dress parties, but that’s a different style altogether.

One essential accessory that cannot be omitted when wearing these dresses is the trusty corset. It helps the dress to sit and look just so, and the appeal for this type of outfit is all about the lady’s hourglass figure. This can be achieved to a certain extent with the right undergarments. Corsets help to smooth out the lumps and bumps to create a smooth midriff and firm the hip area. Very slim persons can use corsets and special padding to fill out the décolletage part of the dress. For those persons more generously endowed, the dress will fill out well and look quite flattering.

Burlesque Halloween Costumes

Burlesque is becoming increasingly popular all over the world, and what better opportunity to tap into the theme than at a Halloween party. It’s already traditional for such outfits to be dark in colour, like deep purples, greens and, of course, black, and this, coupled with a Halloween party, only validates the use of dark colours.

The staple item is the corset. There are many different styles to choose from, including overbust versus underbust, steel-boned versus plastic, and for Halloween, you can even opt for something unusual, like a silver spider-web pattern on a black background, or similarly, with bats. The details are a subtle homage to Halloween, and all things scary, without going over the top and appearing tacky.

Stockings and suspenders are also staple items of vintage burlesque outfits. Suspenders have long been used by burlesque artists, and will add authenticity to your outfit, but even hold-up stockings are fitting. Fishnet stockings in particular tie in perfectly with the Halloween theme, with their web-like connotations that nicely complement the aforementioned corset.

If you are not entirely comfortable with going to a party in just a corset and pants, then a tutu is the perfect way to cover up the top of your thighs without compromising on the theme. Black tutu’s are very Gothic, and tie in nicely with Halloween, as are bustles. Bustles are essentially a frontless tutu, reminiscent of the Victorian era and also very Gothic.

vintage burlesque

Apart from the basic framework of corset, tutu and stockings, there are many accessories that, whilst not essential for vintage burlesque outfits, are definitely welcome. Head accessories, such as hats and fascinators, add depth to your outfit, and if you really want to embrace the Halloween theme, then something fun, like devil horns, are also a good idea. For the latter, you can even include a running colour theme throughout the outfit: red horns, red shoes and red suspenders, for example.

Make-up is also extremely important for your burlesque outfit. Pale, creamy skin and dark eyes are traditional, and for Halloween, it’s best to really augment the contrasts, with bright red lipstick and plenty of black eyeliner. This will add drama to the costume, and give you the look of a vampire or witch. 

There are many options to choose from, but the key to successful vintage burlesque outfits are dark colours, subtle details, like bats and spiders, and vampish make-up.

Burlesque Clothes

Erotic (and tongue-in-cheek) stage dancers from the early seventeenth century dressed in a way that is instantly recognisable among today’s theatre and fashion enthusiasts and is now enjoying a real comeback. 

Dressing up in burlesque clothes isn’t just about looking sensational, it’s about feeling sensational too! What could possibly make a woman feel more glamorous, sexy and alluring than adorning her body with a waist-cinching, boned satin corset complemented by a pair of ultra-sheer, lace-top stockings and long satin gloves? 

Burlesque simply oozes sexiness and the range of clothing that is now available to replicate the seventeenth century phenomena of burlesque dancers and their saucy attire is better than ever.

Just some of the items to consider when purchasing a burlesque costume are:


Choose from old fashioned black and white Bordello spats with short heels to sparkling glitter stilettos in a range of sizzling colours. The more traditional black knee length boots with dainty ribbons for laces are perfect for short or skirt-less costumes.


Add the finishing touch to any outfit with a pair of glamorous ruffled satin gloves or an ultra-feminine pair made from delicate lace.


With swirling lightweight skirts and figure hugging bodices, traditional vintage burlesque outfits can be found in a huge range of opulent colours. Sleek pencil dresses and themed dresses such as sailor or cowboy offer an alternative to the traditional dress. 

Feather Boas

Floating feather boas can add showbiz glamour to all kinds of burlesque clothes whether they are the more simple but stylish vamp dresses or the more theatrical flirty cascade burlesque outfits. 


Simply adorable and totally provocative, a pair of frilly shorts knickers are a very popular choice for those who like to show a little more leg. They can be worn on their own or with attached suspenders to give that cheeky look that is bound to titillate. 


Steel boned corsets are designed for waist reduction but a similar appearance can be achieved with a fashion corset top. Both create a stunningly sexy look and come in a huge range of colours from the more traditional black to pretty pinks and maroons. 


Hats can complete any theatrical look and will provide that extra bit of fun to all kinds of stage dancing outfits. Choose from tiny top hats in a variety of colours to a leopard print fascinator for a perfect finish. 

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