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The History of Burlesque: A Lingerie Retrospective, part 1

a text image that reads Luna Logo The History of Burlesque Part 1
by Luna Lugo

Luna Lugo is the owner of mylunakiss.com, an online lingerie website serving women of all shapes & sizes focusing on plus size, BBW & petite sizes. Lugo, a graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology, has over 15 years of fashion merchandising & marketing experience. She is obsessed with lingerie history & is in the process of creating a multi-media production on Burlesque & French Maids from origin to present day.

Burlesque is more than a strip tease, it is a centuries old performance art form that has multiple connections to music, literature, art and of course lingerie.

The original definition of burlesque is an exaggerated performance, a parody; a verb “to burlesque”. The definition of 20th century American Burlesque is an eclectic mix of artistic expression, musical theatrical mockery and strip tease.

Numerous articles on the history of Burlesque state it is difficult to pinpoint the true origin of Burlesque which is understandable because it was a major source of entertainment like the circus with multiple layers throughout the history of Europe.

In the late 1380’s, English author Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales; a saucy collection of adult stories. Chaucer’s stories were based on provocative thoughts, actions and philosophy and it seems to have inspired the Burlesque movement because of the large popularity of the stories.

The most famous story in The Canterbury Tales was The Wife of Bath based on a Knight’s quest to find out what women want most (sex, to be jolly, secretive, deceptive, etc.) The knight asked every woman he could find until he came upon a very old woman who knew what women really want - a man who understands a woman’s needs and permits her to make the decisions; a liberal philosophy for the 13th century.

In the 1400’s, the bawdy performance transformed from old style vaudeville in France to a Voix de Ville or “voice of the city” which replaced the minstrel music parodies that became passé and less sophisticated as cultures progressed over time.

In the 1600’s, the Burlesque performance in Italy was akin to a theatrical parody or grotesque vaudeville originating from the Italian word Commedia dell’Arte (which means joke or parody) or better known as provocative performance art.

In Spain during the 17th century, writer Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra (famous for Don Quixote) popularized burlesque in his satirical works that did not compliment medieval romance like in Exemplary Novels.

Throughout the 1700’s and 1800’s, France and Italy burlesque was split into two areas Low Burlesque known as lewd imitations accompanied by classic music and uncoordinated which did not seem to matter since these were scantily-clad women dancing seductively. The other style was High Burlesque which was a mock heroic - layman terms featuring the foolish one as the hero, it was a unique mix of comedy and serious laughing for pleasure not laughing to hurt.

In the late 1800’s and through the 19th century in England, Victorian Burlesque also known as theatrical burlesque became even more popular and attracted larger audiences because females were cast as actors in the lead male roles – not the norm in this time period.

This concludes the first part of the three part series on the History of Burlesque. The next article will be on the History of Burlesque in America. Stay tuned!

For Part 2: http://thelingeriejournal.com/the-history-of-burlesque-a%C2%A0lingerie-retrospective-part-2/

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