Burlesque costumes are by far the best proof of one of the most misunderstood genres in music, drama, and literature. For the mere mention of the term, burlesque instantaneously conjures graphic adult entertainment images. This is definitely extremely demeaning for an art form which, like jazz has managed to survive the test of time with flying colors.
Burlesque costumes are outlandish for a good measure. They are supposed to poke fun at an established personage, authority or any revered figure. It’s rather ironic that during the Victorian era when Shakespearean works flourished through the patronage of England’s Queen Victoria, a counter-culture of satire, criticism, and hyperbole would take root as well.
Such a condition bespeaks of the royalty’s ability to poke fun at itself in a good-natured manner. While scantily clad ladies often appeared in Burlesque costumes, such a sexual undertone is but a tip of the iceberg. Even Shakespeare’s works weren’t exempt from the simultaneous rude awakening of folklore and other means of eye-opening public entertainment available during the time.
Thus, Burlesque costumes would become the forum for stress relief and shared laughter. Easy or flimsy as these may look, the theater or entertainment garb and its accompanying musical and literally treatment requires a full mastery of the art form. And that’s not only on the part of the author, artist or originator.
After all, it’s impossible to elicit laughter from an audience that has no idea of the subject being ridiculed. Thus, a high level of literacy could only be assumed from the laughing crowd–unless of course, the entire congregation was faking it. As the old saying goes, you just keep faking it until you get it.
This piece of advice on how to achieve success at learning something is, in fact, a satire by itself. The clown is the embodiment of the Burlesque philosophy. This personality evolved from the court jester which had been granted a certain degree of freedom of speech and action by the existing royals.
Even in Burlesque’s crudest form, there had to be a delicate balance between satire and good nature. One can only imagine how many court jesters would have been punished severely for going over and above their presumed role in medieval society. So the next time you attend a modern-day Burlesque expo, you can have a better understanding of just how subtle sexual innuendos can be the magic spice of a performance.
Just like modern movies, the finest Burlesque performance is the one that employs just the right amount of satire and caricature to get the message across to the masses. Sensual undertones are just one among many of the tools that a Burlesque artist employs to achieve the desired effects. His or her sense of balance is eerily similar to the present day usage of just the right amount of special effects that define a successful film.