Ladies have been embracing their sexiness since the beginning of time, but the birth of burlesque dance in the 1800s turned sex culture into an art form. The history surrounding burlesque is complex and fascinating, and thanks to the Charles McClaghy Collection, we can catch a glimpse of those on the forefront of exotic dancing from then to now. These original ladies were the backbone of the nightlife entertainment industry through a period of great prosperity in America: the turn of the twentieth century. 

While burlesque first became popular in the 1840s (and was then characterized by minimal costuming, sexually suggestive dialogue and dance, and lots of humor), the art form has continued to develop and change over decades. As these pictures span the years, you begin to see traces of how American sexual ideals have evolved. Interesting stuff. 


These gals took New York and San Francisco by storm with frills, shimmies, costumes, pirouettes, personality and sass. Their empowerment shines through: every one of the models has a mid-century bitch face that I would not wanna cross.

New Fall Issue d217c

Images Courtesy of Flavor Wire and the Charles H. McCaghy Collection

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