Glitzy costumes, iconic feather fans, larger-than-life personas – the world of burlesque is one of wild self-expression and sultry spectacle. But if you’re headed to your first burlesque show, you may be wondering what to wear to a burlesque show to fit in with the scene.

Though the performers will be dressed to impress in elaborate outfits, the audience attire at burlesque shows runs the gamut from casual chic to retro glam. Ultimately, wear what makes you feel confident and comfortable, and enjoy the show to the fullest. But it helps to keep a few burlesque fashion style tips in mind so you can channel your inner showgirl vibes.

In this article, we’ll walk through the ins and outs of how to approach your burlesque show outfit. Wondering how to choose an outfit that’s both eye-catching and comfortable? From dresses and heels to accessories and attitude, we’ve got you covered on how to get dressed for a night of colorful entertainment.

With the right outfit, you’ll be ready to whoop and cheer for your new favorite burlesque babes once you hit the show. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or your first time going to a burlesque, these style tips will ensure you look the part. So bust out your most daring cocktail frock or sharpest blazer and get ready to shimmy into burlesque fabulousness.

Different types of Burlesque Show

Show-stopping burlesque dancer in a dazzling costume with large feather headpiece on stage.
Showstopper Shine: Burlesque Performance Elegance

Burlesque shows come in a variety of styles, each with its own unique characteristics. Here are some of the main types:

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Type of BurlesqueDescriptionDress Code
Neo-BurlesqueNeo-burlesque revives and updates traditional American burlesque, encompassing diverse performance styles – from classic striptease to modern dance, theatrical mini-dramas, and comedic acts. This burlesque revival integrates wide influences is known for its feminist spirit and body positivity. Neo-burlesque provides a creative outlet for diverse performers and audiences.The neo-burlesque dress code is diverse; vintage, rockabilly-inspired dresses/heels add glam. Anything stylish/sexy is okay. Feel confident and have fun.
BoylesqueBoylesque spotlights male performers’ sensual artistry. Like female burlesque, boylesque encompasses diverse aesthetics – clown, fetish, circus, cowboy, vintage, drag, glam, Victorian, sci-fi, and gothic styles. Boylesque dancers present an array of acts and personae, from sultry to silly. Their self-expression and sensuality on their terms empower men to claim burlesque’s spirit. Boylesque integrates burlesque play with gender, sexuality, and norms, expanding possibilities for performers and audiences.Boylesque dress varies; consider vintage/retro attire, themed outfits matching show aesthetic, or glamorous yet comfortable clothing you feel confident in.
NerdlesqueNerdlesque fuses burlesque’s sensuality with geeky pop culture themes. Performers embrace nerd identity, cosplaying comics, games, and sci-fi/fantasy while stripping with acts inspired by cult classics like Star Wars, anime, RPGs, and nerdlesque playfully sexy spoofs delight fans. Nerdlesque is about self-expression, body positivity, and eroticism by nerds, for nerds. By blending burlesque with nerdy humor and references, nerdlesque creates an inclusive space to celebrate sexy nerd culture. Its flair for the theatric matches burlesque’s spirit, letting nerds reclaim sexuality on their colorful terms.The nerdlesque dress code is casual or themed costumes that match the show. Focus on comfort and confidence to enjoy the show dressed up or down. Make sure your outfit is comfortable enough that you can relax and have a good time taking in the performances.
Grotesque or Gore BurlesqueGrotesque burlesque embraces the outlandish and bizarre. Inspired by dark carnivals and Halloween, performers create macabre, gory fantasy universes onstage. Gore burlesque acts may feature horror costumes and props with fake blood and gore elements. This niche burlesque genre revels in the provocative spectacle of the grotesque. Though shocking, it allows daring creative expression. Gore burlesque’s embrace of the strange and spooky aligns with burlesque’s spirit of pushing boundaries. It provides transgressive thrills for alternative audiences seeking the odd, extreme, and avant-garde. Burlesque’s diversity welcomes these edgy, unsettling spins.Grotesque/Gore burlesque dress theatrical – Halloween/horror/gothic costumes, dark vintage, special effects makeup. Embrace bold, macabre style.
CabaretCabaret burlesque recalls the elegant chorus line shows of Paris’s Moulin Rouge and Lido. Focusing on synchronized choreography, lavish costumes, and graceful glamour rather than striptease, cabaret burlesque exudes Parisian-style spectacle. Dancers epitomize poise and precision in their topless revues. Cabaret burlesque brings a touch of French sensuality and opulence to burlesque’s diversity of styles. Though less overtly risque than traditional burlesque striptease, it celebrates the female form through intricate production numbers. It represents a softer, romantic vision – reveling in nostalgia for vintage Parisian dazzle and polish. Its graceful dance and coy allure provide a lighter burlesque alternative.Traditional burlesque utilizes striptease to punctuate humorous storytelling, often satirizing societal norms. Each act unfolds a narrative where stripping heightens the character or situation. Prevalent in the UK, traditional burlesque relies on wit, slapstick, and innuendo in comic mini-dramas. The striptease emerges organically, not as the main event. By using nudity and sexuality to mock conservative mores, traditional burlesque cleverly subverts expectations subtly. It aligns with incisive social commentary, underscoring burlesque’s power to challenge preconceptions through provocative parody.
StripteaseGlamorous burlesque spotlights sensual disrobing and lavish spectacle. Performers like Dita Von Teese embody this style’s opulent allure, adorned in extravagant costumes, props, and sets. Their graceful stripteases build anticipation, as they tantalizingly shed ostentatious gloves, boas, and gowns. This burlesque form revels in risqué glitz, celebrating the artistry of the tease. A hallmark burlesque style, focusing on the nuanced removal of elaborate outfits creates sensual tension.Striptease burlesque dress charming – evening outfit, vintage-inspired clothing, accessories. Aim for a stylish look with confidence and comfort to enjoy the show.
Traditional BurlesqueTraditional burlesque dress varied – vintage-inspired clothing or humorous costumes reflecting the show’s satire. Focus on comfort and confidence. Accessories like hats and gloves add flair.Traditional burlesque dress varied – vintage-inspired clothing or humorous costumes reflecting the show’s satire. Focus on comfort and confidence. Accessories like hats and gloves add flair.

Each of these styles offers a unique take on the art of burlesque, providing a variety of experiences for audiences.

Is there a Dress Code?

Captivating burlesque performer in a glittering outfit owning the spotlight under grand chandeliers
Center Stage Sparkle: Dazzling Burlesque Dress Code

For nerdlesque shows, dressing in themed costumes related to the specific show is appreciated. Cabaret club venues often require business casual dress at a minimum – avoid athleticwear and opt for button-ups and dressy pants/jeans.

Fetish wear may be welcomed at certain shows that cater to that aesthetic. Vintage and retro clothes are recommended for gore or Halloween-themed burlesque events. Dress codes can vary depending on the venue and event type.

It’s always best to check directly with the venue if you have any doubts about the appropriate garments, as management may update policies. The key is balancing dressing up in fun costumes or stylish outfits while remaining comfortable.

What To Wear To A Burlesque Show

Elegant burlesque atmosphere with a glimpse of a dancer in a red sequined dress and feather boa.
Backstage Glam: Burlesque Night Out

When attending a burlesque show, your outfit should reflect the glamorous and seductive atmosphere of the event. Here are some suggestions based on the diverse scenes you might encounter, from the classic cabaret of Paris to the vibrant Vaudeville that comes to burlesque in the Valley.

  1. Vintage-Inspired Glamour: Aim for a classic, vintage look with a corset and stockings, or pair a corset with a pencil skirt or fitted pants for a glamorous burlesque-ready outfit.
  2. Burlesque-Inspired Costume: For a daring burlesque look, consider a sequined bodysuit, fringed dress, or corset with a tutu skirt – go full burlesque diva with a flashy, fun costume.
  3. Comfortable Elegance: Opt for a simple black dress or pants with a shirt/jacket for comfort. Add flair with accessories like a feather boa, mini hat, fascinator, evening gloves, or retro jewels. Focus on elegance with a touch of burlesque.
  4. Minimalist Chic: Go for minimalist with a low-cut or tight button-up blouse under a cardigan, pencil skirt, and stilettos/pumps – stylish and understated.
  5. Accessorize: Accessorize a little black dress with fishnets, a shiny clutch, a fascinator hat, an accent belt, and evening gloves to add flair and enhancement to any outfit.

Remember to check the venue’s website for any specific dress code details. Aim to impress, but focus on feeling comfortable to enjoy the burlesque show fully.

Outfit Ideas for Attending a Burlesque Show

Glitzy Showgirl:

Exquisite burlesque queen in a red sequined costume with a lavish feather headpiece, embodying the spirit of the show.
Show-Stopping Sparkle: Red Sequin Burlesque Look
  • A sequined or beaded cocktail dress that hits above the knee to show off your legs. Look for dresses with added flair like fringe, rhinestones, or feather trim.
  • Pair with sheer black fishnet stockings for that nightspot aesthetic.
  • Elbow-length satin gloves add an elegant touch.
  • Wear something bright red or metallic high heels – the higher the better!
  • Top it off with a fluffy feather boa wrapped around your shoulders.

Retro Pin-Up:

Vintage-inspired pin-up model with red lips, a floral top, and a bow headband, exuding classic charm.
Vintage Vixen: Pin-Up with Floral Accents
  • High-waisted denim shorts or a swingy circle skirt highlight your waist.
  • Pair with a tied-at-the-waist blouse cropped to show just a peek of the midriff.
  • Bold red lipstick gives a nod to classic pin-up makeup.
  • Victory roll hairstyles are so retro burlesque.
  • Cat-eye glasses add vintage flavor.

Cabaret Vixen:

Radiant cabaret performer in red feathered headdress and sparkling dress, embodying the spirit of vintage glamour.
Show-Stealing Elegance in Red
  • A corset or bustier top cinches the waist and accentuates your curves.
  • Balance the look with fitted high-waisted skinny jeans.
  • Add garter belts clipped onto sheer stockings.
  • Elongate legs with sky-high stiletto heels.
  • Wrap a faux fur shawl around your shoulders and let it fall behind you with drama.

Vintage Bombshell:

Vintage-inspired burlesque bombshell in a pearl-adorned pink satin gown, exuding 1940s elegance.
Timeless Elegance in a Beaded Gown
  • A 50s-style swing dress with a sweetheart neckline shows some skin.
  • Seamed stockings add retro detail.
  • Peep-toe heels give feet room to dance.
  • Long satin evening gloves say glamorous.
  • A small flower fascinator tucked in your curls completes this throwback look.

Have fun and embrace the diverse glitz and styles of burlesque! Accessorize to make your outfit pop.

Suggestions for Burlesque-inspired Makeup and Hair

Quartet of classic burlesque beauty looks featuring dramatic eyeliner, red lips, and vintage hairstyles.
Burlesque Beauties: Dazzling Makeup and Hairstyles


  • Bold red or dark lipstick – Go for a matte look or high-shine glam.
  • Winged eyeliner or cat eyes – Use liquid liner to get sharp, dramatic flicks.
  • False lashes – Pick full, feathery lashes to accentuate your eyes.
  • Smokey eyeshadow – Use shimmery grays and blacks blended out.
  • Highlight and contour – Sculpt cheekbones and add a candlelit glow.
  • Glitter accents – A touch of glitter at the corners of eyes or temples adds flair.


  • Finger waves or victory rolls – These vintage-inspired styles are iconic for burlesque.
  • High bouffant with front tendrils – Much teasing and volume take center stage.
  • Curled ends or pin curls – Soft curls add bounce and movement.
  • Side swoop bangs – Dramatic side-swept bangs amp up the drama.
  • Decorative accessories – Mini hats, feather plumes, headbands, or flowers add sparkle.

Focus on channeling Hollywood glam or pin-up styles. And don’t be afraid to customize your look to put your own spin on burlesque beauty.

Burlesque Meaning

Elegant burlesque dancer in a black feathered costume with a large red plume headdress and gloves.
The Essence of Burlesque: Glamour and Drama

Burlesque is a comedic form of theater that originated in Italy as ‘burlesco’, meaning joke or mockery. It pokes fun at serious works through exaggerated caricatures, parody, and travesty.

Burlesque overlaps with slapstick and aims to generate laughter by applying irreverent treatment to weighty subjects. In modern times, burlesque has evolved into a personal style of variety show entertainment featuring dance, striptease, costumes, and humor.

Burlesque Dance

Black and white image of a burlesque performer dancing in beaded costume and feather boa
Captivating Burlesque: Allure and Artistry Unveiled

Burlesque dance originated in 19th century theaters, characterized by sensual expressiveness, striptease, humor, and theatricality. Drawing from styles like jazz and ballet, performers use elaborate costumes and props to tell stories and convey moods. Burlesque has seen renewed popularity, with dancers bringing the art form to modern audiences.

Want to see burlesque dancing in action? Check out this YouTube video showcasing the sensual, expressive dance style in all its feathered glory!

History of Burlesque

Vintage black and white portrait of a burlesque dancer in corset and feathered headpiece.
Elegant Echoes of Burlesque Past:

Burlesque has always reveled in shaking things up. Back in 17th century Italy, it started out as a form of comic theater that poked fun at the upper crust of society. Jokes, caricatures, and straight-up mockery got big laughs from everyday folks.

When burlesque spread to London theaters in the 1800s, it kept the cheeky spirit. Performers parodied Shakespeare and Opera shows, exaggerating the drama for a good laugh. My friend saw a hysterical version of Romeo and Juliet where the star-crossed lovers had a pie fight instead of dying tragically!

In the 1860s, burlesque hopped across the pond to America thanks to some innovative British dancers. It became a huge hit, though the shows focused more on sensuality and exotic flair than the more subtle British style. This was burlesque’s golden era, turning into a wildly popular choice of entertainment.

Legendary burlesque superstars like Josephine Baker and Gypsy Rose Lee were household names. Their gorgeous costumes, daring dance routines, and undeniable magnetism made them icons. For a while, burlesque was elevated to high art. But the party couldn’t last forever.

By the 1940s, risqué showgirls faced backlash and crackdowns, especially in New York. The industry slowly declined over the coming decades. Burlesque looked like it might fade away for good. But you can’t keep a good tease down!

In the 1990s, a new generation rediscovered burlesque’s fabulous spirit. Today it’s made a huge comeback, with modern performers keeping the cheeky, sexy, absurd style alive. Burlesque has always bent the rules. Here’s hoping it continues shocking and delighting audiences for centuries to come!

Modern Burlesque Songs

Here are some song ideas for a modern burlesque performance in a bulleted list format:

  • “Macho Man” by The Village People – A playful choice for a Boylesque tease
  • “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard – A rock anthem that can add energy
  • “The Way I Are” by Timbaland ft. Keri Hilson – A modern beat with a confident vibe
  • “Pain” by Boy Harsher – A dark, post-punk industrial feel for edgier acts
  • “Fever” by Peggy Lee – A sensual classic staple for many burlesque routines
  • “Love for Sale” by Eartha Kitt – A sultry tune perfect for a classic act
  • “Wicked Way” by Imelda May – A contemporary song with a slinky vibe
  • “Walk this Way” by Scary Pockets – A funky modern take to fit a lounge

These songs can help set the tone and enhance the visual spectacle of a burlesque performance. When choosing music, consider the mood, tempo, and style of the act to ensure the song complements the performance.

Final Thoughts

When deciding what to wear to a burlesque show, it’s important to take into account the venue and the mood you want to convey with your burlesque outfit. Burlesque shows are known for their vibrant and theatrical atmosphere, so feel free to go bold with your choices.

Glamorous vintage-inspired gowns, flashy burlesque costumes, and minimalist looks are all great options for channeling the flair of the tease.

Most importantly, check the dress code in advance and opt for an ensemble that makes you feel confident and comfortable.

Accessorize with fishnets, fur shawls, gloves, and fascinators to add extra allure. Do your makeup in bold style, with red lips and winged liner.

Style your hair in voluminous curls or finger waves to complete the seductive look. Most importantly, check the dress code in advance and opt for an ensemble that makes you feel confident and fabulous.

With the right balance of sultry and stylish, you’re sure to be dressed to impress for an evening of titillating burlesque entertainment.

I hope you found this article helpful in getting inspired for the perfect burlesque-ready ensemble! Feel free to share your own ideas and tips for styling an outfit to impress at a burlesque show.

What will you wear to embrace the vintage glitz and glamour? Let me know in the comments!

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