Showgirls of the '90s - the 1890s
I've always been fascinated by early photography. A hotbed of photographers was in my neighborhood around Union Square, New York City. There even were photographers in my building. It was "early Hollywood," and when the filmmakers developed what we know as "Hollywood" ca. 1910, they came from the area around 5th Avenue and 14th Street. So, while the vintage photos of old-time showgirls here are 100 years old or older (with a few exceptions), they have a connection to the present day.
The practice back in the day was for photographers to pose burlesque dancers in various classical scenes. So, you get pictures of ladies dressed up in scenes from mythology, such as Cupid, or in scenes from old plays.
Some of the shots are scandalous even for modern times, so those are cropped so as not to offend anyone.
Some of these shots are taken from old postcard collections. Others come from "coffee table books" released by publishers such as Gustave Pellet. The models were often taken from the nightclubs of late nineteenth-century Paris.
However, New York, San Francisco, and a few other cosmopolitan cities in the United States also had their share of showgirls. Burlesque came to the United States when Lydia Thompson brought her troupe, the "British Blondes," to New York City stages in 1868. These models are the next generation from that original group.
|This appears to be from the 1920s, with the model sporting a classic flapper hat.|
|This one also is from the 1920s.|
Burlesque was featured in London from the 1830s to the 1890s. Some London theaters, including the Gaiety and Royal Strand Theatre, eventually featured it as the main event rather than just one of many acts.
The models also often wear garb that is usually associated with men. Ladies of the day would wear dark skirts with hats on the street. A woman going out in a form-fitting outfit was unheard of. So, these models were very free-spirited.
|Australian swimmer and actress Annette Kellerman.|
|Ida Florence, "The California Prize Beauty."|
|Eliza Weathersby, as Gabriel, in Rice & Goodwin's opera bouffe, "Evangeline," probably during a performance at Boston Museum, 1877.|
|Carrie McHenry as Jako in Bohemian Gy-url [sic], Colville Opera Company.|