CULTURE & ARTS
11/14/2014 08:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Brief But Stunning Visual History Of Burlesque In The 1950s

Today, burlesque is nothing short of an art form. Performers both male and female combine the most explosive aspects of costumery, dance, comedy and theater in a type of live entertainment that, of course, places nudity on a pedestal. Dita Von Tesse and World Famous BOB have turned the tassel-friendly genre of performance into an evolving practice that challenges everything conventional -- from gender politics to sexuality and the public's perception of the naked body.

Burlesque has historic roots in America's minstrel culture, dating as far back as the 1840s. However, the version we know today -- a marriage of vaudevillian humor and striptease -- became popular in the early 1900s, when (mostly women) performers took to clubs and Broadway venues with their own brand of music, dance and provocative nudity. The era of Prohibition took a toll on the burlesque industry, as teetotaling politicians and authority figures took issue with both the performers and club owners that made burlesque possible. Thankfully, the genre bit back in the 1950s, as women like Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, Tempest Storm, Lili St. Cyr, and Blaze Starr emerged as boundary-pushing icons.

We dove into the photographic archives to showcase a visual taste of burlesque in the 1950s. Below is a short, but effortlessly stunning look into a decade of body love on stage. Behold:

1950

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Bikini-clad burlesque dancer Brenda Conde shows some moves backstage at the Tivoli Theatre, Mexico City circa 1950. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

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Burlesque dancer Gloria Knight in a two-piece stage outfit, circa 1950. (Photo by Diaz & Rogers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Burlesque dancer Lonnie Young in a bikini decorated with flowers, circa 1950. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Burlesque dancer Mary Mack reclining on a chaise longue, circa 1950. (Photo by Bruno/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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American actress and burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee (1914-1970), circa 1950. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

1952

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Striptease artist Lili St. Cyr is seen during her nightclub act at Club Samoa in New York on August 10, 1952. (AP Photo/Ed Ford)

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Bikini-clad chorus girls circa 1952 in a burlesque show relaxing backstage at the Tivoli Theatre in Mexico City. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

1953

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Burlesque artist Lili St. Cyr pulls on stockings during a rehearsal of her interpretive dance for the three-dimensional short film "Carmenesque" on January 23, 1953 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ellis R. Bosworth)

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Members of a civic group opposed to burlesque shows picket the Reade Paramount Theater on June 28, 1953 in Long Branch, N.J., to protest the opening of the theater for burlesque entertainment. The opening show went on as scheduled. (AP Photo)

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Left to Right in this split photo, actresses and burlesque entertainers Margie Hart, Lili St. Cyr, and Gypsy Rose Lee were all were showcased at Boston's Old Howard Theater on November 25, 1953. (AP Photo)

1954

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American burlesque stripper Tempest Storm removes her bra while performing on stage in 1954. (Photo by Grahic House/Getty Images)

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American burlesque stripper Tempest Storm wears a sheer bra with strategically-placed sequins while performing on stage in 1954. (Photo by Grahic House/Getty Images)

1955

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Portrait of American burlesque performer Blaze Starr circa 1955, wearing a bikini and high heels, sitting on a patio and holding up a beach ball to her lips. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Burlesque dancer Lilly Christine keeps herself cool with a fan as she waits for her cue to go on and perform her famous voodoo inspired "Cat Dance" circa 1955. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

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A burlesque dancer in an exotic horned headdress and bikini, circa 1955. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Striptease artist Lili St. Cyr appears in a scene from Howard Hughes' "Son of Sinbad" in June of 1955. (AP Photo)

1956

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General view of Stage Show at Columbia Burlesque Theatre in New York City on December 26, 1956. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)

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View from the wings as girls go through their dance number at Columbia Burlesque Theatre, New York City on December 26, 1956. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)

1957

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American burlesque performer and author Gypsy Rose Lee (born Rose Louise Hovick) (1911-1970) laughs during an appearance on the TV show "Person to Person," on February 6, 1957. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

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Molly Dexter on stage at the Lido in Paris with the Bluebell Girls in 1957. (Photo by Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

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Chorus line at the Columbia Burlesque Theater in 1957. (Photo by Ed Clarity/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

1959

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Strip tease girls take a breather and a cup of tea between appearances at the Nell Gwynn Club, Dean Street, SOHO on August 13, 1959. (AP Photo)

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British actress Joan Collins, right, rehearses a provocative dance for her role in the film, "Seven Thieves", with technical advisor and real-life burlesque queen Candy Barr in Hollywood, California on August 20, 1959. (AP Photo)

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Outdoor portrait of American stripper, dancer and burlesque performer Blaze Starr as she dances in the shade of a tree in 1959. (Photo by Pictoral Parade/Getty Images)

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Burlesque dancers on December 15, 1959. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

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BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
20 Burlesque Superstars And Their Signature Acts
CONVERSATIONS