A huge thanks to the most respected burlesque site and publication, 21st Century Burlesque, for the feature in March! We appreciate the support, and look forward to sharing the book with everyone, for sale online in June! Read the article HERE!
This timeline, lovingly illustrated by Fyodor A. Pavlov, is meant to show the progression of the pastie and it’s design in America from early burlesque of the 1860’s through the present. The women we showcase here are all undoubtedly iconic, but several are also representative of something specific to the history of pasties, and the elevation or preservation of burlesque costume history. The captions and close ups below give more detail about the contributions these special ladies made to burlesque and pastie evolution.
Little Egypt, a character seen at the World’s Fair in 1893, represents those who came first in burlesque on this timeline. Her illustrated costume is reminiscent of the predecessor to the pastie- the metal breastplate “bras” commonly seen on belly dancers, and in theatrical productions and “burlesques” as early as the 1860’s with Lydia Thompson and her “British Blondes”.
Carrie Finnell is known to be the first to use pasties with tassels. Her performance “hook” was that she could make her breasts jump in and out of her dress with pectoral manipulation alone. Her use of nude, nipple-like pasties was first to bypass the nudity laws, but her use of them as a decorative item was an innovation of the the 1920’s.
Sally Rand represents the art of the fan dance on this timeline. As the years have gone on, Miss Rand’s fame is still more widely recognized, despite the fact that fan dancer Faith Bacon preceded her. Miss Rand is also a representation of other “gimmicks” besides pasties created to skirt the nudity laws of the time. The fan dance act did not reveal any illegal nudity at all until a final, still, pose at the end of the act. In many places in the 1920’s and 30’s nudity was legal in still life representation on the stage. Of course, in some states, nude body suits or bras and bottoms were still required behind the fans.
GYPSY ROSE LEE
Gypsy Rose Lee is arguably the most famous burlesque performer of all time, and should be represented on any burlesque timeline, especially for her breakthrough to the mainstream in the 1930’s and 40’s. She is famous for getting around nudity laws by very rarely taking much off, and being known as the “intellectual stripper”. Gypsy often wore (and made for her chorus members) net bodysuits with strategically placed decoration over the breasts and nether regions. With her lifelong theatrical background, she made many of her own accessories. Gypsy is also famous for adjusting her pasties on stage, as a tease.
LILI ST. CYR
If Gypsy was the star of the 1930’s and 40’s, Lili was the icon of the 1950’s and 60’s. Her narrative acts and her presentation of elegance and wealth on the stage elevated her art and expanded her audience reach. Lili was creative with her theatrical concepts, but still maintained an unattainable air in her performance. Once famous, her costumes- including pasties, were built by artisans and set the standards for the time.
Jennie Lee, “The Bazoom Girl” was famous for her tassel twirling skills in the 1950’s, and 60’s, but she is also part of this timeline because of her dedication to rights for exotic dancers and the preservation of burlesque history. She was the founder of The Exotic Dancers League, and The Exotic World Museum. The Burlesque Hall of Fame was born from her desire to keep retired burlesque dancers connected, and to showcase the history that they were a part of.
JO “BOOBS” WELDON
Jo Weldon represents burlesque educators in the neo burlesque movement on this timeline. Jo worked in strip clubs in the 1980’s, was part of the neo movement in the 1990’s, and has become one of the most respected authorities on burlesque education in the United States. She has been teaching pastie making to new performers for more than ten years, she started the New York School of Burlesque in 2003, and she wrote The Burlesque Handbook. She is not alone in her mission to educate- Miss Indigo Blue, Michelle L’amour, Bella Blue and many more, run nationally recognized burlesque schools from coast to coast.
DITA VON TEESE
Dita Von Teese is the mainstream-reaching representative of burlesque today and a modern icon for the art form. She is the most recognizable burlesque performer in the United States if not the world, and her opulent costumes, often designed by legend-in-her-own-right Catherine D’Lish, have defined the new silhouette of “classic” burlesque. We credit Dita with the popularity of the “illusion” style pastie, a must have for the classic performer.
We hope that you enjoyed this Pastie Timeline breakdown, and that you find the descriptions helpful in understanding why these are the people and pasties chosen to represent this part of costume history. The captions should give any interested burlesquer or historian a jumping off point in which to do deeper research. Special thanks to Fyodor for his impeccable and original artwork!
All text and imagery copyright The Pastie Project, Rosey La Rouge and Fyodor A. Pavlov. Please do not duplicate, quote, or use imagery without permission from Rosey La Rouge.