Burlesque Party Ideas

by Nola Moore
Costumes played a big part in classic burlesque shows.

Costumes played a big part in classic burlesque shows.

George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

In their heyday -- the late 1800s and early 1900s, burlesque shows were a key part of vaudeville and other variety shows. These shows were designed to be snarky and risque, full of eye-winking humor and double-entendre in the days before movie theaters. Nowadays, burlesque is undergoing a renaissance, and a theme party offers a great opportunity for guests to get in touch with their inner pin-up girl.

The Art of Dance

Burlesque is first and foremost a strip tease. Whether you leave a little something to the imagination or bare it all, a beautiful and sassy strip tease dance is an art form. Hire a dance instructor or pop in an instructional DVD to learn the shimmies and sashays, the tricks and teases of classical burlesque. Set your dance to 1920's era jazz standards and classic musical theater numbers. Make sure guests feel comfortable -- everyone can dance, but no one should be required to remove any clothing.

The Glory of Costume

Assign each guest a burlesque-inspired stage name upon arrival, and give her a feather boa. Lay out sequins, feathers and other baubles along with scissors, paper and glue so guests can create their own pasties, hair ornaments and other decorative costume bits. Use simple barrettes or alligator clips for hair ornaments made of feathers, pearls and bits of velvet or satin fabric. For pasties, consider rhinestones, pearls, peacock feathers and tassels. Don't forget the double stick tape!

The Beauty of Environment

Burlesque is all about costume and theater, and it's easy to bring these elements into your environment as party decor. Cover lamps with silk scarves (make sure to keep them well away from the light bulbs to avoid a fire), drape velvet and silk fabrics over furniture and hang feathered fans on the wall. As an extravagant touch, prop up paper cutouts of burlesque stars around the room for ambiance and photo ops.

The Excess of Indulgence

Burlesque had it's height in the 1910s and 1920s, before movie theaters became popular. Use these decades as inspiration for your tidbits and libations. Consider serving a variety of classic hors d'oeuvres that were popular around this time, like shrimp or crab cocktail, vegetable canapes with dip, and pate or mushroom spread on toast points. Spice things up with modern finger foods like bacon-wrapped dates or feta- and herb-stuffed mushrooms. Serve classic pre-prohibition cocktails like brandy sours, gin martinis and champagne punch.

About the Author

Nola Moore is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles, Calif. She has more than 20 years of experience working in and writing about finance and small business. She has a Bachelor of Science in retail merchandising. Her clients include The Motley Fool, Proctor and Gamble and NYSE Euronext.

Photo Credits

  • George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images