A Look Into the Past: 20 Photos of Vintage Burlesque Dancers

blaze starr

Blaze Starr

The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender was a couple of weeks ago, and while I wasn’t able to attend (one day!), it did make me start to reminisce on the burlesque artists from years past — names like Tempest Storm, Blaze Starr, Lily St. Cyr, and Noel Toy.

I love burlesque, and I have a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for the women who paved the way for Dita Von Teese, Catherine D’Lish, Perle Noire, Dirty Martini, and all the other “greats” of burlesque today. At a time when women’s sexuality was still very heavily policed, these women were doing something incredibly radical and risky. And for women of color especially, the potential penalties were profound (which is part of why their near-invisibility today is so heartbreaking).

Apart from all that though, burlesque queens of the past had some amazing costumes. We’re talking garments I would give my eyeteeth to own today. I’ve pulled a few of my favorite vintage burlesque stars for this blog post, but there are lots more on the TLA Pinterest and on the Tumblr blogs Burleskateer and Burlyqnell. And while there are definitely some famous names on this list, I’ve also tried to include a few you may not have heard of before.

What’s your favorite photo of the ones below?

gypsy rose lee 2

Gypsy Rose Lee

dorian dennis 3

Dorian Dennis

tempest storm

Tempest Storm

miss topsy

Miss Topsy



tootsie roll

Tootsie Roll



barbara yung

Barbara Yung

lonnie young

Lonnie Young

ronnie bell

Ronnie Bell



princess ahi

Princess Ahi

lilly christine the cat girl

Lilly Christine, The Cat Girl

jean idelle

Jean Idelle

jadin wong 2

Jadin Wong

dixie evans the marilyn monroe of burlesque

Dixie Evans, The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque

mei ling

Mei Ling

april march first lady of burlesque

April March, The First Lady of Burlesque

noel toy

Noel Toy

Satan's Angel

Satan’s Angel

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. I started TLA in a small studio apartment in 2008. Since then, it's become the leading lingerie blog in the world, and has been featured on the websites for Forbes, CNN, Time, Today, and Fox News. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that every who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

  • sherry

    I absolutely love Gypsy Rose Lee and would love to own the costume Princess Ahi has on.thanks for the fotos. loved them all

  • Yushin

    Thank you so much for this post. I love looking through the photos. I love how their outfits are almost simple but the girls look so beautiful in them.

  • http://specsinkorea.blogspot.com Cath

    I absolutely love all of them! It’s so amazing to see such luscious and gorgeous women, burlesque dancers and pin-up models have always been an inspiration for me~
    If I had to pick a favorite, it’s safe to say that Dorian Denis and Saja are tied for the spot…just look at those curves – incredible!

  • Auna

    I absolutely love Princess Ahi’s costume! It looks like something you could lounge in waiting for a special someone to get home.

  • Shawna

    Great photos…but missing one of the greats…Sally Rand!

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