Burlesque began way back in the 1800s and became known for it’s comedic and satirical farce performances of the more traditional shows that the well-to-do crowds then frequented, such as the ballet.

Burlesque made a comeback in the 90s being classed as Neo-burlesque otherwise known as ‘new burlesque’ and it’s been on the rise ever since. People who are not in the world of burlesque might picture an hourglass-bodied female in a corset dancing sexily to a hungry male audience. The reality is that burlesque has evolved into a much more nuanced phenomenon than simply dancing sexily for the bois.


Burlesque became female-focused

To the surprise of many, if you go to a burlesque show today, you will likely find that the majority of the audience are female. And whilst the shows are definitely about sex, it’s not the same vibe as say, a strip club. In other words, there’s no end goal to try and turn the audience on so that they might eventually pay for a dance. Burlesque is more about celebrating sexuality. It’s become a space for women to to enjoy a sexual environment without feeling preyed upon or objectified.

You know those tweets where women talk about how when they’re alone in their house, they dress in the sluttiest fits, and then when it comes to actually leaving the house they’ll wear jeans and a hoodie because they can’t be bothered being objectified by men in public? Well, Burlesque is like the equivalent to being alone in the house.

Because just like most men, most women, of course love to feel sexy. But they don’t feel comfortable or safe to dress sexy or behave sexually in most public spaces. Burlesque became a space for freedom. 


Burlesque is about the female gaze

Ever heard of the female gaze? It’s the opposite of the male gaze– in other words, the male fantasy of women.

The female gaze is about the reality of women. It’s about taking back control over the image of women. It’s for women by women. It’s depicting women without adhering to male ideals.  It’s rebelling against the male gaze and the standards it holds us to.

There has been recent discourse on social platforms like TikTok about dressing for the female gaze compared to dressing for the male gaze. Dressing for the female gaze in modern times looks like embracing feminine or ‘loud’ things, like puffy sleeves, frills, large hairbands, bold colours or patterns, oversized blazers, shoulder pads, more make up and accessories – basically anything that is more expressive. Dressing for the male gaze is steering clear of these things that might be deemed ridiculous or ‘trying too hard’ by men and wearing simple, ‘girlfriend material’, figure hugging fits.

How does burlesque fit into all of this? Because burlesque, in its love for theatricality, femininity and exaggeration embraces the female gaze. Burlesque is tassels, glitter, heavy makeup- it’s about embracing the art of dressing – an art form which too often gets deemed vapid or vain – don’t they know anything can be art?

Aside from the aesthetic side of things, burlesque also embraces the female gaze in that the performers are not dancing or acting in a way to impress a supposed male audience. Here, women can not only be sexual, but they can be hyper-sexual, vulgar, and horrific without worrying about judgement. It’s not only about embracing femininity but also about satirising the performativity of femininity and rebelling against it in outlandish ways.


Featuring the blue paint I spilled all over this dress but refuse to let it stop me from wearing 🌟🎨 #outfitcheck #artistoutfit #painter #outfitideas

♬ Strangers – Kenya Grace


my fashion journey! dressing for the male gaze vs the female gaze 😌

♬ The Magic Bomb (Questions I Get Asked) [Extended Mix] – Hoàng Read


Always always dress for you and only YOU❤️ #fyp #foryou #ootd #fitcheck #fashiontiktok #styleinspo #vintage #maximalism #maximalist

♬ original sound – 🔥🔥


Burlesque embraces LGBTQ+

Today, burlesque isn’t only for women however. It’s for anyone who might feel like an outsider within society. The LGBTQ+ presence in burlesque is huge today. Burlesque creates a space where we can be free from societal ‘norms’ and expectations. There’s still so much judgement towards female sexuality, queerness, trans people and gender nonconforming peeps. Anyone who embraces the weird and the wonderful has an outlet through burlesque to make fun of the ridiculous societal ‘norms’ and moral codes of our time.


Discover profiles offering burlesque experiences today on Sensuali. 




Iso is a writer and filmmaker based in East London. She is passionate about all things erotic and leads a sexy, shame-free life in hope that she can inspire others to do the same. Originally from a Northern seaside town, she is naturally drawn to the best things in life: candyfloss, trashy karaoke bars and heart-shaped sunglasses.

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