Showgirls are magical women that are known for their bold and colorful costumes. Many also sing and dance. Some are merely used as the original arm candy for hosts. Regardless of their function, they have an interesting past- and it’s amazing to see how far they have come!
Showgirls were first introduced to the world in the mid-1800’s. They were first spotted in the cabarets of France, namely Paris. The Moulin Rouge and Follies Bergere were among the places that these lovely ladies could be spotted. The can-can dances, popular in the day, were quite literally, the step forward that these ladies needed to gain notoriety. In their lovely dresses, incorporated with feathered accents, they became an instant attraction.
Showgirls were introduced to the United States by Florenz Ziegfeld. You have perhaps heard of the Ziegfeld Follies? This revue was elaborately produced in New York and gained great traction in the early 1900s. Inspired by what he had seen in France, Mr. Florenz would create “over the top” productions that included elaborately dressed women. These women became the Ziegfeld Girls, and were adorned in clothing by some of the most important designers of their day. Capitalizing upon their popularity, they began appearing in silent films. This film exposure would ultimately lead them to Las Vegas.
The association between showgirls and Las Vegas began in the mid 1900s. There is general disagreement between who brought them to Las Vegas. Some claim it was Margaret Kelly Liebovici, a young dancer who had established a dance troupe at the Paris Lido. These dancers became known as the “Bluebell Girls”, and while based in Paris, they had permanent troupes in Las Vegas and even in other countries. Others suggest that it was the casinos themselves who wanted to “outdo” their rivals with over-the-top revues. Extravagant props were created. The birth of the modern day showgirl costume- including large headpieces, feathers and garments to elongate the legs happened at the Lido de Paris at the Stardust. The Copa Girls at the Sands and the Follies at the Dessert Inn also began featuring showgirls. This drove attendance and attraction to the nightly shows in Las Vegas, and has been synonymous with Sin City ever since.
Modern day showgirls are often among the most beautiful and physically fit women in the world. The typical showgirl’s stature is 5’8’ and above. Bare midriffs, high heels, and costumes weighing upward of 40 pounds are not uncommon. They must be agile, maintain good balance, and have stamina to withstand the demands of an extended show. While there are some topless shows available in Las Vegas, most actually rely on traditional costumes to attract a wide array of consumers to their shows. On any given day, you can see the Jubilee Showgirls at Bally’s, or Splash at the Riviera.
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