Wagon Wheel Watusi: Ten Years of Burlesque Costumes

Ten years ago to this day, November 24th, 2010, one of our favorite musicals hit movie-theatres around the world, BURLESQUE! Burlesque is a story of a small-town girl named Ali (played by Christina Aguilera) who moves to Los Angeles to chase her dreams of being a performer. Her journey brings her to a burlesque lounge led by Tess (played by Cher) and managed by Sean (Stanley Tucci). As the club faces imminent failure, Ali lends her incredible voice and revives the lounge, in all of its glory.

I wanted a modern take on burlesque with a retro feel and a nod to its history and origins. Naughtiness without being crass! There’s a bit of the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris, the musical Cabaret, as well as the ’60s TV show Hullabaloo as well as the Follies Bergère.

Costume Designer, michael Kaplan – EW Cher, Christina Aguilera sing justice for Burlesque, 10 years later

I love this movie. Look, I am going to be up-front here. All hail Cher, this movie is a Cher masterpiece. Aside from the legendary Cher moments, the costumes and music of Burlesque really come together, creating a great film that can be rewatched time and time again. Glitter, sparkles, chains, pearls  and glamour embroider Burlesque in the fabrics of history as a master class in dance costume. Let’s just take a moment to just bask in the fun, vibrant costumes of Burlesque, created by one of our favorite costume designers, Michael Kaplan


Ray of Light

I am pretty sure everyone who has ever lived in Los Angeles has had a similar Ali Rose moment. Walking through the streets of Los Angeles, headphones in, and just giving the world your best choreography.

Faster than the speeding light she’s flying, Trying to remember where it all began. She’s got herself a little piece of heaven, Waiting for the time when Earth shall be as one

Welcome to Burlesque

Cher err… I mean, Tess would never step on stage in anything other than perfection. Her first song “Welcome to Burlesque”, is no exception.

Show a little more, Show a little less, Add a little smoke, Welcome to Burlesque, Everything you dream of, But never can possess,
Nothing’s what it seems, Welcome to Burlesque,

CREDIT: STEPHEN VAUGHAN/SCREEN GEMS

Tough Lover

How could you ever forget the “Tough Lover” scene! Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t attempted this scene in the shower ever now and then.

When he kisses me, I get that thrill, When he does that wiggle I won’t keep still, I wanna a tough lover (yeah, yeah) A tough lover (woo)

But I’m a Good Girl

If you are as big of a fan of Burlesque as I am, then you too also know the choreography to “But I’m a Good Girl”. It’s alright you can be honest, we are all friends here.

They all say, darling, what did you do for those pearls? What? I am a good girl

CREDIT: STEPHEN VAUGHAN/SCREEN GEMS

Long John Blues

This is such an underrated moment of the film. Kristen Bell as Nikki looked amazing. I will forever love this black-lace bodysuit!

I have a dentist who’s over seven feet tall, His name is Doctor Long John, And he answers every call.

CREDIT: STEPHEN VAUGHAN/SCREEN GEMS

Guy What Takes His Time

No that isn’t Mae West, it’s Christina Aguilera and yes, her costume is ethereal. It’s just too perfect for this world.

A guy what takes his time, I’ll go for any time, I’m a fast movin’ gal who likes them slow, Got no use for fancy driving, wanna to see a guy arriving in low, I’d be satisfied, electrified to know a guy what takes his time

CREDIT: STEPHEN VAUGHAN/SCREEN GEMS

Express

It’s time for the hand bra corset! We are not worthy! We are not worthy!

It’s a cold and crazy world that’s ragin’ outside, Well baby me and all my girls are bringin’ on the fire, Show a little leg, gotta shimmy your chest, It’s a life, it’s a style, it’s a need, it’s Burlesque

CREDIT: STEPHEN VAUGHAN/SCREEN GEMS

You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me

Honorable mention to the ‘You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” scene. Tess is simply wearing all black, but it remains a brilliant costume. Tess is basically in mourning of her struggling club. But then this dim spotlight hits Cher just right, as she gives one of the most powerful performances of her career. CHILLS.

I’ve been brought down to my knees, And I’ve been pushed way past the point of breaking, But I can take it. I’ll be back, Back on my feet. This is far from over. You haven’t seen the last of me

Bound to You

I will always be obsessed with the green, off-the-shoulder dress Ali wears during her “Bound to You” performance. I honestly think it is the greatest green dress in existence. Christina looked like an actual angel.

 I found a man I can trust, And boy, I believe in us. I am terrified to love for the first time, Can’t you see that I’m bound in chains? I finally found my way, I am bound to you.

CREDIT: STEPHEN VAUGHAN/SCREEN GEMS

Show Me How You Burlesque

Last but not least, “Show Me How You Burlesque”. We bring together the whole cast for one last performance in a golden finale. Stunning!

Hit it up, get it up, gotta give me your best. So get your ass up, show me how you burlesque

CREDIT: STEPHEN VAUGHAN/SCREEN GEMS

Wow! A whole decade… that is insane. I just want to end with a final thank you to the cast, the crew, and costume designer Michael Kaplan who created such a great film that has given me so much peace over the last decade, and decades to come.

Now, enjoy a clip from the film.

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After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising with a degree in Fashion Design, Spencer realized that his love for fashion was not entirely found on a runway, but seen on screen through film and television. As a Los Angeles event planner, Spencer began to organize panels of costume designers benefiting students who were fascinated by costume design. As Spencer’s connections within the costume design field began to grow, so did his love for the craft. Then in 2019, Spencer decided it was time to share his love for costume design on an international level and launched The Art of Costume.

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