1890s: Exotic Dancers

73 Responses

  1. Jamie

    Funny how you can see the change in culture here; there is NO way those bodies would make it as exotic dancers today.

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  2. Sarah

    Jamie, that’s exactly what i was going to say! those girls are fat by today’s standards!!

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  3. Dy

    Some of them are pretty chunky but with the tight corsets on I don’t know how they breathe.

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  4. Stelly

    Actually, I’ve seen equally chunky women plenty of times in burlesque shows in this day and age and they are probably also called exotic dancers being topless and all. pole-dancing strippers are generalized as “exotic dancers” because they are more predominant than all others but burlesque dancers are quite popular too, at least in my city (new york)

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  5. syren541

    I think If Men from the old West saw a woman from today they would think she was ill. Back then women needed to be strong & beefy to survive childbirth & be in good health to raise a family… No guy wanted to marry a skinny, sickly, frail woman who couldn’t contribute Her share of the (farm) work.

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  6. LauraJ

    These women were ‘exotic dancers’ not ‘strippers’. Like somebody said above this was a type of late Victorian Burlesque where there was probably little to no nudity involved. The sight of a woman’s bare legs was pretty darn exciting at the time! As far as the women being ‘chunky’ goes, that was the beauty standard of the day. Teeny, tiny waists, big hips and thighs, slim ankles. Tanning was seen as vulgar and common, a mark of the lower classes who had to toil outside (and work for a living *gasp*!) Scrawny women, back then, wouldn’t of been able to attract a man probably. I think they look wonderful…I’d love to have a waistline like that! =)

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  7. kris

    it isn’t so much that they’re “chunky” have you noticed how SHORT these girls are? Compare the size of their heads with the bodies. I doubt there’s one here over 5’2″! Their figures are amazing, not “fat” really, just healthy. I don’t see any cellulite. Their legs are huge! I envy them, I have what they call chicken legs

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    • Jess

      “Their figures are amazing, not “fat” really, just healthy. I don’t see any cellulite.” I think I just lost your train of thought. You consider them healthy just because there is no cellulite visible? how could you say that anyway..? Most of them wear tights and skinny girls can have cellulite as well so…Do you think that those are…”unhealthy”?

      Reply
      • Britt

        Kris jumped from one thought to the next…they didn’t say that cellulite = unhealthiness. You came to that conclusion yourself.
        Anyone can be unhealthy, skinny or obese.

  8. Janine

    These are just real women – no airbrushing here. If they didnt have muscles they couldn’t dance right?

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  9. Rebecca

    tiny waist flat tummy’s big hips & strong legs is damn SEXY! You don’t think they would make it in todays world? Ya right Kim Kardashion & Amber Rose are most mens favorite body types they go nuts over them, and that’s why they are popular and make $! True real men love curvy women. Usually the guys that like skinny skinny girls are either really frail themselves or like little girls.

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    • Bobo

      Actually, Rebecca, REAL men go past the body shape and go for the woman’s brain and heart. You’ll understand when you find a real man.

      Reply
  10. Meredith

    Some of these women have tiny waists because they were wearing corsets that deformed their rib cages. I don’t know if standards of beauty are any less realistic today than they were in 1890.

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    • Narda

      not only would they wear corsets that squeezed their waists so tight that their internal organs were displaced. but many had their lower ribs surgically removed! I think all generations have beauty craziness!

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      • Terri Lee

        Surgically removed ribs is a myth. When these pictures were taken, surgical anesthesia was still experimental and antibiotics would not be readily available until the 1940′s. Elective surgury would have been too likely to result in death.

  11. Melissa

    Yesterday’s standards? I can’t wait for this to become today’s standards
    Again!

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  12. mel

    No Rebecca, real men love ALL body types. All women are real women so long as they are healthy. Don’t hate on naturally skinny women because you felt oppressed by a stupid standard of beauty.

    Women come in every shape and size, and ALL are real women.

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  13. Carbon

    You mean women didn’t look like Camaron Diaz in the movie, Gangs of New York?

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  14. Chris

    There was a time when a “chunky”or “heavy” woman was a sign of wealth. It showed you had enough money to keep her fed.

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  15. Giraffian

    I agree on how short they are … I’m so used to seeing the modern proportions of women with much longer arms especially, they seem a bit like midgets. They are NOT fat though, just nicely covered, no overhanging rolls of lard like you see on young women in the malls today.

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  16. demesne

    The “real women have curves” comments here are incredibly irritating. Does no one else here realize that the reason these women are curvy is because they’ve been living their entire lives wearing corsets that have deformed their rib cages and crushed their internal organs? Also, the social constraints of the time probably forbade them from experiencing the joys of playing sports.

    How is that any better than our current ideals of being extremely thin?

    Let’s stop worrying about what “real women” should look like and learn to be happy with whatever body type we are born with.

    PS. Not that it matters, but men do not all have the same preferences for body type. Different strokes for different folks!

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  17. Bob

    I thought they were all very attractive, but I would describe them a voluptuous, not fat by any means. They are healthy looking ladies by the standards of their day and by today’s standards. Not every girl has to be Barbie to be attractive, although that body type is very much in favor these days. However, as I have aged (I’m now 65) I find that there are many, many beautiful women in this world and most of them are NOT Barbies, they are like the two Cupids above and even stouter. They’re gorgeous!

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  18. Jamez

    that first one was a brony before it became mainstream :)

    and yeah, they’re all quite pretty: big girls but still pretty

    Reply
    • Liz

      Yeah, I was wondering whether they are actually all exotic dancers too. Some of them look like they might be, but others just look like music hall or vaudeville entertainers.

      None of them are really THAT shocking, which is what makes me wonder if they are as “exotic” as they seem. Everyone thinks of the Victorians as really repressed and easily shocked, and clearly these are not what you’d call “respectable” women – even serious acting was frowned upon for women – but I’ve seen books of real Victorian porn that made my eyes water! This stuff is like Pokemon cards in comparison…!

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      • Liz

        In fact, having done a quick search online, I found that the first one is from a ballet that opened in New York in 1867 called “The Devil’s Auction”. Here’s a review from the New York Times…

        “The Devil’s Auction” is the name of a new spectacle produced for the first time at Banvard’s Museum last night. It is a prose melo-drama in four acts, interspersed with singing and dancing. Of course the play itself is intended as a frame for pretty pictures of scenery and graceful motion; it tells the story of a young peasant girl whose vulgar old father has given her to a bad old Count for wife; of a young man in shabby clothes who loves the young girl of a servant maid, who is in love with a donkey which she has charge of, and of Cupid, the God of Love, who takes the lovers under his protection.

        The play further represents how, on the wedding morning, the bad old Count takes his bride and the villagers for a little excursion up to the Castle of a deceased magician, whose stock of talismans, philters, potions, &c., is to be disposed of that day at auction; also how the auction does take place, and the bad old Count, the vulgar old father, the young man in shabby clothes and the servant-maid buy, each, an article formerly belonging to the dead wizard; also how it happens that every such article is a potent talisman that gratifies every wish of the possessor; also how the shabby young man wishes he were dressed up in good clothes and is immediately clothed in yellow satin; the young lady wishes she were with her lover, which happens straightway, and the young servant-maid wishes her donkey were a man, which he immediately becomes; also how the lovers are then pursued through the globe by the bad old Count and the vulgar father, and how they all occasionally find themselves in coral caves and El Dorado, and the Indian groves, and other distant places inhabited by charming young ladies who dance unceasingly, amazonian guards who are unceasingly countermarching in bewildering mazes, and lovely young women who are unremittingly similing and joyous.

        For the drama and the way it may happen to be played, and the plot or moral or meaning of it, nobody seems particularly to care. The point of interest is, first, the dancing; next, the dancers, and last, the scenery.”

  19. Dee

    I am astonished by their feet being just as confined as their waists. I did not realize it was fashionable in America at the time.

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  20. Charlotte

    ^^Exactly. These are NOT strippers, nor are most of these cards from the 1890s.

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  21. Daily Lacer

    Just a note on the corset comments… Not sure where people are getting their misinformation on corsets and what they do to women – but I have worn one daily for about 2 decades, and have yet to deform or mash my internal organs. If you are a tight-lacer who seeks to constantly shrink your waist, then yes, over time your ribs will learn to shift. However – in a properly made corset this is a very slow process (over years) and is not at all painful. If your corset is causing pain, or vastly restricts your movement, then it is not the right one for you.

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    • Bobo

      You’re a freak for doing it in this day and age, and you don’t know squat about how those corsets DID damage women’s bodies.

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      • Narda

        I agree with Bobo – you are misinformed…. corsets back then were made of whale bone – no give! Women fainted – or had “the vapors” all the time because they couldn’t breathe! You should do a little interesting research.

  22. hrhrobin

    Yes, the majority of these women have been through corset body modification. Women wore a variety of styles of corsets from babyhood, and they trained their bodies to the “proper” shapes of the day, be it wasp-waist or s-curved, (pigeon-chested Edwardian style)- just as other cultures can alter a neck or skull shape from childhood.
    If you look at anatomy books of the day, it shows the internal organs of women being in different placement to modern women, such as the intestines, lungs, stomach. Having a tiny waist was admired, and women would lace themselves to the point of altering their ribcages. Ribcages have flexiblity; opera singer used to perform ribcage exercises to expand theirs and supposedly allow for more lung capacity.
    Many women held onto there corsets during the late 1910s and 1920s, because they felt backpain from being unsupported by their corsets.

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  23. Reno

    All of these woman are tiny no more then 5ft .Most women of that time where so under fed that a women w/some fat was hot.

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  24. Fred

    For all the obese women justifying your own fatness with these images, let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and say people found fatties attractive at some stage in history.

    The reason was because it was hard to get fat back then – being skinny was the norm, and thus not attractive. Fatness was associated with being wealthy; able to get food easily and not having to do your own work.

    Nowadays we can all can more than enough energy intake, and it’s very easy for the poor to become fat. In fact, the unemployed poor tend to be fatter, because they spend money on junkfood, and don’t do any exercise.

    Being thin suggests you have money to spend on gyms, can afford healthy food, and aren’t lazy. That’s why society now enjoys the look of relatively thinner women. We associate fatness with sloth, welfare dependence and self-entitlement.

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  25. Cambias

    Yes, those women were crazy and oppressed, wearing corsets! They should be like progressive modern people and stick pieces of metal in their faces instead!

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  26. Ms. May

    You are all stupid. I’ve read every comment on here, and they were all ignorant.

    Reply
    • pilbragirl

      totally agree with you Ms. May, so many of those comments lack any brains. I wonder what they will think of a bunch of nerds hiding behind a keyboard in their tiny little mummys garage. MMMmmmm yep

      Reply
      • Bobo

        Get back to us when you understand spelling, grammar and punctuation, kid.

    • Bobo

      The fact that you think ALL of the posts are stupid only means that you’re an idiot.

      Reply
  27. Cass

    The women of the time were considered attractive and healthy to marry with weight on their bones. Thin women were considered sickly and undernourished. Thin wasn’t in until the 60′s… Twiggy started the thin revolution. If u look at women through the 1900′s up to the 60′s they were all voluptous women including Marilyn Monroe who was a size 14 in Australian measurements. These women could see through hard times such as the depression and war. Today women are considered healthy if the carry little to no weight. Times change, peoples views change but u have to remember what was sexy back then and not judge by todays standards. A woman should have some meat on her bones have curves and not be waif like figures. Naturally thin women are as healthy as a weighted woman but the weighted women will see through harder times better than one who carries no weight, not an opinion but a science proven fact. Every womans body shape changes over time, I have been weighted, thin, curvy, sporty now Im reaching 50 and enjoying watching my body shape change again and loving it without concerning myself with standards.

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    • Nerdessence

      Actually, Cass, the voluptuous look waned in the 1920s, with the garçonne look (derived from the French word for ‘boy’) came into fashion. Slimmer silhouettes and smaller busts were considered beautiful, a sign of independence and sophistication. Those are the days I wish could come back. I’m one of those evil naturally thin women, and I’d love to see my body come back into style.

      Reply
  28. Sue

    Has it occurred to anyone arguing over which body type men prefer that women don’t exist solely to please the male gaze?

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  29. Gareth

    Yes, while thats true that women are not only around for men to oogle, these are exotic dancers, so I think all the back and forth about them being attractive or what is attractive is just the same as ladies saying they prefer Gerard Butler over that Robert Patterson fellow.

    Its just sex, natural and nothing to get annoyed over.

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  30. Smitty

    It’s nice to see so many people defend ‘naturally’ skinny women. But what about us ‘naturally’ large women? I have little body fat on me but I’m a size 18. People assume I’m lazy and eat junk food but I don’t. I eat very healthy and exercise regularly. I’m just made this way and I love it. So if you can accept that people are ‘naturally’ skinny, maybe someday you can imagine a ‘naturally’ large women with acceptance.

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  31. spintowin

    to the coment about women’s body types not existing to please the male gaze….biology 101 yes they do. Thats how the species perpetuates. In some species its the male that is flashy like the peacock whose plumage exists to please a female. Humans don’t go into estrus like other mammals so females attract a male by appearance. Squawk all you want, you can say looks shouldn’t matter but you can’t over come biology.

    It’s also amusing, that I’ve seen the same females complain about men being shallow by going by shape instead of the heart and soul, yet turn around and post chippendale type male pics on social media and drool. So…which is it, aren’t big men beautiful too?

    different cultures have idealized different body types for centuries. What ever your shape there is a person out there that is attracted to it, so to say that we all have to love ALL body types is a bit silly.

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  32. Donna

    I think all the photos are fab, my mothers ancestry shows Exotic Dancers in the 1800s here in the UK, and its so nice to see some pictures of dancers from that era whether fat or thin.
    Body shapes have changed all through history, thats the way of the world, and i for one think theyre all fab.

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  33. Marla

    WAIT A MINUTE you mean to tell me men haven’t always liked only size double zero?!?!

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  34. Liz

    They are all beautiful and self-supporting in an era when most women had to depend on a husband or family or starve.

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  35. Susan

    What is with “they are so short”??? Even today the median height is 5’4″ so that puts half the woman shorter than that. Nothing wrong with short.
    Tall and thin are so ingrained these days that just being short seems to be a disqualification from anything.

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  36. Kath

    Most of these pictures would have been from musical comedy stage shows, not ‘exotic dancers.’ And many of them are women humorously dressed as boys. The things Victorians found attractive were the same as today, just less fascist (in some ways, more fascist in others).

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  37. Hag

    The life expectancy back then was shorter. Women weren’t supposed to physically exert themselves with things besides needlework and birthing. That’s why these women are so big. It’s a fact, being healthy, eating right AND exercising make you live longer. None of these women look strong to me. I’m glad women now are allowed to have muscles and not look like fluffy throw pillows. They were fine for their time, but that much body fat is NEVER a sign of health, no matter how much folks hate skinny girls.

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  38. Moobug

    Cussie is such a fab name! I know some may point out its closeness to the word ‘cuss’, but as a Brit, I find it intriguing.

    Reply
    • just someone :)

      i’m pretty sure that her name’s Gussie. it’s probably short for Augustine or Augusta. :)

      Reply

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