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Show-girl (La Cocotte) at Scala Theatre, The Hague; by Isaac Israëls

A showgirl is a female performer in a theatrical revue who wears an exotic and revealing costume and in some shows may appear topless. Showgirls are usually dancers, sometimes performing as chorus girls, burlesque dancers or fan dancers,[1] and many are classically trained with skills in ballet. The term showgirl is also sometimes used by strippers and some strip clubs use it as part of their business name.[2]


In Eighteenth century England the term showgirl meant a young woman who acted in a showy way to attract male attention, but by the mid-nineteenth century the term had come to mean a singer and dancer in music hall acts.[1] Showgirls as we now understand them date from the late 1800s in Parisian music halls and cabarets such as the Moulin Rouge, Le Lido, and the Folies Bergère which first featured a nude showgirl in 1918. A popular showgirl dance was the can-can.[2] The trafficking of showgirls for the purposes of prostitution was the subject of a salacious novel[which?] by the nineteenth-century French author Ludovic Halévy.[3] The Ziegfeld Follies revue on Broadway introduced showgirls to the United States in 1907, and Busby Berkeley included them in his Hollywood films in the 1930s. The Bluebell Girls, a dance troupe created by the Irish dancer Margaret Kelly in 1932, performed at the Folies Bergère and Le Lido. By the 1950s there were permanent troupes of Bluebell Girls in Paris and Las Vegas and touring troupes that travelled around the world.[2]

Dancers from the revue show Jubilee! in 2005

The first casino on the Las Vegas Strip to employ dancing girls as a diversion between acts was the El Rancho Vegas in 1941.[4] Showgirls with expensive costumes were presented in Las Vegas in 1952 at the Sands Casino for a show with Danny Thomas.[5] Initially opening and closing for headline acts, sometimes dancing around the headliner, showgirls later moved on to being the main attraction and stars of the show. During the 1950s and 1960s showgirls performed in every hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip. Competition between casinos led to increasingly lavish shows and costumes.[2] Major shows of the late 1950s included Donn Arden's Lido de Paris show at the Stardust, Jack Entratter’s Copa Girls at the Sands Hotel, and Harold Minsky’s Follies at the Desert Inn. Minsky introduced topless showgirls and these were then incorporated into The Lido de Paris, a show that ran for 31 years.[6] The popularity of showgirl shows in Las Vegas slowly declined after the 1960s, with all of the major shows closing by the early 21st century.[2]

Revues with showgirls[edit]

The showgirls of The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies

Showgirls in popular culture[edit]

  • The Gold Diggers films, including The Gold Diggers (silent, 1923), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936), and Gold Diggers in Paris (1938)
  • Bolero, a 1934 film in which American burlesque dancer Sally Rand played a carnival showgirl and performed a fan dance[8]
  • The Golddiggers, a troupe that performed on The Dean Martin Show beginning in 1968
  • Showgirls, a 1995 film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Elizabeth Berkley
  • Guys and Dolls, a 1950 Broadway production, depicts a Miss Adelaide as the main character's fiancée, a singer and showgirl in various musical numbers.
  • Kylie Minogue was inspired by different types of showgirls and named and styled her Showgirl: The Greatest Hits Tour and Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour concerts after them. Showgirl themes can be seen at many corners through Minogue's entire career.
  • Several showgirl cars are seen at the Dinoco booth during the animated film Cars; former Motorama show car Flo displays vanity licence plate SHOGRL as a "Motorama 1957 showgirl".
  • Joe Camel 1990s ads feature Las Vegas showgirls
  • Rover Dangerfield a 1991 film features showgirl Connie, Rover's kind-hearted owner.
  • The Simpsons episodes "138th Episode Spectacular", "Homer's Night Out", and "Bart After Dark" feature showgirls, the last two include recurring character Shauna "Princess Kashmir" Tipton.
  • Family Guy opening first has background showgirls then later (Season 9) features main female characters Trish Takanawa, Bonnie Swanson, Jillian Russell-Wilcox, Joyce Kinney and Barbara Pewterschmidt as showgirls, in "Whistle While Your Wife Works" Peter Griffin falls on and crushes a background showgirl, only to complain about hurting his foot, and in "Lottery Fever" one showgirl confronts him about getting her pregnant and ghosting her.
  • Pokémon episode "The March of the Exeggutor Squad" features showgirls at the Kanto carnival, and magician Melvin's assistant Darla is dressed in a Vulpix themed showgirl outfit, while later Misty Williams wears a Goldeen themed one.
  • Rock-A-Doodle features showgirl/chorus girl Goldie Pheasant
  • South Park episode The Death Camp of Tolerance has Herbert Garrison dress up as a showgirl at an award ceremony in an attempt to get fired and then sue for discrimination.
  • I Love Lucy episode Lucy Gets into Pictures has Lucy Ricardo attempt to play a showgirl who gets shot in a movie, but the oversized headdress keeps knocking her down.
  • Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous involves FBI agent Gracie Hart going undercover as a showgirl at the Oasis.
  • My Little Pony Tales episode And the Winner Is... shows Clover Bloom singing "The Choice I Ought to Make where her friends Melody, Starlight, Patch, Bright Eyes, Sweetheart and Bon Bon dance in a kick line and form a pyramid, wearing garters and feathers in their manes.


  1. ^ a b Merrill, Jane (2018). The Showgirl Costume: An Illustrated History. McFarland. p. 4. ISBN 9781476634333.
  2. ^ a b c d e "History of Showgirls". Oklahoma Showgirls. Archived from the original on 5 January 2012.
  3. ^ McClary, Susan (1992). Georges Bizet: Carmen. Cambridge Opera Handbooks. Cambridge University Press. p. 38. ISBN 9780521398978.
  4. ^ Gioia-Acres, Lisa (2013). Showgirls of Las Vegas. Arcadia Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 9780738596532.
  5. ^ Mary Manning (15 May 2008). "Las Vegas Showgirls: Show and (a lot to) tell". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  6. ^ "Las Vegas: An Unconventional History". PBS. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  7. ^ J.D. Morris (13 June 2016). "Celebrating the Las Vegas showgirl: An icon lives on in one group's evolving passion project". Las Vegas Sun.
  8. ^ Shteir, Rachel (2004). Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show. Oxford University Press. p. 153. ISBN 9780195300765.