Nude Dressing – Don’t Try This at Home!

ShowgirlPhoto by Nicolienne Francois
With a wingspan of over seven feet, a showgirl is
larger than most birds of prey

In the late ’50s, when Las Vegas was still trying to make its mark as the Entertainment Capital of the World, certain slick Armani-suited casino owners (or “mobsters” as the FBI called them) decided that the perfect added enticement to lure the unwary to Sin City was – tah dah! – the nipple.

Covered dancers have to be fitted into bras, a tricky procedure requiring cleverly placed pads to give the entire line a uniform and perfect appearance, but because of the overwhelming sexual appeal of the “nudes,” their costumes are stupendous. The feathers are longer, the boas plush and flocculent, the hats towering creations of wire and plumes, and the rhinestones are heavy enough to buckle the knees. So please, don’t tell a nude dresser that her job must be the easiest ever.

Dressers buried under costumesPhoto by Nicolienne Francois
Dressers buried under costumes rush to get the
dancers on stage

Instead of bras, the nudes, or “showgirls” as they are billed, wear an interesting metallic torture device called an underwire, an industrial cupless version of a bra made out of angle iron and rhinestones that is strapped tightly to the chest and hung around the neck with a chain. A Maidenform it ain’t. Anyone who wears one will tell you they are no fun. As the designer Marky D. Saad once said, “Remind the girls to smile.”

After the nudes are strapped, draped and jeweled, they lug their fifty pounds of glamour onto the stage and prance around in front of the audience, smiling with graceful languor until they get to the end of the number, when they hoof it back to the dressing room where, in coordinated chaos, the dressers unload and re-dress them. Then they’re off, running back on stage for their next number.

In interesting contrast to all the feathers and rhinestones, the crew, including the dressers, wear the traditional backstage black: black shoes, black pants, black shirt. Boring, yes, but there’s always Victoria’s Secret to nourish one’s hidden desires. The upside of this job is the ease of coordinating our wardrobe. Dressing a dresser is the easiest job ever.

Holly with showgirlsPhoto by Nicolienne Francois
Holly, at 5’6″, is dwarfed by showgirls who average
six feet

The most important piece of the uniform is, of course, the dresser’s apron, or smock, which allows quick and easy access to our tools: the needles, thread, scissors, safety pins, flashlight, pad and pen. The apron has some huge pockets, receptacles for all the things that fall off the costumes: feathers, rhinestones, hooks and eyes, chain, elastic and hanger straps. Pretty much anything that goes onto a costume eventually comes off. We tag along behind the nudes like well-trained lap dogs. “Wait! Let me pin that,” or “Hold it! Your G is crooked.”

Unfortunately, all this glamorous titillation may be coming to a close. Times are changing: Cirque shows are taking over the Strip, and the “feather shows” are falling by the wayside. It looks like I may have to put away my fishnet needle and get out my airbrush.


13 responses on “Nude Dressing – Don’t Try This at Home!

  1. The problem with Cirque: not enough flocculence! I’m really sorry to see the feather shows disappearing. Thanks for the peek backstage!

  2. I love Cirque, but it really isn’t the forward glitz and glamor of the Vegas showgirls. How can you come to Vegas and not see the follies? They are Vegas…I too will be saddened by their demise.

  3. An interesting insider’s view of a world I know very little about. Thanks for another great article Holly!

  4. New and wonderful things are always to be appreciated…but there’s no replacing the classics. Does anyone else miss the pirate show at Treasure Island, and watching the scurvy dogs sending the redcoats into the drink?

  5. Holly, have you thought of re- wording your job discription? It looks to this old ‘push the pedal to the floor’ seamstress that you are really a Nude Accessorizer. But then again once you have ‘dressed’ them can they still be categorized as ‘nude’. Ahhhh, semantics, always a mystery to the somewhat literate. Always enjoy your articles here regardless of the theme. An interesting peak behind the curtains. Thank you. C.

  6. Marky D. Saad… thanks for pointing that out to this otherwise oblivious one!

  7. Another great Hollyistic blog! Loved the nude dresser article, and again, I’m reminded Holly is constitionally incapable of writing anything that isn’t fun, clever and very entertaining. (And informative! I just assumed tall show girls woke up each morning, dressed in full costume and feathers and rhinestones, then drove to work that way, getting a Starbucks, then being refused to be allowed to drive through the MacDonalds because of the eight-foot drive-thru limit, since their feathered headgear keeps knocking the sign over. Then they go to work, leave in the same showgirl outfit, then all go to Denny’s after work for an early morning Grand Slam Artery-Clogger, where they keep getting glitter and feathers in their scrambled eggs – and that sounds funny to us, but to them, it’s no yolk.

  8. That is actually sad as this is what Vegas is all about and what people went to Vegas to see, so there goes the feathers, and all.

Comments are closed.