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Entertaining Las Vegas One Rhinestone At A Time

Nevada State Museum

Almost a year ago, Karan Feder of the Nevada State Museum spoke with KNPR's State of Nevada about a great donation the museum had received: Costumes from the old Folies Bergere productions that ran for decades at the Tropicana Hotel.

At that time, the museum put one of the costumes on display.

Now, a treasure trove of costumes, photographs, and art work will be on display at a new exhibition running concurrently at the Nevada State Museum-Las Vegas and at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“This collection came to us entirely undocumented in piles, boxes, bags, like pieces weren’t together,” Feder told KNPR's State of Nevada. 

She said one costume might have several pieces to it. 

“My job was to figure out how to put all those pieces together to create complete costumes,” she said.

Feder combed through thousands of photographs from the Las Vegas News Bureau to find costumes she could reference. She also contacted former dancers and costumers from the show and used original sketchs from the costume designer, which were housed in a special collection at UNLV.

“It’s been fantastic!" she said, "I love the research. I feel like I’m a Folies Bergere expert now. The process has been really fun for me.”

Besides the costumes the new exhibit includes much of what she found in her research, including original photographs from the news bureau chronicalling the changes the show went through from when it started in 1959 until it closed in 2009. 

There are also oral histories from all kinds of people involved in the show from dancers and showgirls to stagehands and seamstresses. 

“I think that was probably the focus of this exhibit for the news bureau and the museum is to really introduce the narratives of the people who brought life to the show,” Feder said.

Feder said during her research one of the biggest surprises was video footage of a story she had heard from several people about the fiery destruction of costumes and set pieces from the show in the 60s. 

Feder said she didn't think it had actually happened but the news bureau found old film footage of a showgirl setting a torch to a pile of sets and costumes in what was then a patch of desert behind the Tropicana Hotel pool.

The opening is this Saturday, and it runs until January 15, 2017.



Karan Feder, Guest Curator of Costume and Textiles, Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.