weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Working with ‘Les Folies Bergere’ showgirl costumes is dream job for Nevada State Museum exhibit curator

Some people enjoy their work so much, they’d do it even if they didn’t get paid. Summerlin-area resident Karan Feder is one such person.

Not only is she curating the showgirl costume exhibit “Les Folies Bergere: Entertaining Las Vegas One Rhinestone at a Time” at the Nevada State Museum on a pro bono basis, she sought the position immediately.

“There’s enough work for at least one full-time person to do this job,” she said.

Feder, a member of the Costume Society of America, worked with the Wisconsin Historical Society, where she learned preservation techniques. She came to Las Vegas in 2004 and worked with the Liberace collection for a few years.

The “Les Folies Bergere” exhibit at the state museum — located within the Springs Preserve at 309 S. Valley View Blvd. — opened in June and will remain on display until Jan. 15. It proved so successful that it was expanded, doubling the number of mannequins from five to 10 and adding more objects of interest.

Museum visitors are greeted by the sight of a mannequin dressed in one of the iconic show’s outfits, a red-, white- and blue-themed bra top and G-string with colored tights, matching gloves and a feathered hat.

The display has more than just costumes. A video interview with a showgirl and her husband — they met when he was a stagehand — tells about the early days of the Parisian-based show. There are showroom placards and a weight warning slip from management, warning the showgirl about putting on weight.

The latter is signed by Chuck Augusto, who oversaw entertainment in the early days at the Tropicana Las Vegas. He was known to have mob ties.

Some costumes used upholstery-grade fabrics, while others incorporated a new material at the time — spandex.

“In the early days, the rhinestones were attached to metal chain. The problem with that is, if you have a different shape body trying to go into that (costume), you have to call a welder in to refit it,” Feder said. “There’s no stitching and sewing it. But, being metal, it lasted forever.”

Pulling off the exhibit meant sorting through 8,000 costumes, many of which came to the museum in boxes — some holding tights, some G-strings and gloves.

“The hardest part was trying to figure out what went with what,” Feder said. “I looked at the photographs, which helped, but they were in black and white.”

She contacted some of the dancers and showgirls for help. When they arrived, they’d flashback to their days on stage.

“It was so funny,” Feder said. “They’d come in, see (a costume) on the rack, and it immediately took them back to the choreography for that number, and they’d begin going through the steps and turns.”

Below floors, where the costumes are kept in a 70-degree, fire-proof and 55 percent humidity environment, Feder showed off items not on display to the public. There was a sequined hat with a half circle on top. It was made of foamcore. Another hat had a ponytail popping out the fabric top. Hidden underneath was half of a plastic soda bottle.

Hats with elaborate plumes hung upside down to preserve their feathers. Handwritten inside each skull cap was the name of the woman who last wore it: Kim; Tracy; Sharon; Lori. Dancer’s shoes were stacked on shelves, scrapes showing the color scheme of the previous show.

Dennis McBride, director and curator of photography for the museum, said he could not put a price tag on the collection.

“What makes this collection particularly worthwhile is that you have costumes from entire numbers, not just one or two costumes from here and there,” he said. “Historically, they’re invaluable. What they mean to the history of the entertainment industry and to Las Vegas itself, emotionally and personally to the dancers who wore them, that can’t be calculated. ”

Feder has a liberal arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a degree from Long Beach State University in collections management for costume and textiles. One of her first jobs was with “South Pacific” actress Mitzi Gaynor.

Feder said she answered the ad not understanding the true scope of the job.

“I thought I was interviewing for a job with Gloria Gaynor, the singer,” she said.

Instead, she toured with Mitzi for about three years and worked with Bob Mackie, who designed the actress/singer’s stage clothes.

Feder later worked in TV and movies. She studied fashion design and merchandising in Los Angeles and went on to found Entertainment Exhibitions. She began curating the “Les Folies Bergere” exhibit in 2013.

“She runs circles around us,” said Caroline Kunioka, curator of history and collections at the museum. “She makes it look fun, and she only does it three days a week.”

Visit museums.nevadaculture.org/nsmlv-home.

To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of Las Vegas theater talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)