Ziegfeld Girls were the chorus girls from Florenz Ziegfeld’s theatrical Broadway revue spectaculars known as the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), in New York City, which were based on the Folies Bergère of Paris.
When producer Florenz Ziegfeld put together a small group of showgirls for a lighthearted summer show in 1907, nobody could have imagined the giant Broadway hit and lavish revue it would become. Yet the Ziegfeld Follies ran until 1931, and would jumpstart the careers of several successful future Hollywood actresses.
These showgirls followed on the heels of the Florodora girls, who had started to “loosen the corset” of the Gibson Girl in the early years of the 20th century. These beauties, decked out in Erté designs, gained many young male admirers and became objects of popular adoration. All of the showgirls looked very similar, both in appearance and in stature. They danced in complete synchronization, and were the only act that was uniform in the Ziegfeld Follies. Many were persuaded to leave the show to marry, some to men of substantial wealth. The Ziegfeld Ball in New York City continued as a social event of the season for years after the last production of the Follies.
In 1897, Florenz Ziegfeld married Anna Held, one of his Ziegfeld girls, by common-law. They never legally were married, but lived together long enough to be legally considered so. In 1913, Held divorced from Ziegfeld because of his infidelities with Lillian Lorraine, another Ziegfeld girl. Held died soon after. Following that, Ziegfeld married yet another Ziegfeld girl, future film star Billie Burke. Although Ziegfeld had several affairs, Burke claimed that Lorraine was the only one that made her jealous. Ziegfeld remained married to Burke (and in love with Lorraine) until his death in 1932.