A Brilliant but Confused Impression of Bright Plumage

Jules Léotard, pioneer of the flying trapeze, and wearer of the first “leotards,” from the New York Public Library archive. Many more, after the jump…

Today, just a little pictorial ode to Jules Léotard (1830-1870) who, after performing to great success at the Cirque Napoléon in 1859, ditched his law career to become, the “Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” as celebrated by the famous song of the era. Of course, his spectacular spangled and fringed outfits were the world’s first leotards, as noted in Encyclopedia of the Exquisite.

As one of Jules’ fans proclaimed, he was like “a tropical bird leaping from branch to branch and leaving in the dazzled eyes of the spectators a brilliant but confused impression of its bright plumage.” Oh how I wish we could see this photos in color.

Jules Léotard…check out the fringe.

Jules from every angle.

Father and son team, posing in their “leotards” in the late 19th century.

Lady of the leotards!

Another leotard lover showing off her assets.