It’s Wayback Wednesday, so let’s revisit these fabulous 19th century photos showing men dressed in sweeping gowns, fluttering delicate fans, and showing off their cinched waists in whale-boned corsets.
From the website littlethings.com:
The pictures provide a rare glimpse of some of the most laughed at, and often reviled, members of Victorian society – female impersonators and drag queens.
We acknowledge that not every person in the photos below is a “drag queen,” and that there’s a big difference between a transgender person, a transvestite, and a drag queen: A transgender person is someone who does not identify with their assigned sex and would most likely not want to be referred to as a “drag queen.” A transvestite is a cisgender male who enjoys wearing women’s clothing. A drag queen tends to be someone who dresses in women’s clothing more so for performance or entertainment purposes.
‘We can’t tell you how most of the subjects in the following photos identify, but we can say with certainty that these people took a major risk by dressing this way during less tolerant times.’
Late 1800s: The etymology of the phrase “drag queen” is debatable, but many scholars believe that the phrase was coined in the 1800s as a reference to the hoop skirt. As seen in this photo, hoop skirts would “drag” along the ground.
Below. 1800s: Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton shocked Victorian London when they dared to leave their home as “Fanny and Stella.” They were the first men to openly walk through the streets in women’s clothing and shocked society so much that the police launched investigations that were normally reserved for extreme criminals.
Below. Lili Elbe was one of the first transgender women whose story was told in the film The Danish Girl
Below. 1916: Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald performed in drag during a college performance of a musical he co-wrote.
1900s: Florin, pictured here, was a well renowned “female impersonator” in Paris, where there was also a flourishing drag scene.
Below. 1800s: This photo shows that drag was not always as taboo as it would eventually become.
Below. 1800s: This photo features a 19th-century student dressed in drag for pure amusement. You may think that he’d have been punished for such behavior, but this man went on to become a well-respected Estonian judge and held rank in the Livonian Knighthood.
1883: Drag was perfectly acceptable as a theatrical device. In fact, it was still more respectable for a man to play a woman in drag (such as these three Yale students) than for a woman to pursue a career as an actress.
1800s: In the 1800s, the term “drag queen” becomes more specific, referring to any man who dresses as a woman in a theatrical and professional setting.
Below. 1800s: A man and woman in switched outfits. One can presume this was more for a lark than any other purpose.
Below: Brigham Young’s son, Brigham Morris Young, made a career in drag performing as Madam Pattrini. Supposedly, his falsetto was so convincing that many audiences did not know he was a man. It’s hard to believe early LDS audiences responded so positively to such a concept, but it was quite popular at the time.
1916: There is not much evidence of “drag kings,” but this photo does feature a woman in a gender-bending outfit, obviously poking fun at gender norms with her upturned pinky finger.
(via The Daily Mail)