Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pretty Boys or Drag Kings

Among a lot of other photos bought the other day are three real photo postcards, one of which shows two 'men' together the other two, the top photo above are the same and show the close up of one of the 'guys'. There are three things written on the back of the photos, one each. They are: "Broncko & Bosko September 1914", "The Only Little Girl I Loved", and "Proof for Half Tone South London Press".

I confess I am at a loss. I keep looking and looking at these and can't make up my mind if they are women in drag (not uncommon at the turn of the century for various cabaret and music-hall turns), or boys dressed up to the nines, presumably also performers. R and I disagree. If you'd like to leave even an anonymous comment on this post to say which you think it'd be fun to see which way people lean.


clixchix said...

Definitely drag!
In both photographs the hands... usually the give-away... are not seen. Victorian drag artistes tried to give as convincing an impression as possible, but women's hands are difficult to transform into mens'. Hence in one photograph gloves are being worn and the hands out of shot in the other.

Hats are disguising long hair. With the figure on the right in the two shot, you can see that the hat is sitting slightly strangely, the way it would when atop hair piled under it. Music-hall drag artistes didn't cut their hair short to look like men off stage. They had to live in conventional society. Part of the attraction for audiences was the artifice. The word to be emphasised here is 'illusion'. The enjoyment was in the artistry of a transformation immaculately conjured for the stage. Publicity sometimes showed both incarnations of female to male drag performers. Ornately coiffed and gowned woman in one shot, smooth dandy in a second.

The identical costumes in the two shot are clearly for a performance. I can't think of a male act which would present itself quite like this. These girls would have been singing and dancing! The woman on the left is slim and probably quite flat chested, but the one on the right shows signs of womanliness under her male attire. There's definitely a sense of a corseted or bound upper body. (I used to be a costume designer and I can see something of a give-away in the way the clothes 'sit'.)

Sorry R. I'd eat my hat if these performers proved to be men!

Anonymous said...

Clixchix is convincing... and I had already decided that the one who is in both photos was definitely a woman... which in turn implies that the other one is too. For me it was the shape of the face - the bone structure. The upside-down triangle.

Anonymous said...

I think the left is a man and the right and solo, a woman. Then the capytion might make sense, written by the man maybe about the woman?

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