Baigneuses, Paul Tillier c. 1890s

I had higher hopes for Tell Me, Pretty Maiden: The Victorian and Edwardian Nude, because if we’ve learned nothing so far we have at least learned that male artists love to put two naked women together in pictures and call it art.  Sometimes they even pretend that it’s classical mythology and call it Jupiter and Callisto.

Alas, Tell Me, Pretty Maiden is pretty much devoid of any interesting old images.  The only one coming close is this Baigneuses by Paul Tiller.  The book dates it to the 1890s, but I’m not so sure about that.  If any fellow costume historians are reading this, feel free to suggest an alternate date.

I have mixed feelings about classing images of women bathing together as homoerotic.  On the one hand- women used to bathe together all the time, often out of necessity, and certainly innocently before Krafft-Ebing got to them.  On the other hand, the women in many of these images look like they’ve been having more fun than just splashing around in the water.


Vogue Paris, August 2006

Snejana Onopka & Bette Franke: Beau Chic, Bons Genres – Vogue Paris by Patrick Demarchelier, August 2006

Tricornes and Gaydar

It must have been tough to be a sapphist back before…oh wait, it’s still difficult to tell which ladies like the ladies.

Unlike gay men, who have the bandana in the back pocket or an earring in the right ear, lesbians don’t have any such visible sign.  Sure, asymmetrical rumpled hair is a hint, as is the ubiquitous wifebeater (tank tops, for all you PCers).  But those are not clear signs, since they abound in straight girl style as well.

I’m getting off on a tangent.  The point of this post is to introduce my next mini-project, which is to comb my book collection for images of 1910s-1940s women in tricorne hats.

My beloved mentor at MCNY has a theory that the Tricorne was an early sign that the wearer had sapphic leanings, or at the very least was enough of a bohémien to consider a little experimentation.

To start, this fashion photograph from Harper’s Bazaar, Dec 1939.  This era was a time of notoriously wacky hats, but I intend to be thorough in my search so I am posting it even though I don’t think  the photographer, Francois Kollar, had any intention of making a lesbian statement.

Harpers Bazaar, December 1939

The First One, 1965

Perhaps not the first, but according to my professor of Fashion Photography, this was an early image that caused a minor kerfuffle because of its implied homoeroticism.

The image was by Bob Richardson, and was published in Harper’s Bazaar October 1965, p. 209.  The caption read: “Daisy chains of diamonds, swaying in a net sweater that drapes in a cowl over the bodice of a white satin dress.  Diamond flares, silver streaked, twinkling on a gauzy sweater atop a white dress.  Both dresses by Mollie Parnis, in Staron Silk.”

"Giggling" by Bob Richardson, 1965

"Giggling" by Bob Richardson, 1965

Forbidden Fruit, Alchohol Ad 8/2011

If it’s not fashion, it’s alcohol.  In this case, a cuddle-puddle of gorgeous femmes looking ravenously at each other as they sip their ruby-coloured drinks.

I don’t know about you, but that’s what alcohol does to me, too.

This ad was in the August 2011 issue of Food and Wine.  A mixed gender audience, I presume, and therefore this ad can’t be added to my ever-growing collection of weirdly homoerotic ads aimed at straight women.  I think there’s a trend here, and I want some tidy sociological theory to tie it all up.  Any ideas?

Fragoli/Prosecco Ad, August 2011

Forbidden Fruit, Fragli/Prosecco Ad, Auust 2011

Buffalo Jeans from David Bitton, In Style 8/2010

Another fashion photograph that hints at homoeroticism and includes “the sister thing“.  It doesn’t have a strong alienation element, but something akin that I don’t have a term for yet but know as the “come join us, Viewer” look.

I find this especially interesting, given that the ad was published in a fairly straight woman’s magazine, In Style.  It’s interesting, but not surprising, since most female homoerotic advertising appears to be aimed at straight women.

Buffalo Jeans Ad Campaign, Fall 2010

Buffalo Jeans Ad Campaign, Fall 2010

Les Masculines, 1922

I feel terrible for forgetting where I got this image.  It was recently, too.  So I apologize to whomever I took this from for not crediting you.

This is from the French fashion periodical Gazette du Bon Ton (Currently there is an exhibit at Kent University Museum, ending May 30, 2010).

What I love is that the women have adopted riding clothes as their masculine-styled costume.  This makes sense.  Since the 18th century, women’s riding habits had been the first type of clothing to consistently borrow from male costume.  These women in 1922 would have been shocking, but not nearly as shocking as if they had worn everyday male dress.

Gazette du Bon Ton, 1922