Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Meaty Item

Readers with long memories may recall that I have written, in the past, about costumes made of meat and other foods.  I used to think that this sort of costume was a purely 20th century form of humor, but the photograph with this post shows that I am wrong.

I recently re-discovered a photograph I once found on the Internet, dated April 1894.  It appears to the left side of this post.  Unfortunately, I cannot recall where I found it.  It appears to be from a newspaper, and records that the gentleman won 40 guineas as first prize at a fancy dress (i.e., costume) ball in Covent Garden.

He is not wearing bacon.  But he is dressed in a costume meant to depict him as a side of bacon.  That is, if a side of bacon wore a hat.  

It seems to me that someone should compile a history of historical costume that focuses on costumes meant to depict strange and fantastical subjects.  The 16th century concept of a masque involved such costumes, and the costumed parties would participate in a kind of skit, often based on mythological themes.  Masques may have involved concepts that are in better taste than a side of bacon, but the ultimate purpose--entertainment--was the same. 

If any of my readers are aware of other manifestations of the modern idea of a "costume" before the 20th century, please let me know in the comments.   Otherwise, have a great April Fool's Day!


  1. I’m reminded of the costumes worn by Aristophanes’ choruses: clouds, birds, frogs, wasps etc. So far as I know there isn’t a lot of evidence for what they looked like or whether they were necessarily costumes in the sense of clothing intended to make the actors literally look like clouds or birds, but they were probably fairly elaborate.

    1. Hi, Stella! Thanks for stopping by.

      I feel sure that the costumes of Aristophanes' choruses were important and could have been elaborate. It's a shame we don't have evidence of what they looked like, but my suspicion is that they would have been more evocative than literal, in the way that Chinese opera costumes are evocative of the characters but not a literal depiction of the fantastical characters sometimes featured in such operas. 16th century masquing costumes are more evocative than literal. The biggest step they take toward being costumery is that they carefully distinguish themselves from normal clothing--in the women's case, by being more flowing and drapey than women's clothing was at the time. You can check out period sketches of masque costumes here:

  2. Ooh, those are great masque costumes. I'm inclined to agree about Aristophanes' costumes, although that's partly because I like the idea of the clouds as grey-robed anti-muses. Maybe karyatids, holding up the pediment of the thinkery.