From the Collection: “What My Lady Should Not Wear”

There are moments as an archivist when something unusual (like a fur muff or a military notebook) sticks out from a standard inventory of confirmation photos and store ledgers. And then, sometimes, you come across a group shot of men in drag.

"What My Lady Should Not Wear"

No, this photo from is not from the Greenwood, Mississippi production of La Cage Aux Folles (written by Jewish composer Jerry Herman, who just so happens to be my first cousin twice removed!). That show wasn’t written until 1983, which puts these men way ahead of their time.

I couldn't write a better caption than the original. "Paris may have the Champs Elyses, but Greenwood now has the reputation of being the style center of the world."

The photo was featured in a newsletter put out by the  B’nai B’rith District Grand Lodge No. 7 in 1951.  While Jews were active members of local clubs like the Masons or Shriners, exclusively Jewish groups like B’nai B’rith were very important to the continuity of the Southern Jewish identity. Many families that worked and lived in smaller towns traveled to  larger cities like Greenwood for Jewish communal life. Potlucks and holiday parties were where they could network, discuss business, and, most importantly, find dates!

The event title alone, “What My Lady Should Not Wear,” gives the impression that this brotherhood of men knew how to get a laugh and certainly shakes any preconceived notions I may have had about  conservative Southern men. I just hope they got to keep the outfits.

Posted on October 26, 2012

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