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Drag in the Victorian Era

Drag in the Victorian Era

Historical Photos of Drag from the 1800s and early 1900s


Since the 19th century, the term “drag” has been embraced by those who play with and redefine the concept of gender. However, Drag has its origins in a much older cultural history.

As far back as ancient Greece and Rome, and the Elizabethan Era in England, actors de-facto performed in drag, as women were not allowed to become actors, which led to men performing female roles, in female dress, in stage plays.


Drag from the 18th and 19th century

Where did the word Drag come from?


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “drag” has existed since at least 1388, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that it was used in connection with performing in clothes or a persona different from your own gender.

In 1870, the Reynolds Newspaper in the United Kingdom printed the word in a gender-bending context in reference to a party invitation. “‘We shall come in drag,’ which means men wearing women’s costumes,” the paper read.

This definition probably originated in the theatre of the late 1800s, where male performers wore petticoats to perform as women. Their petticoats would drag on the floor, and so they referred to dressing up as women as “putting on their drags.”

By the 1920s, the term “drag” was being used by gay people. One theory is that it entered the community from Polari, a secret language born out of the criminalization of homosexuality in England that drew on theatre slang.

By 1927, “drag” was clearly linked with the LGBTQ+ community. A.J. Rosanoff’s 1927 Manual of Psychiatry defined drag as “an outfit of female dress worn by a homosexual” or as an actual event, “a social gathering of homosexuals at which some are in female dress.”

And by the 1950s, drag queens began performing in bars and spaces that specifically catered to gay people, like the Black Cat in San Francisco. And, as more gay bars began to pop up, drag solidified itself as a gay art form.

Men Dressed in Drag in the Victorian Era – 25 Historical Photos of Drag Queens from the 1800s and Early 1900s

Drag in the Victorian Era – Drag Queens from the 1800s and Early 1900s


Historical Photos of Drag Queens from the 1800s and Early 1900s

Historical Photos of Drag Queens from the 1800s and Early 1900s

Historical Photos of Drag Queens from the 1800s and Early 1900s

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