BAWDY PORTRAIT OF A SCANTILY CLAD YOUNG WOMAN (VAUDEVILLE ACTRESS?)

This vintage bawdy photograph features a young woman scantily clothed and flashing a terrific smile. Her expression is very inviting. I wish I knew the story associated with this risque image. My hypothesis is that the woman is an actress and part of a vaudeville show. Her act was likely focused on bringing men into the theater. She may have been a dancer or a singer. Perhaps she was talented in both dance and song. Note her dress. It certainly didn’t require a lot of material to produce. It shows a lot of the performer’s body, but it is tastefully done. The dress covers “the essentials”. Vaudeville acts were very popular in the United States from the early 1880’s through the early 1930’s. Vaudeville was a genre of theater that was composed of a series of separate and unrelated acts that were presented together at one performance. It is difficult to determine when this photograph was taken. It certainly was produced sometime in the early period of vaudeville. This photograph is not a postcard. I do not believe that the image is a trimmed cabinet card, though it has a cabinet card type board.  An examination of the photos edges reveal that they are straight and smooth. The photograph measures about 5 1/4″ x 3 1/4″. There is a small pinhole through the top center of the image. Someone, decades ago, appreciated this wonderful photograph enough, to hang it on their wall.

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Published in: on January 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I don’t think this picture is bawdy. I think it’s rather innocent. The woman is wearing a costume, possibly provided by the photography studio. It seems that she pretends to be on the beach, perhaps fishing for mussels, wearing a short dress with pockets to put the shellfish in.

  2. You are not alone in your hypothesis that the woman in this image is not bawdy but instead is innocently just taking a beach picture. A couple of individuals have shared the same opinion. However, I think that she is showing quite a lot skin and I am not sure that most young women would agree to wear such a revealing costume in front of a stranger/photographer. In addition, though it is common to see beach photos in early real photo postcards, I have not seen photographs similar to this one in the early post cabinet card era. I appreciate you sharing your opinion. The wonderful thing about these images is that they can stimulate interesting discussions and debate. Thanks again.

  3. I’m probably misguided, but the flavor of the costuming and posing reminds me of the style exhibited by Mack Sennett’s bathing beauties … especially when issues individually (often as post cards). Could have been influenced by them. Just a shot in the dark, but that’s what popped to mind on first look. Thanks for showing.

  4. Completely agree with Mr. Patterson’s comment above (you are not misguided!)–This young lady is wearing a bathing suit, and this photo is typical of the pose and costume associated with Mack Sennett’s “Bathing Beauties.” Sennett usually liked to pose his beauties in a group, but I have also seen individuals pictured. If not a Sennett photo, then likely influenced by same.


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