Pants, Performance, and Perception: The Impact of New York's Disguise Law (1845) on Gendered Dress

Deirdre Mary Morgan
Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice

About this Item

Title
Pants, Performance, and Perception: The Impact of New York's Disguise Law (1845) on Gendered Dress
Contributor Names
Morgan, Deirdre Mary (Author)
McClendon, Emma (Thesis advisor)
Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York. Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice (Degree granting institution)
Date
2023
Degree Information
M.A. Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, 2023
Department: Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice
Advisors: McClendon, Emma
Committee members: Davidson, Hilary; Byrd, Sarah; Carlson, Brooke
Abstract
In 1856, the New York Daily Times reported that a person named Charley was arrested in New York City and sentenced to “two months imprisonment on Blackwell’s Island” for vagrancy and wearing men's clothing. Charley—who was identified as Harriet French—was one of the many civilians who were subjected to the cross-dressing laws that appeared across the United States throughout the end of the nineteenth century. At the same time these laws were being enacted, gender impersonation acts were growing in popularity thanks to Vaudeville, giving gender performance a public platform. Actors, like Ella Wesner, gave paid public performances where they were praised on stage for the illusions they were able to cast. Wesner was one of the performers cited as not only having worn men’s clothing during her performances, but was known to wear men’s clothes in public, and was ultimately buried in men’s clothes as requested in her will. This paper will use Charley and Ella Wesner as a lens to examine how fashion plays a role in the construction of gender and consider the necessary narrative expansion needed in fashion history scholarship.
Keywords: Cross-Dressing Laws; Fashion History; Gendered Dress; Vaudeville
Subject
Fashion
Gender expression
History
Cross-dressing
Vaudeville
Rights
In Copyright
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Identifier
FIT Repository ID: etd_000934
ISBN: 9798379502461
pqdiss: 30424024
Related Materials
Also available from ProQuest
Type
Text
Thesis
Language
English
Publisher
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses

Citation

Morgan, D. M. (2023). Pants, Performance, and Perception: The Impact of New York's Disguise Law (1845) on Gendered Dress [Master's thesis, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York]. FIT Institutional Repository. https://institutionalrepository.fitnyc.edu/item/120777
Morgan, Deirdre Mary. Pants, Performance, and Perception: The Impact of New York's Disguise Law (1845) on Gendered Dress. 2023. Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, Master's thesis. FIT Digital Repository, https://institutionalrepository.fitnyc.edu/item/120777
Morgan, Deirdre Mary. "Pants, Performance, and Perception: The Impact of New York's Disguise Law (1845) on Gendered Dress." Master's thesis, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, 2023. https://institutionalrepository.fitnyc.edu/item/120777