"Mary McCarthy"

Telltale Signs

"Studying Lakey with the customs man, they asked themselves, in silence, how long Lakey had been a Lesbian, whether the Baroness had made her one or she had started on her own. This led them to wonder whether she could possibly have been one at college--suppressed, of course. In the light of this terrible discovery, they examined her clothes for telltale signs. 
Mercedes de Acosta, 1934. From here.
It was a Schiaparelli suit she was wearing; Kay had asked that straight out--she had guessed it was a Schiaparelli. "Schiap mades all Elinor's clothes,' the Baroness had remarked, and they had watched that nickname, casually pronounced, take the wind out of Kay's sails. Lakey had on silk stockings, quite sheer, high-heeled calf shoes, a green silk blouse with a ruffle. If anything, she looked more feminine than before. With the Baroness you could tell, though she did not have a boyish haircut or a man's tie; she wore a heavy tweed suit, service sheer stockings, and pumps with Cuban heels. Yet it was odd to think that the Baroness had been married and Lakey had not." (478)


McCarthy, Mary. The Group. New York: Harcourt/Harvest, 1991 [1963].


What are the "telltale signs" of "lesbian" in the 1930s? Today?