The oldest known Baby Doll parade photo, circa 1932
Modern Baby Dolls on the march, post-KatrinaThe early Baby Dolls could be a raucous lot even compared to their modern counterparts as some of the older depictions made clear, even as their baby costumes cast their bawdy shenanigans in high relief. Their influence was such that they eventually spawned many "respectable" copy cat groups--a process facilitated in part by the new found acceptability of short skirts in the 1920s "flapper" era, though even the flappers often seemed modest in comparison--and in the oldest known photograph, a circa 1932 procession, top, there is no way to tell if they were sex workers or "respectable" imitators. As with so much of this city's history, the available historical documentation only underscores the depth of the underlying mysteries. ~D. Eric Bookhardt
They Call Me Baby Doll: Mixed Media Exhibition on the Black Carnival Baby Doll Societies, Through February, Presbytere, Louisiana State Museum, 751 Chartres St., 568-6968. Left: Early 20th century Baby Doll Olivia Green, date unknown.