Walter Plunkett, “Self-Portrait,” 1942

Walter Plunkett was one of the most prolific costume designers of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Like many other male costumiers of the period, he was also queer. This bizarre self-portrait, done in the style of one of his costume sketches, shows Plunkett in an orientializing garment, complete with a protruding phallic sword placed atop his head. Inscribed “Best Wishes to Noel,” the portrait was a sexually encoded message to a male friend – a winking inside joke in an era of enforced silence about homosexuality.