The Dogs of an Icon

Scroll down to see a meme that set the on-line world ablaze in 2015:

The dog/pants debate was akin to the “what color is this dress” meme that came out the same year. We have no explanation as to why either went viral other than that most of us aren’t often asked for our opinions these days, and opining on the harmless memes hurt no one. For the record, a poll on the ‘dog-pant-meme’ found that a majority of people favored the “back legs only” approach.

And for the record, we’re not sure if anyone ever asked a 19th century French woman what she thought about her country banning her gender from wearing trousers, either. The law was imposed on November 17, 1800, and hang on to your hat, but the 200 year+ old ban wasn’t overturned until 2013. The ban was ignored for decades, but technically, it was the law.


The original law was intended to prevent women in France from doing certain jobs. In 1892, lawmakers “saw the light” and modified the law to allow women access to certain occupations as long as the job required them to hold a bicycle’s handlebars or the reins of a horse.

We leave America out of the conversation because our post is about a woman who, according to urban legend, thumbed her nose at the law in 1933 by arriving in France in a white pantsuit, a man’s coat, beret and sunglasses.  She had been chugging across the Atlantic Ocean in a steamer, and when the Paris chief of police caught wind of her intention to flaunt the law, he announced his intention to arrest her if she wore trousers in Paris. After the ship docked, our heroine took a train, disembarked, and, as the story goes, grabbed the chief of police by his arm, and walked him off the platform.

Years later, there is still debate as to the validity of the story, but the photos are compelling, and the reputation of the “lady in pants” strongly suggests that it could very well be true. That lady was Marlene Dietrich.

Dietrich was ahead of her time, both in fashion, temperament, and lifestyle. The famous German American actress died in 1992, and some of our readers may never have heard of her, but she was a force of nature. She didn’t have a great singing voice, but made “Falling in Love Again” popular, her signature song. She acted for Alfred Hitchcock, was nominated for an Academy Award, and was a fashionista (Edith Head said Dietrich knew more about fashion than any other actress); she had dalliances with most of the leading men of Hollywood even as she was married, and made no secret of her bisexuality. Film critic, Kenneth Tynan, once said: “She has the bearing of a man; the characters she plays love power and wear trousers. Her masculinity appeals to women and her sexuality to men.”  Others scoffed at this and pointed to her personal magnetism. The writer Ernest Hemingway, said of Dietrich, “If she had nothing more than her voice, she could break your heart with it.”

It couldn’t have been easy to be German at a time her adopted country of America was in WWII, but Dietrich wasn’t just a firm advocate for the American war effort, she contributed a good deal of time, energy and musical talents to entertain American troops.  Her appearances at USO Camp Show tours cheered up, if only for a short time,  many soldiers, sailors and airmen, and hers became one of the iconic faces of women in World War II.

Dietrich didn’t just walk the walk. In 1937, Dietrich, then still a German citizen, was approached by Nazi representatives and asked to star in propaganda films for the Third Reich. Indeed, it’s said that Hitler himself asked her to support the cause. The staunchly anti-Nazi woman said no, and two years later, she renounced her German citizenship and applied for U.S. citizenship. And then she went on to create a fund with filmmaker, Billy Wilder, to help Jews and enemies of the Third Reich escape Germany, and supported the refugees once they made it out of the country.

We share a scene that couldn’t have been easy for Dietrich to say because she was a dog lover:

We share these stories of celebrities and their dogs because we think it’s interesting to readers who own the same breeds, and because it’s a cultural insight into what strong personalities had an canine companions. But like most of the pictures of celebrities with their dogs that we want to share, they are copyrighted. Click on the hyperlinks to you can see Dietrich with her Afghan Hounds, with her Chihuahua (also described as a Min Pin) and another breed we couldn’t definitively identify.

Image: © Carlos Soler Martinez | Dreamstime

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