in the annual Mummer's Parade
. Wenches are characterized by braided white wigs (the length of the braid varies according to the age of the wench), "golden slippers" -- sneakers spray-painted gold, triple parasols
, and small, satin bags used as pocketbooks and stashes for keys and beer. Outrageously unpretty, often with a beer gut and noticable stubble, most wenches are Irish
family men, with no transvestism
implied. Wenches organize themselves into brigades, similar to the crewes
of New Orleans; recently, a few women (usually wives, mothers and widows of wench brigade members) have been sighted donning the wig and parasol as well.
The tradition of wenches is drawn from the parade's past as a showcase of minstrelsy. When blackface characters fell out of favor, mummers went from caracaturing black men to doing the same to white women. Kind of makes you wonder what they'll be doing next....