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Looking for Mrs Santa Claus

2011 December 13

It’s that (second) most wonderful time of the year for another slew of “sexy lady” costumes. Around the country, women are being flogged some fairly ghastly red (or perhaps even pink) and white ensembles in the name of festive fun.

A blonde white woman in a form fitting, strapless red mini dress with white fur trim and white fishnet stockings, plus high heels stands next to a fully clothed white man in a red and white santa costume and ill-fitting white beard.

Spot the difference with this classy 'couple's costume' from

Seriously, look at this shit.

Right, now I’ve shared my pain I feel ready to move on. Also, we’ve already covered this topic in some depth with our Halloween posts, so I won’t go over it again, but if you really want to experience some more truly awful costume fails, then by all means, do type “mrs santa costume” into Google.

Just don’t blame me for the results.

But looking at all those dresses (and bikinis, and crop tops – seriously, crop tops – you come from the NORTH POLE!), once I’d finished washing my eyeballs, made me think about the female version of that jolly Christmas avatar…

Mrs Santa Claus, step on down in all your glory.

The origin of Santa Claus himself is a (turkey) bone of contention, with some camps claiming antecendents from folklore around 4th century saint St Nicholas via Sinterklaas.

Some (including the brand itself) claim parts of the modern incarnation are entirely the creation of the Coca-Cola company, especially the red and white costume.

What we can see is that as the Christmas holidays start to move from a solemn religious event to being increasingly secular and perhaps commercial, we lose the holy charitable man and get a fat jolly gift-giving man.

An old fashined colour drawing of Mr and Mrs Santa Claus. They are both white haired, dressed in red with white fur trim and are generously proportioned. He is carrying a sack of presents. they are facing each other and cupping their hands around the others face and look happy and content. Image source wikipedia, shared under fair use guidelines.

Mr and Mrs Santa Claus on a greetings card, image source wikipedia

Possibly because it is not a good idea for single chaps to be portrayed as climbing into houses where small children lie sleeping, Santa gets a wife along with heteronormativity and a slew of other “traditional” family values that put the whole breaking and entering thing into a context of good, clean fun.

As a side note, I’d like to add that my father (also a fan of BadRep – hi Dad!) is currently being Santa for a local charity, so I’m not knocking the concepts of chaps who have families, fun or even enjoy climbing down chimneys. Though Dad, if you are reading, please don’t.

The closest thing I could find to a bio for our Mrs Claus online is here on Wikipedia. She arrives in what passes for the social media sphere of the mid to late 1800s, roughly the same time that we get The Night Before Christmas and the drawings of Thomas Nast, premiering as the unamed wife in Katherine Lee Bates’s poem Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.

Wiki’s entry on Santa himself says:

The 1956 popular song by George Melachrino, Mrs. Santa Claus, and the 1963 children’s book How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas, by Phyllis McGinley, helped standardize and establish the character and role of Mrs Claus in the popular imagination.

Modern Santa is almost always presented in one way: as an old, fat white bearded man, although Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa certainly gave us at least a refreshingly dishonest take on things. Mrs Santa comes in two, perhaps three distinct forms. The two key ones are old, fat white haired woman and the attractive, buxom younger model.

A poster for the 1991 Mrs Santa Claus film. Actress Angela Landsbury is dressed in a lavish red velvet and white fur fur outfit complete with hood, white gloves and a large ribbon. She appears on a decorative sleigh with a bright lantern. White magic stars trail from her hand. The film title is in an old fashioned white, Christmas themed typeface.

Mrs Santa Claus fights repression and wraps up warm for winter. No exposed flesh for Angela Lansbury!

There’s also a rarer type. This one is neither young nor old, glamour model nor well-rounded jolly lady. You have to do a bit of digging, but she could almost be a normal woman (gasp!), albeit a bit mumsy. I am chosing to term this The Angela Lansbury Option for reasons that will become apparent (and awesome) later.

Hmmm. Three different depictions across some rather familiar age ranges – maiden, mother, crone anyone? Although looking (if we must) at those cheeky1 Mrs Santa costumes, I’m less sure about whether advertisers had “maidens” in mind as opposed to “ho ho ho”.

So, who are these Mrs Clauses and what are they doing?

The original version is simply a female counterpart to Santa. She’s a “goodwife” and the grandmother to his grandfather role, where all the children of the world are their beloved grandkids – once a year, at least.

A painted image of a retro fifties style pin-up with blond curled hair and heavy makeup. She wears a very short red dress which reveals long pale legs. Her waist is cinched with a black leather belt and her breasts are pert and pronounced beneath the fabric. She holds a necklace and a bag full of goodies whilst posing, smiling at the viewer. She wears pointed victoriana boots. The caption reads

This is the Mrs Santa Claus you would choose to fight crime? Really? In those shoes?

It’s good to see positive depictions of old women in circulation amidst all the other negative presentations of “wicked witches”. So far, so good, but how is she used in the media? Like her husband, she seems to be a vehicle for “sell, sell, sell” especially in marketing for women. She is, however, pretty much welded to the kitchen.

Over at and you can find her making cakes in the kitchen. Not that I’m against women in kitchens (obviously not), and those gingerbread men look tasty, but are there alternatives for festive octogenarian females?

Well, in her first appearance in Bates’s poem – which is an interesting read in and of itself with its portrayal of the feminine sphere – we find her blagging her way onto hubby’s sleigh to mend the stockings of poor children so that they too can share the presents.

But I’ll mend that sock so nearly it shall hold your gifts completely.
Take the reins and let me show you what a woman’s wit can do.

If we skip a few generations along, she gets even more awesome, and we find “Mrs North”, in the film Mrs. Santa Claus, crash landing in New York in 1910 and getting involved in the women’s suffrage movement.

Don’t knock the Angela Lansbury option, bitches.

“Sexy” Mrs Santas, meanwhile (and note how that automotically means young and beautiful), are sadly confined to selling a lot of ill-advised and probably itchy costumes, including some truly dreadful underwear.

My most strange discovery is that they are also allegedly comic book heroes – this one is especially odd, given that the main image on this webpage should be of the older version. (However, I’m not that surprised at the choice of image given much of the comic industry’s ongoing campaign these days to replace all women with fembot boobtastic sexed up versions of themselves.)

But to end on two positive notes, first up are five woman who I want to see as Mrs Santa Claus:

  • Helen Mirren. Let’s try and get over this idea that older can’t be sexy, please?
  • Dawn French. She’d get the “jolly” vote, but she’s also pretty damn cool.
  • Dame Judi Dench. Bonus points if this occurs during the next Bond film. Extra bonus points if Daniel Craig takes his top off and a Christmas related joke is uttered. We deserve this following the Bond girl whose name was Christmas.
  • Tilda Swinton. I do not believe this needs any reason.
  • Margaret Thatcher. Oh come on. It would be hilarious, and the MOST IRONIC THING EVER.

And finally, here’s a video of our newest, and perhaps most interestingly political heroine: Mrs Claus. Here she gives her opinion on the world and spreads a message of peace, tolerance, environmental activism and joy. Certainly an improvement on the Queen’s Speech in my opinion: Mrs Claus Speaks Up.

  1. As an aside, I hate this use of word “cheeky”. It’s a ghastly conflation of “cute” and “sexy” which manages to objectify, infantilise AND sexualise women to within an inch of their lives whilst wrapping it all up into a joke that we’re all meant to laugh along to. For the record, fuck off.

    Anyway… []

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Russell permalink
    December 13, 2011

    Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler (from Ash) have done a Christmas album. The reason I mention it is that on it is a song called “(Don’t Call Me) Mrs Christmas” which is essentially about how dissatisfied Mrs Christmas is that she has to spend every Christmas alone while Father Christmas goes off “spreading his joy” (now that I think of it, there may be some subtext there). Anyway, I felt it was very appropriate given the subject matter of this album.

    (also, I didn’t appreciate the slightly snide comment about the comic book industry. I think you’re confusing a horrible segment of the comic book industry that has always existed with a recent phenomenon afflicting the whole industry – but I also think this is probably not the time or place to have this debate, especially since it’s been had so often and so well elsewhere)

  2. Russell permalink
    December 13, 2011

    (that was meant to say “article” not “album” at the end of the first paragraph. Repeat after me: I must proofread even when I am not being paid, I must proofread even when I am not being paid…)

  3. December 13, 2011

    Ah, Ash.

    How the memories come flooding back, thanks for that.

    Though for the record, the comics industry reference wasn’t slightly snide, it was epic quantities of pissed off. I’m a long time comics fan, as well as having studied them for my masters, I’m in no way shape or form “confused” about the bullshit depictions of women in the vast majority of mainstream comics, and the entrenched sexism in the industry.

    I found this image in a standard google search for Mrs Santa Claus, it seemed both relevant and a sad comment on how women continue to be presented.
    I stand by my original statement. With santa bells on.

    • MezzoPiana permalink
      December 13, 2011

      Hear hear, Sarah.

    • Miranda permalink*
      December 13, 2011

      I also think either or both of “a horrible segment” (read: Very Prominent Segment) and “a recent phenomenon afflicting the whole industry” are certainly worthy of people being pissed off. Either way the motivation to feel shit is pretty obvious.

      I know it’s not ComicsVine who’ve added that pinup image (which I gather isn’t representative of the comics at all) as their site is a wiki. However, that is what their readers and participants have decided would be the most relevant image. Which speaks volumes, I think. But let’s not get into deconstructing ComicsVine- I think it’s just a way to illustrate a wider point about sexism.

      Russ- you know we’re *all* aware at BR Towers of comics that are good- we are a pop culture blog staffed entirely by geeks. We read. But honestly? It gets annoying digging for stuff that doesn’t objectify you all the time. It gets tiring wearing bullshit-filter glasses in Forbidden Planet to triage products all the time. It gets annoying entering treehouses consistently via the indie back door. (And as I know you personally, I think you find it annoying too, though maybe in a different way.) It is at the very least mildly irksome to search for some Disney comics with a little old lady in and find a young blonde siren has been uploaded instead because no wiki wants to depict her that way.

      If that makes us occasionally snide or exasperated, beg pardon, but you know, it does get tiring.

      [There are lots of articles that take positive stances about individual comics and parts of the industry on here, though, if you look at the comics category (and the links posts, and a couple of the Found Feminisms I think too).]

  4. December 17, 2011

    I want to be a Angela Lansbury style Mrs Santa Claus! Only, I’d keep my own name when I married ;-)

    Seriously though, I have been pondering the Mrs Claus thing for few years now. Slutty Santa is a crappy Christmas costume. I want a big long belted coat dress, with a hood and faux fur trim. I want to do the gift giving and the spreading joy and love… the fat jolly beardy guy shouldn’t be allowed to have all the fun.

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