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What Ever Happened to Sylvia Dees?

July 17, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

They call it cosplay now days. A portmanteau of the words costume and play, cosplay was coined in the 1980s to describe the act of dressing up as a character or even an idea plucked from a favorite fantasy novel, motion picture, TV show or comic book. You will find these cosplayers standing in line at the openings of films and at any number of Science Fiction and comic book conventions. Just do a Twitter search for #cosplay during the San Diego ComicCon this weekend and you will be treated to thousands of pictures uploaded from the phones of attendees. About 2/3 of these will be of women dressed as Slave Girl Princess Leia from The Return of the Jedi.

So, you might ask,  why would the Belated Nerd, consistently a full half-decade behind the times, be writing about cosplay of all things? …No, you wouldn’t ask that. You know damn well I’m going to dig up a whole bunch of 50-year-old Polaroids of fans doing the exact same thing in the early ’60s.

 The best I can figure, masquerade balls were a common event at Science Fiction conventions in the ’50s but for some odd reason it doesn’t appear that any of these highly imaginative people thought to dress up as anybody more otherworldly than Henry VIII or Friar Tuck. The idea to dress up as aliens and other characters from Science Fiction and Fantasy seems to have finally hit its stride in 1960 at the WorldCon in Pitsburgh (Pittcon). Proto-Trekie Bjo Trimble came as a unicorn. Fanzine editor Earl Kemp came as an alien-come-to-Earth to steal all of our gold lame. There was a Giant Eye Ball Warrior, a Tusked Boar in PJsCaptain and Mary Marvel, and…a Space Princess. A Space Princess to make Debbie Reynolds’ teenage daughter look like…well, a Tusked Boar in PJs.

Pitconn 1960

The Space Princess returned in 1961(Seacon) as a sword-toting pixie and again as a more modestly dressed space princess (below)  in 1964 (Pacificon II). Her name was Sylvia Dees and she was the bride of SF writer Ted White. Ted White is seen with another woman described as his wife at conventions in the late ’60s. I don’t know if Sylvia Dees participated in any other Worldcon masquerades, but if she did, I’d love to see the Polaroids.

Pacificon II 1964




  1. Duran says:

    Look at the high hip exposure in the Pacificon II 1964 pic! That’s the same feature that makes the Slave Leia costume so hot.

  2. Kit White says:

    The other woman described as Ted White’s wife in the latter 60′s was his 2nd wife Robin Postal White, my mother. I was just discussing Sylvia with Dad today and no one is quite sure whether or not she is alive or dead, let alone where she might be. We would be interested in knowing should anyone have current information regarding her.

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