Archives for posts with tag: fashion

OK, as the only other real drag hag  I know is 10 years old, and her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent are all used up going to grade school rather than alternative drag dives, I have to ask all you drinking age scenesters this.

RuPaul’s Drag Race is, as you all know, the gender performativity news frontier. Last season a mature drag queen (thirty-something Raja) who had grown up a club kid, and dressed, magnificently, I may add, in a globalized mashup of glam ’90s club wear, won. (Pace, all you idiots droning on about inappropriate cultural appropriation of Other Peoples’ Clothes. We’re born naked, as Ru says. After that it’s all drag.)

You understand that drag goes through permutations. In the 1990 drag documentary Paris Is Burning, now streaming on Netflix, Dorian Corey explains some of them. Las Vegas showgirls would be a persisting old school one (clinging on among the Latinos, it would seem*) — or as Sharon Needles puts it, the paycheck drag vs. the dignity drag — or realness, such that you can pass for a girl walking your little brother to school, or a boy applying for a job. Realness was another criterion that the drag balls of the ’80s tested for.

So now Sharon Needles who is 30 — and calls herself a sex clown rather more than a drag queen — is talking about drag for queens younger than she:

“I think that’s what this season embodied: It might not be TV drag, it might not be supermodel drag, it might not be young, couture, fishy drag, but this is what drag is in America.”

So would this “young, couture fishy drag” be the couture kind Dorian Corey talks about in PIB, where you don’t sew your own feathered, sequinned, stoned creations but merely…acquire or boost designer girls’ clothes? Sort of Kanye-West-in-Paris drag?

I am very interested in Sharon Needles’ zombie/Star Wars/Olivia Butler/post-gender apocalypto drag. You should be too. I think it has something to do with the iteration of Granny Chic we’ve been looking at. I mean, the tentacles in Ep. 13 just about killed me. I need some.

sharon needles tentacles


*Huge props to RuPaul, who is a genius, for hiring for Season 4 finals, and naming as Professor of Drag the immortal Coochie One, in the honorable tradition that a respectable woman is bien pintadita, Charo. I fell out.

Charo translates for Kenya, Ep. 14, Season 4, RuPaul’s Drag Race

Cover of "Paris Is Burning"

Cover of Paris Is Burning

I would like to know, if, in the vast gasbag annals of queer theory, any body like Judith Butler (who can be lucid, especially on Israel) has deconstructed “reading”. Is it related to the dozens? I’m trying to track down RuPaul’s citation of reading in Paris Is Burning, which certainly would suggest that reading originated in the black vogueing families. (Off to read the Wizard of Butler on Paris Is Burning.)

Gettin’ closer:
“For ‘reading’ means taking someone down, exposing what fails to work at the level of appearance, insulting or deriding someone. For a performance to work, then, means that a reading is no longer possible…the impossibility of reading means that the artifice works, the approximation of realness appears to be achieved” (Judith Butler, “Gender is Burning”).

Here we go, here we go, here we go, chapter four in Bodies That Matter (good one!): “Gender Is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion”. This apparently ancient riposte to bell hooks’ reading of Paris Is Burning centers on hooks’ assertion that the voguers are misogynist — always one of the interesting questions underneath the visual, witty, and heroic pleasures (It takes a real man to be a drag queen, honey) of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Here we go, with the Reading Is Fundamental clips from RuTube:

I think I’ll be getting my fellow drag scholar and RuPaul fan, a brilliant 10-year-old who is  not allowed to use the intarnets, a copy of Bodies That Matter for Christmas. She can read it and ‘splain it to me.

As your bonus reading, on the theory that the only important thing happening in academia is queer theory, here is the wonderful Michael Cunningham tracking down the story of Angel Xtravaganza, who died in 1993, a star of Paris Is Burning.

Here we have Angel reading for real, like a motherless child, the survivor strategy of resilience :

As David Gonzalez, one of Angie’s adopted children, says, “She was so for real, she could pull a fake in a minute. Someone that’s false, she could pull him out in a minute. She would never embarrass anyone, but after they left, she’d be, like, ‘She’s not for real.’ She just knew. And you knew that she knew. And if she thought you were a fake she wouldn’t have nothing to do with you.”

Happy trails.

Angie, mother of the House of Xtravaganza in the seminal queer theory documentary, Paris Is Burning, with supermodel Lauren Hutton.

I’m very interested in y’all’s take on granny chic, or, as my sharp-eyed London friend stipulates, The New Frump.

To sum up your insights, a combination of crowdsourcing comment from my private blog and FB:

  • wearing skirts is a backlash against the boomer feminist Hillary pantssuit
  • no real granny would wear droopy cuffs, as they interfere with her “generational duties” — this, I think, emphasizes the fashiony and slacker/pixie aspects of The New Frump
  • it’s a scenester look pegged, at least in London, to drinking too much, not eating enough, and having a cool dead-end job
  • its untidy hair and orthopedic shoes connote disability, perhaps of slacker origin
  • the twee is manipulative rather than sexy
  • the sexy aspect of hand-crafted clothes is partly based in feminist, peasant, artisanal, upcycling, frugal/poverty-stricken origins of the proletarian women’s work the punk knitters are honoring, and
  • its heroic, art-therapeutic properties for its makers to
  • enliven, dignify, classify and nationalize prole surroundings and their bodies with signs of their artistry
  • the sexy/manipulative range of motion much depends on whether the look is defiant (clothes as armor) or insouciant (clothes as vulnerable/flirtatious).

I think the twee is armor, manipulative, and not sexy. Think about Warren Jeffs’ 50 Mormon wives in identical, baby girl/Jordan almond colored, dresses, with sexy, shiny, pinned-up hair in big Elvis quiffs. I think they’re definitely clothed for Eros and scrubbing floors. They have anti-feminist agency. And are probably sexier than The New Frump girls, who seem armored and yet insisting on disability, as if they were playing dumb blondes and their fingernails are too long, and too crusty, to type. The twee thread of Granny Chic — the manic pixie dream girl aspect — also subverts feminist agency — no second-wave feminist pantssuits for me — without substituting corn-fed prelapsarian Mormon randiness.

Whussup? Y’all are being very smart about these readings. I think there are a couple of threads: the difference between

  • the New Frump and the 50 year trend of vintage wear;*
  • the New Frump and artisanal punk hand-crafted/upcycled/retailored “granny” wear
  • the twee pastiche vs. the polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel pastiche
  • the defiant, Mormon granny/prairie sexy look vs. the twee/disabled/slacker/manic pixie dream girl manipulative look.

I have to add the heroin chic aspect that mitts, sleeves (tatts or textile), cuffs, shrugs, all hide needle tracks and the tecatas, at least in New York City, all have an entire wardrobe of shrugs. This was one of the fashion messages of Rent.

Heroin chic: Daphne Rubin-Vega and her latex sleeves in Rent: Rock that navel but never ever reveal your brachial arteries.

Am I getting it right? Tell me more. I’m also getting the strong sense that the twee is partly anorexia armor, its droop calculated to replace secondary sexual characteristics in the way polychrome Old Babe wear asserts a third gender, if not a third age.

What is the New Frump’s art school claim? It is carefully curated, people.

Old Babe Iris Apfel

Polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel. By Chester Higgins Jr., The New York Times

* For example, early ’60s body con modernist vintage, tailored, well-groomed, knee-length, now all the rage on account of Mad Men, is also called Granny Chic:

There’s a permutation known as Grampa Chic, which has to be thought through on its own terms. Depending of course on whether it’s a girl or a boy who’s wearing it.

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