When Getting Dressed Is A Drag
by James Tuttle
In deference to our non-gay readers, I shall attempt to tread rather lightly here. Too much gay can be a frightening thing, especially in the wrong hands. If you don’t believe me, just read Perez Hilton.
Here’s where I’m going with this. We’re all fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, right? I mean, what could be more stimulating than a weekly talent competition in which a six-foot-four vision of black cross-dressing glamour purrs “Con-drag-ulations, you are the winner of this week’s challenge” and “Now it is time for you to lip-sync for your LIFE!” before kicking a failed drag queen back into the gutter? What’s not to love?
The producers really have kicked it up a notch this season with the quality of the contestants and the production itself. After the mostly fat “performance art” queens got booted off in the early stages, the remaining queens are mostly quite beautiful, and they’re pretty damned skilled at padding those hips, tucking that junk, and making those racks look squeezable.
The guest judges are pretty sensational this season, as well. This week, they included Sharon Osborne and comedienne Margaret Cho. The absence of my friend, fashion journalist Merle Ginsberg, does leave quite a gaping hole on this season’s panel, though. There’s still a jar of Vaseline smeared on the lens every time RuPaul is in the shot but that’s part of the charm. All divas need to manage their on-camera image. A friend who worked with Faye Dunaway told me that she would put cans of Sterno beneath the lens so the fumes blur the shot.
I have to admit that it saddened me to see the very funny and spirited Shangela get the size-fourteen stiletto out the door last week but, just between you and me, it’s amazing she had made it that far. In nearly every challenge, she looked like she’d put on her makeup in the dark wearing boxing gloves. To top it off, her wigs were a frizzy mess and the poor thing didn’t have a clue what to wear. I guess she doesn’t read Tuttle Mode.
At any rate, this week’s challenge was for each drag queen contestant to transform a hunky non-gay athlete into his “drag sister” using a cheerleader theme as his inspiration. Sound complicated? It was! I had to put down my cocktail and rewind the DVR a few times before I finally put it all together. To my surprise, the athletes really got into it and tried incredibly hard with the heels and wigs. A couple of them made pretty fierce women, spurring me to ask, What the hell is going on here? It seems that gender confusion, once the domain of Lesbian Novelists, the Warhol crowd and Glam Rockers, is seeping into mass public consciousness again with obvious repercussions in the fashion world.
My first thought goes to the recent fashion collections. The always-controversial Jean-Paul Gautier launched a new androgynous face, 19-year-old Serbian-Australian Andrej Pejic in his Spring 2011 show and had him close February’s couture show in the wedding gown. Pejic is now appearing in the current Marc by Marc Jacobs and Gaultier campaigns and soon to be countless editorial shoots.
Perhaps the reason Andrej’s rapid rise is so noteworthy, despite the fact that androgynously beautiful girls Agyness Deyn and Frija Beha Erichsen have been around a while, is that women have always had much more leeway in dressing like men. Marie Antoinette used men’s hunting dress as fashion inspiration. She also incorporated a model ship into a huge wig so I’m not saying she was always on the mark but she would kick some serious ass on Drag Race, if she still had a head to wear a ship on. After the intensely gender-specific Victorian and Edwardian Eras of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Coco Chanel got the ladies to push their boobs down and dress in boyishly straight silhouettes before dressing Kate Hepburn in the mannish trousers that are still a fashion staple today. Then came Rosie the Riveter and the rest is history.
For women who want to embrace the menswear look further, I love the look of the “boyfriend jacket,” which may or may not belong to an actual boyfriend, worn with something flirty and feminine. Elle Magazine’s Kate Lanphear, whom I personally adore, is the absolute pro at this look.
I also love the “boyfriend jean,” which could not possibly have belonged to the boyfriend. If it did, you should find a bigger boyfriend. For this approach, balance the masculine jean with a sexy or feminine top.
I must point out here that in almost no circumstance should you pair a menswear-style jacket with a menswear-style jean or trouser because then you’ll look like Gertrude Stein and that’s not a good look on anybody, even Gertrude Stein. It may sound like common sense but you’d be surprised how many girls fuck it up.
I’m sorry I don’t have any tips for you men inspired to throw on a bustier under your suit. You’ll have to turn to RuPaul for that. So, why is it more acceptable for girls to dress like guys? According to Dr. John Potvin, author of Material and Visual Cultures beyond Male Bonding, a man might fear that presenting himself in a less masculine light could lead to questioning of his sexuality, thereby reducing his social power. That’s not the case with women, who typically hadn’t had to maintain their social power because they didn’t have much in the first place. You can read the non-plagiarized version here: http://www.notjustalabel.com/articles/androgyny_as_an_abomination_or_aphrodisiac
I suppose, in all this mess, I’m advocating wearing what you want. Whether you’re Marc Jacobs in a skirt circa 2009 or Karen Elson in a men’s tuxedo on the pages of Vogue, it’s all good. Just look good, and I’ll be on your side.
In closing, just because that hag behind the Nars makeup counter wears orange lipstick doesn’t make it a good idea.