As I tell anyone curious about RuPaul’s Drag Race, the show is essentially one huge amalgamation / parody of every other reality competition out there. The most obvious parallel is Project Runway, since there tend to be more than a few sewing challenges and every show climaxes with a runway. Today, we’re looking at the runway; more specifically, the outfits actually made on the show. I debated including every other ensemble worn on the show, but I decided on those specifically made in the work room for a reason: First, anyone can grab a sequined (or “sequence”, Roxxxy Andrews) throw it in her luggage and call it a day. Putting together something original, by yourself, on a strict deadline takes SKILLS, and that’s what we love. So without further ado …
#10: Tammie Brown’s J-Cloth cape from Drag On A Dime
Tammie Brown is mostly known as the comedy queen operating on a level of thinking firmly rooted on Planet 9, but she really doesn’t get enough credit for the level of glamour she can bring. I mean really, how many other queens can cut up a bunch of J-cloths, sew them together into a cape, and completely sell it? Only Tammie. I’m giving it to her for taking such a pedestrian household item and turning it into something so exceedingly delicate and flowing.
#9: Pandora Boxx’s curtain dress from Gone With The Window
This is probably my favorite look from Pandora for three reasons: First, say what you will about the polish on this one, but this dress showed a really great understanding of the lines of the body, as well as a keen eye for colour combinations. Second, the silhouette on it was really something. And lastly, I know Pandora loves her a blonde wig, but she makes for an AMAZING red-head. I know she purposely wore it for Kathy Griffin, but Pandora can really get it as a ginger.
#8: Roxxxy Andrews’ liquorice dress from The Sugar Ball
Okay, let’s just get this one out of the way: Roxxxy’s overall conduct during The Sugar Ball was … not great. Terrible even. But her candy couture — a gown made out of individually placed strings of liquorice — was a knock-out piece, and it just had SUCH great movement. There were a few things that needed tuning up (the bust was just a scootch too far apart for my liking) but there’s a meticulous level of detail to this one that really hit it out of the park.
#7: Jessica Wild’s flower swimsuit from Gone With The Window
I really am amazed that this one got waved through with nary a mention from the judges, because it was really something. It was a simple idea, using curtain fabric to make ruffled flowers on a swimsuit, but the execution behind it was air-tight. Not only was the silhouette on it immaculate, but Jessica’s hair and make-up were probably the best she ever had on the show, and her walk was incredible.
#6: Mimi Imfurst’s Madonna and Child outfit from The Queen Who Mopped Christmas
Mimi Imfurst may not have the most impeccable style in the world, but I have to admit she absolutely floored me with this one. Admittedly, Mimi didn’t have the best sewing skills, but what she did have was a clear concept and a sharply comedic point of view that she executed beautifully. Mimi proved just how integral a commitment to your work can be, and just how much it can elevate a performance.
#5: Manila Luzon’s After 5 Attire from The Make Dat Money Ball
As a general rule on Drag Race, if you’re going to try and pull of a minimalist look, you have to do it 100%. This is really a prime example of that rule: On paper, it’s a gold lame poncho. (Poncho’s probably not the best term for it, but feel free to correct me.) However, when you peak into the point of view on this — that this is Manila’s After 5 AM look rather than PM — it really comes alive. And as Michelle Visage points out, a big reason why Manila sold this is because she’s always on. Once again, total commitment to the garment can really elevate it to something beyond.
#4: Sharon Needles’s Poodle Dress from The Bitch Ball
Have you noticed how many of the dressed here were designed by the comedy / weird queens, rather than the traditionally pretty girls? I know. Most of them. I think a big part of it is that for the most part, that weird queens have an incredibly deep understanding of fashion, and it’s the reason why they can play outside the boundaries a little: They just know what they’re doing. Case in point, Sharon Needles was the “weird” queen of season 4, but when push came to shove, she made something so insanely fashion forward even Santino Rice remarked on its Vogueness. The fluffy white fur boots, the simple and elegant LBD topped off with a clean make-up pallet … With one fell swoop, Sharon shut down every “Party City” criticism she ever got.
#3: Nina Flowers’ red punk couture from Drag On a Dime
A big reason why this scored so high was because, well, the queens of season one never saw this one coming. At no point did they ever figure that the first challenge out of the gate was going to be a sewing challenge, so for Nina to come out of the gate swinging as hard as she did is a testament both to her skill and her aesthetic. Not only did it skew far and away from the traditionally feminine, but it perfectly blended elements of hard and soft, and that ribbon across the face? Perfect. So f*cking perfect.
#2: Alaska’s plastic dress from RuPaullywood or Bust
I debated putting this one as number one, and to be honest, it shares a lot of elements with the gold medal winner: Both took an incredibly cheap, trashy material and made it look infinitely more lavish and expensive than it was. Alaska’s plastic dress literally elicited a gasp from me: The silhouette was striking, the colour perfectly matched her skin-tone, and the shimmer on the dress as the lights hit it made it look almost liquid. Sure, it could have used some accessorizing, but the overall look was just so lush.
#1: Raja’s money gown from The Make Dat Money Ball
What can I say? Raja has a remarkable eye for fashion and one of the most striking aesthetics of anyone ever on the show. But a big reason why this was number one is the overall level of creativity behind it. The fact that she was able to transform a bunch of fake paper money into something that looked like fur? Killer. Accessorizing with a top-hat? Gorgeous. The green lining of the gown? Stunning. But my favourite part about this is that if you look closely, you can see that she off-set every colour-block with a few touches of another colour to make it look more natural. That level of attentiveness is nothing short of genius. She wins hands-down for that.