(Style)

3 Drag Queens Share Their Go-To Stores For Stage Looks

And how the scene has evolved.

@chiquitettas
Where do drag queens shop

1969 was a cultural touchstone in history. Woodstock brought together thousands of individuals to spread peace and love. It also marked the year humans first walked on the moon (hello, Neil Armstrong). This was a groundbreaking year for drag queen fashion as well, thanks to the late Lee Brewster, who revolutionized the space. The queen and transgender activist began selling an assortment of performance garments through a mail-order catalog, which he touted as the first business catered to cross-dressers, according to The New York Times.

Brewster later opened a store on West 14th Street named Lee’s Mardi Gras Boutique. It garnered a loyal following of queens, including Lady Bunny, a veteran performer who has been in the scene since the ‘80s. The birth of his shop was pivotal for the drag community. Elyssa Maxx Goodman, the author of Glitter and Concrete: A Cultural History of Drag in New York City, says it was quite difficult for queens to shop for performance looks as cultural norms made it hard for them to feel open and free. “In the store, you could get everything from size 13 heels to false eyelashes to dresses, all of which would have been difficult to find at the time, but the boutique was both unique and discreet,” Goodman adds about Brewster’s New York spot.

And though Lee’s Mardi Gras eventually closed its doors in 2000, the same year as Brewster’s death, it paved the way for many more IYKYK boutiques that offer myriad options for all sorts of style sensibilities. One such destination? James Veloria. Based in New York City’s Chinatown, the vintage store debuted in 2017 by couple Collin James Weber and Brandon Veloria Giordano. “A lot of queer, especially trans people [shop here]. There aren’t a ton of spaces specifically designed to support them,” Giordano recently told TZR. New York-based drag queen Chiquitita, for instance, often hits up this Manhattan spot for looks. “They’re really friendly and always have something; there’s higher-end stuff that you won't find at [second-hand store] Beacon's Closet,” she explains, pointing to a Vivienne Westwood gown she scored at James Veloria.

But while more and more shops with on-stage looks are popping up today, drag-specific garments and accessories are still not readily accessible, leading the community to get creative in how they source clothing. As such, drag queens, like everyone else, rely heavily on social media for pieces. Take Nashville-based drag queen Alexia Noelle Paris, who frequently shops online for earrings from Drag-In Jewels, made by jewelry designer Seville (aka, “Lady Drake”). “She’s in Indiana, but she has a Facebook Live each week,” explains Paris. “She randomly popped up; I think when you start doing drag regularly, you join different groups, and then people will post [with more shopping suggestions].” Paris adds that drag queens have created a strong online network. “There are so many people that create stuff specifically for drag because it's become such a popular thing.”

What’s more, drag queen style also often calls for custom-made pieces. “I have a very broad masculine physique, so finding things in a store has always been a bit of a challenge,” explains Mrs. Kasha Davis, a queen living in Rochester, New York, who was on Season 7 of RuPaul's Drag Race. Her solution? Working closely with a few highly skilled designers to create one-of-a-kind ensembles (more on them below).

Yes, perhaps the biggest development in drag queen fashion is that the community finally has a host of shopping choices, from online stores to custom-made looks. Ahead, the three aforementioned queens talk more about how they sources their favorite on-stage outfits.

Alexia Noelle Paris, Nashville

Steven M. Koch

Where do you shop in Nashville?

There’s a cool vintage store called Smack Clothing here in Nashville, and I’ve found cute pieces from there. I found this cute light purple suede jacket, and I’ve always loved it. But, I’m a gym person, and my shoulders are not the kind for a lady. So, honestly, I have to get a lot of looks made for me. There’s a lovely duo called Haus of Curio in Nashville; they’re local, so I originally heard of them from other queens. One of my favorite pieces they’ve created for me is this black leather bodysuit with a detachable train.

How do you come up with the looks they create?

I’ll usually see a certain material, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I really like this, I want to make something with it.’ Then they’ll [Haus of Curio] send over some drawings, and we'll start making it come to life. I like to serve body, so I make sure the silhouette shows off my legs or derrière. And also that it’s properly covering my shoulders because I'm insecure about them. They’ve made stuff for me as quick as two weeks. But then, of course, it could be something that might take a few weeks [longer]; it really depends on their calendar.

Where do you shop for accessories?

Akira. They have accessories, shoes, dresses, all that jazz. Also, I’ll go to Only Maker for shoes because I wear a size 12. It's hard to find that in stores, but Only Maker has sizes that range from five to 15. I think they’re embracing drag queen [style] by buying footwear. There are these cute silver ones that I'll get from there. They've been on almost every stage I've performed on, and I've continued ordering them because I sometimes break them dancing around.

Chiquitita, New York City

What are some of your top stores to find performance clothing?

I actually make most of what I wear. My mom used to sew for a Halloween store in Queens called Ruby’s. She taught me some things, and then I ran with the rest. I’ll source fabrics; I usually go to the Garment District in the city. They have a lot of stores and different ranges of fabrics and prices, so you can always find something there. Then, I sketch and create the patterns to make the look. It can take anywhere from two and a half days to two weeks; it depends on how much of it is sewn, if it’s a trial and error, or if it’s multiple pieces.

Where do you shop for accessories?

My go-to for shoes is Steve Madden because many of the looks I wear have to endure some damage, so I can’t spend too much. I look for footwear at thrift stores too, and then I’ll jazz them up a bit [with embellishments]. And I’ll go to shops with vintage jewelry; there’s a drag staple in New York called Earrings Plaza. They have two floors, and you can always find something for an occasion. It ranges from maybe $2 to $45 or $50 a piece, depending on what you’re getting. And because they’re so cheap, you usually leave with more than you need, like Claire’s.

What are some of your favorite pieces in your wardrobe?

One of my favorites is [this pair of] Versace pants, which I got from The RealReal in Los Angeles two or three years ago. They’re blue and have these little animals drawn on them, and they make me so happy. They’re one of the more fun pairs of pants I own. I have a few more drag pieces from The RealReal, but it can be a hit or miss because you can’t try things on, especially if you're shopping specifically online, which sometimes I do. You have to trust your gut and make sure if you’re going to be shopping on [online], you get something that can be returned.

Mrs. Kasha Davis, Rochester

John Gram Photos

Do you have a signature performance outfit?

I normally turn to a ‘50s-style dress, with a nice flattering sleeve, V-neck, and a circle skirt. And, as you can see by what I'm wearing today, I love a print. But what I do for drag is if I find something online or off the rack, I’ll want to embellish it. Basically, I’ll look at it and think to myself, ‘How do I exaggerate the silhouette?’ In that respect, it’s going to be potentially [adorned with] gems. My drag auntie, Aggy Dune, who I work with consistently in Rochester, is always like, ‘more is more.’

Where do you shop for your looks?

I work with incredible designers who know how to flatter the body. [One is] David Thatcher and his company is called Thatch-Work Designs. He’s a designer and a partner to Delta Work, a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race. And then Patrick Howell, who is known for the [HBO] television show We’re Here. I would call his designs more statement art pieces. And Holly Day — she’s easily found on Instagram, and her creations are colorful and fun! What’s most impressive is that she creates custom looks and delivers [them] in a very timely manner, which is something I truly admire!

Where do you buy shoes and accessories?

Honestly, I love searching for shoes; it’s this little extra fun part. I go to Nordstrom Rack in New York City because they carry up to a size 13. Again, it’s tough to find things, but you can do it. I think a lot of queens have ventured to places online; you'll end up finding shoemakers who have those larger sizes. And [for my jewelry], I work with drag designers, like this fabulous one out of Canada, Amped Accessories, who creates custom pieces.