My motto for this website and all my dress-up endeavors has long been, “We’re born naked, everything else is a costume,” which is a paraphrase of RuPaul’s “We’re born naked, everything else is drag.” Because Mama Ru and I have the same philosophy that all the clothes / makeup / hairstyle / etc. we garb ourselves 24/7 are just a pose, an affect, a mask, a show that we stage to express something to the world. Whether it’s jeans and a T-shirt to say “I’m casual and cool” or a suit to say “I’m serious business,” clothes always carry a message, and I’m fascinated with how we construct that message, whether subtle or broad. Fantasy-historical costumes and cross-dressing drag are simply the most obvious forms of that message signal construction.
So it was about frickin’ time I made the pilgrimage to RuPaul’s DragCon, the fan convention for Ru’s TV show Drag Race and the queens he’s made famous. Held in Los Angeles over Mother’s Day Weekend, this was like a combo of Comic-Con and the biggest drag club show imaginable.
Because I am physically incapable of attending a con in mundanes, I had to plan outfits! For daytime, category was CorpGoth Realness on Friday and Sunday and Historical Drag King Realness on Saturday. For evening, category was Gothic Eleganza Extravaganza.
Friday was a half-day where I powered through the lines and saw as many queens as I could. Also, some shopping.
My OG Historical Drag King is, of course, Leonard Autie, Hairdresser to Marie Antoinette, who I wore pretty much as usual, though with the long curly wig that I first wore at Costume College 2015, but I restyled a bit.
On Saturday night, I wore a new black sequin gown bought off Amazon and a bit o’ bling I just had laying around the house, as you do.
For a new CorpGoth outfit, I made a short skirt out of this awesomely tacky fabric bought at the LA Garment District last year — it’s printed with vintage sex-work ads like you’d see in the backpages of ’60s and ’70s newspapers. I even set a zipper in it, which I haven’t done in a dozen years (since all I ever do is pre-19th-century sewing). Not an invisible zipper though, because ain’t nobody got time for that.
It was a really fun event and a must-see for fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race and for current drag culture. Some tips for anyone planning to attend DragCon in New York this fall or next year in Los Angeles…
- Plan and prioritize what queens you want to see. Most will charge $20-$40 for a photo/autograph, either just a fee or you have to spend that much in merchandise. RuPaul charged $80 for a photo or autograph this year, and you had line up to get a ticket, which had a specific time to come back, then you stood in line for the actual photo/autograph. They’re workin’ girls, and this ain’t no free show!
- The VIP pass might actually be worth the cost just to get in the shorter lines for some queens, including RuPaul and Michelle Visage, also to get into panel rooms first. For example, the general admission line to get into RuPaul’s keynote speech started an hour in advance and the room filled to capacity.
- Print the convention center map in advance, and mark out the booths you want to see. The online version will be more up-to-date than the program handed out onsite.
- Carry some cash, and don’t depend on just credit/debit cards. Some queens and vendors will only accept cash, plus sometimes the internet connection drop for those who do take plastic.
- BYO water and snacks, but discreetly! Bags do get searched (this is ‘murica, hmph), but a plastic reusable water bottle and a few granola bars probably won’t set off any alarms.
- Speaking of bags, bring a big-ass tote bag or backpack or giant purse or something to hold all the stuff you’ll buy or merch from queens or flyers and business cards or whatever. Even if you’re not usually a bag/purse kind of person, trust me, you’ll end up with stuff.
- Dress up! Go wacky with wigs, bling, your sassiest tee, your slickest latex! But wear or bring comfortable shoes. Funniest thing I overheard was an attendee in drag walking by in stiletto thigh-high boots muttering loudly, “These shoes might not have been my best idea.”
Everybody say love!