Published June 26th, 2020 at 3:00 PM
Above image credit: Dressing area of Melinda Ryder full of dresses designed by Kirk Nelson (photo: Sandy Woodson)
Where can we get a fashion fix with the loss of the
West 18th Street Fashion show this June? If you miss the glamour, color, humor and sparkle of this event, which has been rescheduled for October due to the ongoing pandemic, you’ve come to the right place.
Flatland recently visited with seven local designers of drag fashion, and created the following slideshows. Consider this a virtual fashion show to hold you over until the real thing happens.
Kirk Nelson, designer and husband of Melinda Ryder Nelson has been designing and sewing outfits for Melinda for more than 30 years. Nelson learned to sew by watching his mother and he still seeks her advice when he has a difficult project. This Pride Fringe dress was designed in in the early 2000s. Nelson likes Fringe because “when you shimmy it looks like you’re doing twice the work.” A couple of years after Melinda wore the Fringe dress to Pride, Nelson made variations of the dress for the other MCs Belle Starr, Loreal, Victoria DePaula and Terri Goddard. Mulan Gabby and Melinda Ryder Over the years Nelson has discovered what works best for Melinda. A square neckline and short skirts or tattered hemlines to show off Melinda’s legs. The pink Ostrich feathers were chosen for their movement. Both Nelson and Ryder love purple. In fact, the fabric used in this dress was part of the table decoration at their wedding. Nelson brought the fabric back out to create a dress for Melinda’s 60th birthday. Following the longstanding tradition of drag performers, Melinda is often in the community helping others. IHere she is reading stories for Drag Queen Story Hour. These are the Quarantine Clothes. A couple of months in to the pandemic Nelson went down to his workshop and sewed for a month straight and came up with all these outfits. Being creative and resourceful is what you have to be when designing for drag. You are not going to find what you need in the sizes you need in your typical store. This was an outfit created from a dress that came from China. The size was off so he cut up the dress and created a long jacket. Nelson finds most of his fabrics online and is always on the lookout for the next inspiration. This fabric worked perfectly to create the pants to go with the jacket.
Kirk Nelson has been designing and creating
Melinda Ryder’s costumes for over 30 years.
Ryan Webster, aka Moltyn Decadence, says he started doing drag in 2004 “right out of the womb.” This Tie dress holds special significance as it is made up of every tie Webster had used in his former working life. Webster had worked in the AIDS prevention field for ten years and was trying to decide what to do with the next ten. Webster realized how much he enjoyed doing drag and decided to make the leap. Moltyn Decadence In 2018 Webster was crowned Miss Gay United States At Large and spent the year traveling. This rose embroidered costume was created for that year. Working with fringe and embroidery was especially challenging but Webster was happy with the results. Unable to find a special dress for his final appearance as Miss Gay United States At Large Webster decided to create his own. This green dress holds many special memories.
Ryan Webster, aka
Moltyn Decadence, won Miss Gay United States at Large in 2018. (Special thanks to Mary Schmidt for the mannequin).
Andy Chambers is designer and co-owner of Wonderland, a vintage store and salon. Alan Dunham, designer, hair stylist and co-owner of Wonderland. Andy has been sewing since his grandmother set up the machine for him when he was 7 years old. He has made everything from wedding dresses to formal wear to the costumes he wears as part of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Sister Glamarama Ding Dong, aka Andy Chambers, is one of the founders of the City of Fountains Sisters. (Photo | Conor Mathew Tierney) The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a nonprofit organization that began in 1971 in San Francisco. Chambers says when he is wearing the more traditional costume he feels more connected to the original sisters. When there is an event to raise money, “Everyone calls the drag queens!” And as the self -professed Queer Drag Nuns they are right there with them. Helping to raise money for others is their core tenet. These traditional vestments are worn by Guard Phil La Joque-Strapp, aka Alan Dunham, at more somber occasions like a protest. Guards of the order cover their collars and capes with flash and a name tag. Phil La Joque-Strapp, aka Alan Dunham (photo: Buck Sommerkamp) Sister Glamarama Ding Dong’s Doughnut Dress illustrates Chambers’ love of a concept. Dunham says: “He bought the fabric from New York, bought a doughnut purse, doughnut pillows and a bunch of rubber doughnuts.” “I do have a lot of rubber doughnuts,” Chambers confesses. Chambers calls the Sisters the sacred clowns, meaning “we celebrate our ability to laugh at gender norms and society while manifesting joy within our community.”
Andy Chambers and Alan Dunham are co-owners of
Wonderland. Both were the founders of the City of Fountain Sisters, the local chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which began in 1971 with five men wearing their “Sound of Music” nun costumes. The men walked around the city entertaining everyone in their path, but later went on to work with traditional nuns helping the homeless.
Darren Huffman, aka Kissy Lee, and Peyton Westfall, aka Astro, are co-owners of Pop Culture Sculptures. Huffman loves creating new colors by using “double stuffing.” This bright pink outfit is created by stuffing red balloons with white balloons. Huffman’s first time doing drag was for Missie B’s Bartender Review. Both have moved on to the Drag Survivor KC competition. Unlike most Drag designers, neither Huffman or Westfall sew. “We say we are all blowing and no sewing,” jokes Huffman. Westfall is a certified balloon artist and Huffman has always been creative, which is a great combination for their business. Kissy Lee Balloon Queen of KC. Kissy Lee has judged and participated in Drag Survivor KC. (Photo | Beto Arroyo of Mystical Dreams Productions). Astro the Clown on Drag Survivor KC. Astro has also spent time as a judge and a participant. (Photo | Beto Arroyo of Mystical Dreams Productions). Pop Culture Sculpture was asked to host the World Balloon Convention attended by balloon artists from over 50 countries.
Darren Huffman, aka
Kissy Lee, and Peyton Westfall, aka Astro, are co-owners of Pop Culture Sculptures and both are participants in Drag Survivor KC. Although officially not a part of the business, their drag design work set them apart for the organizers of the World Balloon Convention. The four costume changes during their 30 minutes on stage sealed their reputation for creating outfits that can withstand performing.
After going to his first drag show Dick Von Dyke immediately went home and googled, “Can girls do drag?” After seeing a drag king for the first time in a St. Louis club, Von Dyke decided that this was something he not only wanted to do but could do. (Photo | Theryn Love Photography) Early on Von Dyke decided he wanted a pirate costume. After buying all the fabric he remembered he didn’t sew . After texting all of his drag queen friends one came forward to help. This red jacket reminds Von Dyke of Kansas City since he bought it at Wonderland. Von Dyke has grown to love this jacket for its versatility. It can go from Thriller to Guns and Roses. Von Dyke feels that putting together a costume is completely underrated.: “You have to pick things that look good together, look good on you and pick out things that look outlandish but not too outlandish.” (Photo | Theryn Love Photography) Even though Von Dyke has really enjoyed his time performing in Kansas City at Missie B’s we will be losing Von Dyke to Minneapolis soon.
Dick Von Dyke really enjoyed hosting and performing at Missie B’s in Kansas City but is now on his way to Minneapolis. (Special thanks to Mary Schmidt for the mannequin).