From Gigi Goode’s ode to Dior and Trinity The Tuck’s Prada homage, to Comme des Garçons’ references by Aja and Rock M. Sakura
After a good few months wondering what the hell the climactic episode would actually look like, the end of Drag Race Season 12 is finally upon us. Tonight, our three remaining queens – Gigi Goode, Jaida Essence Hall, and Crystal Methyd – will summon every inch of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent they have for a finale like no other, as they get ready to lipsync for their lives via socially distanced means (namely, video link).
Though this season’s final girls are drastically different in their approach to drag, what unites them is a deep rooted dedication to their lewks. From Crystal’s truly off-the-wall runway odes to Bert and Ernie and Freddy-Kruger-but-make-him-fashion and Jaida’s flawless glittering gowns and all-leather looks, to Gigi pledging her allegiance to the Ahoy Agenda and referencing Dior’s seminal New Look, this series has been a visual feast from start to finish (good job tbh, since the rest of our lives are a shit show right now).
While this season’s looks will forever live on in our hearts, the Season 12 queens are far from the only ones to turn it out – not to mention to reference an iconic fashion moment on the Drag Race runway.
While we wait for tonight’s finale, we dive back into some of our fave high fashion and haute couture-inspired looks to hit Ru’s stage – courtesy of Trinity the Tuck, Aja, Raja, Aquaria, Sasha Belle, and more.
GIGI GOODE, DIOR’S NEW LOOK
“Gigi Goode is a formidable queen. While she’s proved that there’s way more to her than her extremely goode outfits (sorry), she’s still brought the lewks to this season. While her references span pop culture – that Heathers number! – and high fashion – the Moschino-esque pastel biker look, complete with ‘GIGI’ belt – one was more haute than the rest. I’m talking, ofc, about her Black Weddings dress, with its silhouette inspired by Dior’s revolutionary New Look: cinched for the gods at the waist, with a full skirt jutting from the hips. Sure, it’s not the first time a queen has referenced this most iconic of styles (@ Violet Chachki) but in this black on black number complete with sheer gloves, a veil, and a glossy red lip, Miss Goode truly killed it. As for tonight, picking a favourite queen feels like picking one of my children. I want Jaida to be my best friend, Gigi to do my make-up, and to go dancing with Phenomenal Phil – I mean Crystal.” EHA
GIA GUNN, CHANEL’S HULA HOOP BAG
“When Gia Gunn marched into the werk room in the first episode of Season 6, it was with a pretty major accessory, albeit one that went straight over her competitors’ heads: a DIY version of Chanel’s infamous hula hoop bag, originally seen on the SS13 runway not long before the season started filming. The bag – originally made by Gunn’s friend for the swimsuit category in a pageant – has infiltrated pop culture since first appearing on the runway – from Kris Jenner being papped trying it on, to Floyd Mayweather flexing it on Instagram. ‘This is the biggest Chanel bag in the world – I got this bag from Karl Lagerfeld, RIP, may he rest in peace,” Mayweather said, calling the designer a “money-getting motherfucker”. As for the actual bag, it’ll set you back around £31k.” EHA
ROCK M. SAKURA, COMME DES GARÇONS
“Rock M. Sakura’s tenure on season 12 was short-lived, but one look was enough to make an impression with fashion fans. In the first mini challenge, the queens were tasked with presenting fall and spring runway looks – and Rock M went full Comme des Garçons. While she wasn’t the first queen to reference Comme (keep reading), Rock M’s look took inspiration from the Japanese house’s SS18 collection, which included manga faces blown up XXL and printed onto avant garde dresses. Not to mention Rock M’s inclusion of polka dots and braces, two Comme signatures. Also of note? Her Tomo Koizumi-esque tulle dress. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see what else she had up her sleeve.” EHA
TRIXIE MATTEL, ZAC POSEN
“When Trixie Mattel first appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race for Season 7, she wasn’t really serving in the looks department – something she admits herself, before you @ me. When she returned for season three of All Stars, in addition to proving her comedic chops, she had to show her fashion smarts too. She did that in her own campy way throughout the season, but it’s her finale look that catapulted her into the fashion hall of fame; my favourite, most likely because it’s a look you’d never expect from her.
Taking inspiration from Christina Ricci’s Zac Posen gown from the 2011 Met Gala – Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty – the lacey dress looks like black cobwebs wrapped around the arms and neck, revealing a tiny window of bosom, before ballooning out at the bottom into a mermaid tail. To amp up the camp, Trixie wore hers with a stole and poodle-esque bouffant hair. With Trixie later admitting this was the only gown she had left to wear, the timing worked perfectly, and it’s probably the most traditionally glamourous we’ve ever seen her look.
This season I’m backing Crystal Methyd. Gigi and Jaida are both strong competitors, but the one look I can’t stop thinking about is Crystal’s sexy Freddie Kruger-inspired look – that is somebody dictating the future of drag, so give her the crown Ru!” DC
AQUARIA, THIERRY MUGLER
“Looking back at each and every one of Aquaria’s season ten runway looks, with the fresh, glorious sounds of Chromatica vibrating in my ears, I am genuinely moved by the sheer, unadulterated beauty of it all. Though she was never my fave to win (Monique Heart stole my… well, heart from the off tbh), the pretty much fresh-from-the-womb New York queen never skipped a beat when it came to her fashions – and oh, the fashions.
With ‘flawless’ the only word to describe what she brought to the table week after week, Aquaria channelled countless subtle references into her drag throughout the series, and showed her deep-rooted love of fashion in the process. In a tattoo-esque top she name-checked Michele Lamy and paid quiet homage to fashion legends Martin Margiela and Jean Paul Gaultier, before nodding in the direction of McQueen and jeweller Shaun Leane when she prowled down the catwalk in an all-leopard look finished with a skeletal mouthpiece and spine jutting from the back of her dress (and that’s before we even get started on her Saint Sebastian-inspired feathered look, the time she took on ‘the naked dress’ and won, or That! Fucking! Mermaid! Look! – seriously, this gorl’s mind).
My favourite look turned by our Ultimate Fashion Queen™ Aquaria (don’t @ me) circa season ten, however, was the fluffy, cotton candy-coloured fun fur ensemble that directly referenced Thierry Mugler’s AW91 collection and, more particularly, a creation first worn by immaculate supermodel Christy Turlington alongside Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen et al. Sure, it was basically a like-for-like rip-off of Monsieur Mugler’s OG as opposed to a tribute and nowhere near as chin-strokingly subtle as her other homages, but the ombré extravaganza was unquestionably joyous, and sometimes (like right now) that’s all you need from your Drag Race superstar. I mean, that, and I’m a sucker for a bonnet – #bonnetcore forever, baby!
When it comes to my Season 12 winner, I’m torn between Crystal and Jaida – Crystal is extremely cute with, like, the most imaginative, off-the-wall drag (cc. Bert and Ernie), while Jaida is not only stunning, but a joy to watch every week. Fuck it, RuPaul, and just crown them both. It’s what we deserve in the non-stop rollercoaster ride that is 2020.” ED
COURTNEY ACT AND JAIDA ESSENCE HALL, VIKTOR & ROLF
“Courtney Act was accused of resting on her good looks and banging bod during her tenure on Season 6, and, to be fair, many of her runway looks were essentially underwear. With one though, Act was “resting” in a different way – stepping onto the runway wrapped in a duvet, with a pillow propped behind her head. The outfit had a clear and beloved runway reference: Viktor and Rolf’s famous AW05 bed-dress. You know the one: star of 1000 Instagram monday morning #mood posts, famously worn by Tilda Swinton sleepily crossing Piccadilly Circus in a shoot. And Courtney wasn’t the only queen to get inspired by this much-regrammed momente: Jaida Essence Hall’s slumber party lewk was distinctly Viktor and Rolfian too. As for Courtney’s version, underneath it all was… a bra and knickers. Well, she tried.” EHA
VALENTINA, SILVER MINI
“There are three defining moments in the history of television; moments which mean that Philo Taylor Farnsworth – the man widely cited as the inventor of the television – can rest happily in his grave, knowing that he has contributed something vast, unmeasured and boundless to humanity. First, when British TV personality Alison Hammond accidentally pushed two members of the This Morning Crew into the River Thames; second, when a Come Dine With Me contestant decided to sample his pudding mixture by forcing an entire whisk into his mouth; and third, when Valentina lip-synced for her life on the second episode of the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.
As Valentina swirls and twirls around the main stage to “Into You” by Ariana Grande, in all her magnificent and majestic glory, RuPaul is gooped. Guest judge Ciara is gooped. Valentina’s fellow contestants are gooped. Homosexuals around the world are gooped. Even some straights were probably gooped, if they have the capacity to be gooped, I don’t know. In this moment, babies stopped crying, dogs stopped barking, and gay liberation was truly achieved. For a brief moment, all was well.
Valentina’s fashion choice was crucial to the power and intensity of this moment: a short sequined dress, adorned with glittering crystals that moved as she moved and danced as she danced, reflecting light into the camera and into our gooped faces. And while there was no direct high-fashion reference here (sorry, I know that was the point of this), the dress had whisperings of Paco Rabanne, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, and maybe even (prophetically) Hedi Slimane for Celine. These references are entirely plausible – when I interviewed her (humble-brag, sorry not sorry), she demonstrated a strong knowledge of fashion, throwing out names from Valentino and Oscar de La Renta, to Carolina Herrera and Ralph & Russo. It was, to use that oft-used, seldom-earned word: iconic.
As for the winner of Season 12, it has to be Jaida. Please Lord, may it be Jaida.” TS
SASHA BELLE, MUGLER’S DRAGON DRESS
“Sasha Belle, now known as Frisbee Jenkins, didn’t make it far in Season 7. While in the competition though, she did attempt to pull off the extraordinary: a recreation of one of the most iconique pieces of Thierry Mugler haute couture to ever go down a runway, the jaw-dropping Dragon – aka Chimera – dress. Originally on the AW97 couture runway, the gown was worked on by legendary corset-maker Mr Pearl. ‘This was sort of a combination of fish, bird and beast,’ he told me when I interviewed him in 2016. ‘It was probably the most intense project, it took six weeks working 24 hours a day. So it’s 12 weeks, in fact. There was a day shift and night shift. We were 20 people.’ While Miss Fame spent the entire season looking like a walking Mugler muse, Sasha Belle’s dress: described by the judges as ‘like the underbelly of a lobster’ couldn’t really live up – but A+ for aiming high. Okay, maybe just a B.” EHA
AJA, COMME DES GARÇONS
“Aja might not have always brought it to the runway on her original season nine – she would return for Rudemption on All Stars season three – but you have to hand the New York queen some fashion credentials for (pretty convincingly) recreating a full Comme des Garçons runway look on her very first episode. Inspired by the house’s AW12 collection – in which designer Rei Kawakubo sent out a series of paper doll-esque looks in felted fabric, a comment on the two-dimensionality of the fashion industry – Aja wore the body-dwarfing look as part of Season 9’s opening runway, where contestants had to recreate one of guest judge Lady Gaga’s most memorable looks. Gaga herself applauded Aja’s effort, revealing that she originally wore the dress as a riposte to people commenting on her body shape: ‘You know I wore this because the media was saying I was fat, and I knew this archive, so I called Comme des Garçons and I asked them if I could wear it,” she says. ‘It’s such an excellent choice.’
This season, I’m team Crystal. Jaida and Gigi are certainly worthy competitors – and I won’t be disappointed if either win – but watching Crystal each week, from workroom to runway to VT, has given me nothing but pure joy.” JM
RAJA, VIVIENNE WESTWOOD
“I’ve been watching Drag Race since the very beginning, and I remember the first fashion queen that left me gasping for breath was Season 3’s Raja. My favourite look was the ensemble she wore in episode 5, where she paid homage to Vivienne Westwood’s AW90 Portrait collection with a corset digitally printed with Rococo imagery – you’ll probably know the one since it’s basically been taking over social media for a while now. This season I am team Crystal Methyd. She’s totally unique, and has really come into her own throughout the course of the competition.” HT
TRINITY THE TUCK, PRADA
“Sashaying into the AllStars 4 werkroom with a different name, newfound comedy confidence, some more injectables, and a slime green Big Bird look came Trinity the Tuck. Appearing first in a large black bag labelled ‘TOXIC WASTE’ before shimmying out to reveal an homage to Sarah Paulson’s AW18 Prada dress, as worn on the Ocean’s Eight red carpet, paired with a traffic cone orange wig to up the camp. Trinity enlisted New York–based designer Casey Caldwell, famous for his zip-tie creations, to emulate the American Horror Story actress’ original. The AW18 Prada presentation radiated with fluorescents and mindfucking prints, contrasted with rubbers, nylons, and tweeds – what better way for the new Trinity to debut, referencing a collection that was all about jolting the spectator from their perceived normal, with caustic wit and high drama.
It’s totally Trinity 2.0 – it’s playful and high fashion while still nodding to absurd old school drag, and it reverberates with the plastique fantastique. She’s made of plastic, so why not wear it too? For this season, I’m rooting for Crystal Methyd – it was a close one between Gigi Goode and the mulleted queen, but that asymmetric midnight blue velvet jumpsuit stole the show for me. She’s had a character arc that has been totally joyous to watch.” AC