Drag Fashion at Toronto Pride

13570189_1104296839635027_1704500897_oWhen the month of June begins to wrap up here in Toronto, it signals a few things – in particular, the culmination of Pride month with two monumental events happening therein. Toronto’s Pride Parade will be taking place in the afternoon of Sunday, July 3. Before that, Drag On will take the stage at Dundas Square for the majority of Saturday, July 2. From 2 pm until 11, Toronto will see the largest drag performance in history. Not only will this performance be a celebration of Toronto drag talent, but alumni stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race will also be in attendance from Britney Spears impersonator Derrick Barry to Season 7 winner, Bianca Del Rio.

Though the movement for equal rights and acceptance for the LGBTQ community has always been in the forefront, the recent mass shooting at the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse has impacted and affected the community across the globe. This tragedy has shown that although progress has been made towards acceptance, violence and homophobia are still a growing problem. During this year’s Pride festivities, the Pulse shootings will be at the forefront of many conversations.

When considering Pride festivities and a love for fashion, it’s difficult to not consider drag artists where a large component of their stage performance is comprised of their outfit and style. With that in mind, we’ve reached out to two local drag performers — pop art-influenced female drag queen Dottie Dangerfield and multi-faceted drag king performer Titus Androgynous — to talk about their own unique style and fashion aesthetic, about their upcoming Drag On performance, and how the Orlando tragedy has affected their lives and the LGBTQ movement.

“My style of drag is very influenced by very over the top and girly things like dolls, pink, ruffles, frills and a vintage aesthetic. I like outfits that are very bright colored, graphic that sparkle and shine,” Dottie says of her own drag style. “I grew up watching anime and was always immersing myself in video games. I love how over the top everything is, I love the cheesiness and the hyper-sexual looks of the characters and how bold, colourful and feminine certain shows and games were… My style is a combination of all those things I love which translates to a childish and immature aesthetic… I call it ‘innocent slut’.”

“I come to drag with a background in many different performance styles: theatre, clown, singing, improv and sketch comedy. My style is based on characters and story lines. Also, I have several numbers where I sing live. My tag line is ‘Titus Androgynous: The king who sings,'” Titus explains. “Most of the numbers I perform embody a different character so I consider the clothing I wear more in terms of costume… Often the costumes are iconic types: soldier, cowboy, police officer, mechanic, sailor. Each of these costumes is recognizable and brings a background with it that audience members attach to the character. My job as a performer is then to either work within that type and give the audience what they expect, or work against type and surprise them.”

We asked Dottie and Titus what they look for when building their stage wardrobe.

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“Budget is almost always foremost in my mind. I need to find a way to create a costume that looks authentic without blowing my budget. Usually this means shopping in second-hand stores for the basic aspects of it and then spending more on a few details that really sell the look,” Titus says. “My own personal style is classically tailored men’s wear: slim fitting shirts and trousers, ties, bow ties, vests and cardigans, etc. I chose classic colours and styles that stay in fashion longer and are therefore more cost effective. I then add pops of colour with accessories. I mostly shop for the basics at H&M Men, sometimes I can find things elsewhere. I then take the pieces to my trusty tailor who makes them fit right. He is my (not-so-secret) weapon, he owns Magic Tailor on Yonge Street near Shuter.”

“I look for pieces as Dottie. If I am doing a particular song I usually have a very specific vision in my mind that I may take to particular designers because I may not be able to find these things off the rack,” Dottie commented. “If I am buying something off the rack I try to look for pieces that are made of high-quality material… I like creating monochromatic looks, I really enjoy different shades of the same colour where everything matches from my hair all the way to my feet.”

Dottie has high praise for a few local designers. “Brook Alviano and Leelando Calrissian, a local drag artist. They are both amazing and they both have a unique set of skills. Leelando has the ability to not just design something for you but also work with you and bring your vision to life and help you create pieces that not just suit you as an artist but as a person. When I am looking for an authentic comic book or anime cosplay costume he is my number one choice. Brook creates costumes for burlesque artists in the city, so she is very good at thinking of clever and unique ways to remove costumes pieces, she is so smart at thinking of ways to make one costume transform into another and the construction and care she puts into her pieces are amazing.”

We asked the two what they thought defined the Toronto drag movement and where they saw the movement heading.

“The drag king community in Toronto is in a really exciting place,” says Titus. “There are drag kings of all experience levels performing in town with lots of new kings emerging. There are also several young producers creating opportunities for all these performers. In my own troupe, The Yes-Men, all of us have produced shows. You should definitely keep an eye out for drag nights produced by my Yes-Men drag brother, Spencer Munny. He has been the biggest force in getting drag-king visibility this year at Pride.”

According to Dottie, different styles of drag exists in different parts of the city. “I find the Village has a more glamorous aesthetic and the queens are very pageantry and beautiful. The outfits are rhinestoned to perfection, the makeup is beautiful and you can really see the time and effort they put into their look. What I love about drag on Church street is the dedication the queens have to their art form. If you are looking for a more alternative or avant-garde vibe I would say head out to the west end. The west end features so many diverse styles, from outrageous makeup, to over the top costumes, to nudity, to no hair, to no rules.”

“I think Toronto drag is heading in the direction of NYC,” says Dottie. “I think as we continue to evolve as drag artists and as people we’re going to see people really start stepping out of their comfort zones. I think we are going to see people think of even more innovative and creative looks and I think we’re going to see more and more shows start popping up around the city which have different themes… I think Toronto drag is climbing higher than it ever has and I think as newer queens enter the scene its going to start influencing and inspiring people to newer heights.”.

Both Titus and Dottie are currently working hard rehearsing and putting the finishing touches to their upcoming Drag On performance. Though their individual routines were a while in the works, the Orlando shootings have prompted them to rethink the direction of their numbers and the impact the tragedy has on the LGBTQ community.

“The tragedy in Orlando has affected my performance plans, this tragedy has affected the community,” says Dottie. “It has made people afraid to perform, it has made people instead of celebrating Pride feel worried about their safety, it has taken away a day that is supposed to be about celebrating what makes you unique, different and special. I believe this pride will be more powerful then ever before, this tragedy has brought the community even closer together and has strengthened an already powerful community.”

“The Yes-Men group number that we are performing during Drag On was originally inspired by the Stonewall Riots,” says Titus. “In the past I have introduced the number by giving a little background on why Pride is still important, especially in other countries around the world who look to our Pride celebration as a beacon of hope. The massacre at Pulse has made that part of the intro unnecessary. We are now all too aware of how important Pride is to all of us, everywhere. Our performance this year will come with a very serious trigger warning. Also we have, made a couple of changes to it due to how closely this piece now mirrors the recent tragedy.”

Though this year’s Pride festivities will certainly be touched with a dark and somber edge, there is still plenty of fun and celebration to be had particularly during this day-long drag event. Both Titus and Dottie have offered titillating hints as to what their respective performances will hold. A song and dance number and…a need for a splash zone?

Be sure to be at Dundas Square for this year’s Drag On performance on Saturday July 3. The show runs from 2 pm until 11 pm so feel free to come and go as you like. The show is free to attend but donations are accepted.

Photo of Titus Androgynous by Kristy Boyce and photo of Dottie Dangerfield by Becca Lemire