Rupaul’s Drag Race – in which a colourful menagerie of Drag Queens from far-and-wide compete for the title of ‘America’s Next Drag Superstar’ (and a $100k check) – has quickly become one of the biggest reality shows on television. Having just wrapped up its 10th season (plus two ‘all-stars’ editions featuring returning fan-favourites), there is a decade worth of iconic moments, shade, and sheer fabulousness to delve into and enjoy.
Although contestants must sing, dance and act their way through a variety of bizarre challenges in order to secure a top 3 spot and snatch the prestigious crown at the grand finale, an ability to stomp the runway each week, showcasing their unique eye for fashion is also an integral part of the show. Here is a list of 15 times the queens of Rupauls Drag Race were, in fact, at the very height of modern fashion (in no particular order)…
1. Violet Chachki’s Tartan Two-in-one (Season 7)
The moment fresh-faced yet ‘bitchy’ Violet Chachki walked the runway in this sparkly two-in-one number back in season 7, everyone knew she was destined to snatch the crown. Her effortless twirl, revealing the head-to-toe tartan fantasy beneath, which instantly gagged the judges (and us), has since become without a doubt the most widespread drag-race related gif on the internet. This fashion moment seems straight out of a Vogue fall fashion spread, and to think Violet made this entire look herself elevates it just that bit higher.
2. Chi-Chi Devayne’s Wigs on Wigs on Wigs runway (All Stars 3)
Chi-Chi Devayne may not have had the best run on Rupaul’s Drag Race when she returned to the Werk Room in this year’s third edition of all-stars, but this particular look still earned an audible gasp from me. Arriving on the runway in a lusciously voluminous afro, Devayne graced the runway like a regal African princess, before revealing inches upon inches of gorgeous hair beneath. The fit of the dress is right, the jewelry is right, the mug (make-up) is sooo right, and that walk…perfection.
3. Raja’s Marie Antionette Realness (Season 3)
Coming from an earlier season when the show’s budget and expectations with regards to fashion were not nearly as high, it is commendable that Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 3 winner Raja’s looks still stand out today. Hailed as the very first ‘runway queen’, Raja served an array of high-fashion and highly conceptual looks on the runway each week, but her modern take on Marie Antionette remains one of the most memorable fashion moments in the show’s history. From the classically-painted and powdered makeup-and-wig to the almost urban printed corset and matching pants, this is an inventive look for the ages.
4. Detox’s Latex Runway (All Stars 2)
Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2 (2016) quickly became a fan-favourite season, which brought with it crazy twists and an epic amount of uncertainty (both for the contestants and the audience). If one thing is for sure though, it’s that season 5’s Detox ruled the runway week after week, her keen eye for fashion becoming perhaps her strongest suit as she found herself in the top 3 (narrowly losing out to Alaska). Of all the looks she brought that season, though, her latex runway in week 2 particularly wowed the judges, as she served up an outfit which screamed ‘fierce futuristic alien warrior-goddess’ (most simply put). Perhaps the most intriguing element here though – as so delicately pointed out by Detox herself in the gif above – is the crotch area…where did it all go?!
5. Katya’s Pants on the Runway (All Stars 2)
Another offering from All Stars 2, season 7’s self-described ‘high-class Russian whore’ (otherwise known as Katya) stepped outside of her comfort zone in week 6, and into this fabulous 80’s-inspired pantsuit. Katya totally sold it on the runway; the asymmetry of her presentation, the sheer-cut slick hair and the pop of yellow from the shoes, nails, and earrings against a brave choice of brown all working hard to really bring this look together. This outfit looks like something that could be worn by the editor in chief of a high-class fashion magazine – Anna Wintour, eat your heart out.
6. Sharon Needles’ Post-Apocalyptic Couture (Season 4)
If ever a single queen’s aesthetic was enough to change the fabric of the show forever, season 4 winner Sharon Needles was the queen to do so. Up until this point back until 2012, the queens had mostly prided themselves on serving high-fashion, high-glamour, and hyper-femininity, but all that changed when Sharon Needles entered the Werk Room in a Halloween witches hat. This look, served in week one (believe it or not) cemented Sharon as a pioneer of the spooky-drag aesthetic which has been seen on the runway ever since… and the fake blood pouring from her mouth as she walked towards the judges was a genius choice, I might add.
7. Aquaria’s Best Drag (Season 10)
Moving swiftly on from Sharon to her drag daughter, Aquaria, the shows most recent crown holder (winning must run in the family). At just 21, Aquaria was the youngest queen to compete on season 10, but remained adamant that her talent and passion for drag made her just as deserving of the title as the rest of the contenders. Nowhere else was this point most proven than on the runway, as Aquaria bought fully-realised and beautifully executed looks week upon week – her ‘best drag’ (pictured above) being an excellent example. There’s something so brilliantly unsettling about the hair-horns and oversized nose-ring, along with the glamorous green boa and androgynous bare chest which make this fashion moment something special.
8. Asia O’Hara’s Dandelion Dame (Season 10)
For a runway theme titled ‘Hat’s incredible’, what better way to make yourself a cut above the rest than to fashion (what could be) an IKEA lamp into an elaborate dandelion headpiece? Well, that’s exactly what seasoned drag professional Asia O’Hara did on this years season of Rupauls Drag Race, as she mesmerized the judges with this truly clever statement piece.
9. Detox as a Silver-Screen Beauty (At the Season 5 Finale)
While not technically worn while on the show, this look from Detox at the season 5 finale deserves a special mention because it went on to inspire an entire black-and-white runway three seasons later on the show’s eighth run. Here Detox looks as if she has just stepped out of the screen of an old Hollywood movie, painted entirely in monochrome in keeping with her classic black dress – and this is one look which was even better in moving picture!
10. Chad Michaels Inaugural Look (Season 4)
Chad Michaels, one of the oldest queens in the show’s legacy (who went on to win the first ever ‘All Stars’ season) is the epitome of class and professionalism, and this outfit oozes just that. This look proved that elegance and grace can be just as breathtaking as fierceness and out-of-the-box craziness, and Chad looked undeniably like the first lady the United States never had. To me, this look is totally timeless.
11. Peppermint’s Club Kid Couture (Season 9)
From one extreme to the other, Peppermint (the show’s first openly transgender competitor) fully embraced the wackier side of drag when challenged with a classic ‘club kid’ inspired runway on season 9. Taking her name as inspiration, Peppermint fashioned this outstanding look out of minty sweet treats which helped captivate the judges and set herself at the top of what shaped up to be one of the best overall runways the show has ever seen. Her effort here is applaudable and the attention to detail is impeccable; the dark accessories and makeup offsetting the sickly-sweet colour scheme and completing what is one of my personal favourite looks.
12. MAX’s Fall Look (Season 7)
Though largely overshadowed by Violet’s tartan reveal, this simple-yet-stunning look from season 7 silver starlet MAX is perhaps one of the most ‘mainstream’ high-fashion looks to my memory. Seriously; the choice of colour palette, the boots, the attitude in the walk, the grey wig (which eventually saw MAX booted from the show)… this editorial look is excellently well thought out and put together, not to mention criminally underrated.
13. Courtney Act Serving Fish on a Silver Platter (Season 6)
Courtney Act is often referred to as the most ‘fishy’ (feminine) queen to walk into the Werk Room, but back in season 6, she proved that title quite literally by serving up a rainbow pride fish on a silver platter. Not only is this look a little campy and fun, but it is also very well referenced – a personal nod to Klaus Nomi proving that Courtney is, in fact, capable of creating some iconic fashion moments on Rupaul’s Drag Race of her own.
14. Shea Couleé’s Village People Eleganza (Season 9)
Season 9 front-runner Shea Couleé really proved that she had what it takes to go all the way when she presented this look on the runway during the top 4 village-people themed ball challenge. What makes this look so noteworthy, though, is that Shea fashioned it all together during the allotted time with only the materials assigned to her for the challenge. Having been given ‘construction worker’ as her theme, her arrival on the runway with this unexpected couture look really outshone the competition – that patchwork denim-and-flannel cape is how you seriously make a statement on Rupaul’s Drag Race.
15. Violet Chachki at the Season 8 Finale
Leaving the best until last (of course), this look at the season 8 finale just screams high fashion, proving that Violet Chachki holds the title for the most fashion-forward queen the show has ever seen (the crown is quite literally fused into her flesh). Although Violet was to hand over her crown to season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen, her entrance in this look utterly upstaged everyone else in the auditorium that night, providing a total gasp-worthy moment. From the ridiculously cinched waist Violet is famed for to the beautifully embroidered and bejeweled gown, and nightmarish makeup complete with cockroaches, this remains unbeaten as the most breathtaking look on Rupaul’s Drag Race to date.