For Violet Chachki, the most mundane of appearances is still an opportunity to showcase some outlandishly frothy fashion. Even when she’s just making videos for her YouTube channel, she’s consistently serving couture-level looks that rival the average red carpet appearance.
So when it came to her first solo burlesque show—which she performed on a tour from Paris to London to Milan in keeping with the schedule of fashion month—Chachki took the costuming quite seriously. From working with Jeremy Scott on a glitzy, gender-bending custom Moschino tuxedo to donning two different Erté-inspired Prada gowns designed by Fabio Zambernardi, Chachki made sure her outfits rivaled those on the runways. Below, the performer breaks down some of the fashion highlights, from the Inspector Gadget-inspired aerialist number to the fresh take on her signature fetishwear style.
“For the opening of the show, I wanted it to be super classic and have high-drama impact. I saw an image of a male performer with two backup showgirls and I wanted to do a gender role reversal. I start off as a Marlene Dietrich-inspired androgynous character in a tuxedo, and have my backup dancers as showgirls. I enlisted the help of Jeremy Scott and the house of Moschino to get the perfect glam tuxedo. I wore one of Jeremy’s animal print tuxedos to the Met Gala afterparty and fell in love with it. Before that, I got to wear a tandem tuxedo to close out Moschino’s Fall 2018 Menswear collection with Oslo Grace, another gender nonconforming model, so I knew Jeremy would be perfect to do this look. Jeremy and he had the brilliant idea of making the coattails of the tuxedo jacket extremely long like the train of a dress. I am absolutely obsessed with what he created—it’s the perfect combination of classic androgyny but with that Moschino twist that I’ve always loved.”
“The second number of the show is by far a crowd favorite, which is funny considering the outfit is somewhat simple. For inspiration, I wanted to draw from the classic film noir trope of a sleuth, and channel what a strong female detective would have looked like coming from that time period. The whole number is a kind of power play—I’m the strong female lead and I get what I want. After developing the film noir idea more, I realized I could also reference David Lochary’s character in Pink Flamingos when he’s flashing people in the park. The trench coat and the idea of flashing lends itself really well to both burlesque and film noir. I also wanted to reference iconic cartoon characters like Inspector Gadget and Carmen Sandiego.”
“The third number in the show is all about fetish aesthetics which is a huge part of me and my brand and what inspires my drag character. That being said, fetish aesthetics is something that I’ve always done, so I knew that I wanted to change it up a bit. I was driving around in Koreatown in Los Angeles and saw a house that had all these wonderful colors: neon yellow, neon pink, and navy blue. I instantly knew these would be great colors for a fresh take on a fetish look. I sourced all of the fabrics from downtown L.A. and shipped them to my corset maker in Atlanta, Anthony Canney, along with a crude sketch inspired by Eric Stanton and Gene Billbrew. And what would a fetish look be without some sick custom fetish boots, courtesy of Natacha Marro out of London.”
The Prada Gowns
“I was also lucky enough to have not one, but two, custom gowns designed by Fabio Zambernardi and the house of Prada. These are quite possibly the most elaborate costumes I’ve ever worn. Fabio and I had been messaging inspiration, ideas, and sketches back and forth for months. One of our favorite mutual references is Erté and his work heavily influenced these looks. I am completely blown away by what we were able to accomplish. These pieces are truly iconic and stage-worthy.”
“The first one I use during my hosting segment. It’s made of 4 pieces: a bodysuit, a skirt, a belt, and a beaded necklace that extends all the way down my arms. The entire ensemble is completely hand-beaded and there is so much detail that has gone into this garment. It’s insane. The thing that I love most about it is that it’s completely unconventional in the execution of the beading, with shapes that I never would have thought to use. If you look at it from afar, it looks super symmetrical but up close the careful craftsmanship really comes to life: you see the unique, unconventional, and interesting details that the house of Prada is known for.”
“The second one is an asymmetrical purple velvet gown. One of the arms is beaded so heavily that we had to add shoulder pads in for support. It feels like the arm weighs a hundred pounds and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The garment is so high drama, between the extremely intricate bead work on the arm, the rich purple shade of the dress itself, and the giant tassel that drags behind me as I walk—everything about this gown screams opulence.”
Art Deco Disco Fantasy
“For the finale, I was inspired by the Folies Bergère and the disco era of the 1970s. I think there was a lot of crossover there and so I wanted to play within that. I’ve been traveling a lot to India and have seen so much beautiful bead work, so I knew that I wanted to get something custom hand beaded in India for my show. I went for a batwing sleeve, quick-release gown with embroidered snakes all over it. There’s a lot of symbolism associated with snakes mythologically—they’re magical and inherently seductive, both things that I wanted for the finale. We also did a big makeup change for this look, which added a lot of impact. Luckily I had the genius and icon Pat McGrath collaborating with me on all the beauty looks for the show. For this number we had built custom Swarovski crystal eye appliqués and added tons of blush for high drama, and it also gave me that doll-like quality that I love.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue