9 of Pose's most iconic fashion moments
Often inspired by real life ballroom moments and the lives of trans icons, 'Pose' is a celebration of queer fashion.
Photo courtesy of FX
Across its two seasons, Pose has been showcasing ballroom culture within the mainstream like no TV show has done before. But with the debut of its third and final season on 2 May, comes the end of this groundbreaking series from Ryan Murphy, with its history-defining trans and queer cast that includes i-D coverstar Indya Moore, SS21 Mugler model Dominique Jackson and the always iconically dressed Billy Porter.
Any fan of Drag Race knows that both the queer community and ballroom culture are intrinsically linked to the history of fashion. In its fictionalising of real life events, Pose brings that history to life. From museum heists to legendary ballroom looks to the trans people within fashion and culture who were overlooked or undermined for many years.
The trailer for the final season of Pose suggests the show will continue in this legacy, uplifting the beauty of queer culture — with a lot of kaftans and rose couture — whilst also showcasing queer history, the ACT UP movement and the community’s impact on fashion. As we prepare to say goodbye to Pose we look back on some of the show’s most memorable fashion moments thus far.
Haus of Abundance at a New York City ball, season 1 episode 1
“I look too good not to be seen,” says Haus mother Elektra as she gets ready for the ball whilst on the run from the police. In a scene that makes the heists of Ocean's Eight feel tired and excessive, Pose opens with the Haus of Abundance hiding in a museum after dark so they can mop the royalty exhibit of its regal fashions to wear at a local New York City ball. As the family strut the floor in their flamboyant regalia, ruffled collars and jewel-dripped cloaks they’re soon arrested just as they receive their scores. According to Ryan, the scene is based on stories within the culture of ball entrants actually robbing a museum. The miscreants reportedly avoided charges because the queerphobic museum directors didn’t want to be associated with the news their security system was outsmarted by trans women and gay men.
Angel’s icicle tiara moment, season 1 episode 3
Angel, played by Indya, is one of the most lovable characters on the show. She’s sweet-natured and has big fashion dreams. Competing in the face ballroom category, Angel comes out with a veil across her face before revealing an icicle tiara and intricately webbed white gown as she blows fake snow at her adoring audience. Of course she receives tens across the board from the judges. We live!
Bianca’s 80s vibe, season 1 episode 3
Throughout the show other characters tend to make fun of Bianca’s fashion choices. She doesn’t have the editorial style of Angel or the glamazon aura of Elektra, but the 80s nostalgia of Bianca’s wardrobe is kind of a vibe on the stunningly talented MJ Rodriguez. From the acid wash co-ords and the off-the-shoulder leather jackets to this cute all-red ensemble of a chunky turtle-neck, accented bomber jacket, matching skirt and gold jewellery. The perfect 80s momager vibes to go and talk to Damian’s ball culture-disapproving dance teacher. Kris Jenner could never.
Elektra does Marie Antoinette, season 2 episode 1
New Haus of Wintour mother Elektra spends all her time crafting this Marie Antoinette fantasy for the ball; complete with puffy pink sleeves, lacy gold embellishment, sheer stockings and a giant cage adorned with miniature carousel horses that move just like the fairground ride. She iconically eats some cake before being fake-beheaded on a guillotine. Simply, iconic. The scene is based on the winning looks of the House of Xtravaganza in a 1991 Audrey Hepburn-inspired ‘Think Pink’ ball. Although in the scene Elektra undoubtedly looks stunning, her focus on aesthetics and winning the ball over supporting her community in the midst of the AIDS crisis inevitably leaves her friends feeling hurt and betrayed.
Angel’s model moment, season 2 episode 2
In season 2 we watch Angel live out her editorial dreams as a fashion model. The hot pink tulle shirt and satin gloves she wears with a metallic gold jumpsuit and bold 80s makeup feel like a tribute to the fluffy pink coat and frilly magenta tops Angel wore whilst walking the piers at the beginning of season 1. Her dreams from back then finally being realised. Angel’s story is inspired by that of real life model Tracey “Africa” Norman, who rose to supermodel heights in the 70s after being photographed by Irving Penn, before being outed as trans and losing all her work in the US. Luckily, Tracey was eventually able to find work overseas in Paris with Balenciaga and continues to be a major force within fashion to this day.
Elektra’s dominatrix look, season 2 episode 3
Elektra’s dominatrix era — with its leather two-pieces, thigh high boots and the most luxurious coats you ever did see — is challenged when one of her clients overdoses whilst she’s out of the room and then suffocates in his bondage mask. Calling on her chosen family to help and worried that the police will instantly lay blame of the death on her, the Haus hide the body in Elektra’s wardrobe. The story is based on that of Paris is Burning star Dorian Corey who’s (believed to be abusive) partner’s body was found amongst her belongings after her own death.
Candy’s ode to “Vogue”, season 2 episode 4
Giddy off the sudden mainstream popularity of voguing in the wake of Madonna’s 1990 song and her groundbreaking Blonde Ambition Tour, which saw legends from the ballroom scene take to the stage, the trans and queer community were excited to finally feel seen in the outside world. This is represented in Candy, played by American Horror Story star Angelica Ross, who steps out onto the ballroom floor in Madonna’s now iconic Jean-Paul Gaultier cone-shaped bustier, on top of a pair of pinstripe suit trousers and a matching blazer on top. Though the judges and emcee Pray Tell may have harshly judged this look, the oft underrated Candy dances around the room and enjoys the moment, reminding us that she is just as much of a star as the “Vogue” singer herself.
Ricky making the case for crop tops, season 2 episode 7
Throughout seasons one and two, Heartthrob Ricky makes us melt in his array of crop tops that show off his washboard abs. The crop top was actually a common garment for men in the 80s and 90s — as seen on Johnny Depp and Will Smith — until it’s association with the queer community led to it being shunned by the ever fragile cis-het masculinity.
Pray Tell in Diana Ross drag, season 2 episode 10
Stepping away from the emcee mic Pray Tell lives his best life as he dons some Diana Ross drag with larger-than-life hair, a sparkly gown with a sultry risque slit and a colourful, tropical feathery throw. His friends from across the ballroom culture come out to support his debut on the floor in a scene that epitomises all the reasons why we love Pose: fabulous fashion, loving relationships, real life issues and a queer pop soundtrack, all whilst showcasing the beauty of queer and trans culture and messing with the cis-tem.