Out of the Closet Kansas City LGBT Designers and Performers Talk Fashion – Flatland

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Above image credit: Dressing area of Melinda Ryder full of dresses designed by Kirk Nelson (photo: Sandy Woodson)

Where can we get a fashion fix with the loss of the West 18th Street Fashion show this June? If you miss the glamour, color, humor and sparkle of this event, which has been rescheduled for October due to the ongoing pandemic, you’ve come to the right place.

Flatland recently visited with seven local designers of drag fashion, and created the following slideshows. Consider this a virtual fashion show to hold you over until the real thing happens.

Kirk Nelson has been designing and creating Melinda Ryder’s costumes for over 30 years.

Ryan Webster, aka Moltyn Decadence, won Miss Gay United States at Large in 2018. (Special thanks to Mary Schmidt for the mannequin).

  • Andy ChambersAndy Chambers is designer and co-owner of Wonderland, a vintage store and salon.
  • Alan DunhamAlan Dunham, designer, hair stylist and co-owner of Wonderland.
  • Andy Chamber's workshopAndy has been sewing since his grandmother set up the machine for him when he was 7 years old. He has made everything from wedding dresses to formal wear to the costumes he wears as part of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
  • Sister Glamarama Ding DongSister Glamarama Ding Dong, aka Andy Chambers, is one of the founders of the City of Fountains Sisters. (Photo | Conor Mathew Tierney)
  • Traditional nun costumeThe Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a nonprofit organization that began in 1971 in San Francisco.
  • AnkhChambers says when he is wearing the more traditional costume he feels more connected to the original sisters.
  • CoronetWhen there is an event to raise money, “Everyone calls the drag queens!” And as the self -professed Queer Drag Nuns they are right there with them. Helping to raise money for others is their core tenet.
  • Traditional vestmentsThese traditional vestments are worn by Guard Phil La Joque-Strapp, aka Alan Dunham, at more somber occasions like a protest.
  • Guard VestmentsGuards of the order cover their collars and capes with flash and a name tag.
  • Phil La Joque-StrappPhil La Joque-Strapp, aka Alan Dunham (photo: Buck Sommerkamp)
  • Doughnut dressSister Glamarama Ding Dong’s Doughnut Dress illustrates Chambers’ love of a concept. Dunham says: “He bought the fabric from New York, bought a doughnut purse, doughnut pillows and a bunch of rubber doughnuts.” “I do have a lot of rubber doughnuts,” Chambers confesses.
  • Doughnut Dress detailChambers calls the Sisters the sacred clowns, meaning “we celebrate our ability to laugh at gender norms and society while manifesting joy within our community.”

Andy Chambers and Alan Dunham are co-owners of Wonderland. Both were the founders of the City of Fountain Sisters, the local chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which began in 1971 with five men wearing their “Sound of Music” nun costumes. The men walked around the city entertaining everyone in their path, but later went on to work with traditional nuns helping the homeless.

Darren Huffman, aka Kissy Lee, and Peyton Westfall, aka Astro, are co-owners of Pop Culture Sculptures and both are participants in Drag Survivor KC. Although officially not a part of the business, their drag design work set them apart for the organizers of the World Balloon Convention. The four costume changes during their 30 minutes on stage sealed their reputation for creating outfits that can withstand performing.

Dick Von Dyke really enjoyed hosting and performing at Missie B’s in Kansas City but is now on his way to Minneapolis. (Special thanks to Mary Schmidt for the mannequin).

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