Clothing has the power to create conversation.
Fashion has played a key role in how people express themselves for centuries and Pride fashion is no different. Charm, diversity and comfort in one’s own skin are all contributing factors to the evolution of queer fashion and expressionism during Pride festivals, be it shorts and a crop top, a flowing rainbow dress or a fitted suit.
Glamor and opulence such as avant-garde, metallics and flowing dresses – often associated with femininity – are still very much present at Pride festivals, said Michael Weston, president of the Indiana Fashion Foundation.
Weston said a significant part of Pride’s origins dates back to the Stonewall Inn and it was one of the first gay bars in the late 1960s, which served as a safe space where people could dress as they wanted.
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“Expressionism in general – how we show ourselves, how we are seen – makes a big difference in how people perceive us,” Weston said. “From there, the basis of Pride has been the ability to express oneself, and fashion and style are so closely linked to that. People who dress up in disguise or dress in an androgynous way, things like that [are] it’s just part of the conversation about what Pride is also about.
Blair St. Clair, The star of Indianapolis’ RuPaul’s Drag Race recently claimed 20 years ago that pride was something many people in the city did not want to recognize. St. Clair, also known as Drew Bryson, said many people have dressed boldly and brightly, not only to show pride in who they are, but also to bring more attention, awareness and acceptance to the LGBTQ + community.
“At one point, it was about putting on a show, making a statement, making sure that something was not only heard but also seen,” said St. Clair. “Today it has evolved a little bit because pride and queer people have been widely accepted, much more than they ever were 20 years ago.”
A key player in this shift is the fashion industry itself, which Weston said was highly regarded in terms of dictating what was in fashion at any given time. However, with the emergence of social media and the increase in body positivity and diversity, this is no longer the case.
“I think what happened is that people have come even closer to accurately expressing who they are because the rules are being moved,” Weston said. “I think that’s the thing I love about Pride, that it’s a safe space where you are simply liberated to be exactly who you are, and are able to express yourself in the most accurate and authentic way. “
For many, Pride isn’t just a safe place to express themselves, it’s also a safe place to explore and try new things, said Ben Asaykwee, an Indianapolis-based writer and performer, in an email to IndyStar.
“Some of us will be dressed in the way we are most comfortable and how we feel it truly represents us, and others will be exalted just to celebrate freedom and love,” they said.
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Although the fashion and clothing styles seen at Pride festivals today tend to focus more on being proud of who you are, St. Clair said she feels much of fashion still resembles things worn in years past.
Because another large part of Pride originated in the underground spaces, many people still had to hide who they were, St. Clair said. Most people who didn’t present themselves as women didn’t feel comfortable going to the store to buy a dress to wear at underground nightclubs or Pride Festivals, she said.
“They weren’t using the best of the best makeup products, they weren’t using the craziest clothing,” she said. “They were putting together things that they could simply find and buy safely in public.”
St. Clair described early Pride fashion as a “hodgepodge” of things found in other people’s closets and tricks handed down from mothers, sisters and friends – the brighter, more colorful and shinier, the better.
This is still true today, only in the updated versions, as St. Clair stated, the acceptance and access to better makeup and clothing has only increased over the years.
In addition to traditional attire that pays homage to Pride of yesteryear, another thing you might notice every June is the increase in diversity in clothing and fashion at Pride, as well as a lack of clothing, Weston said.
“I think people have gotten closer to an individualistic style,” he said. “I’ve seen much more revealing outfits because I think the more people have felt comfortable being who they are and the more society has progressed, I think people have felt more comfortable saying ‘Hey, you know, this is me, this is how my body is “.
There are still plenty of opportunities for people to break out of the box regarding what would normally be worn in a public setting, Asaykwee said in an email to IndyStar. However, they said that many members of the LGBTQ + community now have families of their own and most people respect that.
“Over the past 10 years, things have definitely gotten a little more family friendly,” they said. “Also, the world has changed and now there are other possibilities to express oneself, so the pressure is not that aggravated.”
While the climate in Indiana continues to change for LBGTQ communities, local acceptance in Indiana could leave room for hope. A week before IndyPride, St. Clair said she attended Terre Haute’s first ever Pride on June 4th and was pleasantly surprised by the turnout of the event.
“You see people from all different walks of life attending Pride,” she said. “It’s not just for queer people from queer people. I think a lot of people assume that Pride is for gay individuals to celebrate themselves, and what it is is that we are all celebrating, for allowing us to live our lives and celebrating ourselves for who we are in a safe space. “
One thing is guaranteed to be at Pride: rainbows.
“It sure runs the spectrum, but you’ll definitely see rainbow-themed color palettes scattered far and wide, from rainbow speedos to rainbow eyeshadow,” Asaykwee said. “It will be a wonderfully vibrant and colorful day to truly represent those it celebrates.”
Contact IndyStar reporter Chloe McGowan at 740-739-1090 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @chloe_mcgowanxx.