What FX's Pose Taught me About Personal Style
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
FX's Pose is an unapologetic glimpse into New York City's proud, loud, and queer ballroom scene. A stylish show that you've got to see for yourself.
ALERT: Possible minor plot spoilers.
Ryan Murphy's groundbreaking series is my latest TV crush.
The show is both a thrilling throwback to 80s and 90s pop culture, and an eye-opening glimpse into pressing social issues of the time. It tackles the HIV/Aids epidemic, trans rights, and drug use - a blow which is softened by some great style moments and a party-worthy soundtrack.
The family you choose - The house of Evangelista.
Season one begins in 1987 New York. It follows an alternative family unit known as the House of Evangelista. Here, surrogate mum Blanca takes in four members of the LGBTQ community who have been rejected by their biological families. Blanca, played by MJ Rodriguez, becomes a dedicated house mother for her adopted children.
Her children include Jamaal Swain as aspiring dancer Damon, Indya Moore as transgender sex worker Angel, Dyllon Burnside as the flirtatious and confident Ricky, and Bismark Curiel as street-smart drug dealer Lil' Papi.
Their personalities may be bold but, at their best, the house members combine into one unstoppable family unit.
To add to this already spectacular cast, Dominique Jackson plays Elektra. The mother of the formidable House of Abundance. Her leadership is fierce and her tactics are ruthless, but you can always expect the greatest outfits from her. Every single time.
You've got style connoisseur Billy Porter as the ballroom MC Pray Tell. A character who possesses a sharp tongue and a clever wit. Then you have the duo featuring Angelica Ross as the headstrong Candy and Hailie Sahar as the overshadowed Lulu. These two later become a pair of sassy mothers in their own right.
What makes this cast extra special is its authenticity. Pose boasts the largest reoccurring cast of Trans and LGBTQ actors for a scripted series in TV history!
The amazing opening scene from Pose's first season. I was sold from the very moment I watched the sequence unravel. Surely it'll capture your attention too.
NYC's Ballroom Culture - A Quick 101.
A major feature of Pose is ballroom culture. An underground community which really did exist in 20th Century New York City.
The various houses in NYC - much like Blanca's and Elektra's in the show - would participate in competitions known as balls; a movement made by, and for, black and Latino LGBTQ Americans.
It was a community that came alive at night. Where queer identities could express their beautiful selves on the stage or the runway without fear of homophobic or racial discrimination.
The most fabulous members of the community would compete in specific categories to win trophies for their house. These might involve vouging dance-offs, drag queen or king runways, and even 'realness' runways where contestants had to pass as another gender identity different from their own.
They really understood that when you've got the chance to dress up and show yourself off, you've got to really go for it.
The earliest balls recorded took place at Harlem's Hamilton Lodge from 1869. The events became a safe space for gay men to meet, whilst some to chose express themselves through drag. Judging from the judgemental tone coming from article, no wonder these balls were kept low-key.
The modern reinvention of ballroom culture is accredited to Crystal LaBeija. With the help of fellow drag queen Lottie, she established the alternative family unit under the legendary House of LaBeija. They also built new balls primarily for black, Latino, and queer members of the community. This was in response to years of racial prejudice at the predominantly white balls of New York City.
Always Having a Moment - The Onscreen Style of Pose.
The costume team must have had a blast putting together outfits for the show. With the rich cultural history of ball culture and the popular fashion styles of the 80s and 90s, there is a ton of inspiration to take from.
When sourcing the clothing, Lou Eyrich and Analucia McGorty searched through secondhand and vintage stores to find the perfect pieces.
As many of the IRL ballroom families weren't lucky in the money department, they had to get thrifty and re-purpose the clothing they already had. The costume designers kept to this resourceful ethos and sourced pieces in a similar vein.
The fashion of pose is all about drama and theatricality.
It was the chance for a queer person of colour to make a loud statement. Away from the prejudice they faced in the outside world.
Ballroom was their way of being validated as a person.
A powerful feeling to embrace. A life changing one at that.
Here are a few of Pose's style highlights which encapsulate this message of self-empowerment:
Season 1, Episode 1 - If you're going to steal historical clothing from a museum, it'd better be worth it! That's definitely the case after looking at these photos of ballroom royalty. Angel was a standout, tiptoeing across the runway as a beauty in white. Elektra raised the bar too. A queen in black taking back what is rightfully hers.
Season 1, Episode 2 - For the legendary runway category, Blanca and Elektra dived into an battle. It was mother against mother. I do love the extra take on ruffles from Elektra, but Blanca's hot pink feathers and statement hat just about takes the trophy for me.
Season 1, Episode 3 - For the annual Christmas ball, Angel transformed into an ice princess. A look to remember. Shockingly cold and beautiful.
Season 1, Episode 4 - Despite being body shamed for not 'suiting' the category for the most 'real' looking body, the confident Candy took part anyway. Who cares what the judges think, right? I mean, the pink tassels and faux fur jacket makes her a winner in my book.
Season 1, Episode 5 - Lulu from the House of Ferocity really brought fire to the ballroom. Her working girl chic outfit is something I want to try out for myself.
Season 1, Episode 7 - Not much to say here, but isn't the 80s leisurewear throwback just adorable? I want to look that cute when I'm practising my voguing.
Season 1, Episode 8 - Now this was the dress of season 1. Just look at it. I know that Elektra can be a serious bitch, yet i'd always let her off the hook for having the best ensembles. It's a 10, 10, 10, 10, and a 10 from me.
Season 1, Episode 8 - Pray Tell is so ready to commentate by the looks of his top hat. Let the ballroom roasting begin!
Season 2, Episode 1 - The beautiful Angel begins her modelling career in this showstopping 'ooh look i'm on top of a roof' look.
Season 2, Episode 1 - It's a high fashion in the french revolution category. That's right. Of course Elektra Abundance would enter the ballroom as Marie Antoinette.
Season 2, Episode 2 - Going to enter a feathers in high fashion category? Simply arise from a giant clam shell dressed as Venus. The metallic takes this look to another level.
Season 2, Episode 6 - Some more metallic from Pray Tell whose looking like one funky black version of Fred Astaire.
Season 2, Episode 9 - It's vacation time! All four of these ladies slay their beach style. From Candy's colour blocking bikini to Elektra's powder pink one-piece, they are the queens of the summer time.
Season 2, Episode 10 - Blanca is giving us a powerful pinup vibes in this flaming red jumpsuit. I cannot get over the hair either. Her best look from the two seasons.
So, What did you learn from Pose?
Fashion is a form of empowerment.
Embracing your personal style is to stand up for yourself when words fail.
Though clothing does not represent you entirely, it can give you the confidence to take ownership of your body, your desires, and your emotions.
The LGBTQ+ community from Pose use clothing to do just that.
They take the little power they have and transform it into a vibrant safe space to celebrate their identities. They strut in the finest outfits and, by doing so, show how they're much stronger than the ignorance and prejudice they face in their daily lives.
If they can find the confidence to wear the craziest pieces, everyone can. It's up to you to sell it.