Identity

Come Thru: Billy Porter's Elegant Oscar Dress Was Political Art

"This look was interesting because it’s not drag. I’m not a drag queen, I’m a man in a dress."

by Danielle Kwateng-Clark
Feb 25 2019, 4:51pm

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

For Pose actor Billy Porter, the Oscars was a moment to send the world a message: Masculinity cannot be defined by clothing. On the red carpet, Porter wore a tailored Christian Siriano tuxedo jacket with a full-skirted strapless velvet gown and Rick Owens platform boots. In an op-ed for Vogue, he describes the look as his way of making a political statement.

"My goal is to be a walking piece of political art every time I show up," he says about the ensemble. "To challenge expectations. What is masculinity? What does that mean? Women show up every day in pants, but the minute a man wears a dress, the seas part."

Adding, "This industry masquerades itself as inclusive, but actors are afraid to play, because if they show up as something outside of the status quo, they might be received as feminine, and, as a result, they won’t get that masculine job, that superhero job. And that’s the truth. I’ve been confronted with that."

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Many believe Porter's look was partially inspired by Hector Xtravaganza, a legendary figure in the ballroom scene for over 40 years, who passed away last December. Akin to Porter's outfit, Xtravaganza once famously wore a tuxedo with a removable skirt during a competition.

Homage or not, Porter's presence was noticed and he contends that he felt amazing while doing his job as a red carpet host.

"My aunt Dorothy used to always say, 'Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.' That’s why I look good every time I leave the house," he tells Vogue. "I want to run shit."