PRINT December 1995

Guy Trebay


It was Emerson who once grumped that “New York is a sucked orange.” I don’t guess he ever met the drag queen GIRLINA: if he had, he’d have tweaked the difference between being over and being ovah! While an observer of New York street style in 1995 might easily have concluded that the orange was, indeed, sucked, Girlina is wiser by far. She’d point briskly to the fly girl sashaying down the street with her scalp parceled off in Bantu knots; or to the demented fashion nun teetering about Soho wearing Rosa Klebb heels; or to the stud-puppy hunkering around the gym in boxer shorts big enough to slipcover a chair; or to the bikini-waxed femme boy in L’Uomo Vogue; or to anyone wearing ultra-nerdly-cool Hush Puppy shoes. And she’d say, with her inimitable snap, “If it looks good, sugar, whirl in it!” For that matter, whirl in it if it looks like hell! Girlina has an innate understanding that it never pays to settle for being chic or stylish when you can be fierce and ruling and make fashion serve. She also knows—as does every well-brought-up, young drag queen—that it rarely profits a person to settle for someone else’s idea of what’s best.


There is, on the other hand, such a thing as bad. Otherwise, why would God have invented shade? Except at raves, the bioterror invoked by “HOT ZONE” JUMP SUITS is the worst. FRIDAY WEAR on Wall Street is the worst (what’ll happen to Executive Realness?) HELLO, KITTY! is the worst. CAMOUFLAGE is the worst. CYBERSLUT TEES are the worst. SASSY RIP-OFFS are the worst. PRADA BAGS are the worst. BONDAGE, TATTOOS, PIERCING, PLEATHER, and PVC, while not the worst, could use a style nap. CHEAP FAKE FUR is the worst if not worn by actual drag queens. REAL FUR is the worst if not worn by actual quadrupeds. INTENTIONAL CRUELTY in all forms is, uh, a little overdone. To sample Joe Brainard’s paraphrase of the pinup/Buddha Betty Grable, “I think kindness is the most important thing in a person, don’t you?”

Guy Trebay is a columnist and senior editor at The Village Voice, New York. His essays have been collected in In the Place to Be.