Welcome to Best Dressed, an Eater series where diners show and tell what they’re wearing out to eat, from the small details to the splashy pieces — and how they approached getting dressed for each spot’s specific scene. Installments answer the question, how do we dress to go out these days?
Want to see what diners are wearing in London, Paris, Philly, and Brooklyn? See all of our Best Dressed series here.
The Place: Semi-Tropic
Location: LA’s Echo Park neighborhood
Concept: Cocktails and small bites
Menu Highlights: Roasted beet hummus with jalapeños, garlic, and tahini; patatas bravas with a chipotle garlic aioli; and Daddy’s Ruin, made with mezcal, rye, vermouth, Bénédictine, chocolate, and grapefruit
As drag shows and brunches come under attack throughout the country, the LA scene thrives. Among dozens of regular shows is the monthly “¡REVANCHA! a MAD drag king show” at Semi-Tropic, a bar in Los Angeles’s Echo Park neighborhood. The bar is also the basis for Dana’s bar on The L Word: Generation Q and a fitting home for other queer events, including monthly party Dana’s Night.
On the national drag scene, the spotlight is often on queens performing a high-femme version — impeccable hair and makeup, high couture, and higher stilettos. At ¡REVANCHA!, drag artists play with gender in a way that showcases masculinity, femininity, and the very queering of gender itself. They often create their own outfits from scratch or thrift things, refashioning the products of a consumer society that doesn’t necessarily fit all or even most bodies into something that works for the maker. The result is a show that is exuberant, subversive, communal, and expansive — imparting that there is no right way to perform, to have a body, or to commune with a crowd. Still, many of the ¡REVANCHA! kings mention how much harder it is for them to get booked than some of their queen counterparts, and how much less they will likely be paid.
Several LA performers and shows highlight (and compensate) drag kings and nonbinary drag artists. In addition to ¡REVANCHA!, there are events held by Them Fatale Drag Kings, Fox and Tim Productions, and Madamn; brunches organized by Cherry Bomb and Dapper Puss Entertainment; productions from Casa Cuchi; and bingo nights from a king-queen duo. These are among several other queer organizers and independent drag artists who play with the masculine and the feminine; the Being Queer in LA Instagram highlights even more upcoming events.
At ¡REVANCHA!, run by artists Vik Floyd and Skirt Cocaine, themes change monthly. May’s focus was a Mother’s Day theme, Mommie Dearest. Performers made a meal of it, blurring mainstream assumptions about gender, and drag, into a jaw-dropping celebration of queerness itself. Patrons ate it up — and were no less decked out.
Klitus Black (he/him), 38, “comedienne” and truck driver, Taurus
Eater: How did you decide what you’re wearing tonight?
Klitus: It was the only thing that was clean. That’s about it. That’s all that happened there.
Good decision-making process. Could you describe a few elements of what you’re wearing?
I’m a country boy. I’m from Texas. So you know tight jeans is my religion. And yeah, whatever makes the biscuits look good. Because I know you ladies look.
Speaking of religion, can you tell me about your belt?
Well, I grew up in the South, so I don’t see what’s wrong with our flags. It’s an antique, you know, I’m not gonna throw it away like a lot of people even though I live in California. It’s just how I roll.
And then can you tell me about your hat and the — is it a bolo?
Like I said, this is a country outfit. This just screams I’m not from LA.
You’re from the state of Texas.
Yes. Well. Depends on who you ask. Because I got warrants.
How has your style evolved over the years? Is dressing up to eat out important to you?
No, I’m just lucky I can afford to eat out. Let’s be real. I don’t care what the outfit is. As long as it’s clean, you know? I feel like I’m getting interviewed for GQ. This is pretty nice. I’ve never been in a magazine.
Do you feel underdressed, overdressed, or just right tonight?
Oh, man. Well, I definitely overdressed because I’m trying to go home with somebody tonight. But you know what? I look great.
You do look great. I can attest to that. Is there any particular item you’re wearing that you love and would want to call out?
I can’t go anywhere without my hat. It’s a Saddleback. I had to ride a bull just to get it.
Papi Culo (they/elle/Papi), 29, performer, Pisces
Eater: What’s your industry?
Papi: Papi’s industry is to make sure you feel good and loved, that’s all. Papi is about endearment and taking care of you.
How did you decide what to wear tonight?
I like to tell a story. I like to gender-bend. As you can see, we got a body. But we also got very masc features and it’s about giving sexy but a little soft, and just a good time all around. It’s a face approach for tonight. This is look one, but look two is a banger, more about the gender-bending. And saying something.
What is something that you wear that makes you feel like you?
I love me a gold chain. I got my little Pisces chain. I also got a couple other different chains depending on what we’re trying to give that night.
Could you give us a tour of the rest of what you’re wearing?
We channeling the ’90s, 2000s, Usher style. This is very much inspired by him. We got the baggy jeans, but they still fit very nice. You can see my little booty still. It’s about serving that culo fantasy for sure. And it’s about layers. You know, there’s gonna be some reveals.
How has your style evolved over the years?
I’m putting my looks together to make a statement. There’s not like people that look like me, necessarily. The gender-bending, the gender fluidity. Being trans and nonbinary is something I have a lot of fun with in how I present. You never know what you’re gonna get. And I feel like when people look at me, they’re confused, but they’re also into it.
Skirt Cocaine (he/they), 32, drag performer, Aquarius
Eater: How did you decide what you would wear tonight?
Skirt: We have a bit of a Virgin Mother/Courtney Love thing going on. If you listen to Hole and Courtney Love’s music, there’s a lot of motherhood motifs. There’s also a lot of religious motifs, which I did for a show last week. I made this shirt for that and I performed a Courtney Love song. And tonight I was like, “I’m going to perform two more Courtney Love songs.” And I decided this shirt would go the best but I wanted to make it different. So I scrounged around in my closet and I found this and experimented a bit. I knew I wanted to wear this curly blonde wig because it’s very Courtney-esque, but have still my Kurt Cobain-esque makeup.
How has your style evolved over the years?
My name is a pun on Kurt Cobain. Skirt Cocaine, Kurt Cobain. Don’t worry if you didn’t get it at first. But I’m from Olympia, Washington. I used to be really into riot girl and grunge, so when I started drag I thought my drag was going to be very dad rock, very grunge, very rock-pop heavy. But as anyone can tell you, when they start drag, they have a plan. They have a character in mind. But then as you do more performances, your style naturally evolves. Pretty soon into my drag career, I was doing Rococo looks and Victorian looks and period-piece type looks, because that’s another one of my interests. And that suddenly has evolved a K-pop look, which is a glossy masculinity, a very, very, very cute manicured look.
What’s one thing that you wear that helps you feel like you?
My mustache. Every time I try to do a clean-shaven look, I’m like, “I can’t. It’s not working.” And then as soon as I put on facial hair, I’m like, “Oh, thank God. It’s all coming together now.”
Emily (they/them), 28, produce industry and tattoo apprentice, Pisces
Eater: How did you decide on what you’re wearing tonight?
Emily: I wanted to just show a little skin. So I’m wearing a semi-see-through white tank top. I wanted a little cowboy vibe. I have some little leather assless chaps on, a belt buckle that says, “I like cold beer and hot women.” And black jeans. I have a little black velvet vest and a kind of cropped semiformal jacket. And some black cowboy boots. I thrifted the buckle and boots, and I got the vest and the jacket from Barcelona. The assless chaps I think I got online.
And I just saw the cowboy boot earrings, too?
I think this is from Studs. And I have another dangly earring from Etsy.
Were you generally aware of what people would be wearing tonight when you chose your outfit?
No. I had no fucking idea what the vibe was gonna be like. I just knew it was gonna be queer. So I was like, “Well, it’d be fine if my nipples are out. It’s just titties. We’re just girls.”
Kaith (they/them), 27, writer/director
Eater: What are you wearing today?
Kaith: I’m wearing embroidered corduroy pants from Brazil from a brand called Farm Rio. They plant a tree in the Amazon for every purchase you make. I don’t know where my boots are from, but they’re red vinyl, knee-high platform boots. I’m wearing my dad’s purple and blue cashmere sweater. And then this thrifted pink men’s blazer and my cute little camera bag.
How did you decide what you would wear today?
I am perpetually insecure about what I’m wearing. So I actually decided to wear these pants with the WGA writer’s strike shirt underneath this sweater, because it started getting cold. I’m not really a layering gal, I’m a put-it-on-and-go person, but I’ve been feeling the layers lately, so I thought this would look good with a blazer. I have a bunch of pictures of thrift store fashion on my mirror, and I was like, “Oh, this kind of looks like that.”
What is something you like to wear that makes you feel like you?
Anything with either a deep V because I have a very big tattoo, or turtlenecks. Very opposite, but they make my chest look more neutral and I like that. They’re different ways of not accentuating your chest area because they’re accentuating your neck. I think I like to wear bright colors because I’m Desi and I grew up with bright clashing colors and complementary colors. And you just don’t see that in Western fashion very often. And I’m bored of minimalism, so I have been dressing a little maximalist — but Desi maximalist, not Euro.
What is your sign?
I’m a Sagittarius sun, a Pisces moon, and a Capricorn rising, and those are the only three signs on my entire chart. So I’m very, very, very emotional and also very ambitious.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I hope to wear this on the red carpet someday.
MidKnight Desiers (they/them), 28, caregiver, Virgo
Eater: What’s one thing you’re wearing that makes you feel like you?
MidKnight: My wig. I got a commission from a wig maker in London — Leedham Wigs. They made the sideburns, too. They came together in a set.
How long have you been performing?
Starting to lose track. Seven years on and off now.
How has your style evolved over the years?
I was trying to find my style. But then I realized I’m pretty good with anime and cosplay, so I’m kind of sticking with that. But over the years, I tried to be a pageant queen. It didn’t work out.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about what you’re wearing that I haven’t thought to ask about?
These pants make my butt look gorgeous.
Olivia (she/her), 22, artist, Sagittarius; Tiffany (she/her), 22, illustrator, Sagittarius
Eater: What are you wearing?
Olivia: I’m wearing a dress. I forgot where I got it, but it has lace on my sleeves and I am wearing some boots from Dolls Kill that I bought when I was in high school. I’m wearing fishnets, a scarf, a choker.
Tiffany: I’m wearing a crop top and a skirt with gems on them. I got them from a clothing swap that I did last week. I’m wearing a generic long-sleeve just to be warm. And then these platform heels that I got from the thrift store across the street from where I work.
Can you tell me how you both decided to wear what you’re wearing today?
Olivia: I love to dress up at a lot of occasions in general, even when just hanging out with friends. I love a lot of alt fashion and any gothic stuff.
Tiffany: Same for me. I love dressing up for any occasion really. Sometimes I dress more feminine or more masculine — but in events like these I guess I feel safer dressing more feminine. At some events, if you dress a certain way you’ll get noticed, get unwanted attention. But I feel like this community, this space is a safe place where I can wear what I want to wear.
Could you tell me a little bit more about everything happening from the neck up?
Tiffany: Oh, the horns? I wanted to go all out. And I’ve always had these horns and needed an excuse to wear them.
Twinka Masala (he/they), 29, drag king, Scorpio
Eater: Tell me about your industry. What industry are you in?
Twinka: Oh my god, my industry is drag. I’m a drag king. Although I also do a lot of queen-esque things. I started off very masculine. I didn’t do any makeup, hair, wigs. I was like, “I want to look like a Punjabi boy. But I think that’s kind of evolved.”
Tell me more about how your style has evolved.
I started drag in 2020. I feel like everybody at that time was starting things that they’ve always wanted to do. Everyone was like, “Oh, I’m going to become a baker or crochet.” I was like, “I want to impersonate men.” So I did that. And it was interesting, because I did a lot of virtual shows in the beginning, because we weren’t in public, or in person. So it was cool to collaborate with different drag artists all over the world, like people in Latin America, overseas, U.K., you’re all doing these Zoom calls. So my initial drag experience was so different than it is now because now I’m obviously in person.
But I started performing in person last year doing shows in the central coast of California and then also in LA. And it’s been great. I definitely started off doing a lot more male makeup, wardrobe, songs. I was like, “I don’t do anything feminine.” And then I was like, “Okay, actually, I’m Twinka. I have a feminine persona.” It’s definitely been a combination of feminine, masculine, in between. Very gender-bendy is how I describe my drag.
Tell me about what you’re wearing today.
I wanted to pay homage to my favorite mom, Rihanna. She’s my mom. She’s all of ours. So I started off [with] a very sporty, football, masculine Super Bowl Sunday fit: Lil Nas X, more masculine Bollywood songs. And then I went into Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” with the reveal: all red and high latex stiletto platform boots. I have my pregnant belly. It’s not real, don’t worry. And then I have kind of the same thing she did with a corset bralette. She had braids in, but I want to do more of a paranda thing. It’s so fun to whip around. It’s like a traditional Punjabi braid. And usually they have gems on the end of it. I did that. I have a little mustache on, a beard. Gems.
What’s one thing you wear that makes you feel like you?
The braids, the hair reveals. I do a lot of masculine, like, a turban into a braid. I think that’s my signature gender-bendy reveal.
What’s your sign?
What do you think it is?
It’s not an earth sign. I wouldn’t guess water sign, but I could be wrong.
I’m a quadruple Scorpio, unfortunately. And I have a Cancer moon. Don’t worry, I am in therapy. But my rising sign is fire.
Travis (any pronouns), 20-something, hairdresser, Aries; Casey (he/him), 26, photographer and filmmaker, Virgo
Eater: Tell me what you’re wearing today.
Travis: I’m wearing boots that my mom got me from probably Macy’s. I’m wearing pants that I think I got at Pac Sun, a shirt I stole from my fiance Casey, right out of his closet. I don’t know where he got it. And then this hat is off of Melrose because I took a break or I just ran away from my job and I grabbed this cowboy hat.
Casey: I’m wearing white shoes because all of the gay people need white shoes is what I found out. I’m wearing baggy jeans so I don’t seem like I’m a millennial. And then also, I’m wearing this button-up shirt that I probably got at Crossroads thrift shop.
How did you choose what to wear today?
Travis: I wore this because I wore this last night and everybody was like, “Wow, you look really hot.” So then I wore it again.
Casey: Outfit repeater.
Casey: [Laughs.] I wore this because it was probably my last day of laundry. And so that’s what motivated me.
What’s one thing you wear that makes you feel like you?
Travis: Probably a nice crop top.
Casey: I like to wear a sweater because it just feels really cozy. Any day where I feel a little cozier is nicer.
Tiffany (she/her), 28, attorney, “Sagittarius with a Virgo rising, Scorpio moon;” Mauro (they/them), 30, drag artist, “Gemini with a Capricorn rising and Aquarius moon”
Eater: Can you each give me a tour of what you’re wearing?
Tiffany: I’m wearing black ankle boots with a silver heel and a silver D-ring on the sides. A red mini pleather high-waisted skirt. A pretty heavy-duty steel body chain, a black crop top, and a floor-length duster from the Beyoncé Ivy Park Adidas collection, covered in sequins. Just various facial piercings.
Mauro: I am rocking some Demonia boots with little flame details on the side. Standard black skinny ripped jeans with a cute little belt and then a pink oversized blazer with some safety pins I added on the little lapel as well as the pockets. My handy-dandy vaquero hat. And a couple of chains. One is a chain with a vampire mouth, another is just like your standard chain. And then my last chain is almost like a nameplate but it says, “Faggot forever.”
Is there a reason you chose what to wear tonight? Was the drag show aspect a part of your decision-making process?
Tiffany: I don’t get many opportunities to wear this jacket as an attorney because most of the time I’m in a suit. When I go out I try to wear something I would never be able to wear in the office and I based it around this skirt because Mauro really likes it. So I started there and then built out.
Mauro: I think you base a lot of your outfits on how to torture me, in my humble opinion. In the best way possible. We go out in public and she wears things that I really like on her because she knows how to play me like a fiddle.
A lot of my outfits revolve around my vaquero hat and what looks good with it. Also, Tiffany has a big influence on what I wear. If she’s got a certain color palette or style, we’ll usually bounce off each other. I literally changed my entire outfit when she walked into the living room one night because I was like, “Absolutely not. You’re not going out looking that gosh-darn scrumdiddlyumptious, and I look like a toe.”
These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Kim Newmoney is a Los Angeles-based photographer.