Dress & Escapism: Performance of Identity through Drag and Burlesque Costume


Dress & Escapism: Performance of Identity Through Drag and Burlesque Costume explores the relationship between performance costume and identity within the highly emotive art forms of drag and burlesque.

The exhibition showcases dramatic examples of social and political art from the stages and clubs of Edmonton by individual performers (Holly Von Sinn, Claudia Hartout, Rusty Strutz and Darrin Hagen), performance companies (Guys in Disguise and Send in the Girls Burlesque) and film (Trevor Anderson Films).


Virtual tour


To move through the exhibition, click the arrows that appear on the floor of the gallery. To turn in the space, click and drag using your mouse. Click on the ‘i’ icons to read the labels and text panels in the exhibition.


This exhibition invites visitors to look closely at costumes typically only seen at a distance in performance. A closer view brings details into focus that may otherwise get overlooked. Tears, stains and missing and loose sequins are all part of a costume’s life, and these imperfections are evidence of the rigours that these artists not only put their costumes through, but also their bodies. Viewed up close, the construction and designs of these costumes also come into focus. The under structures used to shape and pad out a drag silhouette are seldom seen, but are fundamental to the illusion of drag. Similarly, the featured burlesque costumes make visible the remarkable sturdiness and design of their rapid release closures—they must remain fixed in place until the artist chooses to release them, allowing the artists to tease their way out of their costume with ease.

While the exhibition highlights how construction details and wear uniquely illustrate the life of the featured costumes, the aesthetic artistry of the garments is its primary focus. Each costume tells a story unique to the persona of the artist who wore it.

As part of an exhibition series exploring the communicative power of clothing through different mediums of dress, Performance of Identity Through Drag and Burlesque Costume demonstrates the expression of self through costume. As a whole, the series aims to explore what can be learned from clothing and how that knowledge can be applied through different aspects of dress, history and dress interpretation. The foci of Part 1 centered on “[t]he aesthetic and embodied changes in late eighteenth-century fashion” through the exhibition of historical artifacts and reconstructed garments of that time.1 While seemingly unrelated to the drag and burlesque foci of Part 2, they both seek to explore the “sartorial expressions” of each genre “and the potential effects on [their respective] audience.”2

Part 1 can be visited virtually on the University of Alberta Anne Lambert Clothing and Textiles Collection website.

Keep an eye on the Events section of the MAG website to learn more about virtual public programming published soon.


View Part 1


Curator: Josée Chartrand

Part 2 of the Dress Research Exhibition Series Curators: Dr. Anne Bissonnette, Josée Chartrand and Katelin Karbonik

1 Anne Lambert Clothing and Textiles Collection “Dress & Escapism: The Dress Research Exhibition Series” University of Alberta, June 30, 2020.

2 Ibid.


* Exhibition dates contingent on public health/university guidelines.


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John and Maggie Mitchell Art Gallery