Drag on a dime
Turns out, looking fabulous on a budget is a lot of work

Drag on a dime
Doug Gonzalez - 08/17/2023

“I like your outfit, where did you get it?” is a question I sometimes hear after I’ve completed a drag show. “This ‘ol thing!?” I reply, playfully acknowledging their compliment but still resisting the urge to give a detailed report on how I put it together.

Doing drag in a small town like Durango can be difficult. Voted by USA Today in the 1990s as the worst-dressed city in America, Durango has a lineage of providing us with a limited set of options for clothing. And although you may not do drag yourself, I thought that sharing my process for shopping and selecting my outfits may act as a source of style inspiration for you.

If you’re anything like me, you love the thrill of a good find. Whether that’s through thrifting, garage sales, small, local stores or Facebook Marketplace, they all can provide a shot of dopamine that feels both satisfying and safe – unless you’re my wallet.

Before you start shopping, I feel it’s necessary to do a bit of research to guide your eyes. What time period does this piece come from? Are there certain colors or shapes that you’d like to follow? This allows you to focus on items that you may otherwise be too overwhelmed to notice. I’ve never read the 2006 self-help book “The Secret,” but I also feel like visualizing these items helps manifest them into your life. I once found a celadon-colored jumpsuit with gold sequins for a disco number I had planned later that night. Was it luck or destiny? You be the judge.

One of the most important facets to creating an elevated look is finding unique quality pieces. Whether you’re doing drag on a dime or shopping with a large budget, these pieces are best found inside small local or secondhand stores. In said stores, I’ve been lucky enough to find vintage sequined tops, structured blazers and fabulous costume jewelry. When I travel to large cities, I try to visit their local stores and thrifts and not the big box retailers. Since most retailers carry items online and in-store, you can purchase their items wherever you are and at any time of day. But local stores are limited in their hours and location, providing you with access to a particular selection that can only be found at that store. This sort of exclusivity is what I find both exciting and necessary to find these signature pieces. There is the chance that you’ll need to alter the item to fit properly, but hand-stitching and a simple sewing machine can take a piece from unusable to perfect.

The next option we have in Durango is the mall located at 800 S. Camino del Rio. Home to discount fashion retailers T.J. Maxx and Ross, I’m a frequent guest of both. Due to a better selection of dresses and men’s wear at Ross, I find myself buying more clothing from there than T.J. Maxx. Like the pieces picked up at thrifting stores, you may need to tailor these items to fit properly. However, if you’re looking for home goods and beauty supplies, T.J. Maxx fits the bill. Even when Bed Bath & Beyond was open, the discounts provided with their coupons still couldn’t match the prices at T.J. Maxx. No, I’m not sponsored by either company to provide these positive reviews, but I’m happy to start talks if anyone has connections. 

My last option for thrifty style in Durango is to order online. However, these options can be incredibly inconsistent. Whether I’m shopping for drag or my daily wear, I find I need to return the majority of what I purchase. The clothes from these websites usually have wonky seams and are made from materials that feel cheaper than anticipated. As a result, I’m now on a first name basis with certain UPS store associates.

I don’t include this fact because I’m proud of returning items. I want to acknowledge that finding the right items can be a marathon, which often includes this tedious task. I also struggle that this isn’t a very climate conscious option, and I try to keep what I order online to a minimum. However, if there is a store in Durango that carries a pair of thigh high boots in a women’s size 12 or synthetic wigs in various shades of blonde, let me know so I can start visiting them!

Like many other forms of self-expression, the way we style ourselves can convey our identities, beliefs and ideas. And if you know where to look, you can find all the tools necessary to express yourself – even in the least fashion conscious city in America.

– Douglas Gonzalez

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