Woman Discovers A 1986 Costume Book Thrown Away, And It Has Some Of The Weirdest DIY Costumes
Jonas Grinevičius and Ilona Baliūnaitė
Halloween’s still more than half a year away in the distant, mysterious, and far-off realm of Late 2021 (I wonder what that’s going to be like?), but some internet users are already thinking about what costumes they’ll be wearing and gathering intel early. And it’s all because of one little Twitter post that went viral.
Twitter user Alina Pleskova found a book all alone, abandoned, and lonely on the curb and decided to rescue it, bringing it back home with her. She couldn’t help but share the photos from Jane Asher’s ‘Fancy Dress’ book that has dozens of brilliant, wild, and hilariously bizarre costumes for kids and adults alike.
Check out the photos below! And, I don’t want to sound too cheesy but, ready your cheeks for smiling way, way too much. Remember to upvote your fave pics, too! And be sure to drop us a few comments telling us how you feel about the most outrageously awesome costumes featured here.
Meet the Godfather of Voguing
Willi Ninja did far more than “strike a pose”. Before Madonna was Voguing for the masses on MTV in 1990, the niche dance form was being created by black and latino drag queens during the ballroom era of 1960’s Harlem, New York. It was Willi Ninja, an ambitious young dancer, who pioneered Voguing, and used it to create a safe-haven for members of the LGBT and Black community as it moved from the underground dance scene to mainstream media.
In the late seventies, you could find Willi, born William Roscoe Leake, in Washington Square Park, mastering and teaching his art. His unusual influences for dance included hieroglyphics, olympic gymnastics, and Asian culture, mixed with the greats, like Fred Astaire.
He was a fixture on the Harlem’s gender-bending ball culture, which drew inspiration from the glamorous world of haute couture and the fabulous supermodels of the 80s, as seen in Vogue magazine– hence the name.
he dance was also a means a pacifying the often-agitated community, and became a way for rival dancers to battle out their differences peacefully on the dance floors.
Houses were formed within the subculture in the late seventies, which served as surrogate families form black and latino youth. Ninja, became “the mother” of the House of Ninja, empowering his community encouraging nonconformity. Unprecedented numbers of black and latino men were finding themselves on the streets in the midst of the 1980s AIDs epidemic, if they were not already disowned by their families for being gay or transgender. Voguing houses offered the support that the city didn’t.
In 1991, a documentary told the subculture’s story in Paris in Burning, directed by Jennie Livingston who had met Ninja in Washington Park Square while he was Voguing in his early days.
The documentary captured the subculture’s golden age in New York City started a conversation on race, class, gender, and sexuality in America that hadn’t been brought to the table before.
After travelling the world, dancing for Janet Jackson, modelling for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler in Europe and teaching Voguing in Japan, all the while supporting his community, particularly during the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s, Willi Ninja had earned his title as the Godfather of Voguing. But in 2006, his life was cut short when he suffered an AIDS-related heart failure in New York City at age 45.
‘Private Birthday Party’: Rare Photos From Kansas City’s 1960s Drag Scene
Photo: Courtesy of Private Birthday Party
In 2006, artist Robert Heishman was poking around a Kansas City salvage yard, looking for material for an undergraduate documentary class, when he stumbled upon a slide carousel labeled “Jack’s Slides: Chicago and Kansas City.”
“The first image I looked at was this picture of a man in a kimono that was incredibly colorful — it was just a stunning image to behold,” Heishman told the Cut. “There were family photos, and then I hit this line of images that were all people dressed in drag, predominantly standing in front of this beautiful mosaic outside a bar.” Intrigued, Heishman purchased the slides — for $2. “I didn’t really know what I was purchasing, but I wanted to have time to sit with them a little longer,” he explains.
Two years later, Heishman’s longtime friend Michael Boles was helping a friend move into a new house in Kansas City — which, as he describes it, was right around the corner from the drag clubs that were vibrant in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He came across a shoebox of slides that turned out to be quite similar to the ones Heishman had found at the scrapyard. “When we got them together and paired them up, it was kind of amazing,” Boles reflects. “Some of them are even from the same parties.” The resulting collection — titled “Private Birthday Party,” after the signs that used to appear on club doors when drag balls were taking place — includes over 200 images and provides a vivid glimpse of Kansas City’s early drag-ball culture. Heishman and Boles have since brought on Emily Henson to help with background research; together, the three believe they’re close to identifying the photographer.
The Cut spoke with Heishman, Boles, and Henson about the history of the drag scene in Kansas City and what stood out to them about these photographs.
When you were first comparing the two sets of photographs, was it obvious that they were taken by the same photographer?
Heishman: Yeah — as we started comparing the photographs, it began to strike us as being the same hand.
Boles: Robert’s collection is definitely from an earlier time. Those photos start in 1958; the ones I found start in 1964.
Henson: But throughout both parts of the collection, there are images taken against the mosaic wall, and they’re all shot in the sort of same way, over the years. There are photographs of people dancing together, laughing, posing for the camera, and then a handful that feel a little different — you can tell that the photographer is just photographing events as they’re happening.