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Speaking in Fashion: An Interview with Machine Dazzle

by Isabel Dieppa

A person wearing a costume with a cape in red, white, and blue, and a feathered headdress sings on stage in the spotlight.

Performance view, Taylor Mac: An Abridged Concert of The History of Political Popular Music, MCA Chicago, Sep 27–28, 2013

Photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago

blog intro

Fashion is a language we all speak, whether we mean to or not. From normcore style to Beyoncé rocking her Givenchy dresses, there is something in fashion that many strive to emulate. Fashion can make our wildest fantasies reality; it gives us the opportunity to show who we are or who we want to be. Tonight begins performance artist Taylor Mac's 24-Decade History of Popular Music at MCA Stage. Mac will be singing about our nation's history while wearing the fabulous costumes of designer Machine Dazzle. I had the opportunity to interview Machine Dazzle on his designs; I wanted to know how we can take stage extravaganza and incorporate into our everyday life.


  • Isabel Dieppa: How do the costumes tell the story of the performance?

Machine Dazzle: I like to arrange familiar imagery and materials in an unfamiliar way that compliments the story, but isn’t limited to it.

ID: Does judy influence your fashion choices?

MD: Judy lays down the foundation from which I build. I am inspired by the story, tone, and music.

ID: With shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, audiences have their own perception of what it means to see a man dressed in extravagant attire. How does your choice of fashion change or encourage those expectations?

MD: Though I appreciate the "broad" (haha) spectrum of drag arts. I don't subscribe to the RuPaul brand of drag, nor any other. I like to create something original and have my own "definition" of what is appropriate for the moment. If anything, the "expected" costume is what NOT to do. I work organically using intuition. Rhyme and reason are distant relatives . . . in my blood, but my black sheep persona keeps me from creating a "product" that is easily consumed. I like to keep it personal, emotional, unsettling, imperfect.

Taylor Mac

Photo: Ves Pitts
Speaking in Fashion: An Interview with Machine Dazzle video still


Interview cont’d

ID: What’s your favorite costume piece?

MD: The "crazy Jane" headpiece from the 1796–1806 decade, which features popular pub songs that eventually inspired the Temperance movement.

ID: How can we, the audience, take a little bit of your magic and inspiration and incorporate it into our daily lives?

MD: Act on your intuition; use what you have laying around; use glitter; no idea is too big! Let music and emotion guide you. There's a fine line between fantasy and reality, it's a state of mind.

Taylor Mac appears on MCA Stage through Saturday. Buy tickets

Taylor Mac, 24 Decade series

Photo: Kevin Yatarola