Billy Porter
Billy Porter

7 of Billy Porter’s most groundbreaking looks – and why they’re so important

Porter’s fashion shines bright, regardless of gender or society’s expectations, says Prudence Wade.

Prudence Wade
Thursday 11 March 2021 14:16

Billy Porter is helping blur the lines between masculine and feminine fashion, one outfit at a time.

The 51-year-old has a Tony, Grammy and Emmy to his name, but for many people, he’s best known for his joyous red carpet looks.

Porter has discussed his relationship to fashion in a new InStyle interview, saying: “It’s how I express myself.”

His gender-fluid outfits consistently challenge ideas of ‘male’ and ‘female’ dressing. He often wears skirts or dresses on the red carpet, and told InStyle: “I used to get frustrated that women could wear whatever they wanted and men had to show up in the same penguin suit. The reason why women wearing pants is considered OK by society’s standards is because it comes from the patriarchy. The patriarchy is male, so suits are strong, and anything feminine is weak. I was sick of that discussion, and I knew my platform allowed me to challenge it.”

These are some of his most groundbreaking outfits to date…

1. Wearing a tuxedo gown at the Oscars

Porter told InStyle he puts his fashion evolution into two categories: “BO or AO” – before Oscars or after Oscars. He’s referring to the velvet tuxedo-gown hybrid he wore to the 2019 Academy Awards. Designed by Christian Siriano, the outfit went viral.

It was a very evocative and literal way of blurring the line between masculine and feminine formalwear. Porter wrote about the look in Vogue: “My goal is to be a walking piece of political art every time I show up. To challenge expectations.”

2. In gold for the Met Gala

The MET Gala 2019 – New York

The 2019 Met Gala theme was ‘Camp’, and an opportunity to pull out all the stops. Porter arrived in a golden litter carried by six shirtless men, before revealing a golden catsuit with massive glittering wings, along with a gold headpiece and matching boots.

Porter described the look on Instagram: “The Category Is: Old Testament Realness.”

3. With a meme-worthy hat for the Grammys

Porter also loves having a laugh with his fashion – take his iconic 2020 Grammys look: a sparkling blue jumpsuit and wide brimmed hat with motorised fringing. When posing for photographers, Porter opened up the fringing to reveal striking silver make-up. It was OTT, a bit silly and a whole lot of fun.

4. In a British designer for the Oscars

Billy Porter on the red carpet at the 92nd Academy Awards

In 2020 Porter stole the show in a custom look by British designer Giles Deacon It was an outfit of contrasts: a spiky golden bodice played off a soft patterned bubble skirt, that trailed behind him.

5. In a sculptural headpiece for the American Music Awards

Porter has never shied away from a cape, but that wasn’t even the highlight of his 2019 American Music Awards outfit. What really took this look to the next level was the architectural, cut-out white headpiece by Stephen Jones.

6. Wearing a bedazzled cape for the Golden Globes

Showing exactly how to jazz up a classic grey suit, for the 2019 Golden Globes Porter and wore a bedazzled cape with a hot pink interior, by New York designer Randi Rahm. Porter told Insider the outfit was a “springboard and launching pad for a very spectacular year”.

7. In glamorous purple for an Elton John party

Porter’s purple outfit for a 2020 Oscars party ticked all the maximalist boxes: feathers, opera gloves, a train, and a show-stopping hat. It totally summed up Porter’s style: unafraid to do the most and be his authentic self.