Why the drag looks in ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ are still iconic, 30 years on

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Sydney, 1994. A dimly-lit bar, wrapped in tinsel curtains and the fragmented, twirling light from a disco ball. Tick Belrose (played by Hugo Weaving) is on stage lip syncing as his drag persona Mitzi Del Bra; clad in a silver sequin dress with matching gloves and a bouffant blonde wig.

This is the opening scene from “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, which first screened at Cannes Film Festival 30 years ago this month.

“I made that dress for myself,” Tim Chappel, one of the movie’s costume designers, told CNN. “The weekend before, I’d gone to the Miss Teen USA beauty pageant as Miss Silicon Valley, because (the dress) had joke plastic boobs inside. Stephan (Elliott, the film’s writer and director) was really on my case because I wanted to do lots of obscure stuff (to costume the film ), and he wanted (the principal characters in drag)  to look like ladies. So I said we can make him look like a lady and take the piss at the same time, because the boobs are clearly from a party shop. And I’d already made it, so it was cheap!”

In the film, Tick scoops up his freshly widowed friend Bernadette Bassenger (played by Terence Stamp) and flamboyant, fellow drag queen Adam Whitley/ Felicia Jollygoodfellow (actor Guy Pearce) and goes west — both musically and literally — for a road trip across the Outback in their affectionately-christened bus: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

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