Fashion as Performance

A Virtual Lecture

The way in which we adorn ourselves is an expression of our individual and group identities. But when the stage is our arena of choice, what role does fashion play in constructing who we understand ourselves to be and who we are attempting to embody? Does gender belong on the stage or is the rigid binary associated with dress blurred when the spotlight is cast? In an effort to understand the tension between queerness and fashion and its far reaching social implications, this presentation and dialogue will bring together Claire Fleury, Dr. Lady J, and Michael Roberson to examine what we can learn at the intersection of identity, fashion, and performance through the lenses of ballroom culture, drag, and runway.

Meet the Speakers

Dr. Lady J (known out of drag as J Davenport) is a Cleveland, Ohio-based PhD, historian, drag artist, podcaster, curator, and activist originally from rural East Tennessee who specializes in drag performance history. She is best known for her dissertation “From the Love Ball to RuPaul: The Mainstreaming of Drag in the 1990s,” which was featured as a ProQuest Success Story. Lady J is an award-winning queer and trans community leader who was voted “Cleveland’s Best Activist” in 2021 and 2023 and awarded the Trans Educator award from Margie’s Hope. Her work as a writer has been featured in National Geographic and the Journal of the American Musicological Society and her essay “Experimenting with Lady J: A Trans Take on Drag” was published in the textbook Dance in US Popular Culture in 2023. You can catch her educating the public and performing her signature brand of wild and weird drag from art galleries and nightclubs to museums and colleges across the country. Her podcast episodes, writings, and years of performances are available on her website

Claire Fleury moved from a 20+ year professional career in performing arts, to designing costumes for dance, and creating custom garments for performers and the adventurous. Her vibrant costumes are designed to evoke joy, while also highlighting her deep respect for the power of the body in motion. CF is continuously looking for new, playful, fun, preferably sustainable ways to
help express, empower and provoke. Sometimes by adding shapes to the human form, sometimes by emphasizing areas of the body, and sometimes simply by adorning. Manipulating fabrics, incorporating existing shapes, deconstructing classic garment structures and rebuilding them into something new is part of that game. A lifelong hommage to the sheer act of dressing up. CF’s garments have no gender assignment, and are custom made for all sizes, shapes, seasons and occasions. She has made dance costumes for Trisha Brown Dance Company / Judith Sanchéz-Ruíz, Antonio Ramos, Megan Williams, Kathy Westwater, Yoshiko Chuma and many others, and custom garments for Laurie Anderson, Penny Arcade, The illustrious Blacks, Susanne Bartsch and others Claire continues working on creating alternative fashion shows in the form of dance and spoken word performances, in New York and Brussels, Belgium.

Michael Roberson is a public health practitioner, advocate, activist, artist, curator, and leader within the LGBTQ community. He is the co-creator of the nation’s only Black Gay Research group and National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition, as well as an Adjunct Professor at The New School University/Lang College NYC, and Union Theological Seminary NYC. He is an international art and politics consultant and a member of the international sound art collective entitled “Ultra-red.” Michael scholar in residence for the Center for Race, Religion, and Economic Democracy, as well as recent TED Media Resident, where he performed a global TED talk about the underground Black/Latinx House/ball ballroom community, entitled “The enduring legacy of ballroom”. For Black History Month 2021, Michael co-authored an article in Time Magazine titled “Why Voguing and the Ballroom Scene Matter Now More than Ever.” Michael also co-created a “Respect in The Workplace” curriculum and training for Vice Media, and trained all of Vice’s staff in their Brooklyn offices and Los Angeles offices. Michael also served as a cultural consultant for the Pose FX television show. Additionally, he was a public health advisor and community engagement specialist for the NYC COVID-19 contract tracing initiative. Lastly, Michael is both the new Senior Editor of the online international publication Arts Everywhere Ballroom Freedom School section as well as the Director of the Invoking the Pause Climate Challenge National Cohort for the San Francisco based Clean Energy Leadership Institute.

*All Lectures in this series will be guest moderated by artist, educator, and cultural worker, Pato Hebert.

Dates & Times

Queering The Loom – Wednesday, June 26th, 2024, 5 – 6:45 pm ET

Crafting Queer Identity – Thursday, July 18th, 2024, 5 – 6:30 pm ET

Fashion as Performance – Wednesday, July 24th, 2024, 5 – 6:30 pm ET

Zoom, a link will be send to participants the day before each lecture

All sessions will be recorded. Following the live session, a link to each recording will be emailed to all those who register. Each recording will be available for one month following the live session.


Tickets for this event are sold on a sliding scale beginning at $15 with a suggested donation of $25, but if you wish to pay less or more than the suggested donation, you may select a different amount from the drop down menu. As always, we are grateful for your support, which ensures the continuation and preservation of textile knowledge. Thank you for making this series possible. 

Tatter Library is a registered 501(c)3. Our speaker series is part of our community programming and proceeds support the continued success of our talks with artists, scholars, and historians we admire. For this event, all ticket proceeds will go towards keeping this series alive. 


Scholarships are available for the full series. Please email [email protected] to request the scholarship application form.

Images in order of appearance:

Claire Fleury, Future Memory, 2023, photo by Exum Fotografie

Michael Roberson, Portrait, 2020

Dr. Lady J, Portrait, 2023