Where Do Drag Queens Shop?
So you've decided that you want to become a drag artist. Perhaps you've chosen your drag name and started to think about your drag aesthetic. These early steps can be tough when starting from scratch but can also be some of the most fun.
To get started as a drag artist you're going to need some basic drag supplies. We're talking about wigs, heels, lashes, makeup, corsets and everything else that goes into a successful drag transformation. You won't find most of this in a high street store so you have to know where to look. This is where it can get difficult if you don't have a drag family or drag parent to guide you.
There are several different types of places that drag queens shop:
- In-store (Specialist Stores)
- In-store (Non-specialist Stores)
- Online Clothing Stores / Platforms
- Online Marketplaces
- Second-hand Sales
- Facebook Groups
- Social Media Shops
- Specialist Online Stores
1. In-store (Specialist Stores)
If you live in a major capital city, you may be lucky enough to have a dedicated drag store in your area. A great example of this is House of Priscilla in Sydney, Australia. A packed drag store full of beautiful drag costumes, shoes, accessories, and even rental options.
Visiting a drag store like this is a great start to get in the mindset. Having everything in front of you in one place makes it easier to see how each item works together. It also helps provide new creative ideas, and best of all you can get top quality advice from experienced store staff. You will often find that the owners or employees of these stores are also performers, costume makers or makeup artists themselves.
Of course, not everybody has a great store like this in their community, and you will most likely have to go digging through more general high street stores or womenswear departments to find the products you're looking for.
2. In-store (Non-specialist Stores)
Perhaps you don't have a specialist drag store where you live but there are a number of other types of stores where drag queens shop. They'll be useful in starting your drag journey, even though they don't specialise in drag. Make-up stores, art stores, thrift stores and clothing stores are all great places to start when looking for drag supplies.
- Makeup Stores
For starters, any makeup store will be equipped with employees who can give you guidance on the products they have available and how to use them. You will need to be careful because not every make-up artist at makeup stores and makeup counters will be trained or well-practised in drag makeup. They may be able to advise you on some of the overall practices but be aware that certain techniques such as and as selecting the right shade for your base and contour colors (highlight and lowlight) will need to be adjusted for drag, since it generally requires more dramatic contrast.
For makeup best practices, we recommend starting with some drag makeup tutorials on YouTube before buying your first makeup products, so you have an idea of what to buy.
- Clothing Stores
Head on down to your local high street or department store and you'll probably find some of the main international name brands in fast fashion. In the 2020's, 'menswear' clothing sections are beginning to be more colorful and diverse, but the best place for drag shopping is still the womenswear section.
For bright drag clothing, we particularly recommend brands that have a focus on teens. It's in these stores and sections that you're most likely to find items with rhinestones, sequins and bright colours, at a price that won't break the bank. Forever 21 for example often stocks accessories in bright colours, and a wide variety of jewelry at a low price.
- Art & Craft Stores
Put on down to your local art store to find and decorative items that may be helpful in putting your costumes or makeup looks together. For example, craft glitter and rhinestones can be helpful for your makeup, props and costumes. Always check the label on glitter before use, since not all glitter can be used on the face.
Materials like craft wire, felt, sequins and trim will become very helpful if you want to make your own costumes and accessories.
- Thrift Stores
If you're on a "drag on a dime" budget, thrift stores, discount stores and second-hand stores can be a great place to start when looking for drag costumes. You may not find the brightest or most glittery items ever, but many higher-priced items such as overcoats, drag shoes and accessories can be found for a much cheaper price here than buying things from the latest range in a major store. It is often a good idea for drag artists to buy a cheap but well-structured item at a thrift store and then embellish it with other items.
Similar to thrift stores, many markets are good places to find cheap clothing options, either for wearing alone or for decorating by yourself. Additionally, markets are often home to large fabric stores, haberdasheries and wig stores. For wig and hair options, look for stores that provide for black hair. These are best stocked with all kinds of wig caps, hair wefts, lace front wigs, full lace wigs, hair care products and hair accessories.
4. Online Clothing Stores / Platforms
If you're looking for the widest possible range of products from a number of different brands, with different looks and feels, undoubtedly online clothing platforms are the best way to go. By 'platforms' we mean aggregators such as ASOS, Zalando. You will have to dig through options a lot more than on a specialist drag store, but it can be worth it. For best results, we recommend searching for keywords such as 'drag', 'glitter', 'rainbow', 'sequins' and so on.
5. Online Marketplaces
- Amazon & Ebay
Ok, these are not our favorite to recommend. They're full of options, but they require a lot of hard work. Being a small business ourselves, it's slightly painful to recommend the international juggernauts of Alibaba, Amazon and eBay for drag shopping. They already take such a huge proportion of online sales. But undoubtedly their product range is the biggest.
Usually, you can find something on these sites, but you will have to dig through. Just searching for 'drag queen supplies' on Amazon returned us a front page of irrelevant results - a 'birthday queen' sash; mattress bags; socks; figurines; even a dog bed!
If you look hard enough though, you will find corsets, jewelry, wigs and more... A new challenge then comes with quality control. Since online marketplaces have a very low bar for new sellers, vendors on these platforms are usually not specialised. In our experience, you may not always receive exactly what you saw in the picture, and the quality is hit and miss.
For example, you may find that you have to order several wigs before you find a good seller through online marketplaces, since wig quality can vary so much (not all wigs are heat proof; not all lace fronts have the same quality of lace). Quality is also made harder to judge on online marketplaces, since many sellers use each other's images but actually ship different products.
You can't fault Amazon for offering one of the fastest delivery systems worldwide, but be prepared to dig through a lot of pages and a lot of sellers before finding high quality drag products.
An honorable mention must go to Etsy. Etsy is an online marketplace that thrives on hand-made products.
There is a thriving community of drag stores, cosplay stores, and costume makers on Etsy, giving a lot of options for drag queen shopping. We could spend hours searching through all the different suppliers and viewing their amazing creations.
Our top tip: Search for festival wear. Suppliers on Etsy are normally marketing to festival-goers and will tag their most extravagant costumes with terms such as 'Coachella'.
Even better than buying a ready-made product is getting something custom-made. If you have a vision and are well prepared, many Etsy suppliers will custom make drag costumes for you. This will come at an extra cost but can be really worthwhile.
6. Second-hand Sales
Follow some of your favorite local drag artists online and you may just get lucky. Drag is not the highest profession in the world, and at the same time it requires a constant flow of new costumes, wigs and accessories. You'll often find that professional drag artists have periodic sales of their old belongings, and you may be able to grab a bargain.
7. Facebook Groups
Spread the net further than your local queens by joining Facebook groups dedicated to buying, selling and trading drag queen costumes.
UK Drag Queen Buy/Sell/Swap is a great example of a community-run, country-wide Facebook group where almost 3,000 artists buy, sell and trade wigs and costumes that they no longer need, or have made specifically to sell.
Take a look online for a group like this in your local area. You may be surprised how many options are out there for drag shopping!
8. Social Media Shops
These days, small businesses are able to set up shop and sell directly through social media platforms. Facebook and Instagram for example both have options to sell products without leaving the store's social media profile.
Browsing social media for the profiles of designers and costume makers can be especially useful when looking for wigs. For example, Wigs by Exodus styles beautiful, huge and extravagant drag wigs that you would not be able to buy directly from a wholesaler or large store.
Spend some time hunting, and messaging a wig stylist directly can really be worth the extra time.
9. Specialist Online Stores
The final places where drag queens shop are specialist online stores. These are few and far between, but that's exactly why we set up The Drag Room. We believe drag should be for everyone, so shopping for drag supplies should be too.
Online drag stores like The Drag Room are set up to be a one-stop shop for drag queen shopping. The benefit of going to a specialist online drag store is that they will have a wide variety of the products you need, without having to dig through hundreds of products on the high street, or search through pages and pages of search results online.
Online stores have their pros and cons, like any other store. If you need something in a hurry, shopping online may not be the right choice at that time if it requires shipping internationally, but drag-specific stores are a better guarantee of product quality than buying from a random seller elsewhere. At The Drag Room for example, we follow up with past purchasers to provide reviews of their purchases, and show these on the respective product pages. This enables you to see what other artists thought of each product and whether or not they would recommend buying it.
We're not one to tell you what to do, but if you wish to visit our specialist, one-stop store for drag shopping, you can explore The Drag Room's wide range of products online.
Where Is Your Favorite Place To Shop?
So where do drag queens shop? All kinds of places! Because there are a bunch of different skills and tools required in order to be a successful drag artist.
Got a recommendation for where else to buy your drag supplies? Let us know in the comments!