Jackie Curtis’s Style

Jackie Curtis’s Style

Jackie Curtis was big, not at all femme, and looked like a man in a dress: a little stubble or a beard, torn stockings, trashed dresses, smeared makeup, and plenty of body odor. This tattered look came out of necessity because Curtis was constantly broke, though it was also deliberate—because if a rich patron gave her a brand-new designer dress, she didn’t think twice about shredding it. “They would get rips and things in them,” recalled her friend Jayne County, “and she really didn’t have the money to buy new ones, so she would just continue to wear them and they’d get more and more holes in them. Finally, they were just kind of rags on her legs. They became works of art. Sometimes she would put them together with safety pins, not because she was trying to be cute, but because she was really trying to keep the dress together. It became a style and a fashion, but she was the first person I ever saw to wear that style.” Curtis loved 1930s dresses, which could easily be found in thrift stores or by raiding Slugger Ann’s and Aunt Josie’s closets. One time, when a neighbor passed away, Jackie crawled through the window onto the building ledge and broke into the deceased woman’s apartment, bringing back an entire wardrobe of black Italian dresses, shoes, and accessories. “Jackie was blowing up the idea of gender,” actress Melba LaRose observed. “When he was a boy he liked to look really rough: saddle shoes or other big shoes, vest sweaters like a boy jock.” Agosto Machado recalled, “With Jackie, you never knew what she was going to wear or what she was going to do, but she had a force of personality.”

From Chapter 17 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Slugger Ann's
192 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003