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Today we’re shining a focus on a more superficial element of 'Pose''s storytelling: the many incredible costumes of of our ballroom hero Pray Tell.

And the category is: Pray Tell’s freshest lewks in ‘Pose’ S1

Once a generation, a TV show comes around that challenges conceptions, breaks conventions, heralds a movement, and strikes a chord with viewers. In 2018 Pose crashed into our worlds, a technicolor exploration of what it means to be a queer person of color living in America.

If you don’t already have this epic drama in your bingewatch list, get with it. Pose is hilarious, incredibly crafted, sweet, and heartbreaking all at the same time. It also features the largest transgender cast in TV history and has a crew made up of exceptionally talented LGBTQI folks and POC.

While Pose continues to break records and smash stereotypes, there’s a lot to say about the show politically and emotionally (which we have explored at length). Today we’re shining a focus on a more superficial (but no less sophisticated!) element of the storytelling: the many incredible costumes of of our ballroom hero Pray Tell (Billy Porter). 

Please note: this list is not exhaustive and we will be revisiting Pray Tell’s S1 wardrobe, as well as following up with his S2 lewks. Fabulosity like this cannot be contained in one mere article.

The category is: Country Gentlequeen Realness

Episode 1 “Pilot”

Seems it was only yesterday we fell in love with Pose. In a pilot that was brimming with fabulosity (Miss Elektra’s apartment, the museum smash & grab, first ever ballroom scene), Pray wowed us with his tailored best.

Lewk in detail: It’s not like Pray to be understated at the ballroom, but this knitted turtleneck with matching tailored tartan jacket and gold spectacles really made us believe Pray Tell was landed gentry. He wouldn’t look out of place on Madonna’s English country pile, or sipping tea with royalty on the sidelines of a genteel polo green filled with strapping lads and rippling horse musculature.

What we say: Tens across the board

What Pray says: “You own everything. Everything is yours.” (a direct quote from ballroom legend Dorian Corey)

The category is: Money Talks 

Episode 2 “Access”

“Access” was a groundbreaking TV episode, handling taboo topics such as access to healthcare, education, opportunities, and safe spaces. This Pose episode broke open what it means to live in the world as an at-risk LGBTQ+ youth and shone a light on how little progress society has made since Pose’s 80s-to-90s setting. 

To further the fiscal imagery of the main plotline, we’re treated to a Dynasty theme at the ball. What better example to drive home the plot points than basing the ball action on a show obsessed with money, status, and glamor?

Lewk in detail: Gold: Pray is proving that he’s all money with a decadent gold leather fitted jacket complete with shoulder pads to poke your eyes out and lapels to die for. He completes the lewk with a plain black roll-neck and golden accessories. 

What we say: Tens across the board

What Pray says: “I want to see all the rich bitch fantasy in full effect.”

The category is: NYC Taxi Driver Realness 

Episode 3 “Giving and Receiving”

Never a show to shy away from real issues, Pose shines a light on the HIV-AIDS crisis in a way that no show has done before. What sets this episode apart are Pray Tell and Blanca’s frank conversations about the crisis. 

Blanca is a woman living through her recent HIV diagnosis. While this might have been the spark that spurred her into action back in episode one, the diagnosis does not define her. Oh no, honey. Through this Pose episode’s conversations, Pray Tell & Blanca teach the audience a much needed history lesson about the era.

Lewk in detail: Here we see Pray Tell a dream in lime green. He’s rockin’ a linen sports coat with a darling dotted formal shirt, paisley ascot, and peaked cap that can only be described as “New York cabbie hat on ecstasy”.

What we say: Tens across the board

What Pray says: “A little tail ain’t never hurt nobody, baby.”

The category is: Father Knows Best

Episode 4 “The Fever”

Pose has an amazing way of combining history and education without ever sounding preachy. In “The Fever” we see our young House of Evangelista children getting schooled about the HIV virus and how it’s spread. When Pray Tell puts his best foot forward and takes the children to get tested, he learns that he too has contracted the virus. 

We’re treated to even further stunning performances from Billy Porter and MJ Rodriguez, whose conversations as Pray Tell and Blanca really drive home what it was like to be a queer person of color in those times (which cast a shadow on the difficulties the queer community still faces today).

Lewk in detail: Pray Tell is giving it all the fatherly realness with this fabulous yet distinguished ensemble. He pairs what looks like a customized vintage Ralph Lauren militaria sports coat with a Hermes silk scarf and understated white formal shirt. What children wouldn’t listen to their elders if they’re dressed like this?

What we say: Tens across the board

What Pray Tell says: “You’re going, you’re going, you’re going.”

The category is: We Are Family 

Episode 5 “Mother’s Day”

“Mother’s Day” is an exploration of blood family and found family, and what it means to be a mother. In this Pose episode we see more of Blanca’s struggle, as her quest to be true to herself has brought about detachment from her blood family. We also see the roots of Blanca & Elektra’s found-family relationship, which helps explain the frisson between them as they compete as house mothers.

Lewk in detail: Here we are treated to Pray Tell pulling out all the stops at the ball. He’s wearing plaid; he’s wearing a gilded pearl brooch; he’s wearing paisley; he’s wearing pastel; and he finishes it all off with a straw top hat replete with gigantic scarlet flower – and yet things are kept completely in check by a subtle taupe-on-white palette. You know what they say: the family that slays together stays together.

What we say: Tens across the board

What Pray Tell says: “It ain’t the PTA meeting – that’s for sure.”

The category is: I Will Survive

Episode 6 “Love is the Message”

We already knew Pose was going to break our hearts, but “Love is the Message” was the first episode we cried buckets. It was also the first TV show ever that had been directed by a trans woman of color (Janet Mock). 

This Pose episode follows Pray Tell through the end stages of his lover Costas’s death from AIDS. We see Pray wrestling with losing his soulmate, as well as the terrible way HIV and AIDS patients were treated by hospitals back in the day. Finally, we realize Pray is coming to terms with his own HIV diagnosis, realizing that one day, he’ll be in Costas’s situation. 

What could be a melodramatic slice of TV drama is handled expertly by the Pose team and sweetened by the supremely classic (yet stunningly forward-looking) dancefloor disco banger that Pray Tell won’t take off repeat at the ballroom: “Love is the Message” by MFSB.

Lewk in detail: Pray Tell always looks excellent in tailored military stylings, and this lewk is no exception whatsoever. Along with his frogged garrison cap and matching appliqued vest, he’s even got his own version of a medal: a pendulous pearl brooch dangling from his breast pocket. We’re loving all that gold braid in this ensemble – a bold look that says “I’m strong, and I will go on.”

What we say: Tens across the board

What Pray Tell says: “Next category is: Stone Cold Face.”

The category is: Less Is More

Episode 7 “Pink Slip”

This Pose episode doesn’t shy away from the real issues trans women of color face in America. We quickly see Elektra’s fall into destitution after undergoing her surgery. This powerful woman made her money from a powerful man who preferred her before she was all woman. 

It’s heartbreaking to see Elektra struggle, but “Pink Slip” contains an important lesson for viewers. Trans women of color still have less access to education, less access to employemnt, high expenses (for medicine and surgery), and higher risk of workplace discrimination. 

As we see Elektra fall back into a pattern of sex work, the audience sees the troubles she has faced to find acceptance in the world. On the other side of the narrative, Papi struggles after Blanca discovers he’s still dealing. Papi shows us the limited opportunities available for someone with rudimentary market skills. Papi feels trapped, stuck in a cycle of crimes he doesn’t want to commit and isn’t cut out for.

Lewk in detail: Pray Tell is always the belle of the ball, don’tcha know. Here he’s looking darling in pastel again in an 80s-cut (read: oversized) sea-green sport coat with crisp white dress shirt, starched collar, and diamonique detailed broach. Sometimes simple can be best.

What we say: Tens across the board

What Pray Tell says: “The all-seeing, all-knowing Twizzler liquorice realness on top.”

The category is: Date Night Realness

Episode 8 “Mother of the Year”

The finale of the first season of Pose filled us with hope, rounding out the story with our whole crew on the up-and-up. In fact, if you want to know all about it just jump here for our full breakdown.

Lewk in detail: Because “Mother of the Year” signifies opportunity and rebirth for our heroes, we didn’t chose a ballroom lewk. Instead we chose Pray’s marvelous green linen ensemble he wore for his date at Indochine with new hottie, Keenan (RIP). 

Yes, Pray is still mourning for Costas; yes, Pray is still coming to terms with his HIV status; but yes, Pray is living – and for Pray, living means matching your clothing to the restaurant decor. And for this, we’re living for Pray.

What we say: Tens across the board

What Pray Tell says: “Was it my stunning beauty that scared you off?”

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