For These Ballroom Stars, Fashion Is Literal Competition

The category called for a “fashion orgasm.” After stamping their name for a decade as a leading house in ballroom for fashion, the House of Xclusive Lanvin (one-time collaborators with the brand of the same name) was looking for the ultimate fashion assassin and was prepared to hand out a trophy and a cash prize of $7,000 to them on Saturday night. That bounty, at “X … The Story” ball, would be the largest prize for a fashion category in the history of the ballroom scene. And as such, the judges weren’t pulling any punches.

“You don’t see a show stopping piece?!” Thaddeus from the House of Gorgeous Gucci, asked the panel about their look after politely snatching the mic. The genderbending contestant was in a custom-built short suit that they had molded onto their body from an atelier in Houston, Texas as well as a vintage Fendi belt, a pair of Thom Browne bags, and a slew of Vivienne Westwood and Schiaparelli brooches. The judges did not see it. The chop stood. Thaddeus and a number of other contestants were barred by the judges from competing, with one stopping in the middle of the runway, seemingly unbothered by the dismissal as her house members chanted her name on the sidelines. It was going to be a tough competition—or, in ballroom parlance, a stern set.

“I don’t do it for them,” Thaddeus, a 20-year veteran of the scene tells Vogue of the judges, reflecting on the night. “I do it for the love of getting on the floor and feeling fabulous. Outside of the Met Gala, I’ve never felt so fabulous.”

Ultimately the winner was Yusef Williams, the father of ballroom’s House of Miyake-Mugler and hairstylist to Rihanna. He was triumphant in a neck-to-toe custom Harry Halim look, matched with a 24k rose gold face piece from House of Malakai, Dior earrings, and vintage necklaces from Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel.

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