The Phenomenon of Chappell Roan's Concert Outfits

We spoke with the pop sensation's stylist about her on-stage style, which includes drag homages, campy theatrics, and a few history lessons.

Images of Chappell Roan's tour outfits, including her dressed as Divine, the Statue of Liberty, and Swan Lake
(Image credit: Future)

Chappell Roan stomped onto the stage for her Kentuckiana Pride performance on June 15 in a ruby red gown, a leopard bra peeking out from the bodice, drawn-on eyebrows that arched up to her hairline, and a cigarette clipped between two fingers. Roan's concert outfit from the Louisville show was a top-to-toe tribute to the late drag queen Divine, the star of John Waters’s 1972 cult classic Pink Flamingos.

The musician’s look was gaudy and bodacious—completely and utterly camp. Roan's reference flew over some of her audience’s heads, but that was actually part of her point. The singer, who identifies as a queer woman, wanted to teach a history lesson to the younger generation in the audience—albeit one covered in rhinestones and set to a backtrack about dancing at the "Pink Pony Club," a break-away hit from her 2023 album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. “When we were talking about what we could do for Pride, we wanted a legendary homage to [queer] culture,” Roan’s fashion stylist, Genesis Webb, says on a video call.

A still from John Waters's 'Pink Flamingos' of the drag queen Divine wearing a red dress and holding a pistol side by side Chappel Roan dressed as Divine in a red dress

Divine in Pink Flamingos alongside Roan dressed as the drag icon at the Louisville performance.

(Image credit: Getty/Splash by Shutterstock)

What performance attendees may not have known either was the political undercurrent beneath Roan's bright red tulle dress and teased-up hair. In 2023, the Kentucky Senate passed Senate Bill 150, a law that bans gender-affirming medical care for trans minors, prohibits public school education on "human sexuality," and requires students to use bathrooms aligning with their assigned gender at birth.

So, the pop sensation pushed back against the state's anti-LGBTQ+ legislature the best way she and Webb knew how: by embodying Divine, the infamous drag icon whose most quoted line from Waters's filmography is "Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!" It was Roan’s reminder to her fans, both in Kentucky and worldwide, to be themselves, especially if that means straying from the status quo. "We like the ugly, thought-provoking, and confusing, and we admire [Divine’s] worldview to just be yourself and make things beautiful in your own way," Webb says. "I hope what we're doing shows that you can do whatever and be whoever you want."

I hope what we're doing shows that you can do whatever and be whoever you want.

Genesis Webb

Born Kayleigh Rose Amstutz in the small town of Willard, Missouri, Roan's drag-inspired persona is currently the name to know in music. As of now, three of her songs are on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: TikTok's favorite "Good Luck, Babe!", the punchy ballad "Red Wine Supernova," and "Hot to Go!", a catchy anthem that comes with a YMCA-style arm dance. Her music festival sets need last-minute stage upgrades to accommodate mammoth crowds, with some attendees camping out as early as 3:30 a.m. to ensure they get a good spot. The singer calls herself "Your favorite artist's favorite artist" in reference to the season 15 winner of RuPaul's Drag Race, Sasha Colby, who uses the same tagline but swaps "artist" for "drag queen."

Roan's playful catchphrase isn’t far off: Sir Elton John is one of the singer’s most fervent fans, alongside a rapidly growing fanbase of millennials and Gen Z listeners.

Fashion stylist Genesis Webb fixing singer Chappell Roan's leopard outfit before a show.

Webb helping Roan get performance ready at the 2024 Kentucky Pride Festival.

(Image credit: Photo by Lucienne, @luxxienne)

“We went from here to here within just a few months,” says Webb, positioning her hand under her chest and then rocketing it off-screen and out of view. Some relate Roan’s star power and showmanship to that of Lady Gaga, a comparison Webb finds cosmic since she met Roan while assisting Gaga’s stylist and creative partner-in-crime, Nicola Formichetti, for a 2022 V magazine photoshoot. Both hailing from the Midwest, the two 26-year-olds had an immediate bond and have worked together ever since. “It was this strange moment of serendipity,” Webb recalls. “When people say Chappell is the next Lady Gaga, it feels like a very interesting reality where everything has been shaped specifically for this moment and for us to work together.”

Since their fate meeting two years ago, the duo has arrived at a level of fashion artistry that can only be achieved when a star and their stylist develop their own aesthetic language. Each outfit gets its own mood board of references and inspiration points, including deep-cut horror movies, Paris Hilton's early-2000s fashion moments, and Roan's own lyrics. “She's always had themes based on her songs for [each outfit], which I think is why her looks are so impactful and a true experience,” says Webb. The singer encourages her fans to follow her style concepts too, often posting on Instagram with a call to dress accordingly—like in your "Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl" best to a performance.

Chappell Roan performs during the 2024 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival on June 16, 2024 in Manchester, Tennessee.

Roan at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in an homage to another John Waters's cult classic, Party Monster.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Webb defines Roan's on-stage style as an amalgamation of their angsty teenage years, with looks that range from ‘80s frou-frou prom queen to a bedazzled cowgirl. “Chappell comes from a drag background, and I was a punk in high school. That's exactly where we are with her style: it's a fun mix of drag on a large spectrum with an eighties punk glam aspect," the fashion stylist shares.

She references what Roan wore for her day-one Coachella performance: a latex bodysuit emblazoned with “Eat Me,” a dominatrix-style leather harness, and a silver-studded choker borrowed from Drag Race champions and bonafide fashion icons, Violet Chachki and Gottmik. "We want to give the proper dues [to the queer community] as well. So, to have all these elements christened by our favorite drag queens felt like everything was going in the right direction," the stylist says. "You could sense that performance was a pivotal moment."

Chappell Roan performs during the first day at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Indio, CA.

Roan's "Eat Me" look was Webb's homage to Paris Hilton wearing an "Eat the Rich" bikini for a 2004 photoshoot with David LaChapelle.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Her politics is the other throughline in Roan's concert outfits. “She's always been very vocal and considers it important to give back to the communities that have done so much for her," Webb says. "My job is to make it as easy as possible for her to provide the message she wants to give."

During her set at New York City’s Governors Ball Music Festival, Roan dressed as the Statue of Liberty in patina-green body paint, a latex dress, and a seven-pointed crown. The singer described herself as dressed “in drag of the biggest queen of all” and recited the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the statue’s pedestal. “That [poem] means freedom and trans rights, that means freedom and women’s rights, … and it especially means freedom for all oppressed people in occupied territories,” Roan said.

Roan's Gov Ball performance made headlines across various news sites, ranging from Vogue to The Hill, and Webb considers it an accurate representation of who Roan is as both an artist and person. "She means what she said [at Gov Ball]. When you have as big a platform as [Roan] has, it makes sense to use it," the stylist says.

Chappell Roan at the 2024 Governors Ball held at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on June 9, 2024 in Queens, New York.

Roan at the 2024 Governors Ball in Queens, New York as her take on the Statue of Liberty.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Some may see Roan’s performance style as driven by shock value—strutting around as the Lady Liberty in a latex dress with butt cutouts can come as a surprise. But there’s intentionality in what Webb and Roan put together. "Yes, she could wear a tight little leotard and just be hot all the time, but her style is about so much more than that. I don't try to sell sex, and Chappell doesn't either," says Webb. “Our main thing is that people scroll all day long, so we’re trying to give someone a reason to stop. Even if they're like, ‘Ew,’ and laugh or gawk at our outfits, at least they're stopping and questioning what they're looking at. Those moments of exposure are so important in art and culture."

The duo are trying to make you think and feel something—anything.

Yes, she could wear a tight little leotard and just be hot all the time, but her fashion is about so much more than that.

Genesis Webb

As Webb winds down the conversation, she hints that Roan’s outfit for her performance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon (that aired June 20th) would be sensational. The day after Webb’s interview with Marie Claire, Roan appeared on the NBC talk show in her interpretation of Princess Odette from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake"—specifically Mattel's 2003 animated adaption, Barbie of Swan Lake: a mini dress made of icy-white feathers and pearls designed by Gunnar Deatherage and a winged headpiece that looked ready to take flight.

The symbolism of Roan nodding to the 1877 ballet about forbidden love but with a campy, childlike, and Barbie-esque twist during LGBTQ+ Pride Month was not lost amongst her feathers and vocal flipping. Clutching the mic through fingernails shaped like talons, she belted “Good Luck, Babe!” at the top of her lungs and as free as a bird.

"Many of our homages are to celebrate moments that aren't in the mainstream anymore and to bring them [back] into 2024 for her younger audience," says Webb. Roan is not only making music or history, but she's preserving it as well.

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 1992 -- Pictured: Musical guest Chappell Roan performs on Thursday, June 20, 2024

Roan performing as a wicked swan on 'The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon' on June 20.

(Image credit: Getty Images)
Emma Childs
Fashion Features Editor

Emma is the fashion features editor at Marie Claire, where she writes deep-dive trend reports, zeitgeisty fashion featurettes on what style tastemakers are wearing, long-form profiles on emerging designers and the names to know, and human interest vignette-style round-ups. Previously, she was Marie Claire's style editor, where she wrote shopping e-commerce guides and seasonal trend reports, assisted with the market for fashion photo shoots, and assigned and edited fashion celebrity news.

Emma also wrote for The Zoe Report, Editorialist, Elite Daily, Bustle, and Mission Magazine. She studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University Lincoln Center and launched her own magazine, Childs Play Magazine, in 2015 as a creative pastime. When she's not waxing poetic about niche fashion topics, you'll find her stalking eBay for designer vintage, reading literary fiction on her Kindle, and baking banana bread in her tiny NYC kitchen.