Welcome to my review, recap, and power rankings of the fifth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 – House of Fashion. It’s an unconventional material design challenge with a twist: the queens are split into three groups and have to present cohesive runway collections for the House of (Michelle) Visage, the House of (Carson) Kressley, and the House of (Ross) Matthews.
This episode lacked a certain spark, and it’s hard to decide if that was down to the 40-minute runtime or the peculiar version of this familiar challenge. Seasons 3, 4, & 5 each opened with and iconic unconventional materials episode with a full cast of queens.
Season 4’s “RuPocalypse Now!” is probably the best of the bunch – packed with Sharon’s zombie look, Jiggly’s baked potato couture, and LaShawn Beyond’s classic “Post-Apopaloctic” line. It’s a 63-minute edit, but 20 of those minutes are entrances and a length photo shoot challenge! That means the meat of the design challenge (including the whole “wrestling with zombies for clothes” bit) still fit into 40 minutes, and it included both a walkaround with Ru and the private judges deliberations.
Of everything that feels squeezed by these 40-minute edits, I think the element that is most-sorely missing are those private judges deliberations. Without them, we don’t have any sense of RuPaul as a character on her own show. It also complete defangs Michelle Visage if we can’t hear her cutting opinions in private. Finally, it renders the guest judges completely pointless, since we don’t get to hear their unbiased opinions as they go to bat for the queens.
It was especially cruel to miss out on those deliberations in this episode, where Michelle and Ross had queens representing their brands and the guest judge was Janelle Monae, who knows something about fashion!
House of Visage
House of Kressley
House of Matthews
Looking beyond the edit, there was also the unusual nature of this iteration of the unconventional material challenge. First, since the queens were in teams it meant there was no apparent fighting over materials – sharing was in their best interest. Aside from losing the prurient fun of the catty fighting over who gets what leopard-print pillow, what was really lacking was a feeling of scarcity.
Part of what makes unconventional material challenges truly challenging is the queens trying to figure out what they can construct out of things other than fabric. Yet, in this challenge there was enough for nearly every queen to make a cape!
If I had to award a team win, it’d go to the House of Matthews. Even if their collection trended a little bit casual, it was cohesive and there wasn’t a bad look in the bunch. The judges seemed to agree, giving half the group a high placement and calling the other two safe.
What did this unconventional version of the unconventional materials design challenge mean for my power rankings? While the very top remains the same as last week’s Snatch Game ranking, there are some major shake-ups in the middle of the pack as the queens without wins jostle for positive critiques and screen time.
Readers, start your engines! And, may the best drag queen win!
Reminders: I typically refer to Drag Race artists with their drag names and with she/her pronouns even when they are not in drag, which is the convention of the show. Some performers may have different personal pronouns. Drag is inherently brave, political, and artistic, and all drag is valid. It’s also hard to do. I’m commenting on drag artistry in how it comes across in relation to this specific television program, but the reason I’m commenting at all is because I celebrate all drag!
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15, Episode 5: House of Fashion Power Rankings
Before we get to the 13 “Drag Race Fashion Week” runway looks, let’s look at RuPaul’s frazzled yellow runway dress. It was a BOOT from me for the second week in a row. It made Ru look broad-shouldered and frumpy all at once. Those trailing threads on the left side were not high fashion for me.
#1 Sasha Colby – 1 Win (2 avg; was #1, 1, 5, Pre-Season #1)
Sasha Colby bounced back from safety with another week of all-positive critiques. Plus, she was delightfully savage in the reading mini-challenge. I feels like her front-runner narrative remains intact.
Sasha Colby made an expected bathing suit, but it was a stunning suit and she glammed it up with a well-constructed jacket.
It’s not just that she lined the jacket with a shock of pink. It’s that it isn’t simply a shapeless cloak. Look at the way it sits on her arms and slides up to the collar halfway up her shoulders. There’s actual engineering that went into this look. Add to that how amazing the suit looks on her body – again, a feat of engineering – this isn’t a basic one-piece!
Also, the shoe is right for this look – it’s more resort-y than a pump would be. Oh, and I love the massive, high ponytail – this is the gold standard for how big a ponytail ought to be on Drag Race!
Altogether there’s no denying this was one of the most-impactful designs of the night.
Is there anything Sasha Colby can’t do? Last year it was the Girl Groups challenge that felled her daughter Kerri, who was too stiff and gospel for a Supremes challenge. I wonder if Sasha might suffer a similar low mark next week simply to give her a vulnerable moment while the field is still big enough that she won’t be at any real risk for elimination. Even if she does wind up in the bottom, there’s zero chance the show would risk her as a shocking elimination this early in the season.
#2 Loosey LaDuca – 1 Win (5.75 avg; was #2, 5, 14, Pre-Season #8)
Loosey LaDuca slayed the reading mini-challenge and showed she is an able seamstress in addition to her many other talents.
Loosey LaDuca didn’t land third high placement in row for her slinky separates pantsuit, but I feel like it wouldn’t have been a stretch.
Her outfit was perfectly constructed and really worked for her buxom figure in drag. The wide-legged pants and the problem-prints top screamed “middle-aged lady at a resort,” and the waves of hair gave the entire outfit a 70s vibe. Maybe it wasn’t quite as haute couture as the runway prompt called for, but I think it was pleasantly well-made.
The bigger story for Loosey this episode was an easy victory in the Library. Ru often awards a reading challenge win as a specific story point. Sometimes it keeps hope alive for a queen without main challenge wins. Other times it is a consolation prize for a queen who is about to get the chop. Handing it to Loosey straight off of her Snatch Game dominance seemed to be a clear signal to the cast that she has been locked in as a front-runner alongside Sasha Colby.
Loosey nearly was a first-out with her live singing in the Talent Show. That makes next week’s Girl Group challenge a make-or-break moment for her. It could be a moment to give Loosey a shocking trip to the Bottom Two, or even to create a TV moment with a surprising early ouster. It could also be a chance for her to continue her streak of strong performances – and maybe even score a second win. I think whatever we see from her next week will have a huge impact on her narrative through the end of the season.
#3 Luxx Noir London – 1 Win (4 avg; was #5, 2, 6, Pre-Season #3)
Luxx Noir London grabbed a win after several strong weeks in a row with a runway design that was the obvious leader of the pack.
Luxx Noir London earned my only out-loud gasp of the night in response to her design challenge look. This was straight-up, haute couture, runway-ready fashion.
The pants. The cut of them, the wide-pelvis high waist of them. The perfectly matching print patterns of each leg of them! And this hanging top that is expertly draped as a cloak. I can’t even entirely work out how it’s all connected to itself and to the web of interlocked gold hoops across Luxx’s chest.
The whole thing looks like something she actually commissioned for a runway.
Tonight, Luxx’s boundless levels of confidence-bordering-on-delusion served her well and cemented her as an early front-runner after several weeks of strong performances. As one of the queens in the cast who has released her own music, I doubt Girl Groups will cause her to stumble. She might even earn another win!
This is the right time to be surging in this competition.
#4 Mistress Isabelle Brooks (3.5 avg; was #4, 4, 2, Pre-Season #6)
Mistress Isabelle Brooks turned out a high-fashion look that flattered her body, and continued to earn plenty of screen time in confessionals.
Mistress Isabelle Brooks was fairly called safe for her skirt-and-corset separates. However, upon a closer review I think this look was very successful. Whatever she did to achieve the paneled look of her semi-corset of a top was genius – it looked well-constructed and it was very flattering. I also love how she brought the cut of the top down to a point at her waistline.
Even if this did look a lot like something we might see Michelle Visage wear, I don’t know if it made it all the way to high fashion. I know it’s a common refrain, but lining the jacket really could have made a difference.
I think Mistress Isabelle Brooks continues to be the leader of the pack of safe queens, but that title is only going to get her so far as things begin to tighten. If she can’t score a first win in the next three weeks I think she may wind up out of contention for the finale.
#5 Malaysia Babydoll Foxx (8.75 avg; was #9, 12, 9, Pre-Season #5)
Malaysia Babydoll Foxx finally walked the runway in a coherent fashion, and all it took was getting her to make it for herself from scratch!
I think Malaysia Babydoll Foxx’s outfit was slightly overpraised, but it still felt fair to give credit where credit was due to a queen who has struggled on the runway so far this season. I feel like this well-made, well-detailed look proved Malaysia does have an eye for detail and styling, and that her runways might be limited by her pre-season budget and what she already had in her closet.
In particular, I enjoyed the wide wrap of the printed fabric at the top of her jacket. Also, even if some of her edges look a little uneven, they all appear to be finished. That makes a big difference!
If Malaysia was marked for a quick exit I don’t think the judges would have lavished quite as much praise on his this episode when they could’ve easily picked Loosey or Mistress Isabelle for a high placement. This feels like a signal that they want to see more from Malaysia as a contender with the increasingly-fierce competition for the finale. She might be able to bring it in the next few challenges, but I worry her runways will be her undoing once she’s back to working from her suitcase.
#6 Anetra (3.25 avg; was #3, 3, 1, Pre-Season #2)
Anetra looked the part of a fashion model, but her fashion design wasn’t thrilling. I fee that she’s she’s starting to disappear from the edit after her strong start.
This outfit is… adequate. I think there are some good ideas happening in the super-high crop-top, but the leather thong with the vestigial half-skirt looks awkward to me. Anetra is so tall and long-legged, I think she needed more happening at her waist to work her proportions to their best effect. If that skirtlet were longer, and more of a half-cage it might have been a little more remarkable.
Also, how hateful are those black ankle-boots with this look?! With that brown leather bottom?! A brown or nude pump would’ve been better, or even wrapping the boots with the same blue plaid fabric of her outfit.
It feels like Anetra’s surge of early season momentum has petered out. While she’s still the meme-queen of the season so far, I don’t think her “fucking duck” mantra is enough plot armor to protect her as the competition grows tighter. She needs another break-out moment in the next few weeks to keep her in the top half of the competitors.
#7 Robin Fierce (9.25 avg; was #11, 9, 10, Pre-Season #7)
Robin Fierce finally merited getting critiques for her design challenge outfit, but I was surprised about how positive they were.
I’m torn on Robin Fierce’s look.
Robin was one of the few queens to deliver an imaginative design for this challenge. The judges love to throw around Vivienne Westwood references to anything plaid and asymmetrical, but it feels like Robin earned the reference with this look. The boxy shoulder detail and deconstructed skirt show that she has some fashion instincts beyond just being pretty.
On the other hand, the details of this look felt a little bit off. The detailing of the squared-off shoulder was uneven and the little stuff festooned on it looked crafty. While all of her edges looked even, the skirt seemed like it needed to be heavier to hold its shape more.
Also, MORE HATEFUL BLACK BOOTS! I think they ruined this look. Wrap them with the fabric or wear a pump.
As a certified Fierce Fan (we’re still workshopping fandom names, okay?), I’m ecstatic that Robin finally merited some praise. I’m hoping that she sails through next week’s Girl Groups challenge so we can begin to see more of her now that the cast is starting to slim down. All it would take is a little slip from one of the queens higher on this list for her to vault into finale contention.
#8 Marcia Marcia Marcia (6.25 avg; was #6, 7, 4, Pre-Season #10)
Marcia Marcia Marcia turned in a proficient but safe design in this challenge and received no notes, though she did amp up her makeup to an even draggier setting.
After an awful showing on the runway last week, I felt Marcia really needed to deliver something BIG and DRAG in this week’s Design challenge. It was the perfect opportunity to show a side of her that isn’t obvious from what she packed in her suitcases.
Instead, we saw more of the same side. The construction of this swirling skirt and open-backed top was perfect. It’s one of the most-detailed and well-made constructions in this entire challenge. Yet, it looked like casual wear. It was another slim, girlish silhouette when the show is demanding that Marcia drag things up.
Also, the way she eschewed a runway walk to spin down the runway was awful. Considering the strength of her construction, she should’ve strutted the fuck out of it on the runway. All that spinning is the sort of thing someone does to disguise shoddy work. Marcia needs to exude confidence right now.
On the plus side, Marcia’s make-up is growing larger week after week. Her angled brows and blue eyeshadow were absolutely massive on this runway! There’s no doubt in my mind she is taking the judges’ critiques and using them to inspire her growth. I just question if she can evolve quickly enough to overtake some of these seasoned drag professionals.
I doubt Marcia will struggle next week in a Girl Groups challenge, which she might be the best-equipped to win out of the entire cast. However, if she walks the runaway in another tiny, off-the-rack look she’ll miss her chance to pick up another one of her must-win challenges after missing her chance at Snatch Game. At some point she needs to win something if she wants to vault over the next few queens to make it to the finale. Next week might be her best shot.
#9 Aura Mayari (12.25 avg; was #13, 14, 13, Pre-Season #9)
Aura Mayari was safe after a low week, which is good enough to rise in the rankings as a few other queens plummeted.
I enjoyed Aura Mayari’s design challenge outfit, and I was even more impressed with her confidence in walking it. We’ve seen a number of black, austere looks on Aura, but she’s a young queen with an infectious smile. It’s fun to see her in something stylish and youthful.
There’s nothing Earth-shattering about a zebra-print skirt and matching strappy top, but I enjoyed her mini-cape and she had the right shows for the look. There was nothing objectionable in sight.
I don’t think one youthful look creates a positive trend for Aura. However, a few other queens are trending downward in their narratives, which means Aura gets to enjoy a brief rise in the ranks. Will she be able to elbow her way past some experienced singers like Loosey, Luxx, and Marcia next week to finally score a high placement? Given the “old lady” angle of the challenge, it might turn out to be more about comedy chops than being a pop girl, which could mean Aura is in trouble.
#10 Jax (7.75 avg; was #7, 11, 3, Pre-Season #4)
Jax received another withering runway critique, which means she hasn’t had a positive note since her talent show performance. That’s not the trend of a queen who is destined to win this show.
I honestly didn’t see as many problems with Jax’s runway look as the judges did. Yes, the fit was a little bit frumpy, but on an episode where several other queens delivered separates with flouncy capes this felt safe to me despite the fit issues. The two-toned pleats in the skirt were cool, as were the lapels of the jacket. I loved the tall brown belt, and she dressed up her shoes perfectly.
Everything about this shouted to me that Jax put her braininess to good use and really thought through every inch of her look. I felt a little crushed that she was in the bottom for it, so I can’t imagine how she felt.
The judges simply don’t love Jax’s sense of aesthetics. After two bottom placements in four episodes, the edit is SCREAMING a set-up for a trip to the Bottom Two to begin her “Lip Sync Assassin” narrative. Unless she manages to pull out a shocking win next week with a Banjee version of a Golden Girl, I fully expect her to be lip syncing.
#11 Salina EsTitties – 1 lip sync (8.5 avg; was #8, 8, 7, Pre-Season #12)
Salina EsTitties turned in her best look of the season so far, but in a strong design challenges it was finally time for the judges to take her to task for her questionable runways the past three weeks.
I think Salina EsTittie should have been the runner-up on this runway behind Luxx for this look and I will fight anyone who disagrees!
Not only was this her best look of the season, it was fun, imaginative fashion that felt firmly rooted in her West Coast aesthetic. Even if some of the finishing was off, it was imaginative in a way that almost n0ne of the other looks were. That quality made the outfit feel like actual streetwear runway fashion.
She made a shirt! And she had a leather bra underneath. And a different-tone of leather for her skirt. And that awesome overalls-dress slash puffer jacket.
I loved every bit of it except for the black ankle boots. WHY ALL THE BLACK BOOTS?! Again, nude pumps for the win.
Balancing out the shoes, Salina’s make-up tonight was absolutely next level.
Right now it feels like there’s no way Salina can win Season 15. Unless her suitcase pulls nearly a full 180 and she slightly tones down her try-hard challenge performances, she’ll continue to merit the same notes from the judges. To be clear: I don’t have anything against her A-Student striving in the challenges… but, I have been thoroughly confused by her runways before tonight.
As one of the queens who has released some very-credible music before the show and who is an actor, a “Golden Girl Groups” challenge should be right up Salina’s alley. Scoring top marks or even a win next week would help to put the breaks on her current backslide. She’s an amazing lip sync artist, but she’s going to need more than that to crack into the Top 6.
#12 Spice (9.5 avg; was #12, 6, 8, Pre-Season #11)
Spice spiraled slightly without her sister (and seamstress) Sugar, but snuck in a safe placement despite a so-so showing.
There was nothing notable about Spice’s outfit or the way she walked it. She made the bra well, but that was about all I can say for it. In a crowd of queens who tried really hard to elevate these looks past just throwing a few strips of fabric on and relying on that body, Spice was the obvious outlier.
On the plus side, her make-up continues to be terrific!
Spice could’ve easily replaced Jax or Salina in the bottom group, but there was nothing to be gained by giving her another bottom placement this week. I said last week that she needed a week safety before the show picked up her “twin act now goes solo” narrative again, and I still stick by that. The question becomes if she gets another bye-week next week, or if she’s fair game for a low placement. While Spice’s Talent Show song was ridiculous fun, she didn’t strike me as much of a singer. It feels like she might be an easy mark to send to the bottom to be annihilated in the lip sync by Salina, Jax, Aura, or even Anetra.
Eliminated, 13th Place: Amethyst (12.67 avg; was #10, 13, 15, Pre-Season #13)
Amethyst is a young queen with good instincts, sharp wit, and obvious talent. She just came to the show a few years too early on her drag journey to make a massive impact.
If Spice was the outlier in this challenge who was relying on her body, Amethyst was the outlier who tried to get by just on draping. She almost got away with it! Her top really works, but the unfinished skirt getting caught under her heels and the disconnected rat-grey faux-fur stole were more noticeable than any positive elements of this look.
I found myself rooting for Amethyst despite it being obvious she wasn’t going to last until the finale. That speaks to the amount of undefinable X-Factor she has, despite being just two years into doing drag. Sometimes I wonder why queens push so hard so early to get onto the show. After being in the bottom for 3 out of 4 challenges is Amethyst ever going to merit an All-Stars invite? Perhaps for an Early-Outs season, but otherwise her Drag Race journey is over even before her drag career has fully begun.