It wasn't about who wore the dress best, as guests were all wrapped in red at the Chicago Red Dress Party on April 18 at Moonlight Studios.
The Chicago Red Dress Party is a fundraiser dedicated to creating and maintaining HIV/AIDS awareness and visibility while building a strong, unified LGBT and allied community. With Equality Project Inc. presenting, men and women alike wear red attire in solidarity for the cause.
According to the Chicago Red Dress Party website, the tradition originated in the early '90s as two men were dating when they both contracted HIV/AIDS. To show their love and dedication, they vowed when one of them passed away, the other would attend the funeral wearing a red dress. From this promise, the concept for the 21-and-over national fundraiser was set. It is now held in select cities across the United States.
After the 2011 and 2012 parties, the celebration went on hiatus. Under the direction of Chicago Red Dress President/Founder Chris Davin, the event was revived this year and next year's party is already in the planning stages.
"A lot of people don't do drag performance," said Davin in regard to the event's dress code. "Going out, they don't wear a dress or heels, but you step away for a moment let loose and put the dress on and high heels, have fun and help out the cause and show your support. People go all out on their outfit. It gives them an opportunity to be creative and have fun."
Davin helped with the Las Vegas Red Dress Party in years past and as a Chicago native he saw an opportunity to bring it to his hometown. In his planning, he said he wanted to give attendees a bang for their buck with a night filled with entertainment and as many raffle prizes as possible. A VIP party preceded general admission and a silent auction featuring over a three dozen items ran throughout the evening.
"We want HIV gone," said Miss Foozie, the party's emcee. "To keep the energy going you just have to be strong and say it's going to get better and it will get better and it is getting better and just have a good, positive energy. I see tonight was a perfect night. All the love, all the support, we had a great turn out and everybody's wearing their red dresses and red shirts and red shoes and that's what it's about. We're all getting together to have fun and we're raising money for a great cause."
Along with hosting, personality Miss Foozie gave a comical, energetic performance. The drag performance lineup also included Sissy Spastik, Tippi Peppermint, Alexis Hex and Khloe, while Coco Peru made a special appearance as the VIP performer. DJ Pete Augusta and DJ Chrissy Gunnz played the music for the night.
"I like to entertain, but I also like to have a point of view," Peru said. "I tell autobiographical stories. The thing that drag taught me is we get to create our life. As I created Coco, I had this realization of 'This is what I should do with my life.' I get to have a say about my life and how I create it, so drag really taught me a great deal, just beyond trying to be funny and act like a clown. It really shifted my whole perspective of how I see myself and how I see the world, so it was great."
Proceeds from the Chicago Red Dress Party went toward Howard Brown Health Center and The Windy City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
"[Ultimately, the mission is] to try to help raise awareness on how detrimental this disease is in the community and that it can't be overlooked because the number of people getting infected is growing," said Davin on his personal belief in leading this event and making a positive impact. "Bringing awareness to people that it is a serious matter in that they need to know that education is out there with these organizations. To bring awareness to those who are in fact infected that there are organizations they can go to to help them if they don't know where to start; where to get help, how to get through this and how to educate themselves to be able to live a healthier life and not worry about 'is HIV going to be a death sentence.'"
For more information, visit chicagoreddressparty.org or visit on Facebook and Twitter.