Andrew Linden lives in fabric and rhinestones, creating the dresses of their dreams even if they’re not quite how they hoped.
Linden spent Thanksgiving in their boyfriend’s house in Kentucky sewing up four dresses. The dresses, most of them made from Linden’s own supply of fabric, were for “Dance Nation,” a play performed in late fall of 2022.
Linden’s current line of work is performance-based, capturing the joy, sadness and love of drag and performance in fabric and stitches.
For “Dance Nation,” Linden created four dresses, for a role that was double cast. Two made of shimmering gold fabric, and two made with sparkling tulle, made to look like a ballerina. The two made with tulle are based on two of the lines from the monologue the character Amina says in the piece: “Winter is coming” and “I am the winter.”
Linden made the piece for their friends to shine in their roles in the play. Heather Alzapiedi, a senior acting major, is one of those friends, and she spoke about how important Linden was in supporting her.
“I would say [Linden] is like a ringmaster, hype man, little brother, Miss Universe and marathon runner wrapped up into one person,” Alzapiedi said. “He took care of us so much during ‘Dance Nation’ and made sure everyone on that stage felt beautiful, completely volunteering his free time free of charge and built four custom pieces just to make us feel special.”
Linden, a senior preparing to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting, has spent hours preparing costumes for both themself and their friends. In fact, Linden’s internship with drag costume designer Florence D’Lee led them to a new appreciation of the craft.
Linden’s love of costuming came from another piece of performance art – drag. In fact, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was the first place they saw themselves represented, and it gave them an outlet to express who they are.
“There was so much more meaning and so much more passion behind my queerness in terms of my identity, I hadn’t yet wrapped my brain around that,” Linden said. “And I felt that ‘Drag Race’ was just the first time I could see where people that not only were queer, but [who] were using it for their art.”
This love of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” race also assisted Linden in finding friends. Anna Moceri, a senior acting major and another performer in “Dance Nation,” remembers Linden’s love of the subject.
“I met [Linden] four years ago,” Moceri said. “We were in the same BFA acting class and we didn’t talk too much our first year, but right before [coronavirus (COVID-19)] hit, we started to talk more, bonding over similar interests like ‘Drag Race.'”
Linden has performed in drag shows before. At the age of 21, Linden performed at a drag event at Montclair State University. That event was Linden’s first, and they came in second place. Linden plans on doing more.
Linden is new to garment construction. Their first sewing machine was something that they repaired through trial and error, using cardboard and hours to try to get the pieces to work.
Whether it’s rhinestoning (a technique where rhinestones are added to a garment by machine or hand), hand-sewing, applying appliques or serging stitches, Linden has done quite a lot, despite being newer to garment construction.
Before their internship, Linden’s experience stemmed from garment construction classes that taught the basics. Linden didn’t know much of the intricacies of dressmaking but dove in headfirst anyway.
“I don’t have any courses in design, or draping or flat patterning or any of the things that go into actually how to take a vision or a drawing and make it into reality,” Linden said. “I kind of just fly by the seat of my pants when I do that stuff. I just have to keep telling myself, ‘[it’s] all a game. This is fun.'”
Linden, an ardent perfectionist, has created pieces to celebrate pride month and for themself. Their outfits are gowns in silky red and silver, complemented by matching shoes.
Their outfit for their Montclair State drag show was made all by hand with a white lace top and black and white checked shorts and gloves, through trial and error.
As for Linden’s future, Linden hopes to keep making clothes for performance pieces and drag shows.
“In five years, I just hope that I’m able to make money doing what I love,” Linden said. “That’s about it. In five years, I see myself performing. I want to continue as much as I do. I have found myself really, really finding fulfillment and [by] being behind the scenes in terms of outfits and [and] working on and assisting in the construction about that’s being made for big-time drag performers.”