It was a fashion show unlike most — actually, just about any — others.
The gowns were created from duct tape and discards and recycled stuff. Show organizers insisted that none of the ensembles could be worth more than $100.
The fashion show — Project Nunway Las Vegas — was a fundraiser for the Holy Order Sin Sity Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a nonprofit organization described in the show’s program as “your fabulous order of Queer Nuns.” The Sisters, however, welcomes anyone who wishes to do good while never forgetting to have some fun.
The Las Vegas chapter is an offshoot of the original San Francisco-based Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which was created in 1979 and now has “houses” in more than 20 states and eight other countries.
Like its Mother House, the Sin Sity chapter, founded in 2005, is all about community service and health education and outreach.
Last weekend’s Project Nunway raised money for the group’s signature program, the Sisters AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which offers financial assistance to HIV/AIDS sufferers who aren’t able to afford their medications.
While the Sisters may not be Southern Nevada’s most well-known nonprofit, Brian Paco Alvarez, a local businessman and historian who served as a fashion show judge, said that “in the gay or LGBTQ community, they’re really, really well-known, and they have been since they came out — no pun intended — years ago.”
The Sisters have done “incredibly important work,” Alvarez said, and “when the Sisters show up to your event, it’s a big deal, one, because of their great costumes — they wear the campy outfits — but also because of the great charitable work they do.”
Oh, yes, the costumes. The Sisters have a religious order-like hierarchy, with ranks from aspirant to full-fledged nun. Each member wears, in addition to a habit, distinctive makeup augmenting a wide variety of other stylistic choices.
Each Sister also takes a name that no kid is ever going to hear in Sunday School. For instance, Tracy Skinner, the local order’s founder, is known as “Mother Loosy Lust Bea Lady.”
In 2003, while working on a community HIV/AIDS outreach project, Skinner met a Perpetual Indulgence sister from California. Impressed, Skinner and a handful of friends created the Holy Order Sin Sity Sisters chapter.
A fight for rights
The local Sisters’ web page — sinsitysisters.org — explains that the order’s mission is to “fight for queer rights and visibility; do safer sex outreach; and strive diligently to keep our sense of humor, never taking ourselves so seriously that we forget to have fun.”
The Sisters will march in Friday’s Las Vegas Pride Night Parade and will offer a blessing to open the Pride Festival, which takes place Saturday and Oct. 22 at Sunset Park.
The order’s primary fundraisers — both of which raise money for the drug assistance program — are the two-year-old Project Nunway fashion show and an annual Red Dress event. Skinner says the Sisters over the past 11 years have raised more than $650,000 for the program.
“And we’re a 100-percent volunteer organization,” he adds. “We do all this ourselves.”
So what makes Sisters of the Perpetual Indulgence different from other area nonprofits? “Have you seen how we dress?” Skinner quickly answers.
The colorful nunwear certainly attracts people’s attention. More important, the garb dissolves interpersonal barriers so that “people want to talk to you and people come up to you and ask you questions,” he says.
A worthy show
Last weekend’s Project Nunway included entertainment, a silent auction and an underwear fashion show — buyers bid on the garments, which were immediately removed and delivered by a towel-clad model.
The fashion show featured five pieces that were judged, including a duct tape-and-grocery bag outfit modeled on the color palette of the Flamingo hotel sign and an Area 51-meets-Las Vegas Strip design that featured special lighting effects.
First prize went to a piece by Matt Cox that incorporated craps table and roulette wheel designs. And while receipts were still being tallied last week, Skinner was pleased with the turnout.
Which certainly merits an angelic “amen” with maybe even a hearty “hallelujah” on the side.
Contact John Przybys at reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.