Billy Porter: Statement dressing at the Tonys, Oscars and Met Gala

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Billy Porter at the Tony AwardsImage source, Getty Images

The Oscars, the Met Gala, and now the Tonys - the American actor and singer Billy Porter's outfits on the red carpet are turning heads.

But many feel Billy's not just trying to impress the fashion crowd - he's also trying to make serious political statements.

Take the Broadway star's latest outfit - a diamond-encrusted suit - with a floral train representing a uterus.

He told reporters it's a pro-choice stance on women's abortion rights.

The designer Sergio Guadarrama describes the ensemble as a "gender-fluid evening suit".

Billy told the Hollywood Reporter how the pair: "Spoke about making a pattern on the train that was in the shape of a uterus, but not obvious, of course.

"And I thought it was awesome because women's rights are under attack right now.

"I'm an advocate for all who are disenfranchised... none of us are free until we're all free!"

It's a topic being widely discussed in the US.

The state of Alabama is planning to ban abortion in nearly all cases.

Meanwhile, over in Louisiana a bill was signed last week by the governor banning abortions once a heartbeat is detectable - with no exceptions for rape or incest.

But the law will only come into force if a federal court upholds a similar ban passed in neighbouring Mississippi.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Billy's Egyptian-inspired outfit at the Met Gala received a lot of attention

Billy Porter's not shy about showing his stance.

"This government is trying to take away the woman's right to choose and that's unacceptable - no!"

Part of the outfit's train was made with the curtain backdrop from Kinky Boots - the Broadway show Billy won a Tony Award for in 2013.

"I thought it was great in how many ways it was making a statement."

Bethany Hamer - the online fashion editor for retail brand Jules B - says she was impressed with how he linked back to his previous win.

"I felt like he was showing people that they can achieve their dreams like he has - and it's completely subverting gender norms with the whole style of it being a dress.

"He's said himself - he's not a drag queen - he's just a man in a dress.

"Then, with the embroidery of the uterus design, it was supporting women as well and abortion rights... how much more of a statement can an outfit on the red carpet make?"

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Billy also made headlines at the Oscars with his black tuxedo gown

The Tonys follow the Academy Awards earlier this year, where he wore a black dress by Christian Siriano - a designer known for championing size and gender inclusivity.

Another dress was worn to the American Film Institute luncheon, which he said was "highlighting the lives of our marginalised brothers and sisters from the LGBTQAI+ community".

Last week, he sent an anti-bullying message by wearing a "matador-realness" themed outfit for the season premiere of Pose.

"Fashion has always been a really powerful lens through which to translate the big subjects."

Rebecca Robins, a fashion lecturer and co-author of Meta-Luxury, believes she knows why Billy's getting such a good response from much of the style crowd.

"We're seeing him make really strong statements on identity and choice and freedom - and also to touch on things that people don't want to talk about.

"He's using the force of creativity to break down barriers... I think it's phenomenal that he's strong, brave and opening up a debate on things.

"And - crucially - it's true to him."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Billy Porter being carried into the Met Gala

Earlier this year, Billy told Vogue the story behind his fashion evolution.

"I grew up loving fashion, but there was a limit to the ways in which I could express myself.

"When you're black and you're gay, one's masculinity is in question - I dealt with a lot of homophobia in relation to my clothing choices... I was trying to fit in to what other people felt I should look like.

"When I landed a role in Kinky Boots, the experience really grounded me in a way that was so unexpected.

"Putting on those heels made me feel the most masculine I've ever felt in my life. It was empowering to let that part of myself free."

However, not everyone is impressed with his stance.

He receives some criticism on social media, one Twitter user commented on his uterus look, saying the outfit was like "Valentine's Day ate too much candy and threw up. Who needs 3 brooches in 2019?"

Another thinks there's too much hype around this sort of thing saying: "He wore a dress to a party about movies. He didn't fight for his country."

His abortion stance will also not be well received by those who support a wider movement of anti-abortion measures sweeping the US.

In the first months of this year, nearly 30 states introduced some form of an abortion ban.

But Billy Porter has responded in the past saying he doesn't care about negative comments and wants to start "conversations".

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