What Are You Wearing?

Babs O'Matic's Attention-Grabbing Outfits

All the world's a stage for local dancer/performance artist Babs O'Matic

The 36-year-old typically sports plenty of glittery, flashy and eye-catching outfits both onstage (when performing Strange Family Circus or belly dancing at events like the annual Rites of Spring Ball at the Alwun House) and off. Most nights you can find her at hangouts like the Trunk Space or Jobot, attracting attention with her outfits and spazzy, comical antics. 

That includes wearing flashy, gaudy jewelry, revealing tanktops of the occasional costume. (Heck, she even became a living piñata for Beatrice Moore's annual Mutant Piñata Show at Bragg's Pie Factory.)

"I love being the center of attention," she says. "Otherwise I just stay home."

An entire room in her vintage house in the Loma Linda district is dedicated to storing her costumes and clothing, including Little Bo Peep getups, 1920s aviatrix outfits, and even some clown wear. 

"And lately I've been putting together a lot of clown costumes, since everyone seems to love a clown," she says. "And I really love clowning around when I'm out and about."

What are you wearing right now?
Today I am wearing a white miniskirt that I got at Goodwill, a red and white striped tank top with "Skintight Pasta" stenciled on it. That's my gang and I made this shirt. I'm also wearing a glittery hair band, leopard print beaded armband, a Hello Kitty purse, and a big rhinestone ring I think I got at a place in L.A. called So Good.

What's your favorite thing to wear?
Very gaudy costume jewelry. I do a lot of performances, so the bigger and shinier it is the better.

What's the most attention-grabbing thing you've worn?
I think it was the three-breast prosthetic piece I wore for a burlesque dance.

What's the last item of clothing you bought?
A new black bikini with shiny iridescent sequins at Forever 21 at Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe. The first time I've been to a mall in like six years.

Where do you usually shop?
Thrift stores and Sun City yard sales. They used to make petite people back in the olden days and now they don't, so the old styles usually fit me with no alterations. Locally, I own quite a few things that Lisa Jacobs has made. Last Chance also has shoes that are rad, and Victoria's Secret has good bikinis.

What do you like to accessorize with?
Generally, I like really big obnoxious shoes. And I rings, too. You never know when you need to punch someone, so I always have a really big punching ring on.

What item of clothing do you most covet at the moment?
Some of the really fancy hats with fascinators, these little hat clips with netting in the front. I've been looking a lot at these lately, but they're $60 a pop, so I haven't bought any.

Where would you love to have a shopping spree?
Maybe Japan, because they make tiny people there. And they have such a nice aesthetic there, use of color and materials. Ridiculous, crazy things.

Who are some of your style icons?
I think I was accidentally super-influenced by Madonna as a small child, when she was all about the wearing of obnoxious things and reusing things in different manners. Things that weren't supposed to be worn on the outside or wearing hardware as jewelry. And I was also influenced by Mrs. Roper from Three's Company, because she was always really loud. Like you couldn't help but smile when you see Mrs. Roper and whatever she was wearing.

Give us a childhood memory of you and clothing:
I'd gotten a fashion magazine once that had turned me on to wearing hardware as jewelry. And I went to a hardware shop when I was nine and made earrings out of springs. I thought that was the sweetest thing for a long while. And about that time I started getting the crazy bright things, a la Mrs. Roper, from thrift stores like fake plastic purses.

Name five things every woman should have in her closet:
1. A pocketknife
2. A '60s dress that's way too short
3. A pair of frilly shorts to wear underneath dresses that are way too short
4. Many bikinis
5. Stilettos

What's one thing you should never buy used at a thrift store?
Anything that's going to touch your most precious parts.

Name an item of clothing that's best when it's vintage:
Dresses, because generally they're made to fit a body at the waistline, hips, and bustline so its not loose.

What is your one piece of fashion advice for Phoenix:
Use shade hats and parasols during the summer, because the sun will kill your skin. Hats are beautiful, but people stopped wearing 'em because of the shampoo commercials.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.