Steven Oates goes ‘behind the seams’ with the designer who creates Aotearoa’s most iconic drag outfits, Jenn Jones.

If Auckland’s Drag Scene had a Fairy Godmother, it would be Jenn Jones. For over two decades Jenn has been stitching, bedazzling and glueing gowns for many of our most recognisable Drag Royalty. Her love of all things sparkly goes back even further.

“I started sewing drag at 15 because the first pair of high-heeled shoes I brought were too tight across the top. I modified them and stitched diamantes on – I always loved glittery things,” Jenn tells us.


A self-taught seamstress, Jenn credits her mother (who sewed all the family’s clothes) with much of her creativity.

“She used to draw me the most amazing pictures of movie stars with the big fishtail dresses. It’s only now I realise I ended up here because of my mum. I bought an industrial sewing machine before I bought a car! I made all my own outfits, I was a right little fashionista back then!” She reflects.

All aboard the Pink Flight in Jenn Jones’ designs.

Jenn carved out a successful career in dressmaking but in April 1999 a phone call changed her life forever. Fashion designer Turet Knuefermann rang to ask for her help in creating gowns for Drag Divas: Buckwheat, Bertha, Bambi and Shanice. “I worked on these dresses, cutting them out on my mum’s lounge floor and sewing them up in her little garage with my machines. It just went from there!”

Jenn’s creativity quickly adapted her sensibilities and skills to drag design. “Buckwheat was such an inspiration to work for because I hadn’t done it before, but we muddled along together. Sometimes we’d start off with a drawing or a concept, and Bucky would say ‘I want this,’ and then as we’re making it, it would morph. That’s what I really love about drag. Weddings, bridesmaids, ball gowns, it’s all to the tee, but Drag, can start as one thing and end up as something completely different! The creative process is open to my interpretation and what the Queen wants.”

“Over the years Jenn has created many costumes for me.” Auckland drag legend, Buckwheat tells us. “She has created costumes which have toured the USA, Singapore, Berlin, London, Ibiza, Air New Zealand Pink Flights, Vodafone Music Award Costumes, Golden Stiletto Awards, Hero Shows; you name it she’s worked on it!”

Thankfully Jenn’s hunky partner Ben is almost the same build as Buckwheat so often has to frock up and be Buckwheat’s body double when Jenn needs to add the finishing touches!
Her ‘Heavenly Hibiscus’ design even won the Overall Highly Commended Award (second out of over 300 garments) at the 2004 Westfield Style Pasifika Awards, winning the Hero Category. That costume now belongs to the Auckland Museum as a part of a trio of Buckwheat costumes for the Tamaki Stories exhibition.

Kita Mean Wears Jenn Jones’ Iconic All Black Design.

Jenn’s creations are even being showcased on an international platform. “Now with RuPaul’s Drag Race the bar is set so high all the time…. it was really cool when Drag Race Down Under came out!” says Jenn who worked with Season One winner, Kita Mean, to make sure she had the looks that would help secure her the crown.

“Jenn has made me all kinds of looks, each one proposes its own challenges. Whether it’s finding ways to make things multipurpose with evening gowns that zip off into cocktail dresses, to adding strobing lights into the sleeves of my jacket, to covering 12-foot articulating wings. She does it all!” says Kita who is currently showcasing some of Jenn’s work on a tour of North America. “Jenn and I are kindred spirits. We are both passionate creatives that love what we do. Designing with Jenn is pretty much sitting with a close friend and shooting the breeze about ideas.”

Kita’s Drag sister and Caluzzi co-owner Anita Wigl’it can also be seen wearing Jenn’s designs. “Her creative genius and amazing abilities kicked off a costume-making relationship and also a great friendship,” Anita tells us.

“She has created real Drag costumes for me. Things that a dressmaker would usually faint at! If you can dream it, Jenn can make it. Nothing is ever too hard for her.”

Kita Mean rocks a Jenn Jones another design.

“Jenn has contributed massively to the Auckland drag scene! Thanks to her we have had fabulous outfits that show the world we can have incredible costumes with a uniquely Kiwi twist to them.”

One of the secrets to Jenn’s success is her understanding of what’s needed to create something larger than life yet functional. “Over the years, Jenn has come to terms with how the art of drag and our aesthetics work. She understands the nature of how show garments need to be robust and strengthened and creates accordingly. Her costumes have stood the test of time, as has her evolution of drag style.” Says Buckwheat.

“Every day, I think, ‘Wow, I’m so lucky I was never a women’s fashion designer.’ When you’re making outfits, you are part of these moments of time in people’s lives. You get really close to people, and the love and the gratitude comes back from them. I feel really connected to my queens.” Jenn tells us.

A Jenn Jones design in process.

Thanks to Jenn, the art of Drag has been elevated to new heights here in Aotearoa.
“I can’t describe the number of hours Jenn has worked tirelessly to deadlines to ensure when we walk into an event or on stage, we are immaculately turned out. Thank you, Jenn, for all the love you have put into making us look and feel incredible,” says Buckwheat, before reflecting, “I’m not sure this article is such a good idea! Once the secret of Jenn is out, I might find our costume extraordinaire is inundated with requests from every Drag performer in the country!”

Jenn can be contacted for commissions on