The most notable performers in any classic or modern circus are those who utilize skills while simultaneously putting themselves at risk, making difficult maneuvers look incredibly flawless with smiles on their faces. For me, pretty much every aerial art is beautiful and breathtaking, with toned, athletic bodies accomplishing feats that seem possible only in the realm of a comic book. However, the grand champions of the space above the traditional rings that are a host to their own multitude of talents, are those individuals whose very entrance garnered the same reception as royal monarchs. Trapeze is an aerial ballet that must be expertly coordinated and excellently timed – one simple misstep could result in a mid-air collision or even send the human body hurling towards the unforgiving cement floor of an arena. Thankfully safety nets prevent most serious injuries, but deaths have occurred in the past and for me is an ever-present element of danger that makes achieving even the smallest trick incredibly magnificent.
My appreciation for this art comes from the 1956 classic film appropriately entitled Trapeze, which stars Burt Lancaster as an injured former star and Tony Curtis who becomes his protégé in hopes of learning the triple – that is, completing three somersaults in the air. The passion captured by Lancaster’s performance as Mike Ribble, who firmly believes in the purity of traditional circus is something that I can definitely relate to. Ribble plays coach to Curtis’ Tino, who has the ability to be something great but is distracted by Lola. She wants to be her own star and wedges her way between the gentlemen in more ways than one. She is also an example of how eye-candy is sort of expected when it comes to circus, which is obvious in the one scene where she is purposely showing off her costume in order to get what she wants. The point is that the film does a great job of spotlighting the customary values of trapeze arts and how they are handed down through generations.
The wardrobe most commonly associated with the trapeze artist consists of leotards, tights and ballet-inspired shoes; each element allows them to execute a variety of stunts and the garments ensure these movements will not be restricted. When making the grand entrance to an arena, a group is often adorned in coordinating colors, vibrantly hued material accented with sparkling sequins that will surely capture lights even hundreds of feet from the ground. For an increased level of flamboyance, intricately detailed capes are displayed, further sustaining the notion that these individuals are no ordinary human beings, but in fact are blessed with otherworldly powers that they humbly choose to share with the audience.
Opulence does not have to be an understatement, nor does one want to be mistaken for an overdressed gymnast either. There is a means of interpreting the aesthetics of trapeze costumes without duplicating them exactly, as inspiration does not need to lend itself to replication, particularly if one is aiming to capture the essence of a look for a photo shoot or performance piece. Monotone outfits with graphic prints are a favorite when it comes to garnering attention for all of the right reasons, and so this first look is built upon a stunning latex leotard with large black and white “V” design that is fierce, while ruffled accents and flattering cut keeps the piece feminine without being overly frilly. This feather and silk-fringed bolero is all about the details and will assist in keeping arms from being too chilly while waiting to ascend into the air. Tights with a black and white diamond pattern are an excellent way to make legs look lean, which is essential when guiding gazes to leather ballet boots. They are appreciated by fetishists for their posturing arches and require a strict amount of discipline if one expects to walk in them. It is often said that the trapeze artists flies through the air with “the greatest of ease”, and this pair of Harlette Bella Du Juor Cuffs adorning the wrists will assist in attracting a mate while doing so. Of course a silver necklace with angel wings could be considered a good luck charm and is not an overwhelming accessory. For that statement piece, I present the brilliant black and white lattice print kisslock purse, which is lined with red silk to ensure that even the smallest personal item deserves to be handled with care. A feather and sequined headpiece becomes the topping to this visual display of elegance.
Bringing emphasis to the endless seduction of a woman’s curves, there is no denying the allure of this Leopard Print latex dress by Venus Prototype, especially since the red and black piping along with the crisscrossing lines across the front do much to punctuate the otherwise transparent leopard print. Matching hat and gloves can also be found on her Etsy shop, omitted here in lieu of a single perfectly coordinating accessory in the form of these appropriate leopard print Teeze pumps from Bordello Shoes, which even comes with a red satin bow. This elegant Black Crystal Beaded Pashmina shawl maintains a hint of modesty while adding a splash of sparkle, and vintage styled glamour gloves in fire engine red protect the much depended on hands from minute disasters that could affect a performance. Take advantage of the feathered hair accessory trend while it is still raging, or if you are a bit on the craftier side as I am, earrings can easily be up cycled into fascinators. Summon strength and accuracy, both of which are needed when gripping a trapeze bar in mid-air, via this whimsical blackened metal octopus adorned with white diamond crown. Wearing one’s luxury is encouraged for special occasions, perhaps a fancy New Year’s Eve party, and thus a Swarovski crystal studded flower bracelet should be displayed without shame. Last but certainly not least, I amend my former statement to include the Lucky Me leopard print purse by Luxe De Ville, because it certainly does a great job of putting the finishing touches on this feline inspired femme fatale ensemble.
If the idea of a man in tights conjures up images of stereotypes and otherwise labels an individual as effeminate, then obviously your mind fits in a very small space and should be distracted with things one might find more suitable to macho tastes. For those who can appreciate that there is no such thing as gender specific clothing and that men do not have to be left out when it comes to first-class style. Alexander McQueen’s koi print leggings are covered with ornate designs that are brilliantly hued and exquisitely detailed, which surely will make every movement smooth and effortless. Since there is an overt fetish theme to this retrofuture circus, leather Jodhpurs become more than befitting as a wardrobe staple, because there is such an appreciation for time spent cultivating an athletic body, and it should be proudly displayed. A simple white cotton tank top layered with a laced up cotton shirt are quintessential for lightweight comfort, and serve as a base to highlight this black velvet Regency Waistcoat that can easily translate into a number of different styles. Personally I feel that men’s accessories should be clean and classic, with simplicity and the right dose of sophistication, which is why I am promoting the use of a black silk paisley cravat in place of a tie, and this robust sterling silver ring with black rubber accents. Other accoutrements that a gentleman cannot be seen without include the Captain Spaulding Steampunk Top Hat in royal blue crushed velvet, an elegantly crafted walking cane, orange leather gloves, white leather combat boots [not pictured] and a fashionable black wool cape.
While many of the items presented in this guide are certainly categorized as high-end pieces that flirt with fetish and would be acceptable to wear under specific circumstances without a bunch of silly questions and confused onlookers gawking, the general aesthetic remains as one reserved for the higher ranking members of Circus. After all, they are the ones who put themselves at risk the most in order to entertain, and it is often their legacy that draws in those paying crowds, so it is natural that they should want to carry an appearance which reflects this status. Over all, keep in mind the things that you like and suit your tastes, because it is always much easier to dress as yourself while drawing inspiration from various sources, rather than donning a costumed incarnation that doesn’t truly represent who you are.
Photo credit: 1 – en.wikipedia.org, 2 – allstarpics.net