A Dozen Doodads

A common fashion faux pas that is seen from runways to the streets is the over use of accessories, especially because styling is very important when creating a polished look and too much can easily make an outfit look cheap and tacky.  Neither of those words are ones I associate with Carny Style, particularly when upholding the aristocratic edge so commonly lost among the majority of what people pass off as fashion.  While I am not suggesting that everyone needs to spend a specific amount of money in order to exude sophistication, it also does not take as much effort as some think to execute such an outfit.  The main emphasis is directed towards the clothing and shoes, but there are usually a bunch of little details that bring your personality into the garments, and when paired with enough confidence will set you apart from those that are lost among trends.  This can be seen throughout past articles, and I thought it would be a nice change – perhaps even a small challenge – to create a style guide that focuses on all the things one can add to an outfit that instantly transforms it from every day to extraordinary.

There are two reasons I really adore these faux leather gloves by Restyle – they are an ideal way to show off both my hand tattoos and a blood-red vintage manicure.  Though finger less, one can always wear a pair of thin gloves underneath, which can usually be found for a bargain at the local discount store.  The studded bows on each wrist might seem like a bit much, but I see them as chic bracelets you do not have to worry about losing.


Since I am not one to really care about whether or not something is trendy, though admittedly take advantage of them when I can because it is a great way to find a piece that can be customized that might have been more difficult before it was popular.  The skeleton hand bracelet is one of those items that can either be a really amazing accent or incredibly gaudy.  Avoiding the latter is easy as spending a few tedious hours flexing my DIY crafting skills and applying crystals in eye-catching patterns to add a touch of color.

If you enjoy the aesthetics of tattoos but are not ready for the commitment, then you can try out various designs such as this Happy Swallows Tattoo Necklace that features artwork that is a combination of new and old school styles in the form of two bright pink and blue swallows.

Though they are certainly not meant for practicality, there are some two finger ring designs such as this one that are modeled after brass knuckles, and since it is made of sterling silver, I would wager a guess and say that it might have the same effect should you be in the position of having the need to deck someone.

A great interpretation of classic sideshow banner style art by Sourpuss with the Human Canvas Tote Bag, the black panels are accented by striking orange stripes, an orange and black polka dot strap, and features a pinup type girl against a leopard print background that is covered in tattoos.  Whether hitting the beach, a classic car show or staking a stroll through the park, taking the Retro Tattooed Lady Parasol along would be an ideal way to parallel the inspiration in the bag.

One of the things you can slip into this bag is a Tattoo Print Mirror Compact, which gives a three-inch surface to perfect your pout with a fresh coat of gloss or to ensure that your hours of expert hair styling is still holding up without having to attempt a voyage to the bathroom when in crowded situations.

Parasols have become increasingly popular in alternative fashion, but as previously mentioned, they are a great way to have some portable shade when you are enjoying outdoor events but do not feel like sweating your makeup off or having your tattoos get sunburned.  Unfortunately this also means seeing the same designs over and over again, so stand out with this graphic Skulldini Parasol, complete with smiling skulls, snakes and sexy girls!

Summer may still be running strong, but that does not mean one cannot plan ahead, and I for one am looking forward to rocking tights and leggings with stunning patterns, such as turquoise leopard print, that there is no longer a reason to hide them under layers of ugly thermal socks and ankle-length skirts.

One does not have to wait for Halloween to get their claws on some seriously spooky wares like these Dead Girl Bone socks by Kreepsville666, though I would probably put a patch or something over the letting since I am mainly a fan of the bone seams and ghoulish color combo.

For even more creepy chic, try out a pair of Eyeball Hairbow Sildes that are black PVC painted with ‘blood’ splatter and are easily clipped into your hair.

While it would be nice for women not to have to worry about protecting themselves when going out, it is a necessity and as such it is important to carry at least one defensive weapon.  On the outside, it is about the size and shape as many popular brands of lipsticks, plus it comes in different colors in case you want to match your favorite purse.  However, this Lipstick Knife transforms with a simple twist to reveal a sharp blade.

Not all accessories are meant to be seen, though anyone who gets a glimpse of your Jubilee Bra, Panties and Garter Belt set from What Katie Did will surely appreciate it.  Or one could simply enjoy the look and feel of retro lingerie, especially when it is a ’50s inspired range in a radiant ruby-red satin.

There is certainly no shortage of shiny, sparkling, spiked things that can go on pretty much every part of the body imaginable, but one does not want risk looking like they collided with a display rack because those extra bits do add up.  Being bogged down by weight necklaces and bracelets might be cool in an editorial, but they tend to hide some very beautiful body parts.  The name itself hints that accessories are to be used as a means to draw attention to a certain point on outfit to draw intrigue and emphasize your best features.  In the end, the only person who can say what is too much is yourself, but you do not have to haul around your entire collection of wearable tchotchkes to accomplish a successful ensemble.


Kung-Fu Shoes: True Blue

The coolest of colors is blue, which can be found painting the sky, ocean, and even sleep.  In ancient Egypt, lapis lazuli was used to represent heaven, while Christians use blue to represent the Virgin Mary.  A pure hue embodies insight, goodwill and can also have a holistic effect in that it can be quite calming, particularly when used to decorate the home.  Artists use blue to create perspective, as the color gives a feeling of distance and thus allows us to look beyond, accumulating an external viewpoint that is instrumental in articulating your personality through fashion.  Compared to the other colors, blue is overwhelmingly the ‘favorite’, as it is seen as sensible, consistent and dedicated – all qualities that one would certainly hope others saw whether being interviewed or strutting across a stage.  Though generally it perceived as tranquil, electric and brilliant blues become charismatic, striking and charming with an expression of vivacity.  Indigo is a much deeper blue, so it indicates knowledge and is said to increase personal thought and profound insights.  Take caution though, because certain shades or the overuse of the color can come across as cold or uncaring, which is more ideal for a costume which suits that type of character rather than a lively presentation.

Contrary to popular belief, blue is the least gender specific color because it appeals equally to both men and women.  In Chinese culture where colors correspond to the five primary elements, the four seasons and navigational directions, blue is associated with wood, Spring and East.  Paintings of the god Krishna often depict him with blue skin, in Mexico it is a color of mourning, to the Aztecs it symbolized sacrifice, and in Greece it is believed that wearing a blue charm necklace or bracelet would ward off the “evil eye”.  Owls are the only birds who can see this color, mosquitos are likely to be twice as attracted to it compared to other colors, and people are often more productive in blue rooms.  Those who incorporate blue into their wardrobe will find that it looks good in just about any shade and it can aid in self-expression, which is something this guide is definitely full of.


The magnetic qualities of a metallic platform heel is one of the many reasons the Teeze style by Pleaser has such a wide range of designs that can be coordinated with a number of different outfit.  This particular pair of shoes invokes a noble characteristic and would look lovely with a fitted pencil skirt and cleavage enhancing blouse or a sparkling, slinky cocktail dress.


Don’t let anyone step on these blue suede shoes – Belll is Betsey Johnson‘s version of the classic footwear sung about in Elvis Presley’s tune, complete with platform, peep toe and black stiletto heel blasted with studs and spikes.  Rock these with any of Lip Service‘s tartan pieces or items from Widow‘s upcoming Fall line Black Ice , such as the Handkerchief Dress and Ponti Clip Leggings.


If one desires to feel alluring and provocative, try the sophisticated satin of Daelyn, a saucy pump with ankle strap and dazzling ruffled lace that trims the five-inch heel from top to bottom.  A shoe such as this tends to speak for itself, so it would be best paired with a statement piece such as the Army Dress by Living Dead Souls.


There is something oddly appealing about metallic toe and heel caps, particularly when they have heart-shaped cutouts and are mounded on pointy toed blue suede flats, which also have a leopard print lining.  Sadiie is a spectacular shoe designed to slip on and off easily, which will come in handy if you have been out partying until the early morning hours.


Jeffrey Campbell fulfills ever party girl’s dream with Wanted G, a modern silhouette with a dash of flash that is nothing short of eye-catching.  The familiar Mary Jane shape is wrapped in a deep, sparkling blue and topped with a bow that belies its diva attitude.


Described as the “sexy cousin” of Jeffrey Campbell‘s 99 design, the Pixie has the same heel and hidden platform but has a taller bootie with a ‘secret’ zipper in the back.  Succulent blue suede on the outside, leather lining, padded foot bed and a non-skid sole provides a framework to ease feet while you embark on a whirlwind adventure.


One does not have to be intimidated by shoes that have no heels, as they are touted as being more comfortable to walk in than they look.  The blue suede of Shadow Spike is a soft contrast to all of the silver spikes that have been hammered into a shoe fit for a post-apocalyptic warrior queen.


All the piggies go to the Market, then the new bistro that just opened up, that bar you always hit up on a Friday night and maybe even take a stroll through the park at midnight.  No matter what your destination, these velvet platform wedges by Ego and Greed will treat your feet with nothing but the best comfort.


Platforms do not have to be restricted to pumps and wedges – sneakers have received an elevated makeover during the past few years and are appearing in all types of alternative fashions.  The sleek Oxford style upper combined with a contrasting white platform sole of Timmy has silver stud details that don’t go overboard which prevents one from being limited to what can be worn with it.


Cobalt is one of my favorite shades of blue and the Sugar Hiccup platform pumps by Iron Fist are a great example of how the rich hue and studded skull details gives chic style a harder edge.  Wear them to compliment a structured pencil dress such as Spike It, another upcoming Fall item from Lip Service.


Develop an unusual look with these dynamic Haute Tiger Pumps by Ed Hardy – a brilliant blue composes the background for striking embellishments of a roaring tiger’s head surrounded by pink and white cherry blossoms.  Dare to ware them for a pinup contest at a tattoo convention or for an evening of checking out some new art.


For a truly royal look, spoil yourself with blue satin and flocked black flower details, with rivers of encrusted rhinestones running across this peep toe platform ankle boot, which is sure to make you the center of attention for all of the right reasons.

When paired with warm colors such as red or yellow, blue has the ability to create vibrant, high-impact designs – the color scheme is also a corner-stone of Carny Style and has often appeared in circus related artwork.  Vivid shades such as indigo or azure reveals qualities of luxury within one’s character, and perhaps even a touch of superiority.  Though navy is nearly black, when combined with a lighter shade it can transmit trust and truthfulness.  Patel blues, particularly when the are worn alongside pale yellow and light pinks, gives the suggestion of Springtime, while deeper blues are considered Winter colors.  For a natural, watery palette one can mix blues and green; add grey for minimized nobility and light brown, tans or beige for more organic combinations.  When blue is paired with white it instantly incites nautical themes, or you can create a conservative yet sophisticated look with subtle contrast by coordinating light and dark shades.  No matter what your taste is, do it with style and confidence!

Aesthetic Autopsy: Spidora

Among the attractions of a traditional sideshow there lurks a handful of illusions that are presented alongside working acts.  There is a huge difference between attempting to fool people with mirrors and creating a huge ball of flame – that being the latter puts one’s life at risk and in no way should be seen as something that is ‘magic’.  No doubt there is time and effort that goes into creating an illusion, and they can be quite stunning when they are done right, but I feel they are more of a kitschy gimmick compared to a talented showcase of variety skills.  Having said that, I can also recognize that there was a time when these things littered fairgrounds as single-o’s and preyed on those who were susceptible to believe the illustrated banner which proclaimed absurd living creatures were lurking inside darkened tents.

One of the oldest of these exhibits that still draws in large crowds is Spidora, an unfortunate young lady who warrants compassion as she has been snared in the labyrinth of a giant web.  Her body has been dissipated by her captor and all that can be seen is her head with mouth agape – though often times what the eyes really beheld when they went in the grind show could cause enough disbelief that anger motivated ignorant actions.  Despite this small note of negativity, Spidora is still held in regard as the foundation for the thoughts behind this particular style guide, which also pays tribute to the compelling image of her that has graced sideshow banners for many decades.


The patterns that appear on a spider make it easily recognizable as a fashionable predator, with brilliant colors and precise stripes that create distinctive marks which dictate a no-nonsense attitude.  Translating these elements into something that is chic without being a literal interpretation requires a bit of skill and knowing when to edit your look to prevent it from becoming a giant mess.  A contrasting monochrome Paneled Bandage Mini Skirt, for example, can establish the basis of a sleek silhouette, while a  black stripe underbust corset will emphasize curves in all the right places.  Create textured layers by adding a grey silk bra that has black accents in just the right places to match the lines in the skirt, and a long sleeve black knit shrug that is reminiscent of a spider web without being tacky or too obvious.  The black stitched leaves, lace-up back and heart-shaped buckles are just a few of the details that make T.U.K.’s red patent platform shoes a striking statement.  Wear them with geometric patterned fishnets or sheer wide stripe thigh highs which would benefit from being attached with some vintage style garters.  Other accessories do not have to be big or gaudy, as less is often more and a few statement pieces should make the different between wearing an outfit or being completely styled.  For instance, a retro sparkle vinyl purse and vintage red net wrist gloves adds a bit of sophistication to this particular look.

Channel otherworldly elegance a la Morticia Adams with a chain necklace, which drapes nicely across the chest and ties in back with a black ribbon, a pair of Black Death Fly earrings and a matching set of Spider Web Bracelets that are filled with real silver for a touch of opulence.  With everything properly assembled, it comes time for those last few finishing touches that will pull it all together.  Begin with a polished hairstyle by gathering locks into a slicked back ponytail – secure with eyeball hair bands for a touch of gore glamour – or manipulate them into shimmering finger waves.  Compose a seductive smokey eye by blending together Night Breed and Night Life shadows from NARS, and top off lashes with their Larger Than Life Lengthening Mascara.  Dust cheeks with Albatross, a highlighting blush that will give them a luminous glow, and treat lips with Illamasqua‘s Maneater, as it is a classic cherry red in a matte finish that is sure to make a statement.


A different approach to assembling an outfit is to utilize simpler items you might already have in your wardrobe and relying a little more on the adornments to signify where the inspiration is being drawn from.  While a black 50’s style swing dress seems basic, just adding a red organza petticoat for volume, a matching smocked corset belt to nip in the waist and a black beaded shrug transforms it into evening appropriate attire.  What Katie Did is known for their vintage styled lingerie, but they also have a lovely selection of hosiery – the Seamed Fishnet Tights are ideal for this ensemble if one is going to be dancing and would go well with these stunning silver leather high heel sandals.  A black leather purse embossed with a web that features an attached cast metal spider is an eye-catching way to tote around personal items.  Macabre taxidermy used to be an essential part of sideshow, which one can pay tribute to Victorian mourning style with the Black Death Swarm necklace, a piece that is hand constructed from black chains and accented with black Czech glass beads.  Dangle spiders from your lobes as a reminder of the predator you are emulating, and arm yourself with sterling silver bracelets made from coyote bones and snake spines as a testament of your fierceness.

Prep your face as usual and then prime eyes for an assault of Illamasqua shadows: Incubus – deep charcoal grey, Soul – cool silver, and Daemon – bright scarlet red; accent brow bones with Phenomena, a molten silver metallic cream, and add a few coats of midnight black Masquara.  Bring a sheer, flush of color to cheeks with Cactus Flower, a delicate shimmering poppy cream blush by NARS that provides a smooth color for luminous skin.  A modern tack on bright red lipstick straight from the 1950’s silver screen is Jungle Red, and while it has a semi-matte finish, one can always add some Triple X lip gloss for extra shine.  Unlike the previous look, this one allows for nails to take the spotlight, especially if they are varnished with Chinatown, a blood-red lacquer that would really be set off by a vintage manicure.  Warm up those irons and toss hair up into victory rolls with bumper bangs and accentuate with crystal studded hair clips, or sweep curls on your crown and hide the rest in colorful snood.


The final look, as indicated by its alliterative title, takes that crucial step beyond mainstream fashion and enters avant-garde territory, making it something that would be worn for a performance or high-profile social event.  Vivien of Holloway has been praised in numerous past articles for their iconic halterneck dresses, so it should be no surprise to see the 50’s Luxury Dress here in a rich purple satin with black spiderweb overlay.  Intensify a harder edge with a black leather shrug and black patent corset belt, though one could easily duplicate the latter without spending nearly as much.  Compliment the golden toned spikes with Razzle by Pleaser, a rhinestone embellished gold peep toe wedge that features details King Midas might as well have carved himself.  Lux de Ville is another name that one should be familiar with, as they provide high quality products such as the Atomic Tote Bag – violet sparkle patent leather with black accents and leopard print paneling on the sides, fully lined with enough room to store a few snacks.  Jewelry for the modern primitive comes in the form of a gold spike necklace and earring combination, Fireball spiked bracelets, two-finger gold spike rings and Gunmetal Black Bone rings – a clear indication of your warrior status.

After laboring over your favorite pinup, retro or vintage hairstyle only to have it become defeated by Summer heat, fix a black cocktail hat topped with a crystal accented spider web over your tresses and no one will ever know the difference.  Amplify eyes with Urban Decay shadows in Blackout – blackest black and Flash – iridescent purple, with a touch of Vanilla – golden pearl.  Explore the benefits of having sun-kissed cheeks without actually having to exposure yourself to dangerous UV rays with Baked Bronzer in Gilded, a bronze shimmer with veins of gold for a glamorous glow.  To avoid detracting from the precise strokes surrounding the portals to your soul, opt for a nude toned lipstick such as Melt by Illamasqua, which is also flecked with gold shimmer.  Plump up lashes with your favorite mascara or either of the products mentioned earlier in this guide, then lay down a line of glue and squeeze on some false lashes.  Varnish nails with Boosh, a pure black polish with glossy finish and decorate with precision lines to create mini webs in corners or on the tips.

There is no definitive when it comes to using a particular influence for fashion, because a large part of it comes from inner beauty and confidence.  Without it, one is  nothing more than a moving clothes hanger and there are already people who get paid to do that so leave it to them.  For me, it is easy to discover creativity among sideshow, as there has always been intense imagery associated with its history and they are some of the most compelling works I have ever seen.  The world that existed beyond the dime museums and canvas tents is one many get just a glimpse of, yet I am fortunate enough to have experienced it myself, though to a lesser degree than what I imagine it used to  be like.  When the rest of society insists on telling you who you are and pointing out obvious parts of your appearance as though you were unaware of them, there is a place that embraces you with open arms, where no one judges you and everyone looks out for each other.  At least that is how it once was, and I can even find the charm in illusions such as Spidora, because they still incite that bit of intrigue which naturally draws in crowds eager to see what is advertised on an illustrated banner.

Resources: Sideshow World

Kung-Fu Shoes: Queen Green

Prominent among the sprawling landscapes that Nature has gifted us, green denotes evolution and regeneration – on the negative side, it is also indicative of jealousy and inexperience – and can produce a warming or cooling response.  The color green also represents a balanced composition of stability, where several shades give a novel Springtime vibe, while drab tones are ideal when one desires to pick up on military overtones for a style.  When paired with beige, brown or tan, the color emotes an elemental feeling, though when contrasted with purple, gives an immediate high-impact and lively sensibility.  Combining green with yellow and black or white is suggested for those who are a bit more brazen with their fashion.  The more natural shades such as forest and lime green are viewed as comforting and exhilarating, with an organic blend of blue [cool] and yellow [warm] undertones.

In several religions, green is associated with: resurrection, regeneration, the color of love affiliated with Venus and Aphrodite, the Celtic God of fertility, the altar cloth for the Catholic church’s Sunday service and represents Irish-Catholics.  Wearing darker greens will let others know that you are conventional, steadfast and informed, but the bright greens shout modern, peculiar and animated – though none of those things are exactly negative, just be aware of what message your shoes are sending before selecting them.  Of course that is where this week’s style guide comes in handy as it navigates through a selection of styles that will certainly stir up feelings of jealousy from those who will secretly coveting your seductive footwear.

A classic staple for an elegant wardrobe are satin dress shoes, and the curves of these Evelixa pumps are accented with a ruffled overlay around the peep toe and a foiled silver lining that wraps around a cushioned bed.

It is not often that an item is elected into the exclusive aristocratic category, but one also cannot deny that Pleaser certainly has Prestige when it comes to sumptuous pumps, particularly a green satin platform heel that has been decked out with iridescent rhinestones, ideal for that vampy new burlesque act you have been working on.

The simplicity of Pleaser‘s Teeze design is amplified by a lime green satin base and covered with a layer of black lace.  Flaunt your effervescent side by wearing them with some back-seamed fishnets and the leg-baring Tiki Slit Dress by Sourpuss  coordinating tiki drink is optional.

As mentioned earlier, green and black make a strong paring and T.U.K. shows us why with these amazingly chunky platforms.  The black sole and heel have hidden accents, though the combination is made more apparent with a bright green upper that is patterned with hearts, while three buckled straps cris cross their way over the toe and heel.

Funtasma heels are a creative blend of black patent vinyl accents interjected by swaths of green glitter and accented by a matching vinyl bow, five faceted buttons on a green glitter strap, and silver buckle that secures the black vinyl strap around your ankles.

If compelling compositions are more your speed, there are quite a few Iron Fist shoes that should quench such a discernible palate.  For instance,  their Green Monster heels have a cacophony of twisted images on the toes, while the interior is offset by black and white stripes.

Reign over the bourgeois and infect them with Jungle Fever, a frenzied lime peep toe pump enthusiastically embossed with thick black leopard spots that can send the dance floor into a frenzy the moment you set foot on it.

The black satin roses and skull print prevents the contrasting purple accents from making the Mombassa wedges into a visual nightmare, though they should certainly be the main focal point of an outfit, and try to avoid too many coordinating accessories if you are not aiming for a kitschy look.

Disembodied eyeballs may have been making their rounds among alternative fashion to the point where they are a bit over-played, but the Oh No platform peep toe pump also features tentacles and spatters that manage to make it standout among similar styles.

Venturing into a more black-based territory is the sadly discontinued Dead Phones design, which features adorable rouched bows on elastic straps and a neon slime skull tangled up in bright pink wires.  The detailing on the interior is just as intense, and the shock of lime at the bottom of the heel is definitely a sharp way to bring the toxic tone of the skull into a different part of the shoe.

On the other side of the spectrum are these adorable peep toe pumps that are lined with white piping that really brings out the freshness of pea green – the stark white heels suggest sophistication while the green and white bows keep the style chic and youthful.

It was difficult to select just one of these cyber inspired platforms, not so much because I am so head-over-heels for the designs that I want to buy or wear them, but rather due to the fact each one has a significant difference which sets it apart from other such styles.  Then again, Pleaser makes it easy to Adore six and a half inches of black platform heel, while a trio of neon green UV reactive tubes dart across the sole and the foot is exposed under a clear vinyl upper.  If the idea of balancing precariously on top of stilettos is not within your comfort zone, Beau is a lovely black platform wedge sandal that stacks those acidic-looking tubes up the heel.  However, if you have command of towering shoes, then the aptly named Flamingo is for you – it is an eight inch platform sandal with four rows of that UV green tubing, a spiral of it slipping up the heel for a dizzying effect.  A simpler slip on peep toe design has three strands of tubing twisted between the platform and heel for a black light delight!

Would highly suggest wearing any of these with items from Lip Service‘s upcoming Quarantine line, which features a toxic green gas mask screen print, black and green vinyl with black mesh overlay, and cyber punk style tubes.  Bonus points if you manage to match your hair and makeup without being a neon nightmare.

Green has been recognized as a symbol of fertility for many centuries, and its meanings has evolved in American culture to express a mood of heightened sexuality.  It was a sacred color to the Egyptians, embodying the ambition and elation of Spring, and is said to be a comfortable color to the eye.  There are even claims that it has considerable potential to effectively soothe pain.  Circus and traveling showmen in Australia consider green to be bad luck, though that might have something to do with the fact that a “greenhorn” is someone with little to no experience yet can are eager and abundant.  However, a shamrock is considered to be good luck in most Western cultures, and there are more shades of green than any other color.  The meaning that it holds comes from the person wearing it, and there is sufficient evidence in this article which suggests that a pair of emerald slippers may be just the thing one needs for an extra boost of empowerment.

Style Spotlight: Bearded Ladies

There is undoubtedly a certain standard that constantly looms over the fashion industry which dictates what is popular, trendy, beautiful, attractive, sexy and generally deemed desirable.  While I will write lighthearted articles that tend to feature some of the things because it is what people seem to enjoy reading about, I always maintain that the guides are merely suggestions and one’s personality matters far more than the things they put on their body.  This attitude comes from an alternative lifestyle which embraces equality and is rooted in the sideshow where unusual appearances were not only celebrated but also often what was drew in large crowds and subsequently made the most money.  Whether they were considered too tall, short, fat, skinny, etc. by the rest of societies standards, these women were valued for what others saw as disfigurements and abnormalities – many even became empowered by their roles because they were more popular than the male attractions.  Perhaps the people were fueled by curiosity of how a woman could be afflicted with such ‘horrible’ things yet be brave enough to exhibit themselves and invite strangers to inspect their bodies.

It is said that facial hair on men is associated with attributes such as wisdom, masculinity, sexual virility and a  higher social status.  On women, the beard is something of phenomenal legends and has often led to ridicule, though more recently it is has been acknowledged as a political and fashion statement.  A large majority of men grow hair on their faces as a natural progression of maturity, but there is a very small number of women who have the ability to grow a significant enough amount in order for it to be noticeable.  This growth can be the result of a hormone imbalance, rare genetic disorder and occasionally by use of steroids.  While there were certainly fakes in the sideshow, a few names remain legendary because these women had enough intestinal fortitude to commit to their characterized portrayal of what some may have seen as a novelty act and made it into a successful career.  Todd Browning’s Freaks featured Lady Olga, a bearded lady born in North Carolina who toured with several circuses including Ringling and had worked in a Times Square dime museum.  America’s most celebrated bearded lady of her time was Annie Jones, who acted as spokesperson for P. T. Barnum and worked to have the word ‘freaks’ abolished from the business.  Not only did she display a full, long beard, but grew her hair to over six feet – Annie also expanded her talents to include musical skills and gracious etiquette.  Though she had become  established as a bearded lady at a tender age, Jean Carroll shaved it off for love and acquired over 700 tattoo designs from famed artist Charlie Wagner to become an illustrated lady instead.

Prior to becoming a staple of sideshows, bearded ladies were venerated in mythology and folklore, with documents suggesting that the beard gave a priestess named Athena clairvoyant abilities, while the Middle Ages regarded them as witches.  In the 14th century, a bearded nun was canonized as a saint and the festival of Saint Paula is still celebrated, as is the Feast of Saint Wilgefortis.   Helena Antonia was a courtesan of Polish Queen Constance, though not much more is known other than the fact she was both bearded and a dwarf.  Josephine Boisdechene was among the first women to exhibit themselves during the Renaissance, though she was born with a variant of hypertricosis known as hirsutism, and while in France she met, fell in love with and married a bearded artist.  Adopting the name Madame Clofullia, she became signed by Barnum and appeared in his American Dime Museum as ‘ The Bearded Lady of Geneva’, her feminine features emphasized by a Victorian wardrobe while jewels opulently adorned her styled beard, giving her an overall regal look.

The most prestigious and well known historical attraction is Julia Pastrana, a woman who was excessively hairy – predominantly in the face – and also had what is documented as “ape like” features.  Despite obscure origins and an appearance that earned her the title of ‘Nondescript’, Julia possessed great poise and impressed many with her charm, grace and singing voice.  A reporter in London described her as being “civilized and domestic” as she spoke three languages, enjoyed traveling, cooking and sewing, not to mention willingly lent herself to medical examinations.  During her career, Julia had a few promoters, the last of which was so worried about loosing her as an investment to rivals, he married her in 1875.  Three years later she gave birth to a boy who lived for only thirty-five hours, and subsequently died five days later.  Julia may have been treated like an object by her promoters, but her personal anecdotes give the impression that she was a content woman, though there is a bit of sourness when reflecting on her life events.  None of that can be compared to how both her and her son were exploited as their preserved corpses were exhibited and sold around the world for twenty-five years.  They showed up in a Norwegian chamber of horrors during the 1920s, toured German occupied territories in the ’40s, and went into storage in an Oslo warehouse in the ’50s.  Julia and her son toured Norway and Sweden in 1970, arriving back in the United States one year later when the tour was cancelled due to public outcry.  The exhibition was eventually banned and the mummies were placed back in storage, where they were subsequently forgotten about.

While her life is certainly marred with exploitation and manipulation, there is also the story of Percilla that is based on true love, inner beauty and respect.  Having been born in Puerto Rico with hypertricosis, Percilla’s parents brought her to New York to seek out help from doctors, and her father developed the idea of exhibiting her for profit to take advantage of her appearance.  A showman and promoter named Karl Lauthner took immediate interest in Percilla and subsequently adopted her when her father died.  Lauthner is said to have been sensitive to public perception, disliking when she was called “freak” or “monkey girl” – that latter moniker stuck and was used in promoting her as an exhibit.  While performing in the late 1930s, Percilla met Emmit Bejano who was known as the Alligator-Skinned man, and their ability to see past each other’s physical features led to a blossoming romance.  The pair wound up eloping in 1938, were dubbed the World’s Strangest Married Couple and shared the stage while successfully traveling with several shows for many decades.  Eventually they retired and moved to Gibsonton, Florida where they remained happily in love until Emmit died in 1995.

In contemporary society, the new voice for women with beards is Jennifer Miller, a performing artist who has worked with numerous choreographers, dancers, circuses, and the Coney Island sideshow over the past twenty years.  She is co-founder of Circus Amok, a NYC based political performance troupe which has been the subject of many documentaries, has taught at multiple universities, is widely recognized for her work and has received several awards.  In an interview with Vox Magazine, Jennifer stated that she embraced the idea of having a beard right away, but the decision to do so was not always easy.  She credits her strength to being raised in a feminist environment and finding encouragement from peers, though admits that using the public restroom can be difficult.  “Having a beard is a stigmatized thing,” she says in response to the subject of whether her sideshow status effects the ability to have social relationships.  “I have to deal with that in the way that so many other people have to deal with the stigma of disability”.  An article in the New York Times describes Miller as someone who “confronts her audience head-on as a ‘bearded lady’, in an amalgam of old-time vaudeville and feminist theater” and notes that traditional bearded ladies had a feminine quality to their portrayal.  Miller, on the other hand, rattles expectations as “she parades her beard, forcing the audience to look at it and ask questions”.  When asked why she did not shave, there was no doubt that the answer was complex yet confident when she asserted, “[But] if I didn’t keep my beard, it would be a statement of hopelessness.  Keeping secrets requires energy that’s debilitating, especially when it’s out of shame and fear”.

Women are certainly victims of shame, because no matter what one does with their appearance, it is constantly criticized and held to unsolicited opinions.  Body shaming occurs constantly as an endless barrage of images from magazines, television shows, movies and even pornography are constantly telling both men and women what is deemed acceptable as being sexy and attractive.  Anything that strays even slightly from this warped ‘norm’ becomes the subject of jokes that individuals are expected to take because of their choices.  It is one of the most childish things that someone can pick on because no one is ‘perfect’ and beauty is subjective, so there should not be this exhausting competition to be more or better as you sacrifice physical, emotional and mental well-being for superficial purposes.  There is nothing wrong with change as the evolution of self is a natural process, but make sure that you making them for yourself and not because it is what someone else likes or wants.  You are the most important person in your life, and when you are confident in who you are, I guarantee that others will see it too.  People fear what they do not know and so they tend to revert to a mentality that expresses this emotion with ignorance.  If the women of this article teach us anything, it is that one can face fear with all the grace and elegance of a queen, utilize inquiring minds for profit and tackle gender boundaries with the greatest poise.

Though the image of a bearded lady is still one that can be characterized into a costume – which I personally feel if not done with respect and some level of skill can come off as appropriation – she is still a champion of standing strong against the stereotypes of women that are generally shoved down our throats by the mainstream media.  She inspires an incredible amount of art that has surfaced in a number of mediums such as illustrations, tattoos, screen-print shirts and even jewelry.  If this is not indicative of how empowering people find bearded women to be I don’t know what is, and on a personal level I have to say that I find a bit of happiness seeing that these things are inspired by such an intriguing image.

Resources: The Human Marvels

Photo credit: 1 – Jane Barnell, 2 – Helena Antonia, 3 – Hirsutism

4 – Lisa’s History Room, 5 & 7 – Sideshow Ephemera Gallery

6 – Off To the Circus, 8 – Modern Tattooer

Kung-Fu Shoes: Zany Zebra

One of the main benefits to wearing animal prints is that they are usually a relevant style and can easily transform an outfit from boring to daring.  Zebras may not be the most majestic of creatures but it certainly asserts an interesting aesthetic with inherited stripes that are angled on its body and accentuate its curves.  Translating such an intriguing pattern into fashion means there will be a vast spectrum of cheap hooker heels to powerful pumps that can only be described as jungle couture.  The difference comes not only from the quality of the shoe, but also the attitude of the person wearing them – a negative tone can easily overwhelm any carefully constructed outfit and will translate to a sense of insecurity if one depends on clothes to generate their characteristics.

As an artist, I may not always dress the way I would like to because there are other responsibilities that come before expanding my wardrobe, yet I still find ways to incorporate various inspirations into the way I present myself.  It is a bit ridiculous but necessary to recognize that I have to represent a specific quality that is indicative of who I am and do so in a manner which others can pick up on.  It is not something that can be taught and comes with all the many years of experience I have interacting with other performers, audience members and generally curious random people on the street.  What makes them want to strike up a conversation, no matter how brief the interaction, is secondary to the fact that they were inclined to do so in the first place.  Taking all of this into consideration and combining it with the theme of this week’s ode to awesome shoes, it is perfectly acceptable to take a risk in fashion for the sake of expressing parts of yourself that could benefit from the exposure.

Part of T.U.K.’s Notorious collection, these fierce heels have a sleek red and black zebra print, crossed ankle straps punched with grommets and an all black heel.  There are also grommet details on the upper heel and a star charm that hangs from the buckle of the ankle straps.

The subtle orange tone of these suede zebra print pumps are nicely accented with a black heel that even sneaks up the back, where wild meets elegant with a simplicity that makes these ideal for casual wear with a pair of dark blue jeans.

Citrus sparkle and a satin lining keep these zebra print stilettos from being too tacky, which is definitely something to avoid when putting together a stunning outfit.  Kitschy might be keen and all, yet there is certainly a limit to what is in good taste and this particular pair of pumps would be lovely with a tiki ensemble.

Accenting a bold print with a bright color, as seen here with Lower East Side’s Fiona Flat, is a simple way of bringing out your wild side without shouting it across rooftops.  Made from faux leather, the trendy round toed flat is trimmed with a soft neon green and matching bow, manufactured to be flexible and comfortable.

Zebra print does not have to be limited to pairing colors with black – the teal in these Sugarfree pumps are a nice tonal contrast that sets of the round toe and concealed platform of the leather look stiletto.

Colors that are deep yet rich are always favored for having that royal flair, and the Kora by Michael Antonio is an beautiful example of how blue zebra print can really set of the platform peep toe pump – the zipper detail on the upper part of the heel is a nice little bonus as well.

Fuzzy zebra print stilettos might seem a bit intimidating, particularly if they give one the feeling they are some sort of space pimp, but I can assure you that they are have practical applications in an outfit and can really set off a figure flattering black dress.

There are certainly limits to mixing animal prints, because being a clusterfuck train wreck that is a visual assault should be left to professional knuckleheads who can afford to look like walking fashion nightmares.  The rest of us can rock Iron Fist’s One Hand In The Grave wedges, the chunky black and grey zebra print accented with lime piping and lined with coordinating leopard print.

Stand out from the rest of the back with Iron Fist‘s graphically gorgeous Zebracorn stilettos.  The psychedelic colors of this zebra print peep toe pump carries a surprise in the lining in the form of illustrations that depict the rebellious and mythical creature for which these shoes have been named.

Gold is definitely a dominant color that can be seen just about everywhere in Summer fashion from face framing earrings to shimmering makeup, so why not incite a bit of Vertigo with these T.U.K. platform heels.  The twisting zebra stripes and ankle straps are a delightful design that will draw the eyes in before guiding them up to the rest of your outfit.

Demonia is well known for taking classic shapes and adding their signature touch to create shoes suitable to numerous alternative subcultures.  Here they have taken a Mary Jane wedge, wrapped it in glittering white and black zebra print, then embellished it with buckled bondage straps.

If you find the idea of going on a surfing Safari appealing, the white and black pleated velvet of these Pleaser pumps are certain to assert yourself as queen of the Summer, a title earned after successfully defeating the meager competition.

Fashion does not have to be boring or even restricting, because in the end clothes are just that and it does not matter who wants to wear what.  While society would like us to believe that people can be whittled down to categories depending on their body size, an individual is worth so much more than the numbers on the labels of clothes and shoes.   They do not define us any more than the garments themselves, and though they are certainly perceived as a reflection of one’s personality, it is that very thing which others are quick to judge.  Yet life is too short and there are plenty of other hobbies that can be much more fulfilling, so think about that the next time you might want to criticize someone’s choice of expression.  Fashion is supposed to be fun and embrace all, not be another platform for useless competition.  Leave that for ridiculous reality shows and tabloid gossip – you will be far too busy drinking cocktails and taking compliments on your zebra print pumps.

New Jersey State Fair

[Originally written on this date in 2004]

Earlier this year I had mentioned to Jon that I wanted to check out the fair at the Medowlands, and so I was certainly surprised when he reminded me about it last week.  We met up at a diner in East Rutherford, which resulted in an appropriate Hollywood Moment followed by a delicious dinner and catching up since it has been a while since we last hung out.  Then we climbed into his Chevy and were transported to an amazing atmosphere.

There are not too many places left where you can pay a dollar to see something great.  We hit up ever single-0 without a single moment of hesitation, smiles plastered across our faces and hands clutched tightly when we entered with excitement.  There was the World’s Smallest Horse, the World’s Largest Horse, Snake Girl, Gorilla Girl, the World’s Smallest Woman and a tent full of other sideshow stuff.  Have to say that I really liked those tents, and of course it gave us a lot of  inspiration.  Come to think of it, we have not done any sort of sideshow this year, and I wonder if it is because I am too wrapped up in my own life and do not pursue it as much as I have in the past.  When I saw how much money those people were making, especially off rubes, it reminded me of what Jon and I used to be able to pull in.

There were many moments during the evening where I wanted to ask him why we were not performing as much as we used to.  Then I remembered that time was being spent on road trips and generally enjoying each other’s company instead.  However, I could not help but noticed the look in his eyes when we waited on line for those single-o’s.  No matter what, Jon and I are still Carnies and understand what it is like to make that kind of money.  It may not be what motivates us to put ourselves at risk for entertainment, but it sure helps when we have big plans and need a means of funding them.

We enjoyed listening to the clown at the dunk tank insult people while they tried to get him wet, and even came across a small private collection of pristine classic cars.  Of course spending a significant amount of time wandering around the midway, it was difficult for us to avoid the temptation of all those unhealthy foods.  With the smell of seared animal flesh, onions, peppers, cotton candy and the like swirling in the air, I knew we would eventually find our way to one of the numerous lines.  Jon dined on a funnel cake while I orgasmed over fried Oreo’s.  Later in the evening we were also treated to a free circus, and while it was small, it was still damn good.

Thus concludes my first experience attending a State Fair, and it was utterly fantastic.

In less exciting news, I went to have my hair cut a couple of weeks ago.  Now even though I really despise this thick black jungle that lives on my head, I do not want give in and chop it off because I would really like to have a mohawk.  Out of all the people to run into at a salon, I found Jess [this I knew from Crapi] and am so happy that I finally have my own personal stylist.  She did a great job on my hair and took a razor the sides so that there wasn’t as much bulk, and then cut half an inch off the ends.   Now I can actually style it instead of just keeping it slicked back all the time.

My lobes have reached that crucial one inch mark, and I am quite proud of myself for the patience I have shown in getting to this point.  Have been told that I could possibly get to my goal size by fall, but there is no rush.  To be honest, I am a bit humbled that every time I see him, he reminds me that I have the perfect lobes to stretch.  Had to get new jewelry, as the old plugs had far too much tape on them.

Currently working on putting together some shows for Summer – after attending the fair, Jon and I agreed that we have been inactive for too long and need to remind people about the great joy of circus sideshow.