Aesthetic Autopsy: Madame Electra

There is a personal connection I have with the act known as the Electric Chair, a fantastic display in which a seemingly ordinary woman has the ability to harness the power of electricity and conduct it through various body parts to shock the audience.  Legend has it that Madame Electra was struck by a bolt of lightning and managed to survive, though was left with this mysterious ability that made her misunderstood among her peers.  Much like revealing the secret behind a magic trick, the truth on how this act works is far less fascinating than the presentation and for once I am not going to ruin that.  What I will say is that one can search the tags and find a report on how I was selected to sit in this contraption during a visit to Coney Island one Halloween, and I also had a first-hand look at it when I attended the sideshow school there a few weeks later.  While traveling with the Great American Circus Sideshow I was subjected to what I consider a substandard prop that literally shocked me, leading to refusal of ever sitting in it again.  Nonetheless, knowing the secrets and having been the act myself, I have a great appreciation for those who put on a great performance and really make me believe what is happening.

A memorable scene from Nightmare Alley features the Sheriff coming round with a beef about Madame Electra’s costume because it is too revealing, and he is convinced that is all the poor girl can manage to wear, otherwise there is a risk the clothing might spontaneously combust.  Like all good rubes the Sheriff is persuaded to calm the townsfolk and is indicative how the right words delivered with careful finesse can convince people that the extraordinary is true.  Of course that is a huge premise behind sideshow and translating this attitude into fashion does not have to result in skimpy outfits that leave little to the imagination.  As always the purpose is to take inspiration and find a way that it suits your personal tastes while still maintaining a piece of the original influence.  This can be easily achieved by making a list and then discovering items in your own wardrobe or purchasing something that is on trend yet still versatile enough that it will be used frequently, even when the next hottest thing is making the rounds.




The embellishments of this Pearl & Lace Corset Top accentuate white diamond shaped patterns, the built-in cup offering extra support while the black straps and band offer plenty of comfort.  Flaunt your curves with the Lip Service Fashion Victim Lightning Print Skirt, which has plenty of stretch thanks to a spandex base and elastic waistband that makes it easy to slip on.  Screen printed on the front are stunning lightning strikes that evoke images of the sparks that Madame Electra can emit from her fingertips.  Break up all that black with a Silver Corset Belt, a stylish accessory which has a snug fit and adds a bit of fun with a stay put bow.  The are plenty of elements on this Steampunk Jacket that makes it stand out from ordinary black cotton ones; straps, grommets, buckles, ruffles, velvet trim and antiqued buttons trim the garment in all the right places.  Something about Black Milk’s Muscle Leggings made me want to include them with the outfit, the bright and bold anatomical illustrations playing well with the skirt.  Remember that these are footless and to put on a pair of Skeleton Bone Ankle Socks to keep toes toasty inside this pair of Jeffrey Cambell Dramo Spikes.  The black patent and suede platform has a chunk of silver spikes in the front, a criss-cross pattern up the back of the heel and a firm sole that makes them easier to maneuver in than they appear.  Have the rubes running scared with Iron Fist’s American Nightmare Purse, a black skull print emblazoned across a blood red background, lace up detailing in the front, interior cell phone pocket, zippered closure and removable shoulder strap.  Capture the essence of a classic movie icon with the Bride of Frankenstein Rosary Necklace, a sixteen inch black beaded chain that holds a portrait of the Bride herself surrounded by a silver frame.  Show off your provocative personality with Silver Lightning Bolt Earrings, a Lightning Bolt Double Finger Ring by ASOS, and a couple of Diva Spike Bracelets.

Fierce eyes do not have to be drowning in several layers of black, whereas daring shades of red would convey a far more powerful statement.  After prepping face with your usual routine and applying primer to the eyes, sweep Predator, a pillar box red by Illamasqua that has a slightly cool tone so it is not too intense, across lids and blend slightly into the crease; add a touch under the eye and blend that out as well.  Follow with a few coats of Berber, a Pure Pigment that is a rich auburn with plenty of metallic shimmer, then add Moonflower to the corner of your inner eye and along the brow bone then blending the soft creamy white shadow into Berber.  Keep your hand steady while using Precision Ink in Havoc to line the eye and draw an aubergine cat eye and plump up lashes with Volume Mascara in Nocturnal.  Chisel out cheekbones by contouring with Cream Blushers in Betray a deep plum rose, Laid – bright rose pink, and Lies – pearlescent cool pink, the dewy finish giving your whole face a radiant glow.  Give your lips just as much shine with Facacade, a grey pink Intense Lipgloss that will make your pout appear full.  Complete the look by polishing nails in Vice, a deep cerise that has a rubber finish, topped with Harsh, a glossy finished silver glitter that is going to add plenty of shine to your manicure.




Often the image of Miss Electra on a huge painted banner is accompanied by plenty of electrified bolts and occasionally a view of her internal anatomy, which is why I chose this fabulous Bones Sequin Dress by Iron Fist.  The silhouette of a black tank dress is a basic shape, but the turquoise skeleton design and sea of sequins makes it wearable at a posh party or chic cafe.  Wear a Knit Stripe Cardigan as a top layer, the ribbed knit, scooped knit and coordinating color paired with accents of grey adding texture; leave the buttons undone and push up the sleeves to leave room for plenty of chunky bangle bracelets.  Sheer stockings can be paired with opaque ones in bright colors for an interesting effect, particularly when they happen to be Lightening Bolt Tights.  Flaunt your Street Cred by way of Jeffrey Campbell’s glitter encrusted heeless platform that is described as “a Mary Jane on acid”, and keep your valuables secure in a Monster Movie Print Clutch.  The retro clutch features cotton printed with the familiar faces of Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula and the Mummy, and is accented by white metal-flake sparkle vinyl.  Having kitschy accessories does not mean one is limited to a collection of cheap plastic things that get boring to wear, as these Turquoise Carved Skull Earrings demonstrate.  High quality stone infused with multiple healing powers can dangle from your lobes and grin at those who stop to swoon over their details.  Though it might seem a bit repetitous to wear a Ribcage Necklace having the same print on the top of the dress, but when the bones are made of sterling silver covered with white and black diamonds, the feeling of opulence is undeniable.  At first glance the Lightning Bolt Bracelet might be deceptive as a novelty because it was made for Marvel,  but they are indeed made of silver and accented with real sparkling crystals.  Bring a romantic touch to the ensemble with a Black Cameo Ring, which features the profile of a young lady framed by white faux pearls and is mounted on an adjustable band.  Last but certainly not least, pin long locks away from the face with black Kreepsville Gem Bone Clips,  because no one wants to see Madame Electra set her hair on fire.

As mentioned above, complete your usual pre-makeup routine and get ready to create an avante garde eye, sweeping layers of Illamasqua’s Sex on the lids to build a sturdy base of pure white shadow, and then using the blue green tones of Burst on the outer corner to create the ‘outer V’.  Add a touch of Savage [deep berry pink] to the crease, blending it outwards into Burst, and follow that with a light touch of Pure Pigment in Static, an iridescent silver and pink combination.  Use Chasm [golden turquoise shimmer] under the eye and inner corner as well, and then using an angled brush line the top lid with Superior, a metallic sapphire Liquid Metal that goes on smooth and leaves behind plenty of shimmering pigment; finish with a few coats of Masquara.  Even though the emphasis is mostly on the eyes, one can still balance that with Atomic, a fuchsia violet Lipstick that can be sheer enough your face will not be overpowered by color.  Use the same techniques described above for glowing cheeks provided by Powder Blush in Thrust – deep magenta pink, Tremble – soft lilac pink, and Ambition – shimmering neutral.





Though the instance is rare that instead of a lovely young woman being seated in the Electric Chair one will see a burly man, the act takes on a different tone and the presentation itself changes.  The man convinces his audience that he is mad and ready to subject the physical body to mild torture, which met with fascination as the switch is thrown and he starts twitching in the chair.  Therefor, the final look in this guide is inspired by those unique individuals who played into the dangerous aspect of the act and put on a fantastic show.  A basic black T-shirt is the ultimate in comfort and a wardrobe staple; having the image of Frankenstein flanked by lightning bolts on it gives the eye something interesting to look at while paying homage to the movie monster that was created with electricity.  Described as being “the new and improved Greaser jeans”, the Lip Service Indigo Jeans are 100% cotton and made from rigid bull denim, making them durable enough to wear while dancing or working in the garage.  If one is going to opt for a studded leather jacket, might as well make it one by Versace that also has crystal embellishments, which I happen to think go well with the Laredo Classic Mignon Boot; these amazing cowboy boots have plenty of hand stitched detail up top while the toes are treated with an overlay of burnished flames.  Don’t forget to put on some Broken Bones Socks on first to keep feet warm.  Thread a Hugo Boss Studded Belt through the loops of the jeans, a great causal accessory made from grained leather and covered with cone shaped studs, and secure using a 3D replica of Frankenstein’s Bride with this stunning Belt Buckle.  Being a walking, talking anomaly doesn’t mean one is without a sense of humor, as is demonstrated by the Get Pickled Wallet by Sourpuss that is embossed with a brain in a jar flanked by pinstripe style wings.  With all of these striking illustrations there is not much need to add anything heavy in terms of other accessories, so keep it simple with a Stainless Steel Twisted Bolt Ring and a set of Wide Leather Cuff Bracelets.

Photo credit: `1 – Coney Island Circus Sideshow, 2 – Pop Culture Ninja

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