For the first time since beginning this series of fashions based on specific characters from Circus culture, I selected one that technically does not exist. While many sideshow banners are often an exaggerated depiction of a real person or animal, the Fiji Mermaid lives only in myths. To be more blunt, it is a gaffe – more commonly known as a fake, fraud or hoax. A few artists have managed to capture the spirit of showmen eager to boast their rare find in taxidermy effigy, but otherwise what has long been reported as a half fish, half human hybrid is nothing more than an active imagination. However, this does not discount the Fiji Mermaid from being a prominent figure, to the point where just about every sideshow had their own version of this creature, accompanied by an emotionally charged origin story that was too good not to be true. Their existence can be traced back to the Renaissance and Baroque eras when they were staples in curiosity cabinets. The exhibit credited as popularizing the concept of a mummified mermaid was owned by P.T. Barnum, an artifact that came into his possession on June 18, 1842. Since then it has been copied mercilessly by people who claim theirs is the ‘orginal’, with variations appearing in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museums and Coney Island’s Sideshows by the Seashore. During the brief existence of Curiosities From the Wilds of Weird New Jersey, Jon managed to obtain a brilliant version that was billed as the Atlantic City Mermaid, who had her own merchandise and attracted plenty of curious observers who wanted a picture or two.
Each of the outfits below take inspiration from sideshow banner imagery and the idea that modern wares can be combined with vintage pieces and the right accessories in order to produce unique results.
Choosing a nautical theme for this first look felt a bit obvious, however utilizing that inspiration without overwhelming the outfit in too many cliched tropes can be achieved through careful editing. The striped pattern of Miss Fortune’s Nautical Halter Dress lends itself to being a neutral when pairing it with other items and becomes a versatile piece that plays to both circus and pinup styles. Picking up on the navy and white colorway of the dress and offering protection from chilly evening ocean breezes is the Nautical V Neck Cardigan, a pair of anchors set on the shoulders. This detail is also reflected on Pleaser’s Anchor Open Toe Pump where deep blue patent vinyl is accented with white piping, a bow on the heel and another secured to the toe opening by way of a golden anchor charm. A pop of red in the dress can be found on the interior of the shoe as well; ensure it becomes a part of ensemble with the Floozy Purse by Sourpuss, the vintage influence prominent among the bright red vinyl, giant red bow and kiss lock closure. Reflecting rays could prove distracting so don’t forget to bring some Cat Eye Sunglasses for fashionable protection and a bit of rhinestone sparkle. Sailing the seas is a thrilling adventure but carefully coiffed manes could use a bit of taming, the Sail Away Bandana coming in handy when you want to tie tendrils in a pony tail while Nautical Octopus Hair Bows use adorable blue cephalopods mounted on red and white polka dot satin ribbons to wrangle any stray strands. Kitschy jewelry such as the Sourpuss Limited Edition Sea Horse Earrings are delicately detailed that prevent them from being confused for cheap costume pieces, while a Red Beaded Necklace continues the vintage influence of the outfit. It is contrasted by the one-of-a-kind Shark Tooth Ring, the two inch tooth surrounded by 18 karat yellow gold and white diamonds; similar pieces can often be discovered in antique stores or custom constructed by a jewelry maker. Draping yourself in the riches of your kingdom seems to be expected, so don’t forget the Gold Starfish Cuffs before emerging as an amazing mermaid ready to stun mere mortals.
Devious transluscence that enhances the complexion while delivering a refreshing incandescence, Copacabana Illuminator by NARS applies a glistening pearl sheen to the parts of the face you wish to highlight such as the cheeks and bridge of the nose. The base of the eye art is built on Biarritz, an ideal shade of neutral cream colored matte shadow that is heavily pigmented despite the sheer appearance. Starting slightly above the natural crease, glide on Dark Rite and slowly blend the smooth navy blue shadow pencil upwards and outwards. Draw in your cat eye using Via Veneto, the soft black pencil effortlessly delivering plenty of creamy color that does not cake and will last for up to twelve hours of wear. Take a small brush and tap a bit of Electrum on the inner corners, perhaps even putting a thin layer of the antique gold liquid metal underneath the brows for extra emphasis of an alluring sea nymph. Don’t forget a few coats of Larger Than Life Mascra to bring your lashes to their fullest potential! Understated eyes are balanced by the rich boldness of Majella, a decadent garnet Satin Lip Pencil formulated to give lips a long-wearing statement shade to seduce sailors in every port, and the shimmering golden coral tones of Torrid, the blush giving a natural glow to the face. Prior to engagements, paint nails in Desperado for a lively manicure imparted with vernerable vogue.
Sophistication and elegance combine to form a classic silhouette where the bountiful riches of a deep sea mer-kingdom are delicately displayed across this Cream Striped Corset, the mild sweetheart bust line dripping in faux pearl embellishment. When laced it offers up to five inches of reduction on the waist, putting emphasis on the bust and hips for that alluring hourglass figure. It would make sense then, to create unequivocal flattery and the illusion of a tail with a Black Jacquard Mermaid Skirt that has distinguishing black inlay kick pleats, a row of buttons allowing you to wear it as open as you would like. Redirect sun rays and shield your briny pallor in a Gold Bolero, the shiny fabric gathered in ruffles around the collar and cascade down to the cropped hemline. Choosing to leave the skirt full closed, one can give the appearance of floating in a pair of Pewter Rhinestone Teeze platforms, these Bordello beauties featuring a grey satin pump covered in sparkling gems that just might blind anyone who stares at them too long. The minimalist shape of this Black Satin Handbag may not be obvious as a shell, but the gathering of the fabric manages to mimic the ridges of those found on beaches. Procuring accessories that are actually dated may seem as though it defeats the purpose of a polished appearance, but Cat Eye Sunglasses carved from mother of pearl become a sleek way to wear shades. Once again it is suggested that portions of hair be swept up to capture the movement of waves, an Octopus Cameo Clip offering security for voluminous styles. This also allows you to show off delicate Starfish Earrings, their golden bodies studded with gleaming stones and perched on a pair of pearls. Nuzzled together on a sixteen inch chain are Kissing Seahorses, detailed one inch golden charms that will sit nicely between the bolero and the corset to make it seem as though they are sharing an intimate moment hidden in a field where Gold Fish casually swim by. Counter all that gold by weighing down wrists in mother of pearl chip bracelets as a reminder of the bounty of natural riches found in the sea.
The palette for the face to go with all of this opulence is dominated by neutral tones, but each product serves an important purpose and together they ensure the time spent on application was not in vain. Since humans are not blessed with flawless mermaid skin, Illamasqua’s Powder Foundation is there to cover blemishes and provides a shine-free finish. Take a small brush and layer Servant on the eyelids, building up a solid foundation of pale eggshell that you are going to bring up to just beneath the brow bone. Then come in with Bronx, applying the pale bronze-gold shadow heavily on the outer corner and then blending it in towards the crease. Now you can see the shimmer forming, but go ahead and add a bit more using Furore, the champagne peach Pure Pigment giving your eyes the right dose of iridescence, and finish off this enchanting style with a few coats of Lewd. Drawing attention to the lips, Bait is a hot candy pink used to create smooth lines that are true to color, which are to be filled in using Scandal, a warm coral pink lipstick that turns up the intensity of your pout. Complete this look by coating nails in Bacterium – no, not secret lab specimens, the pearlescent ash ochre varnish that won’t distract from other elements.
Lovesick sailors who have spent far too many hours drinking the brine their weather worn vessel has been traveling on and are likely to be completely enamored by the sight of the Polka Dot Madame Dress, a vintage inspired latex garment that has perforated pink pleats and permanent dots assembled in rows across the front. Here a grey feather shrug serves as the ‘fur’ often found on some varieties of the Fiji mermaid, adding texture and another color to avoid overly matching accessories. Confidence is key when wearing and walking in Shoe Republic’s Pink Faye, the deceptively feminine fuchsia satin wrapping around the open toed platform shimmering with silver studs and strapping you into almost seven inches of sculpted heel. The scales of Liquor Brand’s Hell Kitten Handbag are advertised to be faux snake skin, but they can emulate those found on mystical sea nymphs as well. For a no fuss hair style that is still glamorous, try this Ruffle Grey Sequin Turban, the soft cotton making it comfortable to wear no matter what your locks happen to be doing. Decorate your ‘do with some Pearl Gem Hair Clips, 24 karat rose gold plated pins that have a star burst on one end that is flecked in Swarovski crystals, mother of pearl pieces and white opal circles. Sea-faring fashionistas utilize natural resources for their jewelry, but us landlubbers have to rely on designers such as Michael Spirito to come out with pieces like the Fish Bone Earrings and Shark Bite Necklace, which mix rich materials to replicate bones and teeth. Slightly more playful though effective in keeping the theme of the outfit are a Black Bubble Bracelet and a Pink Bubble Ring that features a yellow gold band coated in pink resin, cubic zirconia ‘bubbles’ set on top.
One does not have to make a deal with an evil queen to obtain impeccable skin; all it takes is an application of Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream, a five-in-one formula that has a built-in SPF of 35 and will moisturize, prime, perfect, protect and control oils. Sephora and Pantone Universe teamed up to release a series of dynamic color palettes, one of them being a Color Theory Shadow Block. The neutral tones of Elemental makes the Color of the Year available to wear as subtle or dramatic as you choose, universally flattering every iris. My suggestion is to cover the lid in Caramel [middle brown], apply Appleblossom [light brown] to the brow bone and then blend the two together, using the Emerald Shimmer to outline the eye. Follow up with Urban Decay’s 24/7 Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Woodstock to add hot pink and iridescent sparkles sure to draw plenty of attention, and a few coats of Volumizing Mascara. Natural is not the first word that comes to mind when describing any sideshow attraction, but it is certainly applicable to Golden Gate, a mauve lilac mineral blush which gives cheeks a healthy glow in just a few sweeps. If that is not enough illumination, one can always take Moon Beam and highlight specific areas with a golden sheen. Hydrating lips does not mean sacrificing vividness, and even though Tashkent is a nude beige, it is still a super rich matte lipstick that is easy to wear. Once again, a pop of bold color is used to generate intrigue, this time by using the bright neon pink of Collide on the nails, its satin finish giving off the right amount of shine to complete this look.