Laura Byrnes: Harlequin Print Shorts


Favorable to every figure, the Laura Byrnes High Waisted Shorts offer an Empire waistline that has a slight curve, while elastic ruched panels in the rear permits flexibility and comfort.  Other details such as the patch pockets, front seaming and cuffs become part of an overall sophisticated vintage charm, the colors of the print providing a diverse palette to play with when selecting the remainder of the outfit.  For instance, the Sean Top in Olive Green Poplin can stimulate any attire, but here it enhances the art deco vibe with unique seaming, cuffed sleeves, a stand up collar and cross-over darted bust.  Channel vacation sensations in Iron Fist’s Island Vibe Booties, the black and coral printed fabric upper riveted with laces and set off by the black block heel.  Being assertive means that sometimes you have to go big, and the Sourpuss Class Dame Purse is certainly one way to do that!  The over-sized black vinyl studded bag has a built-in mirror, zip top, magnetic closure with lightning bolt pull and a leopard print lining to cradle all of your valuables.  Harmonize your jewelry and go for Chandelier Earrings where black marquis cabochons hanging in a diamond formation, a vintage Oscar de la Renta ring that has faux coral beads nestled in a gold Russian setting, and a Spike Stretch Bracelet with green and silver spikes as an ode to the punk influence which can be found all over fashion these days.

Protect skin while assisting in the reduction of dark spots with Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer by NARS, an oil-free formula that provides a translucent veil of color as it hydrates.  The neutral cream beige of Biarritz Eye Shadow will effortlessly float across your lids for a sheer touch of color, as the intense parrot green of the Celebrate Soft Touch Shadow Pencil increases eye intensity as you glide it on the crease and blend into the brow bone.  Amplify contrast with thick strokes of Black Moon, a dense black eyeliner that really packs on the pigment to leave you with dramatic cat eyes.  Full-coverage lipstick does not have to leave your pout feeling dry, and despite the name, Heatwave actually conditions and nourishes as you wear it, the bright orange red coating lips in a semi matte finish.  The final touch is Gilda, advertised as the perfect coral blush with a hint of red that is sure to make your cheeks radiate beauty, and a limited edition electric orange opaque nail polish called Madness that would look delicious as a vintage manicure and invoke images of sweet creamsicles.

Aesthetic Autopsy: Strongman

Historically just about every circus employed a strongman to astonish audiences through physical feats.  The image that has become synonymous with the term is that of a muscled man with a curled moustache clad in a leotard made of leopard skin, lips curled into a smile as he elevates a pliable barbell high into the air.  While the displays these men offered fluctuated between marginally humdrum to vastly remarkable, at the pinnacle of competition from numerous colleagues there was a challenge for one to push further in order to garner the most fame.  Such an innovative individual was born October 29, 1845, though John Holtum had a rather unexciting life until enlisting as a sailor when he was 15, where working on deck and in the shipyards formed the brawny body he would be known for in due course.  He held a job as a professional strongman in San Francisco, where he studied and rehearsed the rudimentary feats, but it was upon his return to Europe in 1870 that he developed the plan to catch a cannonball.  Following two years of intense preparation, Holtum refined the act and went on to build both a successful fortune and reputation.  Standing on stage, he would use a pair of gloves and chest pad to cradle the deadly projectile after it was shot out of a cannon.  Though a reward of 3000 francs would be given to anyone who could duplicate his efforts, none accepted the challenge and it was clear the death-defying feat was one only he could perform and fearlessly pioneered.

Friederich Wilhelm Mueller, more commonly known as Eugen Sandow, was presenting strongman stunts in sideshows at age 19, recognized for extraordinary barbell routines as well as the ability to split a chain that had been fastened around his chest.  The allure of his protruding muscles overshadowed the large quantities of weight he could lift, which led to Sandow established a display of poses that are a precursor to what is seen in bodybuilding competitions today.  The combination of his physique and these routines rapidly made Sandow a popular marvel often likened to a Roman god.  Inspired by the sculptures he had viewed in Greece and Rome as a child, his passion to mold his body into these same forms was sparked.  When he finally fostered his body to the precise proportions, Sandow also became one of the first athletes to deliberately remodel musculature to pre-determined dimensions and is regarded as “The Father of Bodybuilding.  Sandow went on to perform all across Europe and came to America in 1893, where his exhibition at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago involved being displayed in a black velvet lined box with white powder covering his body to convey the appearance of a marble statue.  A cultured appearance, high intelligence and well-mannered disposition coupled with dressing well, a charming European accent and hearty laugh were all traits that only increased his popularity.  Reported to be perceptive businessman, Sandow authored five books, owned a mail-order physical instruction/exercise equipment, invented a unique spring-loaded dumbbell and weighted resistance band training system, produced and promoted Sandow Cigars, Sandow Health & Strength Cocoa and a magazine dedicated to physical culture, and opened a Physical Culture Studio in London which was one of the first health clubs which starkly contrasted the ‘sweaty’ gyms at the time.  He also organized the first ever bodybuilding competition in 1901, and in recognition of his contribution to the sport, a bronze statue of Sandow has been presented to winners of Mr. Olympia since 1977.

the-mighty-atom-joseph-greensteinThe man revered as ‘The Greatest Strongman’, Yosselle Greenstein was three months premature when he was born to the poorest family in Suvalk, Poland in 1893 and lucky to have endured such an early hardship.  Though he was small in stature as a teenager, he retained an enormous amount of resolution, heart and purpose.  Drawn to the depiction of chiseled Russian strongman Champion Volanko who was in town with the Issakoff Brothers’ Circus, Greenstein attempted to sneak into the show because he had no money, but was caught, beaten and left for dead.  It was then he encountered Volanko in the flesh who helped him overcome physical limitations and two years later, had a body as firm as his determination.  The beginning of his career as a strongman began in 1914, when he was shot in the head in Galveston, Texas yet was able to leave the hospital the same day, citing his physical conditioning for saving his life.  He became The Mighty Atom and was able to: snap apart chains with his hands or by expanding his chest, bend iron bars or horseshoes with his teeth, curve half inch rolled steel rods into heart shapes, and drive nails through wood with his bare hands.  The Mighty Atom was also a true superhero, known for fighting intolerance which resulted in the hospitalization of six longshoremen after a dramatic fight in 1936.  During another incident that occurred after he tore down a sign that said “No Dogs or Jews Allowed”, it is reported that defeated twenty men, and while he was arrested, he was subsequently released without charge due to the court refusing to believe he acted alone.  During World War II Greenstein volunteered his time and demonstrated his strength which in turn sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of war bonds, and also assisted in the recruitment of New York City’s Police Force without asking for compensation.  The Mighty Atom continued to perform well into his eighties, with a final appearance at Madison Square Garden in 1977, but remains as the “mightiest little man to have ever walked the earth.

Though the choice to be tattooed or a strongman was not a rare sight by the time Rasmus Nielsen accumulated his own collection of ink, he still managed to concoct an act that was virtually unheard of in order to set himself apart.  His septum, tongue and nipples were subsequently pierced, and was able to lift anvils from these piercings through strengthening elasticity and pain tolerance.  It is believed that he also had a surface piercing in his chest, though there is not much information to confirm how, when or where it was done.  An image of him hanging his anvil from this piercing was one he became well known for and was used as a pitch card that Nielsen often signed the back of.  These feats were an instant sensation and his fame quickly rocketed as people came to see the “Tattooed Wonderman”, who went from lifting anvils that weighed 50 pounds to those that weighed up to 250 pounds, allegedly able to lift 115 pounds with one nipple and a 25 pound hammer with his tongue.  He also had a piercing in the back of his neck that was used to pull a cart loaded with spectators or sledgehammers.  Sadly this amazing pioneer who certainly set records few have been able to beat dwindled into oblivion following his retirement in the 1950’s, though he has certainly earned a place in both body modification and sideshow history a memorable and remarkable figure.




Filling the proverbial shoes of such extraordinary figures is no easy feat, but as always I strongly urge to use inspiration as a jumping off point when it comes to translating it into wearable fashion while maintaining a prominent sense of self that allows your inner confidence to come forth.  The result combines vintage and retro designs with prevailing trends among alternative fashion to provide a comfortable base that one can add their personality to.  Since the strongman is all about showing off those hard earned muscles, that can be accomplished with a Nat Nast Shaken Not Stirred Camp Shirt, a long name for a short sleeved button down in a classic corvette red that has a unique all over dash pattern which compliments the vertical stripes on each side of the button line.  The high performance technology inside these ClimaLite Classic Plaid Shorts wicks moisture away from skin for quick evaporation to keep the athlete dry, and the colors reflect those of the shirt for a relaxed resort vibe.  No need for socks when you are wearing the Iron Fist Lounge Leopard Oxford, a closed toe brogue that has a tan background covered in orange leopard spots along with pieces of red flowers and blue wings, as it is flamboyant enough on its own.

Moving on to accessories, it was rather difficult to find ones that were quality and not something found on the discount rack for those who want to be categorized as ‘punk’ or ‘metal’ or that were too ridiculous even for my taste.  Minimalism and urbanity are reflected in the Ben Sherman Woven Belt, which is made from black cotton cord with leather trim that makes it both smart and efficient.  These days the strongman can be known for hoisting large amounts of weight with various pierced parts, most commonly stretched ear lobes, and I cannot think of anything better to showcase these anatomical anomalies than with a pair of Anatometal Bullet Eyelets, seen here in ASTMF-138 stainless steel with bronze bullet inserts and a crown of black princess cut CZ gemstones.  Continue to flatter body parts with severe jewelry such as a Black Onyx Ring in sterling silver carved with scrolling vine work, and a Twister Ring that is distinguished by a spiral of silver that cuts through the polished black titanium.  The stainless steel front plate of this Wide Leather Buckle Bracelet merges naturally with soft black leather to form a sleek, novel piece which is easily balanced by kitschy and colorful watch you can use to time workouts.  In fact, you can store your keys on a ring attached to anvil that actually has a bit of weight to it, while your ID, cash and various cards are tucked safely inside of Circus Strongman Case, the brilliant illustration on the outside serving as motivation.





If one is going to spend any amount of time working on the body, it is always important to treat your parts right to maintain health and happiness both inside and out!  Get on the right track with these amazing products from LUSH, hand selected for their fragrances and promised performance.


1 – Exotic essential oils inside the Ultimate Shine shampoo bar effectively balances the hair and scalp, while aromatic scents such as ylang ylang, violet leaf and elmi oil will soften locks, and a touch of golden glitter add a boost of shimmer.

2 – Rich and moisturizing without weighing hair down, Happy Happy Joy Joy is a vegan conditioner that has a base of almond mild with a mix of rose and orange water to make hair more pliable, leaving behind a cheerful perfume thanks to orange flower absolute, rosewood and grapefruit oils.

3 – While in the shower, revive skin with an invigorating scrub using Rub Rub Rub, an extra cleansing and exfoliating shower gel that uses mineral-rich sea salt, lemon juice and mimosa blossoms to leave you feeling refreshed.

4 – Afterwards reach for Angels on Bare Skin, one of the best-selling cleansers LUSH has to offer that removes all sorts of debris that has been built up in your skin.  Kaolin clay reaches deep to purify pores, ground almonds gently clear dead skin away, then rose and lavender kick in for a soothing finish.

5 – Suitable for all skin types, Gorgeous is an aptly named moisturizer made with quality ingredients like orange blossom honey, fresh pineapple juice, and extra virgin olive and wheat germ oils.  They melt together on your skin wonderfully, and you are sure to see an improvement within four to six weeks.

6 – For a strong hold to your hair style without that stiff, sticky feeling, The Big Tease offers versatility while keeping your mane moisturized and happy with cupuacu and cocoa butters, as orange flower, bergamot, lemon and jojoba oils naturally uplift both your roots.

7 – Combat bacteria that causes stinky sweat by using T’eo, a zesty deodorant that is packed with powders that absorb perspiration and essential oils which neutralize odors.  The fresh scent is powered by juniper berry, tea tree and lemon grass oils, with a touch of green grapes as a natural antibacterial defense system.

8 – Inspired by the mythology behind the Agglestone, the Devil’s Night Cap is part of LUSH’s new Gorilla Perfume line and invokes imagery of wandering through dark oak woods.  This is captured by bitter oakwood andoakmoss, with clary sage to sharpen perceptions and ylang ylang to befuddle the senses.

9 – Before getting dressed, dust with Silky Underwear, a luxurious powder that has been crafted from grated cocoa butter to keep skin supple and kaolin to absorb excess moisture; jasmine and vetivert surrounding you in an aphrodisiac fragrance.

Resources: John Holtum, Eugen Sandow, The Mighty Atom, Rasmus Neilsen

Reading & Research: Oldtime  Strongman, Tattoo Archive, Sideshow World

Photo Credit: 1 – the Adrenalist, 2 – Fine Art America

Pre-New Year’s Eve Sideshow

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

Every year I make a vow to do something on my birthday that does not royally suck ass, since there were a number of years where I was the only one making an effort to celebrate.  However, there have been many fond memories of Jon surprising me with things like tickets to the circus or a Broadway play.  In fact, being much closer to my partner in crime has led to a general improvement to my mental health and overall quality of life.  Though we still only see each other about once a week or so, I appreciate every second I even get to exist in the same space as someone who is so amazing.  He is not perfect but I never expect him to be, and his flaws are all reasons that I love him for who he is instead of for something shallow.

After dragging myself out of bed early, doing laundry and dying my hair [black and red is such a hassle to keep up, but I dig it too much to get rid of it], I quickly dressed and rolled up to E-town.  Since I got a lovely gift from my dad, I could not think of anything better to do than invest it in a new tattoo.  It has been over a year since I last sat in the chair and watch the needle penetrate my skin to leave behind a brilliant work of art, so there was definitely a small bit of apprehension sitting in the pit of my stomach, mostly due to the fact I knew how much it was going to hurt.  Granted there is always a level of awareness to being tattooed no matter the location on the body, but some places are more painful than others.

Entering the shop, and I was surprised to see a few customers already there, though did not mind the wait.  Not only for the others to be finished, but Kevin had to draw up my banner from scratch using a few reference images and my detailed instruction.  This just built up anticipation and adrenaline, excited about the selection of images that I wanted to compose what would become one of my most prominent tattoos.  In a way I was branding myself for eternity, but that was exactly why I was there to begin with.

Eventually I was called in, and the first part of my tattoo was transferred to my skin.  Checking out the placement in the mirror for a few minutes, we agreed it looked good and I finally sat down.  When the machine started, nerves got the best of me – pain radiated through my chest which far outweighed any I had felt from the previous two times I had been inked there. Once the outline of the banner was completed, he applied the stencil for the swallows and had me approve position once again.  More pain followed, but it wasn’t as bad as when he had been outlining the banner.  Shading then came into play, and I knew that the color wasn’t far behind.  To be honest, I haven’t spent that much time under the needle before and it really takes stamina to be able to sit still when your skin feels like its on fire.  The final stretch was the color itself, which is where Kevin’s talent really shines through.  He has told me numerous times that he finds it easy to tattoo my skin, though why that is I’m not too sure.  He was kind enough to finish the banner before doing any work on the birds, which made things that much easier.

Hours later and the process was finally complete, though I got a chance to see the finished product before it had to be covered up.  Not only was I  impressed with the way that it came out, but also proud of myself for having endured the hours of pain.  In the end, after all is said and done, it is worth going through to have a piece of art I can wear on my skin for the rest of my life.  Thanked him profusely [as I got a good deal on the price] and paid for my newly acquired tattoo. Went across the street to White Castle for some grease while sitting there with a chest full of meat pads laughing to myself, happy with how everything turned out. Once I were full, I stopped off at a liquor store to purchase a bottle of whiskey, returned home for a quick change and picked up the props I would be needing for my performance that evening.

A fellow performer I had met at the Coney Island Sideshow School had invited me to do a few acts at a basement show in New Brunswick, which I obviously said yes to since the date happened to coincide with my birthday.  Mischief Brew, Witch Hunt and SOIP would be providing the tunes, while Johnny Pitstains and the Great Gozleone Circus with a special appearance by Electric Sideshow [that’s me] would be entertaining with appropriate sideshow antics.  Though I was doing so with my new partner and would’ve preferred that it was my best friend, but he’s still fighting his own personal nam and I know he’d want me to take the opportunity.

Once in New Brunswick, the endorphins from being freshly tattooed were kicking in and I was so amped to not only perform but be social with a bunch of Jersey punks.  Armed with whiskey and a few props, we made our way to the basement to rock out.  Enjoyed three great sets while moshing around, though I had to be careful since I had a new and still slightly sore tattoo. The ‘bandaging’ had been ditched in the bathroom and I just slathered it with ointment right before the sideshow started.  Everyone gathered in close for that and it was one absolutely ridiculous thing after another, which kept the crowd laughing, gasping and applauding. We spent some time talking to my friend and some of the band members, then wandered outside to ravage one of the grease trucks.  It felt like a long drive back  house, and I had the daunting task of trying to figure out how in the hell I was going to sleep, seeing as how I was beginning to feel the pain of my new tattoo again.  Thanks to smoking a joint, I passed out and didn’t have to worry about that.

Around the House

For someone who has a few modest collections and enjoys virtual window shopping, I cannot believe that I have covered so much about fashion yet completely skipped over all the wonderfully odd items one can decorate their abode with.  What I really love about many of the things I own is that they come with a story attached and in my mind have a high sentimental value and are irreplaceable.  Of course I also have a soft spot for kitschy tchotchkes and other assorted bric-a-brac that can be bought for a dime at the local thrift store or weekend flea market.  Capturing that essence in high-end pieces that are also affordable is not an easy feat, though that is why there are specific websites I go to when I am seeking of the appliances and apparatuses I can use to put my personality on display in the home.  This guide certainly reflects my attraction to articles associated with circus and sideshow, my face lighting up with glee every time I find something new, and is also appropriate for anyone who shares such an interest.



When preparing to pop the cork on that bottle of expensive champagne, reach for the Strongman Cork Screw and let this classic sideshow character do all of the hard work.



This wonderful Carousel Horse Shower Curtain embodies a fantasy I often entertained when I was a child, that being I would someday own one of those marvelously hand crafted steeds which graced legendary carousels.  Of course having the lovely illustration of a tattooed pinup on such a horse accompanied by a pink background with tattoo inspired filler is just as good.



The graphics and colors on this Freakshow Shower Curtain are so amazing I would be inclined to use it as a backdrop for performance or photography in a heartbeat.  Of course when you are actually traveling with the carnival there is not much time to shower, and when there is you curse the primitive technology.



A great piece to have on display in the kitchen is the Sideshow Lady Knife Sharpener, though the name is a bit confusion because sawing a woman in half is a magic illusion.  No matter, it is still really neat and can be entertaining for your friends.



When all your guests have thoroughly been engorged and go along  their merry way leaving you with the aftermath of a legendary party, don’t despair over the pile of dirty dishes that threaten your manicure.  Protect thyself with Tuff Dish Washing Gloves, pretty pink punctuated with black tattoo designs: an anchor and “Wash Hard” in a banner; a heart and roses with “Dry Young” in a banner; “TUFF DISH” across the knuckles.



Lounge in comfort and style with the Illustrated Lady Satin Pillow; the tan background is accented by a trim of black pompoms, while the feature of this 13″ x 13″ pillow is the picture of the tattooed woman wearing a striped corset.



If you are a fan of sideshow oddities you might prefer the Conjoined Beauty Satin Pillow which depicts a pair of Siamese twins who remind me much of Violet and Daisy Hilton.  They are flanked by illustrations of the Half Man [Johnny Eck] and a sword swallower along with the words “Alive” and “Weird” in banners.



One part pillow and one part doll, the Tattooed Lady from Spitfire Girl had turn of the century style tattoos, finger waves in her hair and wears a vintage costume to show off all her detailed ink.



Keep her company with the Tattooed Man, who has the same style tattoos, a prominent moustache and wears braces on his wrists similar to those of a strong man.

Many of the products featured here are made by and available by shopping Sourpuss!

Style Spotlight: Gloomth’s Haunted Circus

Whenever I hear that a clothing line releases something that is supposed to be influenced by the circus, my immediate knee-jerk reaction is to cringe with fear, wonder how much striped fabric will be used and then sigh because I prefer a red-and-black combination over the usual white-and-black that is used for a lot of garments.  It can never be said too many times that I do not believe slapping stripes on something deems it “circus inspired”, especially since such items are readily available and take little effort to add to an ordinary outfit.  There seems to also be something called “dark carnival” that allegedly mixes elements of certain subcultures with…well, I am not really sure because carnival and circus are two very different things.

Personally, I do not interchange the terms because of the meanings I attach to them and tend to be kind of confused by their constant misuse.  Being an active part of a culture that people use as a basis behind costumes and characters, the latter of which people dedicate their time to creating an entire fantasy out of things I have actually experienced, I tend to be amused then realize that this what society thinks being a part of a circus is like.  The point being that it should be understandable why I can easily cast doubt on using circus as a theme and marketing campaign.

With a cheerful invitation to explore a beautiful nightmare, Gloomth presents a collection with “show stopping pieces inspired by a spooky nocturnal circus“.  The designs feature plenty of frills, pompoms and the company’s signature strangeness, each with a name which gives a good indication of where the vision for each piece came from.  Aptly titled Haunted Circus, the line has consistent characteristics that not only makes it cohesive but allows one to truly see the story behind the clothes.

Making a grand entrance is something that I have often enjoyed since first impressions are very important, particularly when it comes to being a performer.  The aim is often to grab attention and one could certainly do that with the Star Carousel dress, which has attributes such as a rounded neckline, gold crinkled taffeta and matching bow on the bust line, as well as a natural waist that flares into a very large A-line skirt.  The skirt is trimmed with ruffles, lace and hand cut, raw-edge gold taffeta stars, while the body of the dress can be made with black-and-white striped or solid black fabric.

Though in the warmer seasons one could get away with leaving legs bare, particularly if they happen to be tattooed, the Winter wind is creeping in and I recommend you try red tights, especially since bold colors are trendy and would really pick up on the lace in the skirt.  Summon your ability to Seduce a crowd with cutout black and white Spectator pumps by Pleaser, five inch stiletto heels that lace up to create a show stopping silhouette.  Flatter your figure and your waist with Sabotage, a black faux fur coat by Iron Fist that will bring our your inner femme fatale.  The jacket has a large collar, faux leather belt that is removable and is lined in pink with black skulls, handcuffs, poison bottles and more!

Maria Spelterini was a daredevil circus performer who was the first woman to cross Niagara Gorge on a highwire in 1897, and so the Spelterini dress is named for her in the hopes of encouraging grand aspirations. The dress is designed with a longer, form-fitting bodice that sits below the waist to give the effect of a slimmer torso, while the black collar curves over the shoulders to frame the face.  It also has a wide A-line skirt which can fit a petticoat beneath, a horizontal band of stripes to break up the pattern.  A raw-edged red heart has been sewn to the front, while the skirt has been hemmed with small white pompoms flecked with gold.  Much like its counterpart, this dress is also available in solid black.

Continue the illusion that you are tall and lean with red and black vertical stripe tights; breaking up the monotony of black and white with a splash of color also makes your outfit more visually stimulating.  The Bordello line of Pleaser never fails to deliver fabulous footwear, so Tempt onlookers with a two tone patent Mary Jane, the movement between the black and white adding contrast to the straight lines of the stripes.  As mentioned earlier, presentation plays a vital role in performance and so there is no shame in flaunting opulence in the form of a Lady Lovecraft deluxe silk shrug made by Lovechild Boudoir.  Crafted from 100% dupion silk, this ruffled shrug is edged in black lace with a soft tulle frill underneath for extra volume; the black, ivory or red would suit this look.  Tie it all together with red silk burlesque gloves from Leg Avenue, the black lace overlay and faux pearl buttons adding to all of the other details.

The third dress of this collection is meant to be a striking casual piece for an eccentric daytime style.  Stimulated by the agile aerial artists of  traditional circus, the Trapeze dress is Gloomth’s interpretation of what they would wear while spending some time on the ground.  Much like the other dresses, this festive frock features vertical stripes offset by an unbleached raw cotton yolk and matching trim around the hem to give it a vintage flavor.  [Black is also available as an option for these accents.]  The cut is said to be remarkably flattering, as it is fitted at the bust and then floats away, while two darts at the front maintain the A-line shape to give you an overall airy feeling.  A raw edged red heart has been sewn to the right front hip, and side hem pockets give you a secret hiding places for all sorts of tricks or treats.

Despite popular belief that when they aren’t performing, circus folk sit around having bohemian parties with tea and crumpets, relaxing is a lot more laid-back than that and can be reflected in an outfit with a Vintage Cardigan by Sourpuss.  This lovely ivory cardigan is styled after those so often seen in vintage fashion magazines with pearl buttons, a removable black rose and pointelle detail on the wrists and hem.  Stimulate optical imagination with sheer Chevron Pantyhose from Lip Service and a pair of black lace Victorian Arm Sleeves.  Compliment with Splendor, magnificent white and black boots from the Funtasma line of Pleaser shoes.  The boot comes to about mid-calf, decorated with ten black buttons and trimmed with black lace; they also have a side zip which makes them easy to put on and take off.

These dresses can obviously be coordinated with the Ringmaster Circus Jacket: black and white stripes bell sleeves, corset lacing, sharp lapels, pompoms, peplum, white tulle, gold stars and a heart applique are just a few features that will make you the center of attention!

As a heartbreaking character of pantomime, Pierrot pines for a lover they cannot have and serves as tragic muse for the PomPom Shirt of the same name.  There are many features that add an air of whimsy to the garment, such as puffed short sleeves, ruffled hem, buttons down the front, corset lacing in the back and a rounded Peter Pan style collar that is actually a strand of gold flecked pompoms, which can also be found adorning the sleeve cuffs.  The red heart that appears on two of the dresses above has been stitched onto the left front, and for those that would prefer the shirt in black can have their wish granted!

For a more dramatic look, wear it unbuttoned over Aviatrix – another Haunted Circus item that is a fun little romper dedicated to female daredevils such as Ethel Dare, known as “Queen of the Air” for walking on the wings of planes – or snapped up tight with the Viola Corset Skirt.  In lieu of yet more stripes opt for opaque tights with a black and white diamond pattern, then slip in to a pair knee high black velvet Ringmaster boots, also by Funtasma.  Then take your choice of black polka dot 6-button length fingerless gloves, red and black stripe fingerless burlesque gloves or black fringe burlesque gloves by Lalas Couture.

The final items of this collection have been combined to create a slightly creepy yet chic look using the Un-Tamer Vest and Sideshow Bloomers.  Many aspects of the unisex vest make it a very visually appealing piece: the black and white stripes trimmed in gold piping, removable gold panels and puffed cap sleeves trimmed with black fringe.  There are two pointed tails in the back and all of the buttons are actually skulls-n-crossbones!  Meanwhile, the bloomers have an elastic waist and leg cuffs, flat front and plenty of ruffles that trim the cuffs and are layered with black scalloped lace in three rows on the back.

Prevent the outfit from being overwhelmed by selecting simple yet effect accessories like black distressed net armwarmers and red fishnet thigh highs with a back seam, both available from Leg Avenue.  The latter can be held up with as set of Too Fast Garters that are black elastic printed with gold stars and have two clips to attach to your stockings.  Check the seams and then slip into a pair of Dame boots, another stunning design from Funtasma that is crafted from golden patent leather and held together with matching lace.  A sheer tulle skirt layered over the bloomers can produce an amusing silhouette, though be sure the length is not too long or they will surely be lost beneath the floof, or now would be a good time to use that gold Lip Service Itty Bitty Micro Mini as a playful belt.

Head wear can go in a few different directions depending on the type of charm you want to infuse into your look.  For example, the two point fold open Garrison style Gaze-Cap by Futurestate or the PVC Wedge by Artifice that is modeled after an air force hat is ideal for those who are into military fashion.  One can never go wrong with a sturdy top hat, particularly one that is as striking as My Heart Belongs To You, made by Rag Dollies Madhouse, a glorious red and black striped hat made from scratch and adorned with an oval fabric picture of a crow, bones and the human heart framed by pleated black ribbon and lace.  The Etsy seller also has a miniature version that is accented by rooster feathers and a bow, as well as the Voodoo Heart, a black and white striped hat seamed with red stitching, pleated black lace and an adorable red plush heart reminiscent of the one that can be found in the Haunted Circus collection.

Overall I would say that these items are definitely wearable whether specifically aiming for an aesthetic influenced by the circus or just wanting to add something different to your everyday wardrobe.  The way an outfit is style certainly is at the discretion of the person wearing the clothes, but I always prefer a look that is unified by a theme.  When it comes to circus it seems rather easy to throw on the stripes, a corset, some heels and a petticoat, yet that is not successfully translating inspiration – it is lazy, tacky and certainly does not represent the way performers actually dress.  Then again I have never been one to fit stereotypes and instead do everything I can to contradict them, but I can also still be pleased when someone gets circus inspiration right.

Pinup Couture: Circus Print Dress

A full-skirted sun dress made from heavy, high quality stretch cotton sateen, the Ginger Dress by Pinup Couture is structured but sophisticated.  Seen here in their exclusive Circus Print, a collaborative design by Joe de Blois and Micheline Pitt, there are plenty of features such as the gathered, elasticized bodice, fitted waist and pleated skirt that give it plenty of retro charm.  The adjustable halter ties assist in the perfect fit, while black lace trims the hemline and the waist is accented with a small black bow.

Of course an outfit is not complete without the right accessories, and of course a pair of Bordello Teeze heels in baby pink with black trim are an excellent way to echo some of the design elements of the dress.  What Katie Did combines a great modern fit with vintage style with their Retro Contrast Seamed Stockings; the nude with black would be a lovely way to accentuate curvy legs.

For a dramatic yet soft eye, sweep Machine, a rich charcoal black with glitter, from the outer corner and blend into the crease.  Add a heaping dose of Dizzy, a warm dusty rose, then highlight the inner corner and brow with Furore, a champagne peach shimmer Pure Pigment by Illamasqua.  Let cheeks Tremble beneath soft lilac pink Powder Blusher, perhaps with a slight highlight of Intrigue, while lips Indulge in bright hot pink high-shine, color-rich Intense Lipgloss.  Polish nails with Loella, a bright can pink with glossy finish that would look adorable with black tips or half-moons.





Though the skirt is somewhat similar, the Zooey Dress distinguishes itself with a fused waist band that is lined with stretch charmuese, which creates a corset type effect to give the illusion of a smaller waist and larger bust.  The contrasting black and giant silver buttons add the right amount of charm to an already quirky garment.  It also has adjustable criss cross straps for fitted comfort and zips in the back.

Dare to get flirty with Retro Seamed Dot Pantyhose, a favorite among pinup artists of the 1950’s and brought to life by What Katie Did.  Nude with a black back seam and Swiss Dots, these stockings pick up the small details in the print of the dress.  Tempt onlookers with black satin pumps and rhinestone encrusted heels from Bordello.

Continue with being less than demure by stroking Victim across your eyelids, the bright azure blue will make just about any eye color pop.  Etch in contrast by blending Burst, blue-green, from the outer corner and through most of the crease.  Top off with the pale eggshell coolness of Servant, and treat lashes to a few coasts of Masquara.

Delicately spread Lies, pearlescent cool pink Cream Blusher, across cheeks to shape your face, hypnotizing anyone who gazes in your direction.  Accent with Aurora, a champagne Gleam with iridescent pigments that provides an alluring glow to whatever it is applied to.  Since the eyes will be bright and therefore the focus of this looks, keep lips neutral with Intimacy, a nude pink brown Sheer Lipgloss designed to enhance your lips.  Finally, coordinate nails by painting them deep teal blue by way of Muse, stay Monogamous and neutral with creamy flesh pink or just go bright jade with Nomad.



When it comes to selecting jewelry, I am of the opinion that less is more and it is better to have a few statement pieces rather than trying to wear everything at once only to wind up being a literal clusterfuck.  The simple silhouette cutout of Fable & Fury’s Conjoined Twin Necklace has been intricately laser-cut into a stainless steel pendant with a black powder coat eggshell finish.



These fantastic Circus Poster Earrings are made by Frou Frou Bijou, where the future has gone vintage!  Completely handmade, these darling dangles have high resolution images printed on both sides and come with your choice of earring hook.



This handmade Filmstrip Resin Bracelet is made using frames from the 1946 movie Here Comes the Circus, which stars Emmett Kelley, Clyde Beatty and Betty Rich.  It is so fantastic to see that Duck and Cover Shop took the time and care to preserve this piece of history in wearable art, and truly this is what Carny Style is all about.  The little things with fantastic stories that get carried with you every time you put that item on is what makes them priceless.


Described as “junk  to funk”, Rutabaga Redesign has transformed an old belt into a Cotton Candy Carnival bracelet.  The bright pinks and blues have an almost water color effect to them, while the roller coaster, Ferris wheel and other designs would tie in well with either of the dresses above.



Made from Japanese cotton and full lined with polka dots, this super cute Pink Circus Purse is ideal for storing pens, cosmetics of other essentials you can’t leave home without.  Several circus animals frolic over a pink on pink striped background, while a black scalloped boarder on top is dotted with bows and the black band on bottom features the four playing card suits.


Personally I feel that bows never go out of style are not exclusive to being worn by toy dogs or little girls.  Cute & Creepy has a full range of hair accessories that can compliment any outfit, though for the purpose of this guide I selected the Lady Swallow Hair Clip.


Last but certainly not least, this Vintage Circus Poster Compact features a vibrant illustration on the exterior that depicts several people riding bicycles around what I assume is the Wall of Death.  It opens with a quick push of the button and can conceal medication if you happen to need to take some while out and about.

Rad Plaid!

It is a strange-looking word that has a strong sound and is the final pattern in the triumvirate that has been established as key elements in Circus inspired fashion.  Having already covered stripes and polka dots in previous articles, this guide is all about plaid.  Not to be confused with flannel, as that is textile not a pattern, plaid is created by intersecting lines on a solid background which is usually one or two colors.  The thickness and amount of lines vary, creating a wide variety of combinations that can be overwhelming to some.  Unfortunately plaid has a bad reputation of being associated with elderly people, and of course it often a stereotypical component of punk wear.  Going further, Tartan plaid is indicative of Scottish heritage or a Catholic school uniform; it has been seen in couture and walking the runways.  Though I would only suggest wearing a full suit of plaid if one was doing it for a performance, it is also possible to create looks that are contemporary and unconventional without being antiquated.

As mentioned, there are numerous types of plaid that could leave one feeling swamped when picking something that is going to be flattering.  Primary colors are always the fail safe and can be paired with neutrals such as slate grey or smokey black; adding select accessories should be based on achieving harmony between all of the pieces to avoid appearing crowded.  Much like the other patterns, plaid can be found on nearly everything from jackets and sneakers to hats and ballgown dresses, yet coordinating it into something that represents the inspiration it claims is an entirely different feat.  Hitting up the local thrift store and piling on whatever can be found on the racks might be a style, but it is certainly not one I would associate with myself or any of the individuals who have been presented as notable figures in general Circus culture.  Though I am a proponent of encouraging people to be creative and that everyone should be able to wear whatever they want, citing something as influence also means paying tribute to the canons of Circus fashion.  There might not be any real rules, but as always the following guide can be sourced for those who would like to embrace the style without proverbially or figuratively stepping on any toes.



A plaid shirt is one of the best basics anyone can have because it is versatile enough to generate several outfits without having to spend much.  While it is commonly affiliated with burly bearded lumberjacks, equally hairy but skinny hipsters and kids with moppy hair that all look the same, quality fabric and custom touches can easily separate you from that pack.  Lucky 13 is one of those recognizable purveyors of alternative fashion, partly because they emblazon their name on clothing such as the Dark Water Button Up, where a red/black/taupe plaid is the background for custom artwork.


Dead Threads produces collections for those who seek originality without having to compromise, and their fitted pink plaid shirt is an example of how details distinguish the difference between a generic garment and street style.  The stark black collar, cuffs, detachable straps and accents give a hard edge to a color that is often reserved for ‘girly girls’, whatever that is.  Rock this top with a pencil skirt, denim capris or a mini skirt and patterned leggings.


There is no doubt that Vivienne Westwood has secured her place as the reigning queen of British punk fashion, and the best way to pay homage to such an innovator is by featuring this beautiful Anglomania Jaket, which combines a classic cut with the typical quirky style of Westwood’s work.  The jacket is ideal for day to evening wear and can easily be a standout piece for updating your look.



Monochromatic color schemes are fundamental for the leading lady aesthetic, and the vintage inspired details such as three-quarter sleeves, over-sized fabric covered buttons and a poly/cotton blend makes this black and white coat a garment one can wear from Autumn to Winter.


If outwear is too intense for your first time wearing plaid, a fitted vest might be more comfortable and is made casual with a tank top and jeans, or it can be dressed up with a silk blouse and pleated skirt.


There cannot be a discussion about plaid fashion without bringing up one of the paramount symbols of punk, which happens to be bondage pants.  They are often tight fitting, accented with zippers that do not really serve a function purpose and D-ring from which one can clip on hanging straps.  This half red and half yellow pair were found on Crust Punks Distro, where one can also purchase studs, patches or other tchotkes to customize the pants.  Or you can wear them with suspenders, a white shirt with light blue stripes, dark blue tie, vintage black dinner jacket and a snazzy pair of freshly polished loafers.


Though the thought of wearing plaid golf trousers might evoke images of white haired men with wrinkled skin wasting their life chasing a ball around lush green lawns, Nike makes them fashionable and functional in a grey and white plaid with tailored fit.  Plus if they can withstand all the action of a golf course, they should be sturdy enough to bounce around a basement for the local punk show.


The retro styling of this houndstooth plaid pencil skirt is a classic piece that can be worn to the office or cocktail hour, depending of course on how one chooses to accessorize.  A buttoned blouse and sensible pair of heels will prepare you for long hours of busy work, while a corset belt, peasant top, back seemed stockings and ruby red pumps can keep you dancing all night long.


Pleated plaid skirts seem to be divided into two distinctively annoying categories that designates them as befitting a sexy stripper or conservative librarian, neither of which actually represent Circus fashion.  To avoid being cast as someone’s school girl fantasy come to life, begin with a wool twill dark plaid skirt from Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomania collection, then add a graphic print top, leather jacket, opaque tights and pointy toe ankle boots.  Now you are ready to strike a pose or kick some ass depending on what the occasion calls for.


If the phrase “plaid dress” incites nightmares of shapeless sacks donned by house wives who really let themselves go, I have one that will pique your interest – Plaid Taffeta Mermaid Prom Dress.  Ignoring the “prom” part, this strapless dress has a fitted bodice accented with a bow, draped body, tired skirt and a lace-up back which makes it far beyond homely.  The black and white color scheme makes the plaid pop without melting the eyes and lends itself to silver accessories.


Another popular alternative fashion label has been offering plaid garments most likely since it’s inception, so it is no surprise that Lip Service has this ultra chic Plaid Ruffle Prom Dress as one of its current Internet Specials.  The rich purple hue is accented by black ruffled trim which even extends to the eyelet straps, and those type of subtle details are what makes these clothes stand out from the competition.


On my very first visit to the Mecca of alternative fashion in New York City – that being Saint Marks – I was introduced to the legendary Trash and Vaudeville, which is where I saw something I did not think could possibly exist: a plaid ball gown.  There was something elegant about the way the pattern flowed, and I had visions of wearing it decked out in sparkling jewels, pinup perfect makeup and tumbling curls as red as the fabric, perhaps with the sides of my head shaved.  This garment symbolized the oxymoron of being a ‘rich punk’ that helped form the basis of what has evolved into Carny Trash Aristocracy, and so I was delighted to find Lip Service offers the Destructive Tease Ball Gown, though it seems to only be available in red plaid.  Not too fond of the black zipper in front, but I do like the detachable spiked bracelets and see potential for adding more studs.


Some might prefer a touch of plaid to get used to incorporating the pattern into regular wear, and these purple plaid pumps are definitely simple enough to coordinate with a sleek black cocktail dress or a retro lavender suit.  The round toe and lace trim create soft lines that are accented by the stiletto heel and hidden platform.


Red multi colored plaid forms the base of this sizzling Betsey Johnson peep toe pump.  Red patent trim is punctuated by brush gold studs, while the thick strap and oversize buckle add a bit of zest.


The most important thing to keep in mind when putting together an outfit is to have fun with it and have the confidence to carry yourself with a composure that will turn heads for all of the right reasons.  What others think or say is completely arbitrary, and I wonder when society came to a point where it feels so comfortable voicing opinions to complete strangers about their choice of clothes.  Apparently any level of manners is completely nonexistent when one steps into public, and certainly there are going to be rude remarks when one decides to go against anything that is mainstream, popular or being perpetrated as the latest trend.  Taking advantage of the latter can benefit your wardrobe if you are seeking something that might otherwise be difficult to find, but you must also remember that quality always reigns over quantity and that even the best stylist knows when to edit.  In closing, I have assembled a gallery of images that I feel encompasses the essentials of Circus fashion in a way that is fresh, chic and attainable without being garish.

1 – Houndstooth Plaid Suit, 2 – 1970s Window Pane Check Suit

3 – Cabernet Checkered Suit, 4 –

5 – 1950s Red Plaid Dress, 6 –  High Waist Steam Punk Skirt