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.

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lucky-13-darkwater-red-black-taupe-plaid-shirt

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 – thelingerieaddict.com

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

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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.

Hot Dots!

This particular pattern may have a funny name but it is certainly strong enough to dominate whole garments, which in many instances can transform yet another black dress into the perfect party popper that will have all the girls talking while the boys argue over who dances with you next.  When applied to accessories such as gloves, stockings or even the millinery veil of a vintage pillbox hat they appear to be quite delicate, yet when they are splashed across a solid background a bold statement is made that will likely garner attention.  However, much like the infamous stripe, polka dots are not to be abused nor should they automatically be related to circus inspired fashion.  Obviously this notion comes from the portrayal of the clown who is often wearing an atrocious suit accented with ruffles and painted in clashing colors.

From the beginning, part of the mission behind these articles is to dispel these silly stereotypes and create a factual basis behind what drives not only my personal style, but also what I feel can be looked upon as source for others.  Whether people come for the pictures or actually appreciate the bits of history intertwined with suggestions to assist in putting together a killer outfit, there is no doubt that they are in fact checking things out.  Generating this type of interest is something I seem to do well, but I have had quite a lot of experience and it sort of just happens naturally.  This particular guide is similar to the polka dot, in that it may be deceiving at first and appear quite simple, but it is up to the reader in utilizing the pieces along with a healthy dose of imagination to create something which is flattering, contemporary and still encompasses who you are.

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Summer is just eleven days away and if you are looking forward to spending some significant time seaside, shimmy into a white and black polka dot swimsuit – the black panels on the sides will give a slimming illusion while the lace and bow details allow you to pair it with a flirty ruffled wrap for a romantic evening on the docks.

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The brown polka dots and contrast detailing along with over-sized white buttons on this blue bikini are ideal for the pinup who wants to pose poolside.  When ready to hit the clubs, break out a pair of Iron Fist’s Booze Cruise Platforms and rock them with this stunning Sheer Slashed Dress by Anarchy Street.

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There is certainly no shortage of vintage and retro inspired swimwear, which I have always felt were dresses that could get wet, and that is why I love this black and white polka dot one piece.  It is modeled after famous femme fatales of the film noire era and very reminscent of something Esther Williams would wear.

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The beauty and classic aesthetic of a 1950s halterneck dress interpreted by Vivien of Halloway has been featured before, but here it is a rich red pierced by white polka dots and accented by a white three inch belt.  It would be tempting to go with a coordinating satin bolero, but that is what would be expected – I always prefer to take the alternate route and would rather slip into a hand made black lace bolero.

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The round neck and accentuated waist of this blue and white polka dot cotton sleeveless dress might be a little more toned down than its halterneck counterpart.  However, a white petticoat, leather pumps and a silver belt can easily transform it into an outfit suitable for your 1950s housewife fetish.

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There is no shortage of retro inspiration in this selection of dresses, and while this yellow and black number is a bit more sleek in design than the others, the asymmetrical frill and option of wearing a belt high on the waist gives it a commanding presence, so keep the look fun with Iron Fist’s Polka Party Peep Toe Flats.

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If wearing this many polka dots feels overwhelming, try this red and white blouse paired with a black pencil skirt and heels with some silver jewelry instead.

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California-based Heartbreaker Fashion presents modern day pinup queen Bernie Dexter in their Dolly Blouse, a black on pink polka dot with contrasting collar, trim and buttons.  It would go well with Mode Merr’s Perfect Skirt and a set of killer vinyl pink pumps.

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The polka dots on this caramel colored silk tank top might be more reminiscent of animal print than anything, so be bold and rock it with leopard spotted skirt and some soft suede wedge boots.

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Since ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ have become all-encompassing terms, it can be difficult to find something that stands out from the plethora of items that deserve neither of those labels.  The classic cut of a pencil skirt paired with huge white dots on a black cotton background is the beginning of an elegant ensemble.  Tie it together with a white halterneck top, red leather Four Buckle Wide Belt and Iron Fist’s Bowed Over stiletto platform heels.

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Far from ordinary, the Pink Pixie Skirt by Sourpuss takes the familiar and makes it peculiar by adding black tulle and mixing skulls in with the dots. Pull together that badass pinup look by adding Switchblade Stiletto’s Dame Tie Top, pink crinkle patent leather suspender corset belt and Iron Fist’s Number of the Beast platform heels.

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Speaking of shoes, there is certainly no limit on the amount of styles that are decorated with polka dots, though much like clothing, an appealing design that is well-executed is better than one that exists for the sake of it.  Bordello’s Derby City is a black satin based peep toe pump with dark red dots and matching bow, which make for a  great accessory to any pinup outfit.

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It has been established that mixing polka dots with stripes is perfectly acceptable, so long as both patterns are not fighting for domination – this red and white polka dot pair of Not Rated’s Mimosa heels are ideal for that Sunday morning meal at some Victorian bed and breakfast that looks out at the ocean.

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Another design that plays up dots with stripes is the Bow Down Wedge, and the solid black helps break up both of them so they do not overwhelm the design of the shoe.  The different sized spots remind me more of pothole tights, while the diagnol direction of the stripes creates visual interest.

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Birds of a Feather may flock together, but in these stunning Iron Fist heels, you are guaranteed to stand out.  The chaotic rhythm of the white dots are trailed alongside swans and cherry blossoms, which gives the eye something intriguing to inspect.

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Complimenting an outfit with polka dot accessories is recommended for those who may not want to take a head first plunge into wearing this pattern, and as always, there is a plethora of endless choices which can be a bit dizzying.  An adorable black and pink cosmetic bag fits easily into a purse, back pack or desk and has enough space to store most of your makeup needs.

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When embarking on adventures that require you to travel, do it in style with this awesome Quilted Polka Dot Duffle Bag, which has functional features such as a zipper closure, metal feet, front pocket, detachable ribbons, zippered inside pockets and a gingham lining.  It can also be monogrammed, just in case you really want people to know who is visiting their quaint little town.

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The polka dot scarf is definitely a staple in any burlesque or pinup wardrobe – having one that is also a headband saves time as you do not have to struggle to get that perfect fold and it is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

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Bows can come off as too cute, so avoid that by rocking something with a bit more spunk to it, such as a purple bow with black and white polka dot flower, accented by an adorable skull.  Mounted on an alligator clip, this accessory can be attached to any hair style or as a funky accent to an outfit.

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Opulence is personified with this gorgeous Lady Amherset Feather Fascinator – the black and white striped feathers are accented by red polka dot guinea feathers, red dyed golden pheasant tippets and a small red flower.

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Polka dot hair flowers can be another one of those things there seems to be an abundance of, but the layers of this Skeleton Hand Flower Clip also have black tulle incorporated between them and are nicely set off by a black skeleton hand.

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There is another application of dots in the art world that appears in a specific type of tattooing known as dotwork.  As the name suggests, tiny dots are etched into the skin to form larger patterns, many of which are geometric in design.  This is difficult enough to execute on paper, so it certainly can be recognized that it would take an enormous amount of skill to apply it to to the pliable surface of skin.  Often it is seen alongside blackwork, where the two merge or intertwine on a living canvas and create something which one dares to call truly unique.  Whether we are influenced by fashion or it is the other way around, there is no denying that everyone enjoys adorning their bodies in ways that make them happy, and more than anything that is what these guides celebrate.  The gallery below represents a selection of beautiful modifications that are not only aesthetically appealing, but also monuments of immortal art.

Photo & Artist credit: 1 – Jonny Breeze, 2 – Cory Ferguson, 3 – Dotwork Damian,

4 – Thomas Cooper, 5 – Dotwork Damian, 6 – Unkown

Funny Face

There is no doubt that Coney Island has remained a significant part of my life despite not having properly visited the area since performing there in 2007, though I tend to immerse myself in the history of the amusement area and its incredible menagerie of aesthetic architecture, innovative rides and bizarre penchant for displaying live human oddities on a constant basis.  The Island will never be what it once was, nor has it been as great in many decades, which is more than tragic to know but incredibly heartbreaking to actually be witness to, and thus I have stayed away because I hate to see what has changed.  George C. Tilyou brought the first attraction to the Island in the late 1800s – he had seen the Ferris wheel at an exposition in Chicago and decided to build one of his own – and then added rides including a mechanical race horse course which led to the park being named Steeplechase.  It opened in 1897 and to this day is considered one of the most influential amusement park of all time, having survived a fire that destroyed most of it in 1907.  Admission to the ruins was ten cents, and it would be a couple of year until the park was fully open again, though the new feature was a beautiful five acre indoor enclosure covered by glass and steel called the Pavilion of Fun.  The face of Tilyou in character form, hair perfectly parted down the middle, had been an emblem of Steeplechase and remains a mascot of Coney Island.  Though somewhat frightful and grotesque, the Funny Face exemplified the mood of the park – the attractions were slightly more low-class and vulgar compared to the competition – and visitors hoped to experience irresponsible hilarity for a quarter.  The Funny Face has appeared in many forms such as a neon sign, tattoos, merchandise and even painted on the side of a bar in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  It has been reinterpreted through art which may change the original design, but there is no doubt that those in the know can certainly see the grin and instantly connect to what it represents.

As someone who is still relatively new to writing about fashion, I often find myself visiting a variety of sites to check in on what has recently been added, and then pass on the information in a way that still falls into the  category of Carny Style.  In doing so, today I discovered the Thrill-A-Rama dress by Sourpuss, a delightful stretch cotton halter design that comes in three colors and features an inspired version of the legendary Coney Island icon printed along stars and dots.  For me it certainly embodies the whimsical nature of Steeplechase, being flirty, fun and all around fabulous.  Though the dress certainly speaks for itself, this guide will assist in creating comprehensive looks that can easily be worn to any carnival, boardwalk or other vacation appropriate destination this Summer.

CORAL

The soft shade of coral that defines the base of this first look can be likened to the piles of cotton candy that send our brains into desire overload as soon as that confectionary scent hits our nostrils.  Certainly this style of dress is ideal for the warmer temperatures that is slowly creeping up the East Coast, but from time to time there is still a bit of chill when evening comes, and a 1970s black sequined shawl is an easy way to keep exposed skin cozy while perhaps taking a midnight stroll along the beach.  During the day, black and white satin pinstripe Teeze shoes with crossover strap and patent toe cap strike a dynamic chord and gives the outfit an instant pinup flavor.  While some will be eager to get their tan on, I am not a fan of my legs and prefer to preserve the paleness of my skin; if you are the same I would suggest using Black Milk Leg Bones leggings for a bit of mischievous misdirection.  Though they are no longer being sold on the site, there are similar designs floating around and could also be a fun DIY project.  Speaking of bones, a set of Kreepsville Gem Bone clips is a fun way to add some sparkle to your tresses while keeping them out of your face.  A coordinating satin handbag that has a rigid body will ensure that valuables are stored safely while hurtling down the hill of your favorite roller coaster.  For a touch of faith, love, hope, passion, wisdom and beauty, accessorize with gleaming stars such as a white gold ring, jeweled silver pendant and shimmering bangles.  Finish this look with a pair of coral framed sunglasses to protect eyes from the glaring sun, a fresh face with black eye liner, mascara, dewy cheeks and the right shade of coral lip stick or gloss from your favorite makeup brand.

GRASS

A sure sign of Summer are well manicured lawns that have an interesting aroma when freshly cut, a sort of freshness that would give you same feeling wearing the Grass version of the Thrill-A-Rama dress.  The satin and lace rendition of the classic Teeze pump brings a slightly feminine touch to this look, while a pair of black and white swirled footless tights will give your legs a silky, luxurious feel without the hassle of shaving.  Layering this Dex Striped cardigan on top, which features metallic thread and embroidered hole details, comes in handy when the need for shade arises.  Walking the streets late at night does not have to be intimidating, and the fashionable Peace Keeper lets everyone know that you are the one in charge.  The quickest hair styles for Summer is a ponytail or vintage up-do accompanied by a bandanna to keep necks cool when the heat kicks in.  If the generic bandannas have gone boring, try the Felon Viva La Meurte one from Sourpuss, which features a print of pinup girls accompanied by coffins and skulls.  Be your own superhero or villain with Cat Woman Claw rings by Noir for DC Comics, which are made from solid brass and doused in Cubic Zorconia stones.  Lovers of tiki and vintage will have no problem stacking up these carved black Tiki Bracelets, while sideshow aficionados such as myself can swoon over the hunky image of famed Half Man Johnny Eck on a stainless steel necklace.  Viewing a world of imagination is best done with eyes treated with a healthy coating of Sugarpill’s Absinthe loose shadow, lined with Illamasqua’s Precision Ink in Scribe from their Human Fundamentalism collection and accented with a pair of Grandeur False Eye Lashes.

SKY BLUE

This final look centers around Thrill-A-Rama’s Sky Blue colorway, which is accented with contrasting red trim and my favorite of the trio.  Street wear is just as important as stage clothes and certainly an essential part of my personal style, because one never knows when the opportunity to network might arise and making yourself a brand is a necessary evil when it comes to being a performer.  Taking this dress from simple sophistication to carnal hellion is all about the attitude and confidence to work the look.  Hell Bunny’s Candy Leggings use black and red stripes in a quirky way that make them an item that can be worn with a number of other things.  Slip into a pair of Iron Fist’s Devil’s Plaything wedges – the reptilian print is metallic foil – which feature a horned devil face on the upper and precise piping across the peep toe and foot opening.  Upgrade your diva status with a silk red bolero that is tailored yet comfortable and sets off any type of curves.  Lavish deep finger waves and tight pin curls by pinning in this lovely white feather fascinator, and keep yourself cool while outdoors with a red paper parasol decorated in a tattoo print.  The retro styling of this metal flake glitter vinyl purse along with its bold sky blue and white stripes is hand-made with quality, featuring a coordinating handle, black silk lining and four metal feet that give it stability when set down.  Reaffirm your love for all things Coney Island with a Funny Face necklace, Token earrings and a hand-made recreation of a 1950s charm bracelet, while paying tribute to sideshow attractions of the past via this beautiful and eerie Conjoined Twins ring.  Cinch in your waist with a studded suede cutout corset belt and add some layers of volume with a bright red petticoat.  Dramatic makeup can be achieved by layering Sugarpill’s Afterparty with similar hues that are darker and lighter, a healthy dose of micropearl pigment and a few strategically placed dots using Elmer’s 3D Washable Paint Pens in Sparkle Scents.  Saturate your pout with Urban Decay’s Revolution, advertised to be decadent, creamy, long-lasting lipstick that nourishes and protects, prevents dehydration and fills in wrinkles.  Finish off with some thick cat eye liner, rosy cheeks and feather tipped eyelashes.

Pulling together a look is not something that needs to be incredibly difficult, though one must find a balance when utilizing a specific pattern.  Going overboard with accessories or coordinating a color scheme can make an outfit seem straight out of the catalogue and not very indicative of your personality.  Overall, no matter what one wears, the clothes do not and should not speak for you, but rather tell a story that makes people want to approach you and discuss your fantastic outfit.

Photo credit: 1 – First Steeplechase

Yikes Stripes!

Even though one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to the general representation of circus inspired fashion is that people automatically associate stripes with a broad culture.  Whether they are on garments, shoes or accessories, just because an items is striped does not mean that incorporating into an outfit suddenly makes it makes it vintage burlesque or Victorian sideshow.  However, I can readily admit when use of stripes is done appropriately and there are plenty of examples that can be found in previous Carny Style articles.  This particular one will focus on how to execute stripes without being mistaken for a cartoon character, because that only works when one is on stage.

This lovely strapless black and white body suit can not only bring retro chic to your look while relaxing on the beach or poolside, but can also be worn with a skirt and easily dressed up with accessories.

Of course mixing up the color scheme of stripes is a great way to stand out, which is exactly what this navy stripe two piece playsuit does.

The retro cut of this black and pink stripe bikini uses direction to create a chevron pattern that makes the set visually appealing.

Wearing black and white stripes without someone thinking you are dressed in a Halloween costume is as simple as adding solid color garments such as black, red or blue.  The dominate white, horizontal stripes and angular lapels on this Shoulder Pad Jacket by Givenchy are also helpful.

The intersecting ivory stripes on this navy jacket generates interest but is not so extreme that it hurts the eyes.  Pair it with jeans for a smart look or bring an edge to casual wear.

Admittedly the colors here could err towards being too patriotic, but the tailoring on this 1980s Moschino jacket keeps the stripes well matched throughout the garment.  Over-sized buttons and navy trim reminds me of what a talker might wear on the bally stage.

Dress shirts that are striped with white collars and cuffs are mostly seen in the office, though I challenge that they should be sported in other places, especially if they are pink.

One cannot write about striped clothing without mention Jessica Lousie, and I can envision her Cupcake Tank being worn with a black corset, white petticoat and spiked heels.

Stripes do not always have to dominate a garment – the subtle striping seen here on the Sassy Sailor Darling top nicely accentuates the red stretch cotton twill and is tied together with a black elastic belt.

For some reason pin stripe gets overlooked, but the subtly of these stripes do not discount them from be as equally fabulous as its bolder counterpart.  The rich hue of Lip Service’s Gangsta Pranksta pencil skirt is strong enough on its own, but also opens the invitation for that cute guy across the room to come closer.

Not all striped clothing is made by alternative brands – this black and red full-swing skirt by Marc Jacobs has enough structure and volume to create an eclectic outfit.

Technically speaking this is more of an abstract plaid, but really, the purple stripes of this cotton skirt show that one direction is not always interesting, and thus one does not have to limit fashion by stereotypes.

These green and black stripe peeptoe Maryjane wedges have officially been added to the Must Have List, especially since there is a dress and sweater that they would match perfectly with.

Every now and then, there is nothing wrong with mixing polka dots with stripes, and as Not Rated’s Mismosa shows, when one of the patterns is a subtle accent, the two create a sort of whimsical harmony.  These would also look swell with a red dress and fishnet stockings.

Skulls and stripes are an excellent combination, and since the latter mostly appears on the lining of Iron Fist’s Lacey Days platform shoes, one does not have to fear that they are overwhelming.

Taking advantage of striped accessories does not mean one can just pile them on – as with all things moderation is important to prevent an outfit from being outlandish for all the wrong reasons.  A wide variety of items can be found in numerous color combinations and severe as an example of how stripes do not always equate circus, which sadly is something that apparently needs to be repeated.  Though I have a fondness for striped tights, they ones are associated with a multitude of different subcultures.

When presenting personal style, you make up the rules as to what is and is not appropriate, though I certainly do not expect everyone to abide by them.  When making an attempt at creating a specific ensemble and citing circus as inspiration, remember that stripes were mainly found on clown costumes and were not prevalent among traditional wares.

A few things to keep in mind when selecting striped styles is that horizontal ones are better suited for slim, tone figures, while verticle ones give the illusion of elongation.  Diagonal breaks make the pattern more interesting and use of color can make the difference between a couture outfit and being part of a chain gang as a movie extra.  The appeal of utilizing stripes in apparel is that they instantly cause the eye to gravitate towards a particular garment, they command attention and can be visually stimulating, especially in photography.  Below is a collection of images that feature products from Restyle which I feel best showcase how to balance stripes with a complete look.

Preppy Punk

The influence behind this fresh Carny Style feature is one that invokes the brilliant interpretation of a fashion oxymoron – that is, playing strong features against one another that would seemingly clash if overloaded with clichés, but melds into an eye-popping juxtaposition that is a work of art almost too painful to look at.  My main beef with individuals who take certain scenes and adopting alternative lifestyles which carry stereotyped aesthetics, is that they become so incredibly committed to the shallow aspects in attempts of flaunting elitism when in fact they come across as arrogant assholes.  Compensating for lack of personality with a created character that changes depending on what section of your wardrobe you decided to abuse speaks volumes to how obvious being a walking hackneyed train wreck.

Taking advantage of what’s in to gain access to items that might otherwise be hard to find is certainly something even I readily admit to when the opportunity arises.  However, in doing so, I also understand how to coordinate pieces so that they properly represent me and not just an excuse to use brand names in hopes of being noticed.  These things should not be the essential guidelines when selecting a wardrobe, because such articles become easily outdated and difficult to incorporate into functional fashion that will have longevity.

Combining genres which for all intents and purposes are supposed to be polar opposites to the point where rivalries and even rudimentary youth gangs would form to support one another.  Ridiculous caricatures aside, there are elements of these styles – simplified here as preppy and punk – which play well together.  Pushing boundaries is what keeps stereotypes from settling in and dictating what should be acceptable as opposed to embracing the freedom of personal expression.  The following gallery is inspired by classic punk prints paralleled by preppy cuts and punctuated with the right amount of ornaments.

Fred Perry is releasing their latest collaborative collection with late singer Amy Winehouse, which includes this lovely Argyle Sweater Dress that I feel is a smart way to approach preppy punk; paired with certain shoes and accessories dictates which end of the spectrum a complete look falls in.

This rich-hued Gingham V-Neck Sweater adds a touch of vintage flair to an outfit and the larger print is also a contemporary play on classic plaid, which is often related to punk clothing.

The Amy Print Peep Toe Shoe features a “unique jukebox comic book print” with contrasting black lining and signature Laurel Wreath embroidered on the back heel and is ideal for keeping cool on those hot Summer days.

The J. Perterman Company strikes the right notes with this Vintage Yellow Plaid Jacket in wool twill tweed, the pattern matched in the front keeps it from being too archaic and the piece can certainly be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.

Another garment that serves an example of how one can wear plaid and not stir up images of skin-tight bondage pants or mini skirts that are seemingly useless to anyone who is not as small as a mannequin, is the 1940s Forever Plaid Skirt.

Utilizing directions with a bold pattern such as this one on the Texas Minute Striped Dress, cuts down on the cartoon factor and shows off the flattering 1940s style cut.

Geek Chic is nothing new among fashion trends, though for some reason people feel that wearing glasses sans lenses makes a cool fashion accessory.  For those who actually have impaired eyesight, the Moscot Lemtosh fits five face types and is associated with names like Buddy Holly, Truman Capote and Johnny Depp.

On one hand, shoes sprinkled with studs and spikes has become so commonplace that some tend to go overboard and spill into ridiculous impracticability territory.  On the other, this design by Prada invokes the effigy of an art deco mohawk and would be set off nicely with a pair of vintage seamed stockings.  Besides, there is always the option of hitting up a thrift store to purchase a pair of pumps and going the DIY route.

Speaking of spikes, they are also appearing on a variety of accessories including hoop earrings and I for one absolutely love them.  Even though my ear lobes are stretched [to one and a half inches], I cannot deny that I have a pair of these bad boys and get a kick out of wearing them through my tunnels.  It is also quite easy to collect a few pieces to deconstruct and repurpose into an original creation.

The final presentation of images are of a heavily tattooed model named Jimmy Q, who I feel has the right balance of the above aesthetics, though the style may not be restricted to one or the other.  What appeals to me are the button-down shirts that allows one to see just enough of the artwork that resides on his skin without being all-revealing.  It pairs the upper crust classiness expected of rich socialites with the gritty rebellion of standing apart from the mainstream without being too saturated by either element.  On a personal level, it also represents the aristocratic levels of Carny Style, which always strives to counter against stereotypes.  After all, clothes, hair and body modifications may be part of individual expression, but they are certainly not definitive qualities of who that person is, so they should not be used to pass judgment.

 Resources: fredperry.com, jpeterman.com, moscot.com

Photo credit: 1 -3 fredperry.com, 4-6 jpeterman.com

7 – hypebeast.com, 8 – lipsticktracez.com, 9 – shoprichgirlscloset.com

Carny Culture

Rosa and Josepha Blazek – the Bohemian Twins

What is a Carny?

The answer will vary depending on whom you ask.  Popular stereotype dictates a Carny as a carnival worker who is an alcoholic/drug addict, and most likely on the run from the law.

In my humble opinion, being a Carny is a full time lifestyle one must be entirely dedicated to.  Everything from the clothes I wear to the language I speak is an expression of my own Carny style.  This is an honor that does not come easily, despite the fact that many assume the label without understanding the culture.  No, I am not some elitist that believes you have to fit a specific criteria in order to proclaim being a Carny.  However, it is far more than spending a few hours making use of Google or traveling with the carnival for a couple of months.  The term Carny Trash was once meant as a derogatory term spouted by townsfolk as a means to insult those who lived, worked and traveled with the circus or sideshow.  Over time, these people usurped the word and readily apply it with pride to themselves with pride, so I personally feel that it is not something to use as a label as though Circus culture is just another trend.

Nora Hildebrandt – First Tattooed Beauty

The privilege of being titled a Carny was bestowed upon me by my late friend, Jonathan Lovelace, aka Reverend Saint Jon – the Death Defying Daredevil.  Jon was literally born into the Circus world, and it is through him that I learned a greater understanding of what being a part of it really means.  He also passed on ideals, morals and an unspoken code that I have carried with me for the past twelve years, and I have zero plans on deviating from this path any time soon.  Then I decided that I might as well use the Internet to my advantage in an attempt to preserve the traditions that I proudly uphold, for no other reason than this is what I decided to dedicate my life to.  The basis of Carny Style articles stems from all of these things, and over the past few months I feel as though I have efficiently shared my knowledge of basic Circus inspired fashion.

Mademoiselle Gabrielle – the Half Woman

Society has a tendency of stereotyping, and they see Carnies as a specific group of people that deserve to be mocked.  As previously mentioned, society is lazy and would rather easily pigeonhole individuals than actually spend a moment being educated.  They forget that sideshow performers were one of the main forms of entertainment in this country, particularly the human curiosities.  While political correctness prevents them from being put on display, there was a time when they were considered royalty and earned a steady income from doing nothing more than exhibiting that which Nature bestowed on them.  The photographs and artistic renderings that I see of these people usually depict them in elegant clothing, which is often a stark contrast to the character they portrayed in the sideshow.  Many performers sought the company of one another, often dining and going on outings together because there was solidarity in numbers and people were less likely to make rude remarks.  Seeing a congress of working and oddities in their stage costumes or their every day wear is a remind that despite the fantastical claims made to lure in curious spectators, they were still quite human and deserved to enjoy ordinary things without being hassled.

Delina Rossa – Bearded Lady From Paris

The term Carny Trash Aristocracy is something that Jon and I conjured up one evening while deep in discussion – an oxymoron meant to defy the stereotypes and assumptions that people make about Carnies.  One of our favorite activities was to visit a fine dining establishment dressed in proper evening attire, contradicted by body modifications and wild hair.  It served as a social experiment to observe how we were treated and the reactions people had.  Often we were seated in a section considered to be ‘out of view’ from the usual crowds, but there were also plenty of politeness and generally excellent service that was certainly rewarded.  The point is, whether people learned not to judge others by their appearances or spent time trying to get a good look, we actively made an effort to portray ourselves in a manner that would leave a positive impression.

This guide is a reflection of my personal aesthetic, a collection of couture clothing and adventurous accessories, high-class hairstyles and modernized makeup inspired by current trends with a dash of vintage flair, executed with a heavy dose of confidence.

FUTURISTIC FLAPPER

The aesthetic from the 1920’s are among the top fashion trends for Spring, so this pastel pink beaded sleeveless dress from Biba is an excellent example of elegance and can be paired with a classic 1920’s beaded French coat, made from a cotton base to ensure that the meticulous placement of sequins will not budge when this piece is being worn.  Local merchant Hats in the Belfry have a nice variety of cloche hats, which is a fundamental accessory when assembling this type of look, and the Betmar Olivia in royal purple exhibits quality craftmanship for every stylish woman.  Glittering gold sequin Bordello Cabaret shoes were made to emphasize fancy footwork on the dance floor, and art deco fishnet tights by Lip Service create an interesting silhoutte for legs.  A monochrome faux fur stole can be a fun accessory, particularly when posing for photos or creating a bit of a spontaneous puppet show, while a vintage beaded purse not only looks stylish but also comes in handy for storing personal items.  Finally, an off-white pair of vintage lace gloves adds the right touch of feminine flair, and is always a nice way to protect a coordinating manicure.

When it comes to channeling authentic flapper style, the Kelly 1920s Pearl Necklace by Stepahnie Browne delivers with three strands of smooth ivory pearls clutched between Swarovski crystal ornaments.  For the sake of this guide, lets us pretend that the price tag of this Tiffany’s Art Deco bracelet does not exist, and instead appreciate the hand-carved onyx and thousands of diamonds that compose the eye-catching fan motif.  Antique stores are great for finding one-of-a-kind items, such as marquesite and  mother of pearl earrings, not to mention a large variety of jeweled brooches.  If the cloche hat is not your thing, the Victoria 1920s headpice features Swarovski crystals and faux pearls artfully arranged in swirls, and will bode well to accentuate carefully coiffed curls.

Speaking of hair, styles of the 1920s are most noted for heavy partings, sleek finger waves and precise pin curls in vein of Mae West and other notable starlets of the era.  Create a porcelain doll-like base with Illamasqua’s Concealer in CC 105 and Cream Foundation and CF 100, to achieve a blank canvas that hides all your secrets and blends easily for full coverage without it feeling heavy.  There are no shortage of color Powder Blushers, but the hues I prefer for this look include Unrequited, Karie, Tremble and Nymph.  For more drama, I would also suggest Morale, Hussy, Thrust, Tweak, Chased and Disobey.

Brows should be thin, curved and three shades darker than your hair color, while eyes are treated to a heavy smokey effect, which can be accomplished with Illamasqua’s Eye Liner Cake in Mislead and Precision Ink in Abyss.  The bold color is quick-drying and non-smudging, ensuring the endurance of your look while drinking champagne and dancing to big band jazz.  Enhance features with the 4-Color Liquid Metal Palette to capture an irridescent glow worthy of any retro-futuristic pin up, and finish with the feathery and fierce Midnight Vixen Lash Duo.   Lips are meant to be drawn small with rounded peaks and an accentuated cupid’s bow; be sure to use a pencil liner to keep lipstick in place.  Red remains an iconic hue, and immediately Atomic, Blaze, Tramp, Ignite, Maneater and Salcious grab my attention, partially because of the names and also due to the fact they are all fairly classic colors; Faust, Underworld, Howl and Growl are ideal for those who can handle darker shades and really want to exude dark glamour.  Add a touch of Intense Lipgloss for some shine and practice that pout!

This is just one example of how to utilize a variety of both vintage and contemporary items, along with a few quality pieces and an arsenal of no nonsense makeup that embodies a certain aesthetic, but also leaves plenty of room for creativity.

Photo credit: 1, 2, 3 –  thehumanmarvels.com