Kitschy Variety: Welcome to the Sideshow Leggings


The search for a clever way to cover legs during winter without constantly relying on tights brought the discovery of a truly unique separate that I just had to use in the first Carny Style article of the new year.  Despite my aversion towards the company due to some of the designs, Sourpuss did more than hit the mark with these graphically appealing Welcome to the Sideshow Leggings, which take black and white stripes to a whole new level by covering them in an array of boldly printed slogans that are influenced by those found on sideshow banners.  It would be very easy to create an outfit that reads cartoon character, which is fine if this is the look you’re going for.  However, with a garment which makes a profound statement all on its own, one can become lost and even overwhelmed in something that is too busy.  While it seems simple, the Vavavoom Top [also by Sourpuss] is described as having the “perfect pinup fit”, achieved with a ruched sweetheart neckline and cap sleeves that comfortably hug your arms.  Since there is already plenty of blue and red in the leggings, I thought it would be nice to balance with a bit of yellow in the form of the Anna Rose Embroidered Cardigan, since the color is soft without being too distracting.  The black trim disguises  the buttons down the front while a set of roses embroidered on the back adds a nice ‘surprise’ detail.  Layering the Shadow Stripe Swing Skirt over the leggings may risk covering some of that amazing print, but the subtly striped satin skirt is another vintage styled separate from Sourpuss that focuses on the fit of the garment, which shows in the way it gives the illusion of a tight waist.

What better way to coordinate with stripes than using polka dots, particularly when they are plastered across Wanna Be Bad yellow heels, their classic shape and mellow tone putting a bit of punctuation on the mostly monotone materials.  A popular Sourpuss purse gets an updated look, the Floozy now available in gold trimmed black vinyl, the vintage inspiration gleaming behind custom hardware, a kisslock closure and the overall polished finish.  Protect the skin from sudden gusts of cold with the Merona Stripe Scarf, where an engaging mix of black and white stripes, starting with one color dominant over the other and having the two reverse positions, will make it seem as though you have a bit of magic up your sleeves.  Accent an artfully arranged up-do with Gimme Couture’s Audrey Hair Clip, faux pearls set in the center of pointed petals – the black and white striped variety – for a hint of glamour.  In fact, turn up the dial on that with hair clips from Claire’s such as the ravishing red Flower With Feathers and brilliantly blue Glitter Rose, their small sizes ideal for accenting the main piece without weighing down the hair.

Embellishing an ensemble that already has strong lines is open to interpretation depending on whether you want to look refined or like you fell out of an alternative clothing catalog.  The opulence of circus can be translated through shimmering accessories such as the Aurora Borealis Diamond Drop Earrings, which feature a cluster of stones that form the diamond shape for plenty of sparkle.  This can be another area where kitschy and campy can go too far and come across as overdone, but a Rhinestone Braided Choker gives a dash of brilliance to the neckline as rhinestones dance along braided strands.  Combining elements from both of these pieces, the Crystal and Shiny Stone Squares Bracelet has glittering stone squares that are framed in multiple crystals, with trios of links bringing them together around the wrist.  Even though they are rather trendy at the moment, I have been pulled in by the allure of Midi Rings, and this particular set offers a two different thicknesses as well as a spiral ring, all of which can be worn alone or stacked.  They can be mixed with statement rings for a very extravagant effect or in a simple layout that still accents the anatomy in just the right way, particularly when paired with the manicure detailed below.



One of the most important parts of Carny Style is coordinating an outfit to ones makeup, and this is an outfit which certainly speaks volumes on its own and can easily be lost in a sea of too many colors on the face.  Picking up on the palette that appears throughout the look assembled above, the following products are merely suggestions based on what I felt would work best to execute the idea that popped into my head when thinking about the finished ensemble.

1 – Achieving flawless skin is something that many crave, and Camera Ready BB Cream by Smashbox is a mutlitasking product that can deliver just that, providing a glowing and ethereal finish to your face in any occasion.  Enhancing the wear of makeup while maintaining moisture, the tinted cream also primes and protects from the moment you put it on.

2 – Having a choice between sheer and full coverage is what makes COVER FX Pressed Mineral Foundation ideal for layering over the BB Cream foundation.  The product is said to never dry skin, so you won’t get that ‘cakey’ look that other powders can leave behind, which is fairly impressive for a vegan foundation.

3 – Conscious of the inevitable aging process, Urban Decay offers their incomparable Eyeshadow Primer Potion in an Anti-Aging formula that actually minimizes the appearance of wrinkles.  Not only does it cover up imperfections, but it locks your shadow in place for a crease-free color that remains vibrant all day.

4 – Using the Pretty Rebel Eyeshadow Palette by Too Faced, a range of 10 highly pigmented shadows, take Ringleader and pat it across your lids, gently blending it slightly past the crease.  Grab an angled brush and swipe Jailbird from the outer corner and down into the crease, ensuring that the application is in a ‘C’ shape to avoid sharp corners.  Follow up with a healthy dose of Badass, blending the blues together and bringing the darker shade under the eye as well.  Tap a bit of Instigator on the inner corners, and then wet a brush to line eyes with Miss Sparkles and a thick ‘flick’.

5 – While completely optional, the hyper saturated pigment of Ubangi Eye Paint lays black and blue shimmer wherever you want.  Precision may be essential but with a seemingly weightless gel and the right tool, drawing lines to emphasize the previously created cat eye is a breeze.

6 – The fact that a mascara can lengthen, curl, lift and separate lashes with just a few swipes is so unbelievable that Benefit called it They’re Real! to ensure there is no trickery afoot.  Each and everyone of your lashes will be treated to a coat of luxurious jet black pigment that won’t clump or dry out.

7 – Following the application of this magical mascara, set False Feathered Eyelashes with proper adhesive for a deluxe extension custom designed faux lashes that have a severe angle and feathers that accent the sharp corners.

8 – Conceived for the Parisian Aquatic Ballet, the Aqua Lip Waterproof Lipliner Pencil is guaranteed to stay put, allowing the nude tones of Rosewood to define your lips while delivering vitamin E and jojoba wax in the smoothest lines.

9 & 10 – Touted as having 50% more pigment than traditional products, Rogue Artist Intense is an immediate true-to-color lipstick that delivers in one swipe, a blend of three natural waxes allowing it to glide on effortlessly yet promising a long-lasting hold.  When paired with the liner, it sort of ‘mutes’ the lips in order to allow the work you did on your eyes to be the center of attention, while also making sure they don’t completely disappear.  This can be achieved with a bit of Glossy Gloss in Royal Icing, a high-shine lip gloss packed with plenty of white and silver shimmer that gives the otherwise matte lips a wet look without making them sticky.

11 – Contouring and highlighting are becoming more common in makeup application, so why not choose a three-in-one product that allows you do it all?  Ultralight pigments in the MicroSmooth Baked Sculpting Trio blend effortlessly to enhance the skin, from defining cheek bones to giving them a lustrous highlight.

12 – 15 – Minimalism has its place in circus, such as the white faced clowns and pastel shades that occasionally grace costumes, and that is the base of this show stopping manicure.  The sheer cream porcelain of Unforgettable, part of the Translucents range by Forumla X, might seem muted, but there is a certain luminescence that radiates from the fast-drying polish.  Apply it to two of your nails and then top it with Chaotic, essentially black and white confetti that might as well be glitter graffiti found among the Xplosives Top Coats.  Crushed microsparkles and metallic pigments collide in Grandiose, a kaleideoscope of rose and shifts of bronze with plenty of multidimensional shimmer.  Allow this to take over two more of your nails and then get ready for an explosion of blue rainbow mega-glitter on one nail for an Outburst of excitment.


Kitschy Variety: Vintage Goth Pinup Capsule Collection


Designed by Laura Byrnes and Micheline Pitt, the Vintage Goth Pinup Capsule Collection available through Pinup Girl Clothing is a creative collaboration between two women who always come out with figure flattering garments, and this is certainly no exception.  Comprised of several different pieces, many of which are separates that can be worn with any of your favorite PUG wares, bold black and white stripes along with spiderweb print give classic silhouettes a modern edginess.  In fact, I am fairly certain I have reviewed both the Jenny Skirt and Lauren Top in past Carny Style articles – something tells me it was related to the harlequin print items that came out this past spring.  However, the bold graphics and contrasting, monochromatic color scheme of this collection could not be passed up as an opportunity to come up with an amazing outfit.  After all, stripes and spiders are two things that certainly fall within the realm of circus inspiration.

Though it may shimmer like gossamer, the Lauren Top in Black with White Spiderwebs carries the strength of stretch cotton sateen that is form-fitting and curve-conscious.  Now that the weather is growing colder, long sleeves are on trend, but the adjustable cuffs and coordinating color allow you  to have options when styling as opposed to accents that are static.  Black and white silk sateen will make you scream when you set sights on this don’t-say-the-name-three-times inspired Jenny Skirt, where voluminous vertical stripes are gathered at a nipped-in waist and spill down past the knees.  One would be hard pressed to resist giving this a whirl, as watching the fabric twirl would gather quite the entranced crowd.  To accentuate the waist even further to really capture that ‘hourglass’ shape often associated with pinups, use a wide elastic belt; I selected the Red Rose one for the satin ribbon and lace framed cameo set in the center.  Inside the oval frame is an illustration that gives the accessory its name, which also brings another color into the styling palette for other things to play off of.  The elaborate details of these black Spiderweb Tights come together and form an intricate design that is also abstract and doesn’t come across as too costumey.  Having the addition of red in the belt means being able to pair this look with Pinup Couture’s new line of shoes, brought to you by the same fine folks that are behind the infamous Bordello collection.  Red patent vinyl trimmed in black is just the beginning of why the Smitten Pump will bring a sense of balance.  The retro curve of the shoe leads into a round toe topped with a pleated bow, and though the heel is only four inches high, it makes the shoe ideal as an affordable basic you will love having in your wardrobe.

Instead of going for a high shine vinyl, I thought the matte red of Pinup Couture’s Bow Handbag would suit this outfit better, as it doesn’t give off the overwhelming glow that can occasionally accompany red.  The trapezoid-shaped body has been slightly rounded and edged in glossy black vinyl, which can also be found trimming the handle and in the form of a bow on the front.  While there are a few other hats that can also be worn with this look, the forthcoming Swirl Dish Hat was too decadent to resist, what with the alternating rings of white and black ribbon tucked under a cascade of netting and all.  Since it’s not available just yet, I did not hesitate to sign up for the wait list, as I suspect this will be a widely popular item and I would be bummed to miss an opportunity to acquire it for myself.  An unlikely suggestion as far as jewelry goes, but remember that mixing quality pieces with those that are of a more kitschy nature is what these guides are all about.  Personally I would wear the Pentagram Earrings by Killstar through my stainless steel tunnels, but however you choose to adorn your ears, doing it with black hoops that have pentagrams inside will certainly make a statement.  The only accessory to feature an arachnid is the Black Widow Cameo Necklace, where the red and black resin cameo is surrounded by a filigree frame and hangs nicely when the 1 3/8″ chain is draped across the neck.  This outfit is about a polished presentation, and too many ‘matching’ items can make it messy, though any of the items recommended here can be swapped for ones in the Spidora guide.  Skipping bracelets on account the cuffs of the top speak enough on their own, the final pieces of jewelry happen to be another trend this season, as Phalanx Rings appear on fingers from the runway to the red carpet.  More commonly known as ‘middle of the finger’ or ‘knuckle rings’, the stacks of white and black diamonds can be alternated to pick up the pattern of the skirt for a unique touch.

The cosmetics selected to coincide with the completed outfit are meant to reflect its minimalist aesthetics, and it is suggested that one goes through their usual moisturizing routine and priming the face prior to applying any of the following products.  Advertised as having “everything you need for the perfect neutral eye”, the Naked Basics Palette by Urban Decay contains six versatile shadows that can be used to contour, line and highlight to create the right amount of definition for any occasion.  Build a foundation using Venus, a soft off-white demi matte, by patting it along your brow bone and then blending it both directions; up towards the brow and down to the lid.  Then take Walk Of Shame, a very light nude matte, and pat that all across the lid, blending it up into the other shadow.  Finally, sweep the warm and dusty brown tones of Faint into the crease with an angled brush, making sure to soften the edges along the outer-V.  Now that you have a nice base, cut into it with Illamasqua’s Precision Gel Liner which will allows you to effortlessly draw your cat-eye wither you prefer demure or dramatic.  After coating lashes in your favorite mascara, tack on a set of Sugarpill Charlotte Lashes, their spider web shaped edges sure to make your eyes appear larger.

Versatile enough for any skin tone, Naked Flushed by Urban Decay makes an excellent companion to their similarly named eye shadow palette with a luxe bronzer, blush and highlighter in one compact.  The soft satiny bronze should be used to contour cheeks, chin, forehead and any other areas you want to minimize; dust cheeks with the rosey blush and top with the shimmering pink champagne highlight, which can also be applied to places you want to illuminate.  With the rest of the face set to neutral, the lips are the star of this show and deserve to be heart-stopping.  Take the emollient enriched Cruella, a Velvet Matte Pencil by NARS, and use it to line the lips, the creamy formula depositing rich pigment that will stay put no matter what.  Follow with Vesuvio, a full bodied red Pure Matte Lipstick that adds another layer of hydrating protection despite the matte finish.  The last touch will the Super Charged charcoal and rainbow multi-glitter splendor of Formula X, a textured polish that encrusts nails in sparkling glamour that rivals the world’s most expensive jewels.

Kitschy Variety: Venus Flytrap Skirt


When searching for a piece that will serve as inspiration for one of these articles, I have all too often become disappointed and even a little disgusted at the amount of appropriation from cultures, religions and even hardcore criminals that are turned into tacky over-priced clothing.  These symbols mean absolutely nothing to the people wearing them, which becomes painfully obvious when they are more than willing to pose in them for personal gain.  However, the fact remains that certain things are offensive and it is not a case of people being oversensitive or whatever bullshit someone wants to pull out of their ass to defend their problematic behavior.  This is something I intend to write about more in the future, but for now I am willing to say there are a number of alternative fashion brands who are guilty of peddling such wares, who have been shamelessly mentioned and freely promoted on this blog in the past.  While I am only one person, I will no longer consider being a customer of such sites [even if I have purchased from them before], nor will they be actively linked, named or have any of their name brand products used in any fashion articles.

Moving right along, there is one site that I am always happy to promote, and that is Pinup Girl Clothing – they have a gorgeous selection of retro and vintage style dresses, separates and accessories that are worth the financial investment.  As much as I enjoy casual clothes, I am also someone who wants the option of quality garments that can be worn in different ways in order to get the most from my money, so to speak.  This is a site that certainly delivers, with four house brands which all have definitive details to distinguish them from one another, though they can be combined for a cohesive look as well.  Browsing the newest additions, I was immediately attracted to the Deadly Dames Kinky Box Skirt in Venus Fly Trap Print and felt it was just the right thing to reignite the creativity I have been neglecting.  Constructed from sateen tinted a royal purple hue, this skirt’s main feature are the classic box pleats, as they allow the garment to sit flat while providing fullness that defines the waist.  That is where the 1950’s influence ends and breaking the mold of conventional vintage garments comes into play through the custom designed print of grinning Venus flytrap plants that parade from top to bottom.  It is sure to grab plenty of attention, so balance the kitsch with the Eye Candy Blouse by Mode Merr, which is made from a soft cotton lycra jersey material that comfortably contours to every curve.  Red ric-rac trimming the Peter Pan style collar and keyhole neckline adds a bit of contrast to the black top, while a matching grosgrain ribbon tying everything together in just the right place.

The chill of Winter is slowly creeping up on us, so now would be a good time to lay out some serious cash for a coat that is both fashionable and functional, since the whole point is to maintain warmth.  Besides, I am a fan of outfit revealing, especially when you notice quite a few heads turning in your direction.  A nautical nobility is evident upon first glance of Hell Bunny’s Millie Coat, the dark grey material shaped into a vintage silhouette where a pair of black stripes highlight the sailor style collar, cuffs and hem, coordinating with the anchor printed buttons and square buckle on the belt that allows you to cinch it for an ideal fit.  Speaking of cinching, a Jade Stripe Elastic Belt from Vivien of Holloway is a great finishing touch to give your figure that classic 1950’s hourglass appearance, while also breaking up the top and skirt to avoid a rather obvious seam which may make that area appear larger than it actually is.  The jade is a great companion to the purple in the skirt while picking up the variegated greens in the plant print as well, which will come into play later when deciding on a color palette for the makeup you want to wear with the outfit.  Precarious lineation doesn’t get more precise than the Jeffrey Campbell Watch Cuff, the metal plated ankle cuff securing you into heels that are just over six inches tall, the matte black synthetic leather flattering the top and skirt rather than detracting from them.  This theme is carried into the final major accessory, and the Pinup Couture Amoeba Handbag has the ability to adapt itself to every occasion with clean, distinctive and futuristic lines.  No detail was overlooked: lipstick red glitter vinyl and black vinyl trim are tamed into the unique retro shape; dazzling chrome comes in the form of a chain, clasp and bullet feet that keep your purse clean when you set it down; a two-toned handle ensures longevity, while the size and interior zippered pockets allow you to carry as much or as little as you need.

Up to this point, you have a fairly polished pinup look and are certainly welcome to skip ahead to the makeup guide.  However, this wouldn’t be Carny Style without citing the correlation between the outfit and Circus culture.  Seeing as how this carnivorous plant has been the source of a fiercely popular 80’s horror movie, where an over-sized and campy version of a Venus flytrap winds up devouring a few people, I am sure that has led to a few urban legends of such man-eating plants existing in the wild.  These sort of stories are rampant in sideshow exhibits, and therefor decorating yourself in honor of Dionaea muscipula becomes a satirical interpretation of society’s vision that woman are “man eaters”.  A surefire way to get that message across is by wearing a pair of Kreepsville66 Eyeball Hair Bows, the creep-tastic veined detached oculars set in the middle of green leopard print meant to represent the tropical climate Venus flytraps are found in.  Display your love of entomology with Brass Fly Earrings, intriguing stamped brass designs that have delicate details to distinguish them from cheap costume jewelry.  Though the literal translation can boarder on cheesy, again the emphasis on quality keeps this look grounded in kitschy chic, as is examplified by the J.Crew Venus Flytrap Necklace.  Gold tone brass and steel link together faced green crystals surrounded by settings evocative of the hairs that line the trapping structure of the plant.  Fusing the sinister side of beauty with bold masculine lines, the Venus Flytrap 3 Claw Ring utilizes gold and diamonds wrapped into a captivating piece that challenges preconceptions of self-adornment.  This is also evident when wearing a Horse Tail Bone Bracelet, though the bones here have been hand made and cast in bronze as opposed to be sourced from a real animal.

No style guide is complete without a selection of cosmetics that have been carefully chosen to coordinate alongside various aspects of the assembled outfit.  Skipping over basics such as foundation, concealer and primer since numerous product suggestions can be found in previous articles.  The focus here are the eyes, and the best way to draw attention is by executing a dramatic application which begins with Marie-Galante, an Eyeshadow Duo by NARS that is long-wearing and crease-resistant.  Pat the iridescent blue shade across each of your eyelids, building up a dark base and then blending it up until it disappears to create a gradient.  Then take the iridescent orchid and layer it starting right under the brow bone and blending it down into your darker shadow.  Dip a liner brush into teal-toned blue green Pure Cosmetic Pigmet by Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, and carefully line the outer lower lash line from outer corner to the inner one; bring it up the inner corner and slightly blend it into the upper lash line.  Black liner can have a tendency of giving eyes a harsher look than intended, so keep them soft by drawing your cat eye in Steel Ink, a shimmering deep charcoal grey Long- Wear Gel Liner by Bobbi Brown that glides on smoothly and quickly dries to a water-resistant finish.  Complete the eyes with a few coats of your favorite mascara and remember to curl for extra volume, or you could add a few pairs of false lashes.

Though also suitable for eyes and lips, OCC’s Creme Colour Concentrate is an innovative cream that is buildable and blendable, offering coverage that wears like a dream.  Use the subdued, whitened plum of Miriam to give cheeks a ‘wind kissed’ appearance, which can be intensified with bronze for an evening look or diffused with a highlighter if you prefer a velvety finish.  Shifting to the lips, though it is generally known that strong eyes call for a more neutral lip, I could not resist replicating the pout on the print of the skirt and chose the cool brick red tone of Amazon as the liner to accomplish this.  Using it to fill in the lips, the product glides on and leaves a creamy texture behind that won’t feather or bleed, acting as a barrier for your lipstick.  Staying with NARS, I selected Future Red, which happens to be a part of the Guy Bourdin Holiday Collection Limited Edition Cinematic Lipsticks.  The energetic cherry is delivered with gorgeous saturation and plenty of shine, where an innovative blend of conditioners hydrate, nourish and protect your lips as you wear the product.  Classic pinup lips are always acceptable no matter how much or little makeup you choose to wear.  For an extra dose of shine and to slightly tone down the boldness, dab a bit of Scandal in the middle and gently blend it in, using the pinkish brown gloss for a more natural yet shimmery finish.  Meticulously maintained manicures deserve varnishes that are hard-wearing and chip resistant no matter what situation you find yourself in, which is why I turned to Illamasqua and their appropriately named Venous – a striking blue green polish that picks up on similar hues scattered throughout the outfit.  Though it certainly stands out on its own, adding a few coats of Swarm on top not only amps up the gloss factor, but the fleck of matte black glitter could also be seen as abstract flies.

Not every outfit has to be 100% serious or dripping in elegance – there is a balance of kitsch and couture featured in this guide that lends itself to being taken in one direction or the other depending on what your personal preferences are.  It’s perfectly alright to wear designer jewelry with hair bows that have plastic body parts tacked to them; to mix sparkling vinyl, iridescent sateen and patent leather without blinking an eyelash; to create dramatic eyes and lips and not care whether other people think it’s “too much” or “too extreme”.  Fashion is about what you like, what makes you comfortable and inevitably is successful when carried with the right amount of confidence.  While it can be fun to incorporate trends into your wardrobe, remember not to let them ultimately define you or become so lost in chasing a label that you forget to be yourself, as that is the greatest asset anyone can have.

Kitschy Variety: Luscious Dress


The prototypical baby doll goes through a grown up transformation and becomes the Luscious Dress by Pinup Couture, a high quality stretch cotton knit tinted a sensational pink that practically screams retro chic.   An embellished draws attention to the flattering wrap style bust, where charming black ric rac trim add a bit of contrast and coordinates with the embroidered swans and atomic starbursts on the shoulders.  Gathers in the skirt spill from the fitted waist into a sophisticated length that is not too long and not too short.  While the dress comes in a few other colors – each of which have a different design – I chose the swans as they represent artistry and grace, two key elements that are often required in Circus culture when presenting a successful performance.  In the classic children’s tale of ‘The Ugly Duckling’ it is a token of inner beauty, and for those who consider it to be their totem animal, the swan signifies you are empathic towards others.  Prepare for them to be drawn to you, especially wearing Betsey Johnson’s Makenna, snappy black suede slingback wedges that have  adjustable heel straps and peep toes that will leave an indelible impression.  Candidly express your love of impeccable vintage vogue by toting along the Floozy Purse by Sourpuss, where creamy pink vinyl is decorated in black polka dots, a black vinyl bow sitting beneath the kiss lock closure and black piping that makes it look like a piece of pop art.  Extend the theme to your legs by covering them in a pair of Reverse Polka Dot Tights, which are opaque tights with sheer spots from hip to toe.

When styling hair, I would suggest sweeping it up in a sophisticated bun or twisting it from the nape up to the crown and allowing tendrils to fall on the side of the head, elongating the neck to resemble that of a swan.  Then place a Cocktail Hat on top – this particular one is coated in hand-stitched sequins, a goose feather flower adorning the front and extending into dramatic fronds that curl into the air.  Perplexing accessories that lend themselves to formulating a story often make the difference between a look that is a cataloge copy and one which reflects couture characteristics.  Teaming up Cameo Key Earrings from Too Fast and an Oval Keyhole Necklace from Classic Hardware prompts the imagination to wonder which key opens the lock and what sort of treasure lies behind it.  Drawing inspiration from water drops, the Anzie Starburst Bracelet is a dazzling array of white saphires, clear topaz and pear shaped mother-of-pearl gemstones in unique silver settings.  Finalize the ensemble with a Swan Princess Ring, a magnificent piece of jewelry that captures the elegance of a swan in stunning silver and glittering diamonds, the detailed head and spread out wing setting the bar for a statement ring.

Although the nods to Circus may not be as obvious as previous style guides, it is important to remember that stripes, primary colors and other attributes which are often associated with ‘circus fashion’ do not always need to be present.  Here the not-so-subtle addition of polka dots retains a certain level of playfulness that is reiterated through the distinctive placement of pink and black, while tribute is paid to vintage tastes and piece can be utilized in other outfits.  The swan becomes a representative of the fluid ballets often executed in the air, as artists nimbly navigate their apparatus of choice in a display of skill and talent that leaves the audience breathless as they stand up to applaud.  Channeling this same determination through all aspects of life is what separates a Carny from those who just sit around wistfully lamenting about running away to join the Circus, signifying the dedication which is often lacking in pipe dreams.

Kitschy Variety: Just Desserts Dress


When it comes to creating an ensemble that draws upon Circus as an influence, it is not always necessary for it to be obviously stated in a relevant print or pattern that has a history of association with the culture.  The first two looks that were put together for this particular Carny Style feature fell into both of these categories as a means of utilizing something people could easily identify with, and then expand upon that with designs which might have otherwise been overlooked.  The goal is always to come up with a result in which you feel comfortable displaying, catering to your personal tastes while also emulating a specific image.  A guide is nothing more than that – merely suggestions of what one individual would select to represent a unique culture that often gets reduced to the same stereotypical trope – which can be followed to the letter or taken in the bits and pieces that suit you.

Drawing inspiration from color-blocked frocks of the 50s, Pinup Couture’s Just Desserts Dress has a separate bust panel that gives a flattering fit, accentuating the figure further with a one and half inch wide [removable] grommet belt.  The alternating and vertically striped colors of the skirt help elongate your body while the fabric is promised to “provide maximum twirl-ability”, which is good news for someone who often feels stunted in full skirted dressed due to the fact I am fairly short.  It would also be fun to test out this claim on a dance floor or during a performance, especially if it responds well to dramatic movements.  While also available in a pink and black option, I chose the black sateen with two tone blues for the use of a primary color, which is something I usually take into consideration when styling an outfit.  Channel your courageous side and put some pep in your step with Irregular Choice’s Tea Time, where luscious blue leather is trimmed in puffy pompoms and the thick heel is covered in a dark faux fur.  The combination may seem strange, but remember that is the case with circus in general.  Maintain the vintage vibe and store your personal items in the Fast Track Bowler by Sourpuss, the black matte vinyl accented by aqua handles and a diagonal stripe that reaches from the bottom to the zippered top.  Providing three types of attachment, this Black Chiffon Rose Clip is a high quality piece that can be used to hold up high ponytails, secure straggling strands away from the face or pinned to a number of items for a quick touch of florid chic.

Featuring a fluctuation between smooth and grooved arches, the Idin Disc Drop Earrings are high polished metal rounds dangling from another pair of textured discs that give this jewelry its distinguished appearance.  Another habit I tend to have when styling outfits is selecting one statement piece that coordinates with whatever else you happen to be wearing while offering versatility so that you can wear it with more than a few things.  For this look, I chose a bright blue Bubble Necklace that has cascading layers of shiny baubles which still manage to drape elegantly across the neckline.  Ignoring the outrageous price for the simplistic design of Beaded Weave Bangle Bracelets, their criss-cross weaving of delicate silver beads reminds me of the ring they put up at the circus when they bring out the big cats.  Complete your collection of adornments with a Tarina Tarantino Cameo Ring, the hand carved white lucite portrait standing out against a vivid nile blue background.

Since summer is slowly winding down and the winds of autumn will soon be passing through trees, a pair of sheer Vertical Striped Stockings will not only give you some protection, but will also give you legs a long and lean look.  Bare shoulders and arms might also be asking for a bit of coverage, and the Deadly Dames Bad Girl Bolero would prevent chills from creeping across your skin while also adding a piece to your wardrobe that can be coupled with anything from casual to dressy.  Pretty much anything from this outfit [and previous ones for that matter] can be combined in a variety of ways to satisfy a desire to use retro and vintage designs in a contemporary manner.

Kitschy Variety: Hotrod Honey Dress


Fashion is far less critical of the bodies that wear it than the people who have nothing better to do than comment on the appearance of others.  You do not have to fit the stereotypical boundaries of what society and the images splayed in public media want to dictate as the acceptable norms of beauty.  Unfortunately, it is difficult for individuals such as myself who are considered ‘plus size’ to find garments that actually fit proportions that are far more varied than factory mannequins.  This is even harder when you have subscribed to a certain aesthetic, often lamenting at the fact that many websites which offer alternative styles do not commonly carry larger sizes.

Renown for their quality brands, Pinup Girl Clothing can be relied on to have something new for every season and the impending  Autumn means eventually cooler temperatures and the need to cover skin one has been comfortably exposing all Summer.  Fanatics of Deadly Dames and their Juvenile Delinquent Dress may recognize the pairing of a knitted striped top with a fitted black skirt, the fabric snug yet still easy to wear.  However, their plus size Hotrod Honey Dress pays homage to the source of its inspiration through an embroidered skull and crossbones that sits on the front right shoulder.  The red and white stripes are contrasted by black trim on the low neckline and cuffs, while a wide faux leather black belt cinches in your waistline to create dangerous curves.  Horizontal stripes can have a tendency to shorten your frame, so give yourself some extra inches in a pair of Ceres by London Trash, captivating red suede platform pump that has black elastic bands along the vamp that conform to your feet and keep them in place.  A store I recently discovered through Tumblr called Viva Dulce Marina that specializes in retro clothes with a moderate plus size section offering dresses, separates, shape wear, petticoats, hoisery and belts.  There are definitely a few items that may appear in future Kitschy Variety articles, but today I am focused on the Betsey Handbag since it could very well be a prop from Mad Men, the white vinyl covered rattan sporting a simple gold metal clasp that lets the weaved texture do all the talking.

One of  the most popular accessories that quickly transform a seemingly ordinary up-do into a stunning pinup style is a Snood, the high quality black netting allowing you to secure long locks for extended periods of time, and lending itself to be readily decorated by other items such as a Petite Red Rose Clip.  Celebrate cocktail hour any time with a Rhinestone Cosmo Martini Necklace, the pint-sized glass decorated in shimmering white rhinestones and dangling from a delicate chain by way of a faux ruby.  Denizens of the East Coast have enjoyed a late Summer serenade that was supposed to disappear sometime in June, and I am a personal fan of this odd mating ritual that happens once every seventeen years.  While some may find them creepy, I am kind of partial to the idea of owning a pair of Couture Creatures Cicada Earrings for a number of reasons.  Featuring over-sized antiqued silvertone charms that are fairly accurate replicas of the insects, they will definitely be an interesting element in any outfit.  Though made of shiny black acrylic, these black Bamboo Tiki Bracelets can be stacked around the wrists to bring some structure to this part of the ensemble.  Color and pattern matching does not always have to be obvious, and the Big Top Ring is a fabulous way to do both with one accessory.  A red and white striped cabochon framed in silver sits on an adjustable ring that is a cheerful reminder of circus influence which attracted me to this dress in the first place.

Aside from the sites already mentioned, the remainder of the pieces in this look were found on Plasticland and Etsy.  As much as I enjoy being able to find clothes, shoes and accessories all on one site, the challenge of being able to hunt them down in places others might not even have thought of exploring.  Knowing some key words is incredibly helpful, particularly doing an image search or navigating through pages such as Amazon or Ebay, both of which I have read are useful to those seeking plus sizes.  If you are fortunate enough to have a store local to you that carries alternative brands, make a trip there and try out a few things to get an idea of how pieces from certain brands are going to fit you in order to avoid returning or reselling something you bought online that doesn’t fit.  Another tip is to buy a bigger size than you need and just take it to a tailor or do the alterations yourself if you are able to.

There was a time when plus size alternative fashion was almost non-existent, being restricted to dark corners of places like Hot Topic lest someone be offended that there’s anything above a medium hanging on the rack.  New companies are being born every day while existing ones are evolving as they realize what is considered plus size by ‘industry standards’ makes up a significant portion of the population and that we want to buy their stuff too.  Here’s hoping this is a trend that continues and inspires others to follow suit.

Kitschy Variety: Strongman Swing Dress

There hasn’t been a new Carny Style category in quite some time, and in general I am finding it takes me more time to seek out pieces to combine into outfits that are wearable and reflect the characteristics of Circus culture.  A few things have been rolling around in my head concerning the direction I want to take these articles, a focused emphasis on showcasing my styling skills and the ability to promote popular alternative brands.  Without giving too much away, I know for certain that my detailed guides are appreciated by a significant amount of people.  Continuing to provide history and other information along with the articles is also something I feel is important to maintain, and I definitely have a few new features that will be introduced in the future which I hope is going to become an essential part of my ever growing portfolio.

Today I bring to you Kitschy Variety, a compilation of items where at least one of them is circus or sideshow inspired which can be used as a quick guide to organizing a polished look.  Even though I can occasionally get carried away accessorizing outfits, particularly when it comes to color coordination or pattern matching, I understand that this is not everyone’s taste.  If you do not have the time to drape yourself in jewels and etch out some killer makeup, this is the place to find easy instructions on how to put yourself together with little time and money.


Shopping at sites like Sourpuss allows one to navigate from one category to the next and assemble an ensemble, where there is always a selection of merchandise on sale.  One of the newer arrivals on is the Steady Strongman Swing Dress.  The fitted bodice flows into a full skirt, the black trim a nice contrast to the tea toned fabric, upon which images of tattooed circus performers, animals and stars have been printed.  When it comes to selecting shoes, I tend to go for one of the primary colors since they are more interesting than the standard footwear that is on display in stock photos.  Vibrant yellow Wanna Be Bad heels decorated in solid black polka dots are paired with Eyelash Web Lace Stockings to give texture to the legs that flow with the retro theme of this outfit.

At this point one would have a polished look and could go out to enjoy tea with friends or check out the latest installation at a local art gallery.  However, I am a firm believer that those little extras are what puts a personalized touch on what would otherwise just be clothes you pulled out of the closet.  These are merely suggestions and can either be taken literally or used to find things that suit your own aesthetics.  Here I selected the Sourpuss Floozy Purse for its vintage influence, the cream colored vinyl and the contrasting large black vinyl bow.  Even if I have no makeup on, I never leave the house without having something on my head or in my hair – for some reason I just feel incomplete and it might be related to the fact that at one time a woman was considered as being undressed if she did not have a hat on.  A golden Glitter Rose Hair Clip can readily transform an ordinary ‘do into one that shimmers in the sun, and you could always clip it onto a cardigan or purse for a custom touch.

Overwhelming jewelry is not something I am keen on, as it can give off a cluttered vibe and weigh down the silhouette you just carefully coordinated.  These Yellow Rose Earrings may seem small and simple yet standout among traditional pinup designs, plus they go with the shoes and the hair clip.  Picking out certain elements of prints that appear in the outfit to match to accessories is another habit I have, but when there are pieces such as this Vintage Strongman Necklace it is difficult not to.  The portrait of a mustached man wearing stripes hangs next to a key charm on a sturdy ball chain, though that could be swapped out for a piece of ribbon or suede if desired.  Symbolic of mystery, wisdom and intelligence, the Retro Owl Ring is a limited edition piece by Sourpuss that features a detailed black owl perched on a purple band.  The only item not found there is this Crystal Circle Bracelet, selected for its black beads and circular gold charm that represents the center ring.

While I used a primary color and polka dots, neither of them completely dominate the outfit and yet still manage to generate interest compared to the way the model was dressed on the website.  Nothing wrong with that, as it allows one to take the reigns of creativity and make choices that represents your personal style.  This is just one way of taking things found on one site and putting them together in a cohesive manner.