Whenever I hear that a clothing line releases something that is supposed to be influenced by the circus, my immediate knee-jerk reaction is to cringe with fear, wonder how much striped fabric will be used and then sigh because I prefer a red-and-black combination over the usual white-and-black that is used for a lot of garments. It can never be said too many times that I do not believe slapping stripes on something deems it “circus inspired”, especially since such items are readily available and take little effort to add to an ordinary outfit. There seems to also be something called “dark carnival” that allegedly mixes elements of certain subcultures with…well, I am not really sure because carnival and circus are two very different things.
Personally, I do not interchange the terms because of the meanings I attach to them and tend to be kind of confused by their constant misuse. Being an active part of a culture that people use as a basis behind costumes and characters, the latter of which people dedicate their time to creating an entire fantasy out of things I have actually experienced, I tend to be amused then realize that this what society thinks being a part of a circus is like. The point being that it should be understandable why I can easily cast doubt on using circus as a theme and marketing campaign.
With a cheerful invitation to explore a beautiful nightmare, Gloomth presents a collection with “show stopping pieces inspired by a spooky nocturnal circus“. The designs feature plenty of frills, pompoms and the company’s signature strangeness, each with a name which gives a good indication of where the vision for each piece came from. Aptly titled Haunted Circus, the line has consistent characteristics that not only makes it cohesive but allows one to truly see the story behind the clothes.
Making a grand entrance is something that I have often enjoyed since first impressions are very important, particularly when it comes to being a performer. The aim is often to grab attention and one could certainly do that with the Star Carousel dress, which has attributes such as a rounded neckline, gold crinkled taffeta and matching bow on the bust line, as well as a natural waist that flares into a very large A-line skirt. The skirt is trimmed with ruffles, lace and hand cut, raw-edge gold taffeta stars, while the body of the dress can be made with black-and-white striped or solid black fabric.
Though in the warmer seasons one could get away with leaving legs bare, particularly if they happen to be tattooed, the Winter wind is creeping in and I recommend you try red tights, especially since bold colors are trendy and would really pick up on the lace in the skirt. Summon your ability to Seduce a crowd with cutout black and white Spectator pumps by Pleaser, five inch stiletto heels that lace up to create a show stopping silhouette. Flatter your figure and your waist with Sabotage, a black faux fur coat by Iron Fist that will bring our your inner femme fatale. The jacket has a large collar, faux leather belt that is removable and is lined in pink with black skulls, handcuffs, poison bottles and more!
Maria Spelterini was a daredevil circus performer who was the first woman to cross Niagara Gorge on a highwire in 1897, and so the Spelterini dress is named for her in the hopes of encouraging grand aspirations. The dress is designed with a longer, form-fitting bodice that sits below the waist to give the effect of a slimmer torso, while the black collar curves over the shoulders to frame the face. It also has a wide A-line skirt which can fit a petticoat beneath, a horizontal band of stripes to break up the pattern. A raw-edged red heart has been sewn to the front, while the skirt has been hemmed with small white pompoms flecked with gold. Much like its counterpart, this dress is also available in solid black.
Continue the illusion that you are tall and lean with red and black vertical stripe tights; breaking up the monotony of black and white with a splash of color also makes your outfit more visually stimulating. The Bordello line of Pleaser never fails to deliver fabulous footwear, so Tempt onlookers with a two tone patent Mary Jane, the movement between the black and white adding contrast to the straight lines of the stripes. As mentioned earlier, presentation plays a vital role in performance and so there is no shame in flaunting opulence in the form of a Lady Lovecraft deluxe silk shrug made by Lovechild Boudoir. Crafted from 100% dupion silk, this ruffled shrug is edged in black lace with a soft tulle frill underneath for extra volume; the black, ivory or red would suit this look. Tie it all together with red silk burlesque gloves from Leg Avenue, the black lace overlay and faux pearl buttons adding to all of the other details.
The third dress of this collection is meant to be a striking casual piece for an eccentric daytime style. Stimulated by the agile aerial artists of traditional circus, the Trapeze dress is Gloomth’s interpretation of what they would wear while spending some time on the ground. Much like the other dresses, this festive frock features vertical stripes offset by an unbleached raw cotton yolk and matching trim around the hem to give it a vintage flavor. [Black is also available as an option for these accents.] The cut is said to be remarkably flattering, as it is fitted at the bust and then floats away, while two darts at the front maintain the A-line shape to give you an overall airy feeling. A raw edged red heart has been sewn to the right front hip, and side hem pockets give you a secret hiding places for all sorts of tricks or treats.
Despite popular belief that when they aren’t performing, circus folk sit around having bohemian parties with tea and crumpets, relaxing is a lot more laid-back than that and can be reflected in an outfit with a Vintage Cardigan by Sourpuss. This lovely ivory cardigan is styled after those so often seen in vintage fashion magazines with pearl buttons, a removable black rose and pointelle detail on the wrists and hem. Stimulate optical imagination with sheer Chevron Pantyhose from Lip Service and a pair of black lace Victorian Arm Sleeves. Compliment with Splendor, magnificent white and black boots from the Funtasma line of Pleaser shoes. The boot comes to about mid-calf, decorated with ten black buttons and trimmed with black lace; they also have a side zip which makes them easy to put on and take off.
These dresses can obviously be coordinated with the Ringmaster Circus Jacket: black and white stripes bell sleeves, corset lacing, sharp lapels, pompoms, peplum, white tulle, gold stars and a heart applique are just a few features that will make you the center of attention!
As a heartbreaking character of pantomime, Pierrot pines for a lover they cannot have and serves as tragic muse for the PomPom Shirt of the same name. There are many features that add an air of whimsy to the garment, such as puffed short sleeves, ruffled hem, buttons down the front, corset lacing in the back and a rounded Peter Pan style collar that is actually a strand of gold flecked pompoms, which can also be found adorning the sleeve cuffs. The red heart that appears on two of the dresses above has been stitched onto the left front, and for those that would prefer the shirt in black can have their wish granted!
For a more dramatic look, wear it unbuttoned over Aviatrix – another Haunted Circus item that is a fun little romper dedicated to female daredevils such as Ethel Dare, known as “Queen of the Air” for walking on the wings of planes – or snapped up tight with the Viola Corset Skirt. In lieu of yet more stripes opt for opaque tights with a black and white diamond pattern, then slip in to a pair knee high black velvet Ringmaster boots, also by Funtasma. Then take your choice of black polka dot 6-button length fingerless gloves, red and black stripe fingerless burlesque gloves or black fringe burlesque gloves by Lalas Couture.
The final items of this collection have been combined to create a slightly creepy yet chic look using the Un-Tamer Vest and Sideshow Bloomers. Many aspects of the unisex vest make it a very visually appealing piece: the black and white stripes trimmed in gold piping, removable gold panels and puffed cap sleeves trimmed with black fringe. There are two pointed tails in the back and all of the buttons are actually skulls-n-crossbones! Meanwhile, the bloomers have an elastic waist and leg cuffs, flat front and plenty of ruffles that trim the cuffs and are layered with black scalloped lace in three rows on the back.
Prevent the outfit from being overwhelmed by selecting simple yet effect accessories like black distressed net armwarmers and red fishnet thigh highs with a back seam, both available from Leg Avenue. The latter can be held up with as set of Too Fast Garters that are black elastic printed with gold stars and have two clips to attach to your stockings. Check the seams and then slip into a pair of Dame boots, another stunning design from Funtasma that is crafted from golden patent leather and held together with matching lace. A sheer tulle skirt layered over the bloomers can produce an amusing silhouette, though be sure the length is not too long or they will surely be lost beneath the floof, or now would be a good time to use that gold Lip Service Itty Bitty Micro Mini as a playful belt.
Head wear can go in a few different directions depending on the type of charm you want to infuse into your look. For example, the two point fold open Garrison style Gaze-Cap by Futurestate or the PVC Wedge by Artifice that is modeled after an air force hat is ideal for those who are into military fashion. One can never go wrong with a sturdy top hat, particularly one that is as striking as My Heart Belongs To You, made by Rag Dollies Madhouse, a glorious red and black striped hat made from scratch and adorned with an oval fabric picture of a crow, bones and the human heart framed by pleated black ribbon and lace. The Etsy seller also has a miniature version that is accented by rooster feathers and a bow, as well as the Voodoo Heart, a black and white striped hat seamed with red stitching, pleated black lace and an adorable red plush heart reminiscent of the one that can be found in the Haunted Circus collection.
Overall I would say that these items are definitely wearable whether specifically aiming for an aesthetic influenced by the circus or just wanting to add something different to your everyday wardrobe. The way an outfit is style certainly is at the discretion of the person wearing the clothes, but I always prefer a look that is unified by a theme. When it comes to circus it seems rather easy to throw on the stripes, a corset, some heels and a petticoat, yet that is not successfully translating inspiration – it is lazy, tacky and certainly does not represent the way performers actually dress. Then again I have never been one to fit stereotypes and instead do everything I can to contradict them, but I can also still be pleased when someone gets circus inspiration right.