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.


Still Hanging Around

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

Well, there seems to be some delay in heading down to Maryland, that being there is no one to take care of the livestock from the menagerie, as that person is currently overseas.  This is important since their owners [aka my bosses] are going to be occupied with running the tree lot and all, so I am still in Jersey and unsure of what to do with myself.

My car is dead but I did get permission to make use of a truck today, so I am trying to think of what to do before that opportunity is over.  Must go to the store while also avoiding vast amounts of holiday shoppers.  Though I had planned errands for Saturday, I took one look at the massive line of cars just waiting to get in the parking lot and said fuck that.

Perhaps I will invite the Canadian to come hang out with me for a few days, seeing as how he is bored to tears back in PA.  He left quite a hilarious message on my phone last night, which ended with “I’m going to kill someone by the end of the week.”  A visit to James is also in order, if he would return my call or reply to a text message already.

Since there is not much else to write about, I figured now would be as good of a time as any to discuss what has been happening behind the scenes.  Something happened two weeks before I left New Jersey on this sideshow tour.  Something I only shared with a few people, as I had convinced myself it could be worked out and I wanted to believe that more than anything.

The person I have been performing with since the beginning of the year has decided he no longer wished to continue doing so.  Which is pretty funny since he is the one who initially contacted me after seeing one of my advertisement seeking locals interested in learning some skills.  He is also the one who asked me to move in, and I was stupid enough to get us both this job even though I should have gone alone.  Though I feel like a fool for having trusted someone with sideshow secrets who now clearly has no respect for its traditions nor the culture they come from, I suppose it’s better knowing their true feelings rather than continuing to waste my time one someone who clearly doesn’t appreciate it.

Part of me feels as though this was planned, as there has been tension between us that results in petty arguments that left me wondering if he was purposely trying to drive a wedge between us.  Remember that this has been a purely professional relationship, thought does not make it immune from the same issues that arise in romantic ones.  In fact, spending time with the Candian sparked an unusual jealousy, though the two of us are nothing more than friends who enjoy watching movies, playing video games and generally hanging out on account that’s what friends do.

Anyway, at some point during our travels he decided to inform me that not only were we no longer going to be performing together any more, but that I also had to move out after the tree lot.  Then I found out he expressed this desire on that trip out to Altoona.  Well shit, someone should have told me sooner so I could have been better prepared when surprised me with the news.  Oh, and he also decided to tell me that he used me to get back to Jersey in order to get his truck, which is the only reason he agreed to use his AAA card to have my car towed.

While I am pretty pissed about that, I need to stay focused on the work I have ahead of me and then worry about everything else when I am in a position to relocate.  The rest of this year is going to be a long, hard journey that I have to face alone.  Right now I honestly have no reason to trust outsiders – all they do is lie and bullshit to get their way, using you up until there is nothing left and then tossing you aside like a piece of trash.

Emotionally closed for business until further notice.

Moving on to a slightly different subject, I was browsing the web for any mention of the sideshow since there were several reporters who came through taking pictures and asking questions.  Well, this led to the discovery of and this article:

Carnival worker killed while setting up ride

(Tuesday, August 23, 2005) – In Syracuse, New York, a 29-year-old carnival worker was crushed by an amusement ride he was working to assemble. The man was placing wooden stabilizing blocks underneath the structure of the Enterprise ride when the ride shifted and fell on top of him. Rescuers had to use a fork lift to free him. He was rushed to a local hospital where he died.

The man worked for James E. Strates Shows of Florida. His death has been ruled an accident by state police. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has begun its own investigation.

This is of interest on account I was there when that happened.  We were rolling out the tent for the menagerie and next thing we know, a group of people start running towards one of the rides.  Cue security personnel pulling up in their golf carts.  Next comes the ambulance, and then the media.  Two hours later, we found out what happened from our boss and needless to say the mood was kind of solemn for the remainder of that day.  Assembling rides has to be the most dangerous carnival job – over the past few months I have heard plenty of stories about injuries and deaths that occur during setup.  It is very different to actually be there when something happens, and I was a bit surprised to find no mention of another death that was in the paper during that same fair, nor of the man that fell while putting up the Indy 500 coaster in Maryland back in September.

Nothing we did was nearly as dangerous, but believe me, there were plenty of bumps and bruises from set up and tear down. And that one time Moose fell off the stage. That’s a whole other can of worms tho.

Before leaving Jersey for another month, I decided to go ahead and acquire the piercing I have been coveting since Summer, that being an earl, or more commonly known as a horizontal bridge.  Earlier today, I headed up to New Brunswick with intentions of going to Sinister Ink, but for some reason I was unable to locate the shop.  If I had more time, I would have walked around until I did find it, but I was borrowing a vehicle and just wanted to get the piercing, so I opted for Sparks instead.

Despite the fact that the piercing room is rather small in an equally small and oddly spaced hair salon, I known several few people who have been pierced there with no problem.  As mentioned, I was using someone’s truck due to the fact my car is still dread, otherwise I would certainly have made the drive all the way up to Starlight to have the piercing done by Dom.  Plus I may have stretched the truth about where I was going, otherwise I likely would not have had a vehicle at all.

Two things that bugged me a little:  the simplistic form I filled out with standard name, address, birth date and a few yes or no questions; the fact that the piercer tried handing me a bottle of ear care solution along with an after care sheet.  What the fuck was that?  Considering I have a few dozen piercings and once apprenticed as one, I would like to believe I know a thing or two about piercings, to the point that I don’t need the spiel about after care.  Unless I have a piercing in a part of my body that I am not familiar with regarding healing time/process, in which case I read everything I can and just listen to my body.  Anyway, the sheet suggested that I use the solution to clean my piercing, while at the same time prompting customers not to treat their it with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.  Guess what’s in that ridiculous solution?

At that point I was glad I knew better, but imagine people actually using that shit because that is what they are told.  Not trying to discredit the piercer, as everyone’s body is different and therefore generalized after care is not always going to work.  He definitely should have know better than to hand out a product that should never be used on any piercing ever.  Okay, rant mode is off – I was just really surprised by the whole thing.  The other 44 piercings apparently do not project the idea that I know how to care for my modifications.

Everything was clean though, otherwise I would not have stayed.  A new needle came from sterile package, jewelry was properly sanitized prior to insertion, clamps were also freshly opened, gloves never came off and skin was prepped as per usual.  He also took his time while marking the entry/exit points, as well as suggesting the position where there was the most amount of tissue in order to lower the risk of rejection.  Having to to lie down on a table was also weird, as most shops have chairs, though I fixed my mind on the soothing ocean noises that filled the room.  It has come to the point where I don’t really get nervous about being pierced any more, but the adrenaline iss still there and makes it hard to keep relaxed.  Focusing on the crashing waves, I was transported to a sandy beach on a beautiful sunny day, my best friend holding my hand as we walked across the pale beach. Deep breath, needle goes in; exhale, needle goes out.

The damn clamps hurt more than anything – it felt as though someone just pinched my bridge really hard.  After sitting up, I realized that the Canadian was right when he said that area has a pressure point, as I most certainly was receiving the effects of the piercing as a small centralized headache.  Over all, I am quite happy with the outcome.  Right now the skin the bar is sitting in is still a bit swollen, but that may be due to the fact that the 12g jewelry is a bit short. Facial expressions cause the skin around the fresh wound to pull a bit, causing slight discomfort.  As long as I don’t intentionally hit it, I should be fine.  Must keep make up away from it as well, but I am not going to be performing any time soon so that shouldn’t be too hard.

Well this turned out longer than I had intended, but there has been a lot going on and I wanted to get some of this off my mind before going back to work.

Just Visiting: Part 2

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

Where to begin about getting here?

Well, I originally planned to visit last week but that was delayed due to work related issues.  For some reason, after we finished the scheduled Shocktoberfest dates, we waited for a while after tear down to pack up the items used in the sideshow so that they could be hauled out to Altoona for storage during the winter.  Since our next jump is to the tree lot, we aren’t going to be needing the second tent, banner line and other sideshow related things.

It just hit me that we aren’t going to be performing any more, and while I am looking forward to the upcoming work, I already miss waking up early in the morning to get myself stage ready and get on with daily duties.

Anyway, a few of my co-workers took the four hour journey with my bosses, while I was left here with a few others to keep an eye on everything that was left behind.  The day was spent the day smoking and watching Shallow GroundDawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead.  Around eleven I get a call that on the way back, the truck [and cause of delay mentioned above] blew its transmission, therefore stranding everyone in it three hours away.  My bosses returned later on that night – the bunkhouses were then moved, though I would have preferred to know that it was going to happen right then.  Being in bed and half asleep while you are in motion is a really strange sensation, and I was kind of pissed due to the fact several things fell that I didn’t want to have to step on or over if I needed to go to bathroom.

The new location of the bunkhouse is out in the open field by the ‘prison’, which I learned upon  waking the next morning and stepped outside to see a massive pile of animal shit sitting beside us.  Well that was just lovely.  Though aware we had to vacate the spots we had been in for over a month, the park was getting ready for its Christmas themed attractions to be open, and two tents do not exactly fit into a winter wonderland theme.

Oh, so the stranded co-workers were rescued on Monday night and returned at three in the morning.  Yesterday I had AAA tow my vehicle, which had mysteriously decided to stop working weeks ago, back to Jersey.  That was a fantastic three hour and rather quiet drive, as I had to take someone with me on account they were  the one with the AAA card.  While I do not want to get into details or specifics right now, his attitude regarding a professional relationship has been pretty shitacular, but I try my best to put that aside on account we were both asked to work the tree lot.

Now one would think that is where the adventure ended, but no.  While on 95, the tow truck driver had to make a pit stop and re-fuel.  Taking a moment to stretch out my legs, my purse must have fallen out of the truck as I discovered its absence at the driveway.  Managed to convince him to drive back out to that spot on the highway so I could locate the valued item – I did not want to lose my cell phone or driver’s license, especially with everything I had to go through just to get the damn thing back.  Fortunately I was able to find it, so at least that ended on a positive note.

Will be in Jersey for a couple more days until we head back to PA so we can all go down to Maryland to work the tree lot.  Apparently I am going to be inside a trailer making wreaths, which is definitely not the worst thing ever.  There is talk that the wages will be more than what we were getting paid weekly for the sideshow, but anything is fine by me. We have also been informed that everyone get a cash bonus at the end of the year.  My plan is start looking for an apartment or something when I return for good, as I no longer want to reside with a person who had decided they want to perform solo.  Yea, have fun what that considering I taught you everything you know, and you wouldn’t have been traveling all this time without me.

Whatever, I do not want to get caught up in those emotions right now considering I still have a job to do.  When that is over, I am unsure of what I am going to do, though I have the option of returning as a crew member of the sideshow next year.  There are no concrete plans on that end right now, and there are other possibilities to pursue depending on what the situation is like.

It feels strange being here right now, and I am at a loss of words to explain why.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love Jersey and I always will; there is so much I want to do when we return.  Life has been very interesting these past few months – I left not knowing what to expect, and that is pretty much what has been happening.  However, in having this experience I do have to wonder if this is the only thing I want to continue doing.

There are other interests that I would like to pursue, though in doing so they would interfere with choosing to travel, and I cannot deny the fact I want to discuss everything with Aaron before I make any decisions.  No matter what, I cannot see my future without him in it, and I feel as though our relationship has gotten to the point where we either need to take the next step or just go our separate ways.

In need of a shower considering I have unintentionally set a record for nine consecutive days without one and am going to have a new set of piercings added to my ears in the near future.  Speaking of mods, I recently started the process of removing built up black dye from my hair.  Thus far, I have bleached exactly once, which brought my ends to that familiar coppery red color and made my roots a pale yellow blond.  While I have actual bathroom access, I am going to do a touch up and will not have the chance to do it again until I return.  Not too worried about that since I am going to try really hard not to damage my hair in the hopes of keeping it blond for a while.

Now I am just rambling so this is going to end.

Just Visiting

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

Currently, the sideshow I have been traveling with since July is stationed in Sinking Spring, PA – we are there as part of a local attraction that is open for the Halloween season called Shocktoberfest.  We have worked long hours since day one, where performing takes up ten to twelve hours each day and occasionally we break out the Midnight Madness and will be in that tent until one in the morning.  However, we are now operating on the schedule of the spot we’re in, as it is open Thursday through Sunday.  This means that there are three days during the week where we aren’t working and that feels really weird after having adjusted to the way things go.

Then again, this is an entirely different setup than a carnival lot – we are actually in a former industrial park that was purchased by some local guy and converted into a space with three different attractions that are peddled as ‘haunted’.  The ‘asylum’ looks like an old park building that they just filled with props, though apparently it’s painted to glow under black light and also has 3-D elements, and we are occupied on a piece of land to it’s left, the menagerie next to us and about a quarter mile of park that stretches into a large open field which is also used as a flea market on occasion.  Crossing that you come to the ‘prison’, a completely man made structure that must have taken hours to construct, and on the opposite side is the entrance of the hayride.  This takes you into the woods, though I haven’t had time to explore that yet.

Anyway, since Jersey was only a two hour drive, I asked my boss if it was alright for me to take off and visit.  Imported a Canadian with me, the Human Pincushion who is currently fucking with me while I am typing.  While I certainly did not expect to make a friend while traveling, I am really glad that I have had the opportunity to get to know someone else who has chose to perform an act that has such a high physical demand.  That is a story for another time, as I made promises to take him sight seeing on account I couldn’t pass up showing off my home state to someone who has never been here before.

Activities planned for this dreary day include driving up Unimax, as I may have spread the tale of its legendary existence and my friend not only wants to see it, but expressed interest in purchasing some jewelry.  Being more than happy to oblidge, I would like to make the most out of the trip since I am unsure if there will be another chance to visit before we move on to the tree lot.  Hitting up a diner is in order as well, since you can’t come to Jersey without experiencing some greasy goodness consumed in a retro atmosphere.  Do they have diners in Canada?  For various reasons I must see James, and introducing one good friend to another can only have a hilarious outcome.

Really hoping that I did not catch the Carny Flu – despite being really excited to show off the Garden State, my energy has been seriously lacking these past few days.  However, this will not deter me from driving into the City, which is worth feeling slightly crappy in exchange for being able to purchase massively affordable jewelry before hitting the road again.

Before I head out, I wanted to note that I am likely returning for good around the 25th of December, which works out well.  Having been saving most of my money this whole time, I plan on keeping with the birthday tradition of getting a new body modification, and I have something in mind that I wanted to do for a few years now, so I might as well jut get it done already.  As far as actual plans for my birthday [or NYE] go, there are none at the moment since my thoughts have been a bit preoccupied with work and travel.

There was a postcard I had received that got buried in the pile of mail which has accumulated since I left, though my partner’s mother was kind enough to set aside anything addressed to me so I did not miss out on bills or anything.  Without even seeing the reverse side I knew who it was from – the picture on the front was of a roller coaster we rode together a few years ago, though I remember the view from the top of the lift hill and the breathtaking sunset that followed as though it happened yesterday.  There was nothing written aside from my name and address, or so it seemed to anyone who looked at the postcard before it came into my possession.

Invisible markers are a brilliant invention though, and after a minute of scribbling I saw the message attached to the image that brought back happy memories.  The length was unimportant compared to the strength of emotion put into the small words crammed into the writing space provided.  It was the fact he thought of me, often enough to have gone out of his way to purchase something he knew I would see and instantly think of him.  At first it was really difficult not to have any contact with him, but as I fell into the routine of work and travel, I cam to accept that this is just how things are.  They have the potential to change, and what seems like an insignificant scrap of cardboard is exactly what I needed to remind me that I am not as alone as I may feel.

That is enough for now, even though there are so many other things that I could write about, but those stories are being saved up in a journal for the time being.  What I can say for sure is that I have really been enjoying this whole experience and definitely feel as though it is helping me on so many levels.

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.

Aesthetic Autopsy: Fiji Mermaid

For the first time since beginning this series of fashions based on specific characters from Circus culture, I selected one that technically does not exist.  While many sideshow banners are often an exaggerated depiction of a real person or animal, the Fiji Mermaid lives only in myths.  To be more blunt, it is a gaffe – more commonly known as a fake, fraud or hoax.  A few artists have managed to capture the spirit of showmen eager to boast their rare find in taxidermy effigy, but otherwise what has long been reported as a half fish, half human hybrid is nothing more than an active imagination.  However, this does not discount the Fiji Mermaid from being a prominent figure, to the point where just about every sideshow had their own version of this creature, accompanied by an emotionally charged origin story that was too good not to be true.  Their existence can be traced back to the Renaissance and Baroque eras when they were staples in curiosity cabinets.  The exhibit credited as popularizing the concept of a mummified mermaid was owned by P.T. Barnum, an artifact that came into his possession on June 18, 1842.  Since then it has been copied mercilessly by people who claim theirs is the ‘orginal’, with variations appearing in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museums and Coney Island’s Sideshows by the Seashore.  During the brief existence of Curiosities From the Wilds of Weird New Jersey, Jon managed to obtain a brilliant version that was billed as the Atlantic City Mermaid, who had her own merchandise and attracted plenty of curious observers who wanted a picture or two.

Each of the outfits below take inspiration from sideshow banner imagery and the idea that modern wares can be combined with vintage pieces and the right accessories in order to produce unique results.




Choosing a nautical theme for this first look felt a bit obvious, however utilizing that inspiration without overwhelming the outfit in too many cliched tropes can be achieved through careful editing.  The striped pattern of Miss Fortune’s Nautical Halter Dress lends itself to being a neutral when pairing it with other items and becomes a versatile piece that plays to both circus and pinup styles.  Picking up on the navy and white colorway of the dress and offering protection from chilly evening ocean breezes is the Nautical V Neck Cardigan, a pair of anchors set on the shoulders.  This detail is also reflected on Pleaser’s Anchor Open Toe Pump where deep blue patent vinyl is accented with white piping, a bow on the heel and another secured to the toe opening by way of a golden anchor charm.  A pop of red in the dress can be found on the interior of the shoe as well; ensure it becomes a part of ensemble with the Floozy Purse by Sourpuss, the vintage influence prominent among the bright red vinyl, giant red bow and kiss lock closure.  Reflecting rays could prove distracting so don’t forget to bring some Cat Eye Sunglasses for fashionable protection and a bit of rhinestone sparkle.  Sailing the seas is a thrilling adventure but carefully coiffed manes could use a bit of taming, the Sail Away Bandana coming in handy when you want to tie tendrils in a pony tail while Nautical Octopus Hair Bows use adorable blue cephalopods mounted on red and white polka dot satin ribbons to wrangle any stray strands.  Kitschy jewelry such as the Sourpuss Limited Edition Sea Horse Earrings are delicately detailed that prevent them from being confused for cheap costume pieces, while a Red Beaded Necklace continues the vintage influence of the outfit.  It is contrasted by the one-of-a-kind Shark Tooth Ring, the two inch tooth surrounded by 18 karat yellow gold and white diamonds; similar pieces can often be discovered in antique stores or custom constructed by a jewelry maker.  Draping yourself in the riches of your kingdom seems to be expected, so don’t forget the Gold Starfish Cuffs before emerging as an amazing mermaid ready to stun mere mortals.

Devious transluscence that enhances the complexion while delivering a refreshing incandescence, Copacabana Illuminator by NARS applies a glistening pearl sheen to the parts of the face you wish to highlight such as the cheeks and bridge of the nose.  The base of the eye art is built on Biarritz, an ideal shade of neutral cream colored matte shadow that is heavily pigmented despite the sheer appearance.  Starting slightly above the natural crease, glide on Dark Rite and slowly blend the smooth navy blue shadow pencil upwards and outwards.  Draw in your cat eye using Via Veneto, the soft black pencil effortlessly delivering plenty of creamy color that does not cake and will last for up to twelve hours of wear.  Take a small brush and tap a bit of Electrum on the inner corners, perhaps even putting a thin layer of the antique gold liquid metal underneath the brows for extra emphasis of an alluring sea nymph.  Don’t forget a few coats of Larger Than Life Mascra to bring your lashes to their fullest potential!  Understated eyes are balanced by the rich boldness of Majella, a decadent garnet Satin Lip Pencil formulated to give lips a long-wearing statement shade to seduce sailors in every port, and the shimmering golden coral tones of Torrid, the blush giving a natural glow to the face.  Prior to engagements, paint nails in Desperado for a lively manicure imparted with vernerable vogue.




Sophistication and elegance combine to form a classic silhouette where the bountiful riches of a deep sea mer-kingdom are delicately displayed across this Cream Striped Corset, the mild sweetheart bust line dripping in faux pearl embellishment.  When laced it offers up to five inches of reduction on the waist, putting emphasis on the bust and hips for that alluring hourglass figure.  It would make sense then, to create unequivocal flattery and the illusion of a tail with a Black Jacquard Mermaid Skirt that has distinguishing black inlay kick pleats, a row of buttons allowing you to wear it as open as you would like.  Redirect sun rays and shield your briny pallor in a Gold Bolero, the shiny fabric gathered in ruffles around the collar and cascade down to the cropped hemline.  Choosing to leave the skirt full closed, one can give the appearance of floating in a pair of Pewter Rhinestone Teeze platforms, these Bordello beauties featuring a grey satin pump covered in sparkling gems that just might blind anyone who stares at them too long.  The minimalist shape of this Black Satin Handbag may not be obvious as a shell, but the gathering of the fabric manages to mimic the ridges of those found on beaches.  Procuring accessories that are actually dated may seem as though it defeats the purpose of a polished appearance, but Cat Eye Sunglasses carved from mother of pearl become a sleek way to wear shades.  Once again it is suggested that portions of hair be swept up to capture the movement of waves, an Octopus Cameo Clip offering security for voluminous styles.  This also allows you to show off delicate Starfish Earrings, their golden bodies studded with gleaming stones and perched on a pair of pearls.  Nuzzled together on a sixteen inch chain are Kissing Seahorses, detailed one inch golden charms that will sit nicely between the bolero and the corset to make it seem as though they are sharing an intimate moment hidden in a field where Gold Fish casually swim by.  Counter all that  gold by weighing down wrists in mother of pearl chip bracelets as a reminder of the bounty of natural riches found in the sea.

The palette for the face to go with all of this opulence is dominated by neutral tones, but each product serves an important purpose and together they ensure the time spent on application was not in vain.  Since humans are not blessed with flawless mermaid skin, Illamasqua’s Powder Foundation is there to cover blemishes and provides a shine-free finish.  Take a small brush and layer Servant on the eyelids, building up a solid foundation of pale eggshell that you are going to bring up to just beneath the brow bone.  Then come in with Bronx, applying the pale bronze-gold shadow heavily on the outer corner and then blending it in towards the crease.  Now you can see the shimmer forming, but go ahead and add a bit more using Furore, the champagne peach Pure Pigment giving your eyes the right dose of iridescence, and finish off this enchanting style with a few coats of Lewd.  Drawing attention to the lips,  Bait is a hot candy pink used to create smooth lines that are true to color, which are to be filled in using Scandal, a warm coral pink lipstick that turns up the intensity of your pout.  Complete this look by coating nails in Bacterium – no, not secret lab specimens, the pearlescent ash ochre varnish that won’t distract from other elements.




Lovesick sailors who have spent far too many hours drinking the brine their weather worn vessel has been traveling on and are likely to be completely enamored by the sight of the Polka Dot Madame Dress, a vintage inspired latex garment that has perforated pink pleats and permanent dots assembled in rows across the front.  Here a grey feather shrug serves as the ‘fur’ often found on some varieties of the Fiji mermaid, adding texture and another color to avoid overly matching accessories.  Confidence is key when wearing and walking in Shoe Republic’s Pink Faye, the deceptively feminine fuchsia satin wrapping around the open toed platform shimmering with silver studs and strapping you into almost seven inches of sculpted heel.  The scales of Liquor Brand’s Hell Kitten Handbag are advertised to be faux snake skin, but they can emulate those found on mystical sea nymphs as well.  For a no fuss hair style that is still glamorous, try this Ruffle Grey Sequin Turban, the soft cotton making it comfortable to wear no matter what your locks happen to be doing.  Decorate your ‘do with some Pearl Gem Hair Clips, 24 karat rose gold plated pins that have a star burst on one end that is flecked in Swarovski crystals, mother of pearl pieces and white opal circles.  Sea-faring fashionistas utilize natural resources for their jewelry, but us landlubbers have to rely on designers such as Michael Spirito to come out with pieces like the Fish Bone Earrings and Shark Bite Necklace, which mix rich materials to replicate bones and teeth.  Slightly more playful though effective in keeping the theme of the outfit are a Black Bubble Bracelet and a Pink Bubble Ring that features a yellow gold band coated in pink resin, cubic zirconia ‘bubbles’ set on top.

One does not have to make a deal with an evil queen to obtain impeccable skin; all it takes is an application of Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream, a five-in-one formula that has a built-in SPF of 35 and will moisturize, prime, perfect, protect and control oils.  Sephora and Pantone Universe teamed up to release a series of dynamic color palettes, one of them being a Color Theory Shadow Block.  The neutral tones of Elemental makes the Color of the Year available to wear as subtle or dramatic as you choose, universally flattering every iris.  My suggestion is to cover the lid in Caramel [middle brown], apply Appleblossom [light brown] to the brow bone and then blend the two together, using the Emerald Shimmer to outline the eye.  Follow up with Urban Decay’s 24/7 Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Woodstock to add hot pink and iridescent sparkles sure to draw plenty of attention, and a few coats of Volumizing Mascara.  Natural is not the first word that comes to mind when describing any sideshow attraction, but it is certainly applicable to Golden Gate, a mauve lilac mineral blush which gives cheeks a healthy glow in just a few sweeps.  If that is not enough illumination, one can always take Moon Beam and highlight specific areas with a golden sheen.  Hydrating lips does not mean sacrificing vividness, and even though Tashkent is a nude beige, it is still a super rich matte lipstick that is easy to wear.  Once again, a pop of bold color is used to generate intrigue, this time by using the bright neon pink of Collide on the nails, its satin finish giving off the right amount of shine to complete this look.

New Jersey State Fair

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

Two weeks until departure and I am practicing my pitch daily, getting the inflections just right as I address an invisible audience.

Three days after returning from the Shore, I am outside waiting for that Cadillac again as I check to make sure no part of my ensemble is out of place.  When it pulls up I am already smiling, a warm greeting extended as soon as I got in.  We shared idle chit-chat and a smoke on the way to Newark, riding into the City via the PATH where we encounter a downpour upon arrival.  Thankfully it did not last very long, and though we were damp by the time we got to Unimax, it could have been worse.  At the counter I was able to talk myself into getting a discount, the best deal being the two pairs of 4g stainless steel crescents for a little under four bucks a piece.   Overall, I wound up spending about $30 which was far under my budget.

Austin treated us to lunch, which included having several people stare at us while we enjoyed the food, conversation and each other’s company.  He asked me whether I thought it was due to him being 15 years older than me or having grey hair and visible tattoos.  It seems they failed to realize those teens you see flashing their ink eventually grow up to have wrinkles and false teeth, so apparently seeing someone over 20 with as many tattoos as he had was quite a fascinating sight.  Would also like to mention here that he was dressed in his showman’s best, so that might have attracted some attention as well.

Upon returning to Newark, we headed up to Starlight where I would be getting a few holes put in me.  Though I have been through the whole dermal punching  procedure a couple of times, that did not make me any less nervous.  The pain is not as bad as people may think from looking at those bloody photos on BME.  The punch itself hurts, of course, but it is far from excruciating.  In fact, the taper is what really gets to me pain-wise, but after that there is only a bit of stinging to remind me that anything took place.  Having Austin there for support helped immensely, as did being able to crush…er…hold his hand during intense moments.

For some reason, the right ear decided it wanted to bleed but that was quickly cleaned up and brought under control.  Since I had just purchased jewelry, the price of the piercings I wanted was brought down.  The time had come to reclaim the holes in my upper lip, and I had him use the previous hole on the right side as the guide.  Getting pierced through scar tissue was pretty unpleasant, hurting more than the initial piercing, but once that needle was through and the jewelry had been set inside, I could enjoy the end result forever.

Then it was onward to the Medowlands, where every year the parking lot is taken over by our people, the hard-working carnies who provide amusement and entertainment for all who flock to the blinking and buzzing midway.  It was also a lesson on what I would be experiencing on a daily basis, so taking in everything from that perspective made me appreciate the event even more.  We walked through the gate  just in time to sit in the audience and watch a hypnotist act, which was hilarious since people are pulled up on stage and made to do ridiculous things.  Austin grumbled about how he could have done a better job drunk with one hand tied behind his back.

Next it was off to Ward Hall’s World of Wonders where the Great Gozleone was up on the bally stage alongside the world’s oldest fire-eating midget.  There are not many live shows that follow the 10-in-1 format these days, so anyone who does their part to preserve sideshow deserves recognition and respect.  However, we were greatly disappointed by the dispirited attitude displayed by a couple of the performers, as it really off-set the mood and was not getting the crowd interested in the acts.  Austin stood with arms folded while his eyes were fixed on the stage, visibly biting his lip.  There was a lot he wanted to say yet he remained stoic during the routines, shaking his head slightly every now and then while those around us seemed confused.

Though I expected him to launch into a justified critique, Austin took my hand and asked me what we going to do next.  We walked around the midway and stopped at almost every single-o, which included the World’s Smallest Woman, the live unicorn cow and my most favorite, the Snake Girl.  For some reason I really dig the grind they play for that one, as well as the banner displayed outside.  It never ceases to amuse me that, despite the fact there is a sign which clearly states what’s inside is an illusion, people still pay a dollar to complain about how “fake” it is.  This occurred moments after we entered the tent, and it was then he had finally reached a breaking point.

“No shit, son,” Austin said abruptly, “but the carnies got your dollar anyway and there are no refunds – ‘specially when ya can’t read what’s right in front of ya!”

We left those people more than stunned, and on the way out the man at the ticket box smiled, tipping his hat slightly.  Austin relaxed enough for us to explore the tent near the back, which was very much like the one that I used to see at the Flemmington Fair.  Though not allowed to take any photographs inside, I still enjoyed all of the educational displays and things preserved in jars.  There was a melancholy expression that crossed his face, and what had begun as an amazing afternoon suddenly made me question whether this had been good idea.

Deciding to quiet our growling stomachs before heading over to the circus, we sat with slices and sodas at a secluded bench.

“Are you alright?” I asked him, ignoring the food momentarily to place a concerned hand on his.

“It was too much,” he gently replied, unable to look at me.  “At first it was fun, then I started to think about everyone and the way things used to be.  These fucking pește don’t know, and to hell with ’em for giving up their money just to complain.”  He sighed hard and finally lifted his gaze; there was sadness mixed with anger where I had once seen happiness.  “Sorry, Angel – I know you meant well and here I am shitting all over the place.”

“Did you know that man outside the snake girl tent?”

Finally there was a bit of laughter as we tested the pizza.  “No kiddo, but you will come to understand that sort of thing when you are out there on the road.  It is very different from clubs and parties and all that; you work to live and live to work.  Just being here brings me memories of traveling before we made Outlaw Cirkus, and I tell you what, those were the best damn days of my life if I ever had to choose ’em.  That never leaves you, Angel.”

Our meal was finished in silence but I had taken everything he said into consideration on account he was absolutely right.  Though I had a glimpse of carnival life though him and Jon, it was nothing compared to being out there and actually doing the things they talked about.  All those kids who desperately wished to run away with the circus would crumble if they knew how rigorous the schedules were, the amount of physical demand certain roles required and the real risk that comes with this sort of life.  My desire to be a part of it is not fueled by fantasies, but rather by the encouragement of two men who have been there, done that and had stories for days about it.

Following lunch, Austin had slipped into one of the donnikers and came out in a much better mood, though I dared not to question what had brought about the change.  Instead I took in the warmth of his hand and the positive vibes that surrounded us as music swelled and the clowns came out. The circus was smaller than last year but we were near the front rows anyway, necks craned upwards as we watched the aerial routines.  At one point he was holding my hand and had that same crying-with-happiness look on his face that I did.

In the parking lot, we sat on the trunk of the Cadillac and smoked a spliff while treated to a fireworks display.

“This might be the last time we see each other for a while, and I don’t want to end things on a sour note,” he said while bringing me closer.

“Where are you off to?”

“Well, first I need to visit Aaron and send him your regards; remind him to write you back when he can before you are swallowed into the wild.”  He paused to smile and it was so genuine I almost cried.  “Then I am going to Showtown for a while, partly for business and partly for personal reasons.  My heart aches and will only find relief there, but I promise you now that one day we will all be together again.”

That was the end of the discussion, and the ride back was filled with music while I continued to process the entire day, slightly distracted by making a checklist for the aftercare routine I would need to complete prior to bed.  Change was happening faster than I had been prepared for, but there was no time for nostalgia and wondering what could have been when I had to make sure my car was capable of driving between each spot.  What Austin had said at the fair was starting to sink in and I was so focused on my thoughts that I failed to notice we had been sitting at the end of the street for a good five minutes or so.  Then I became distracted by an intimate moment I wanted to cherish for longer than it felt as though it lasted and I was watching him drive off, the bitter sting of tears creeping down my cheeks.