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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vintage early 1900's circus clown costume pictures

I finished my 1910's era circus costume. Well....almost.  I haven't done the hat yet.
Below are the two photos I used for inspiration for this costume.
source not available
 Don't these clowns look a little scary? This photo captures the bohemian lifestyle of the old circus so well. You can only imagine how fascinating it must have been when the circus would come to town in the days before television, films, or other modern inventions.

From RETRONAUT. Visit the link to see more beautiful vintage circus photographs. 
I love the winsome expression on this clown's face. I think he is quite handsome. 
If I lived during those days I would have run away to join the circus.
 I got the idea to applique the polka dots on my costume from this photograph.

In researching vintage circus costumes from the early 1900's I learned that the costumes weren't nearly as colorful as they are today. They were made from natural fabrics and the hats were much smaller. I haven't finished the hat and I will post another picture on the actor it was made for  when we have our dress rehearsal in late June. He will have some big shoes and a hat and a white skullcap. Clowns didn't wear wigs in the old days. They covered their heads with white skullcaps.

Thank you to my mom for being such a good sport to pose in this outfit!

I used an old sheet from the thrift shop to make the costume and I backed it with muslin to give the costume a weightier feeling. Most professional costumes for the theatre are backed with muslin. It makes them more durable and long lasting and gives body to vintage styles which often had a lot of layers.
The buttons are some vintage velvet ones I bought at the flea market last week.
I appliqued the polka dots to the fabric.

I used up the commercial pattern below for this costume . 
Simplicity 2849

I cut the jumpsuit in two creating a pant and jacket. I added an extension for the top to make button plackets.
If you live in another coutry have you ever been to the circus?
Do they still have small circuses where you live and how do you feel about them?
Here in the US we have a big, mega circus called Ringling Brothers. They perform in giant arenas and I feel the charm of the old circus is lost in such a huge venue.
And of course we can't forget, Cirque De Soleil which is amazing but far too expensive to take the average family.
And many people are against the circus now because of animal cruelty issues that have been discovered in some circuses.
 The circus seems almost like a relic from long ago.
However, there is a smaller one called Circus Vargas . It doesn't have any animals and passes through our town every year. We like to go to it because it's small, inexpensive, and we can get good seats.
The acrobats are fantastic.

Our visit to Circus Vargas last summer....

Political issues aside, children will always love the circus !

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  1. I'm in Canada and we have the circus here. We have small traveling ones that come to town a few times a year. Cirque De Soleil was here for about a month - I didn't go but I heard it was awesome. I love the circus. One summer when I was in University I noticed an ad for a clown school in the local paper. I saved my money and went. I learned face painting, mime and making balloon animals. It was tons of fun. I never planned to go into clowning, I just took it out of interest. I still can't believe that I went to clown school! I love the costume you made. It looks fabulous.

    1. Hi Nothy Lane. I almost went to circus school myself when I was trying to be an actress for extra money. I wish I had now that I look back on it! Those are some mad skills!

  2. you are right, those old clowns in the first picture do look scarey! You Mom doesn't though, she looks cute! How many costumes are you doing for the production? My SIL's mother is a costume maker for all of the local theater productions and she has 15 sewing machines! Just thought I'd mention that, it really has no relevance ;) Janelle

    1. Hi Janelle, I have about 8 costumes to sew but 16 to get together from things from the thrift shop or things that are already in the costume closet at the theatre.They don't have much that goes with the 1910's period.

  3. This is adorable..the scarey thang is I would probably wear it around town.. or to bed,, wonder what my hubby would say..LOL


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