Circus Costume Ideas

Written by matthew anderson
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  • Introduction

    Circus Costume Ideas

    The circus has a wide range of professions that lend themselves well to costumes. The various performers tend to dress distinctively to inform the audience of their acts. The same popular culture expectations work just as well to help identify the costume itself. Most of these costumes can be put together quite inexpensively from thrift store clothing.

    (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

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    The ringmaster is the most visible member of the circus. As the master of ceremonies, this performer is usually the only one to speak extensively during a circus performance. Most of the costume is quite formal. The ringmaster tends to have black dress trousers, black boots, a white dress shirt and a black bow tie. The ringmaster’s jacket is generally formal but gaudy. Something suitable can be found in the women’s section of most thrift stores. Red and gold are the traditional colours, but anything with sequins works. A handlebar moustache is the perfect touch here. These are sold by almost any costume shop.

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    Lion Tamer

    Lion tamers are dressed like someone returning from a safari. A khaki vest and trousers make up the template. A safari hat works well with this costume, but is not strictly necessary. Military surplus stores are a good place to pick up this style of clothing. A whip and chair make good props. The lion tamer costume works well with another person dressed as an animal. The costume combination can be serious, with the other person being a lion or tiger, or more humorously, with the other person dressed as a house cat or some other nonthreatening creature.

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    Bearded Lady

    This is one of the easiest circus costumes to put together. The bearded lady works as both a men’s and women’s costume. All it actually requires is a dress and a beard. The costume works because of the combination of these two things. The style of dress or beard is not particularly important. An extremely gaudy dress and thick, bushy beard works, but sometimes a more subdued dress and trimmed goatee works better. False beards are easy to find in any costume shop. Try to match your own hair colour with the false beard.

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    The strongman is another fairly easy costume to put together. It simply requires tight shorts or trousers. If you don't prefer to go bare-chested, a sleeveless shirt works. The arms should not be covered, but the rest of the body can be as covered or uncovered as desired. A handlebar moustache works well with this costume too.

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    Clowns make for a very diverse group of costumes. Most people immediately think of the whiteface clown, but this is only one type, the circus character. A whiteface clown requires a base coat of white face make-up, but other clowns do not. Make-up should, at a minimum, enhance the features, but it does not always have to be over the top. Bozo the Clown is a good example of a whiteface clown, while Charlie Chaplin is a more subdued type. Clothing can be likewise as varied. A black thrift store suit, white button-down shirt, bowler hat, black tie, toothbrush moustache and signature cane make for Charlie Chaplin. With more elaborate, fanciful Bozo-type clowns, the sky's the limit. The ostentatiousness of the make-up should correspond to the gaudiness of the clothing.

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