Beginning in the late 19th century up until the 1970s, the circus often featured a human freak sideshow, which showcased people who suffered from extreme physical abnormalities. Today, freak show-themed theatrical works and parties are more whimsical and lighthearted. They feature characters with unusual abilities, such as fortunetelling or snake-charming.
Many sideshow "freak" costumes can be created from clothing and household items. Visit a party store, costume shop or thrift store to find items you don't already have.
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This character can be portrayed by either a man or a woman. For a woman, purchase a fake beard and wear a very feminine, brightly-coloured dress with lots of jewellery. A man could grow out his beard, apply feminine make-up and jewellery, and wear a frilly dress.
Clairvoyant Fortune Teller
Dress like a gypsy, using exotic prints and lots of dangly jewellery like bangles and hoop earrings. Apply thick, Egyptian-like eye make-up and a decorative head wrap. Wear a long, peasant-style skirt or dress with flat sandals or bare feet. Add a shawl for a mysterious look.
The snake charmer is another unisex costume idea. For men, wear a turban-like headdress and Bollywood-style clothing. Women can also dress like a Bollywood performer, wearing harem pants, jewellery and colourful scarves with alluring eye make-up. Carry a rubber snake around your neck.
Knife-Thrower and Target
This is a couple's costume. The male dresses as a macho, sexy knife thrower, wearing a blindfold on his head and carrying a fake dagger. His shirt can be partially or completely open. The female acts as the target, wearing a fake apple attached to a headband. She can also wear a sultry costume such as a short, sequinned dress with fishnet tights and high heels. Her make-up should be bright and alluring.
Lion-Tamer and Lion
The lion tamer, either male or female, can wear high boots, a short jacket and a top hat. He should also carry a whip and a megaphone. If he is part of a couple, his partner can dress as the lion, using face make-up and a lion costume mane and tail.
Bird Lady or Bird Man
Dress in feathers and bright colours. Purchase a fake beak from a costume or party shop. Top the costume off with a feathered boa and feathered headpiece. Use brightly-coloured metallic eye make-up to create birdlike eyes.
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