Sideshow Freak Costume Ideas

By Carly Reynolds

Sideshow freaks traveled with circuses from around 1800 through the 1960s. These attention-grabbing individuals put on short, interesting performances along the outskirts of the circus for a small fee. They often led up to a main event and featured people that had either a special talent or a human anomaly. This former form of entertainment has been going through a resurgence lately and there is a society of people who still love working as a sideshow freak.

The Clothing

While the clothing varied slightly from one character to another, all sideshow freaks wore vintage, period clothing, often in bright colors. Bright red, yellow, black and white were commonly seen in stripes and polka dots. These colors stood out in a crowd and mirrored those used to create the circus posters.

The Characters

The Snake Charmer

The snake charmer is a fearless man or woman who can be seen wrapping a fierce snake around their neck and arms. With them, the snake seems tame and controlled, getting oohs from the audience members. Male snake charmers were commonly seen wearing baggy pants that are tight at the ankle, making the legs balloon a bit. They remained shirtless to show how exposed they were to the powers of the snake. Women were similarly dressed, wearing a long skirt and decorative brassiere.

The Bearded Lady

The bearded lady was a staple of circus sideshows. The bearded lady offered a juxtaposition between masculine and feminine. She wore a period turn-of-the-century dress and lots of artificial facial hair. Bright red lipstick and vibrant eye makeup completes the look of the bearded lady.

The Strong Man

Feats of incredible strength always attracted the attention of circus-goers. Strong men were often seen wearing striped leotards and a pair of sneakers. They lifted a huge dumbbell above their heads. Create your own oversized dumbbell with a painted wooden dowel and weights made of foam.

The Giant

Human anomalies often gathered the most interest. Especially tall or short men and women became popular sideshow freaks. These characters wore suits and dress shoes that showed the large size of their feet. The addition of a top hat further accentuated their height.

The Tattooed Girl

At the turn of the century, tattoos were still a rare thing for a person in America to have, especially for a woman. The tattooed girl was often a scantily clad woman who was dressed in a way to show off an abundance of tattoos. Start with a vintage outfit and then apply a ton of fake tattoos over the body.

About the Author

Based in Ponte Vedra, Fla., Carly Reynolds has been an article and Web content writer since 2006. Reynolds holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Florida State University.