Monthly Archives: May 2008

Facing my Fear of Clowns

Scary Clown

I like clowns, most of the time. I admit that a part of me, deep down, is scared of clowns. Sure, they’re lots of fun at the circus and at parties, but at night, when they hide in the shadows with an evil grin…. Ok, I better stop. I’m scaring myself. But to quote Lon Chaney, “There is nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight….

To overcome my fear of clowns, I decided to learn more about them. In all seriousness, clowning is a very respected tradition and requires tremendous skill and training. There are many clown schools and colleges that teach the finer arts to the serious clown.

Did you know that there are three major types of clowns? Four, actually, depending on who you ask.

Bozo the Clown1. WHITE FACE CLOWN

The White Face Clown is your typical circus clown. All exposed skin is painted white or covered in clothing. The White Face Clown is usually the ‘intelligent’ ringleader who bosses the other clowns around.


The Auguste (pronounced aw-GOOST) Clown uses flesh-colored makeup instead of white. ‘Auguste’ is German for ‘foolish,” which aptly describes this type of clown. He is the troublemaker, the prankster, and is typically considered the least intelligent, but perhaps the most beloved, of clowns.


Sad Tramp Clown
The sad Tramp clown is a distinctly American invention inspired by homeless who travelled the rails in the late nineteenth century, and assumes a “down-on-his-luck” approach to life. His costume appears tattered and torn, and things do not go well for him. The Tramp wanders but does not want to find work.

Happy Hobo Clown

The happy Hobo clown dresses the same as the Tramp, but smiles instead of frowns. The Hobo portrays a care-free attitude and knows everything will work out in the end.

Unlike the Tramp, the Hobo will work when he finds it, then move on to find work somewhere else.

Character Clown - Fireman Clown4. CHARACTER CLOWN

The Character Clown can wear the makeup of any of the three previously mentioned clown types, and portrays a recognizable character or occupation. This clown will dress as a policman, fireman, sailor, nurse, doctor, baseball player etc.

Here’s an interesting video of Ruffles, a White Face Clown, applying her makeup. Wow, that looks like a lot of work!

Well, isn’t it fascinating to learn about clowns? I sure think so, and now I’m no longer afraid of them. If I were a clown, I wonder which type I would be. I suppose that each of us has a clown inside, waiting to come out.

Which type of clown would you be?


Devilish Costume Jump


Remember how Evel Knievel used to jump over greyhound busses in his star-spangled jumpsuits?

Apparently, there’s a new trend in jumping stuff…and all you need is a devil costume and some babies.

The baby jumping event, known as the “El Colacho,” has been held in Spain’s Castrillo village since 1620 in celebration of the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi.

spanish-baby-jump-pic.jpgA man costumed as “Colacho”, a character representing the devil, jumps over rows of babies, drawing the devil’s evil with him as he leaps, leaving the babies “cleansed.”

The truly scary part about all this is (surprisingly, not the costume) the fact that, according to BBC News, “No one was injured in this year’s event,” which begs the question, “What kind of injuries have there been in the past?”

Costume malfunctions? The Colacho falling mid-jump? Babies rolling off the mattresses?

And wouldn’t you like to know what those babies are thinking?

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The Greatest American Hero Costume

The Greatest American Hero

Does anyone remember The Greatest American Hero? It was on TV in the early 1980’s. Man, I LOVED, LOVED that show as a kid. I wanted my own suit in the worst way. Thankfully, now that the show is on DVD, I get to watch it all over again. There’s also rumors flying that a GAH movie will be made!

I want to talk a bit about the show, the spinoff pilot that never got picked up, and then take a look at some great fan-made costumes.

The Greatest American HeroThe Greatest American Hero is about Ralph Hinkley, a school teacher who’s given a superhero suit by aliens. But he loses the instruction book and struggles with his new powers as he tries to save the world. It’s great stuff. It’s a parody of other superheroes. The creator, Stephen J. Cannell, purposefully made the suit look ridiculous. Personally, I love the costume.

The show ran for three seasons, until it was cancelled in 1983.

Greatest American HeroineHowever, in 1986, a spinoff was created called “The Greatest American Heroine.” Ralph Hinkley must give his suit to someone else, and he chooses Holly Hathaway, a kind-hearted gal who’s big on saving the planet and protecting defenseless animals.

Unfortunately, the network execs passed on the show and it never came to fruition. When the Greatest American Hero went into syndication, this unaired pilot served as the series finale.

Greatest American Heroine Greatest American HeroineGreatest American Heroine

Greatest American Hero CostumeI imagine right about now you’re wondering, “Where can I buy a Greatest American Hero costume?”

Well, you might be better off making one yourself, but 80’sTees does sell a fairly decent official costume. It looks like a popular item, as they are currently sold out of all sizes except small.

And I’ll give them extra points for showing their costume IN ACTION.

Okay, so let’s take a look at some fan-made costumes!!

Some fan-made costumes are, um, better than others. But it’s the passion that counts, right?

Greatest American Hero Costume

Greatest American Hero CostumeGreatest American Hero Costume

Here are some great Heroine costumes, though one looks Photoshopped.

Greatest American HeroineSexy Greatest American Heroine

Congratulations, everyone, for making such great costumes!

I’ll leave you now with a Youtube clip of the opening credits for Greatest American Hero, which features the best theme song ever. “Believe it or not, I’m walking on air…

I can only hope they make a movie soon, or better yet bring the show back to TV.


Minutemen Costumes from the Watchmen movie

Minutemen from the upcoming Watchmen movie
Minutemen from the upcoming Watchmen movie

Harry over at AintitCoolNews just broke an exclusive story regarding the upcoming Watchmen movie. In the movie, there’s a group of old superheroes called Minutemen (shown above).

Who are the Minutemen? Well in WATCHMEN – it was the first team of superheroes that formed in 1939 and pulled a BEATLES in 1949. In the pic you’ll see the classic SILK SPECTRE and NITE OWL… you’ll see CAPTAIN METROPOLIS, MOTHMAN, SILHOUETTE, COMEDIAN, DOLLAR BILL and with the noose… HOODED JUSTICE.

I love this photo… just look at those costumes, the hairstyles and makeup. Isn’t that classic? It’s that attention to detail that I think bodes very well for this project.

Yes, those costumes are sensational. They look so authentic for the year 1940. The Watchmen movie will come out next year, I can’t wait!

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The Chronicles of CONduit: Part Two

Chronicles of CONduit

Do you want an original costume that can’t be purchased, but you don’t know how to sew? Or perhaps you need a crazy prop for your costume and you just can’t find anything like it in stores. I went to CONduit in Salt Lake City on Saturday, and there I attended a panel that was all about turning ordinary, random things into costume items, to create items that no one else has!

There are two basic tricks to making a costume item out of something else:

The first is to break down the idea of your finished product into components. You won’t be able to find the exact thing you need, but you will be able to find various things that you can put together to make what you need. Your costume is a puzzle, and you’re looking for the pieces.

The second is to have a creative eye. Go to places that sell an odd assortment of things, and when something catches your eye, think, “How can I modify that item to suit my needs?” Oftentimes costume makers will go shopping for the adventure of it. They buy whatever strange cool things catch their eye, with the intention of figuring out what to do with it later.

Vegetable SteamerTake a vegetable steamer, for example. It doesn’t look useful, as it is, for making a costume. But if you took a screwdriver and took it apart, you’d have all these pieces of metal that would be perfect for making your own costume scale-mail.

With these two precepts in mind, the panel then progressed to a discussion about various ideas and examples of creative costuming we had all done. Here are some examples that were discussed:

Pop-Up HampersTurkey nets (unused, of course) can be dyed and made into hair snoods or costume chain mail.

The metal inside pop-up hampers can be used for boning in corsets or bodices. Take the metal out of old, broken hampers you’ve collected from your friends, instead of buying new ones.

Make an apron from a curtain purchased at a thrift store! Just cut it off to the right length and insert a drawstring along the top where there is a pocket for the curtainrod. No sewing required!

Armor Made of Craft Foam

Craft foam comes in many colors and thicknesses and can be used to make almost anything, such as horns, ears, armor, masks, or even bigger items like mascot heads. Use contact cement or spray glue to build the pieces together.

If you can’t sew or don’t have access to a machine, you can use products such as Stitch Witchery or Fabric Fusion to bond your materials together.

Design Master Spray Paint is a type of fabric paint that can be used when dying the item won’t work. Unlike regular spray paints, this paint doesn’t make the fabric stiff and it doesn’t peel off.

To make furry hands for your werewolf costume, take a pair of tight-fitting latex gloves, adhesive, and fake fur, or the cosmetic hair that is used in theater. Glue the fur onto the gloves, and paint the rest of the gloves as necessary for a more realistic look. Even attach fake nails as claws! You can create high-quality cosmetic hands which can be used over and over again. Along these same lines, you can appear to have differently colored skin by dying or painting a bodysuit and gloves–much cleaner and faster than having to paint your body.

Do you need to be much taller for your costume, but without the aid of obvious props like stilts? Try making a pair of shoe stilts using rollerblades.

leather-mask.jpgI’ve always wanted to work with leather, but never thought I’d be able to without buying a lot of tools. After hearing this tip, I’ve changed my mind. You can buy bags of scrap leather from leather dealers such as Tandy Leather for fairly cheap. It was suggested that that you soak the raw, heavyweight leather in water overnight. The next day, the leather would be malleable, and you could form it into shapes to make masks, armor, or other accessories.

These are all just examples of how you don’t need to be a master seamstress to make good costumes, and how normal, everyday items can be used in your costume-making endeavors. And remember, in costuming there are no mistakes–they are simply new design concepts!

And now, here are some of the awesome costumes I saw at CONduit!

samurai.jpg sword.jpg



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The Chronicles of CONduit: Part One

CONduit - Blue Man
Todd, the blue alien

I had a great time last weekend at CONduit, the annual sci fi/fantasy convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. The event, which ran from May 23-25, is a great way for fans of the genre to come together to discuss and share ideas about all things sci fi/fantasy.

CONduit features professional authors, artists, actors, game designers, singers…and of course, COSTUMES!

CONduit - Registration Booth
CONduit Registration Booth

Defeated - a novel by S.D. McKeeWhen I arrived, the registration booth was hopping with activity. Right off the bat, I was handed a free copy of ‘Defeated,’ a novel by local author S. D. Mckee.

The story is about the future of mankind that finds itself in a war with a sinister alien entity after a wormhole experiment goes horribly wrong. Fun stuff!

CONduit - Costume WorkshopCostume Workshop

Eventually, I wandered into the costume workshop. It was full of tables and sewing machines for people to work on their costumes.

I chatted briefly with Todd (blue man featured above), Elise and Jessica, who were preparing their costumes for the Star Wreck Tempest, which is an adaption of Shakespeare’s The Tempest using Star Trek characters. Wow, what a great idea! Jessica was covered in green makeup, preparing for her role as a Vulcan in the story.

CONduit - Shakespeare Performers
Jessica (left) and Elise (right) prepare for the ‘Star Wreck Tempest’

CONduit - Dress
Elise shows off the dress she has sewn

Dealer’s Room

CONduit - MasksThe Dealer’s Room was an especially fun place to browse. A Sci Fi farmer’s market, local vendors displayed their wares in style.

The room was packed with authors, jewelry makers, tailors, masks and sci fi weaponry.

CONduit - Dealer Tables
CONduit – Dealer Tables

I had a chance to talk with Heidi Evans, the owner of Accentuate!, which sells Gothic and novelty clothing, accessories, jewelry, incense and oils. She looked great with her green hair and white makeup.

CONduit - Heidi
Heidi Evans, owner of Accentuate!

I’ll confess, I’m not entirely certain if she was in costume or just dressed normally. But she was very excited to be at the Con and her custom jewelry and clothing were a big attraction for the attendees.

The Elf and the PrincessI also talked with Anna del C. Dye, author of ‘The Elf and the Princess,’ a fantasy trilogy for young adults. It’s a story of “true love, high adventure, and medieval-style warfare between elves, men, and orks.”

Anna actually learned the art of medieval swordplay in order to write with authenticity. “I have to do a lot of research and see how other writers explain their battles. I did not find many with whom I was happy. So, I did the fights in my head and watched battles scenes in movies. Then I found a medieval sword class, and my husband and I enrolled in it,” she explained.

Her husband was at the Con with her, dressed as the Elf in her story. Anna herself was dressed as the Princess. She designed and sewed both of their costumes, and together they looked magnificent.

CONduit - The Elf and the Princess
The Elf and the Princess
Author Anna del C. Dye and her husband, Rodney

Discussion Panels

CONduit offered an enormous amount of discussion panels for aspiring writers and sci fi lovers. This was a great opportunity to meet with experts in the field and discuss all aspects of sci fi and fantasy.

CONduit - WizardTo name a few:

• The Morphing of Language

• Worldbuilding

• Realms of Star Wars

• Poetry Workshop

• Victorian Ghost Stories

• Disaster Films

• History of Weapons

CONduit - Costumers
Con attendees pose in their costumes

All in all, this is a great event for sci fi/fantasy lovers, particularly aspiring authors, to come learn and discuss the finer details of the genre.

Stay tuned for Part Two, as Camilla shares her own experiences at CONduit. And special thank to the hardworking volunteers who made this event a great time for everyone.

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Costumes for Memorial Day

Most people don’t think of Memorial Day as a great costuming event. What are you doing to do, go to a graveyard dressed in black? But if you’re a Civil War re-enactor, you feel a little differently about this holiday!

At Greenwich Village in Michigan, there is an event this weekend called Civil War Remembrance. It’s an awesome opportunity to learn more about this tumultuous time in America’s history. There are events and exhibitions regarding all facets of life at the time, as well as concerts and re-enactment shows! But what caught my eye, of course, was the costuming.

Civil War Remembrance

The place will be filled with professional and amateur Civil War re-enactors, dressed their very best in period costumes! There will be a lot of soldiers from both sides of the conflict, who will perform military re-enactments on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. And for the less military-inclined, there will be a ball on Sunday afternoon. The perfect excuse to wear that huge Southern belle dress you’ve always wanted to!

There will also be a few exhibitions about fashion during that time. If you’re into historical fashion, this is an event you must attend.

Unfortunately for me, I’m not anywhere near Michigan—but if you are, you should check it out! More information can be found at their website.

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Dressing the Music

I watch Dancing with the Stars for the stirring Sambas and jumping Jives. But a lot of the time I find myself concentrating more on what the dancers are wearing instead of their sweet dance skills.

I can’t help but wonder where pro dancer Cheryl Burke’s flamboyant metallic dress came from (salvaged parts from a UFO, maybe?) or where Kristi Yamaguchi picked up her sultry Tango costume dress?


So I went searching for the secret behind the costumes on Dancing with the Stars. Here’s what I found out (with the help of some online articles posted by ABC News).

Ballroom dance costumes add to the attitude and style of the dance. They are a key factor in drawing the audience and judges into the flavor of the dance.

Costumes that would, under normal circumstances, take weeks or even months to complete are made in three short days. The dancers meet with designer Randall Christensen on Wednesday, after the DWTS broadcast, finding out their next dance and deciding upon music, to discuss costume concepts. On Thursday, Randall’s design team purchases fabric. Friday is sewing day. The costumes are fitted on Saturday and Sunday is reserved for applying rhinestones and other finishing touches. The dancers don’t actually get the final product until a few hours before the show…so costume malfunctions are likely.


Underwear or elastic straps are sewn into the men’s pants to secure their shirts in place and elastic stirrups keep their pants from riding up. For women, dresses are basically built on top of a body suit. Not only are the costumes uncomfortable, but they’re very tight so they’ll stay on.

By the end of the show’s season, about 1 ½ million sequins will have been used on costumes. Each costume can cost upwards of $3000-$5000 dollars and will probably only be worn once!

The next time you catch an episode of Dancing with the Stars, take some time to admire the costumes that set the tone of the music and dancing. Admittedly, some of the costumes are fashion don’ts, even for the dance floor…but hey, that’s why they’re so fun to talk about!


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