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Mar 13, 2010

Just send them in already!


Ok, so I bought this yesterday on eBay.  I know, I know: it's a clown costume.

You're going to think I'm nuts but I like the design elements.  I really want to know how to make that little puffy-sleeved jacket, the ruffled collar, and those parachute pants (well, parachute pajamas is more like it).

Yes, I probably could have figured it out myself.  But after reading Adele Margolis' pattern book last month and not drafting anything, I realized that I LIKE patterns.  I like the artwork, I enjoy re-creating a (now-vintage) design, and I like comparing how one pattern is drafted differently from another, similar pattern.  Plus, since fit is not a big problem for me, I don't have to draft right now.

But let's get back to the Big Top, shall we?

Have you ever noticed how many clown patterns are out there?  I mean, it's a little creepy.


I like the circus as much as anyone and I'm always up for a viewing of "The Greatest Show on Earth," but this doesn't feel right to me.  Why are there more clown costume patterns than there are fashionable men's pants patterns? What does this say about our world?

But here's another reason I'm fond of clown patterns: I find the color and print combinations very inspiring.  I especially like those bold vertical stripes and that polka-dot-on-one-side/solid-color-on-the-other look.  I also like chartreuse, apparently a very big clown color. 

You can see that there are many clown looks, too, from the more elegant du Barry "society ball" clown to the nightmare-inducing Pierrot black and white McCall's mime clown.  My personal favorite (beside the one I purchased, of course) is that Balanchine-inspired ballet clown costume.  To me that could pass for street clothes.

Lest you think that these are a little too over the top, please recall this from a recent Thom Browne menswear show:


If this doesn't make you want to ride a teeny tricycle or get shot out of a cannon, I don't know what does.

Now in keeping with today's theme, I want every single one of you to click the image below, get up from your chairs, and do a little dance.  It's Saturday, and time to get that blood pumping.



Wasn't that fun? Now, cooling down, please answer the following questions:

Do you own any of these patterns?  Have you ever made a clown outfit? (are you wearing one right now?)  What is your favorite clown costume design element?

And finally:  Why don't clowns wear belts?

Happy Saturday, everyone!

41 comments:

  1. I have never made a clown costume (that I remember anyway), but my favorite design is the French clown, Pierrot. I like the 2 piece look better than the "jumpsuit" style. That trapeze shirt just looks rather elegant to me! Perhaps this a fashion forward look we could help bring into vogue for the coming seasons!?!

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  2. I had a clown costume when I was about six years old, my mother had made it for my older brother and it was passed on (and refitted) for me. Of course, the year I got it I had wanted to be a princess for Halloween, not a clown, so my mother made me a very frilly cone hat so I could be a Princess-Clown. I liked it so much I wore it the next year too- and always made a point of snagging it as my dress-up of choice. I believe it was made out of old red-and-white striped pajamas, as it was really comfortable, but my favorite part was the collar! It was a ruffle collar of the same striped fabric, with red zigzagged trim. Sometimes I wore the costume with a large skirt so I could be Queen Elisabeth instead. (Not sure who told me who Queen Elisabeth was, but I knew about her collar from a fairly young age.)

    Clowns don't wear belts because there are more visual gags with suspenders.

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  3. No clown costumes here. I think a belt might be uncomfortable when trying to cram yourself into a tiny car with ten other clowns.

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  4. When I was in 5th grade I successfully auditioned for the part of the Court Jester in our middle school drama club production of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. We usually solicited costumes from people as donations, and among the available items were two of these types of garments. I had a choice between one that was half purple and half white with purple and gold moons and starts on it or one that was half white with green polka dots and half white with red polka dots. I opted for the polka dot one.

    I'll scan some pictures and send them to you.

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  5. I have a clown pattern & costume. i made it for my daughter when she was about 3. It was long sleeved, one side red flannel and the other blue & white stiped. Even though we can be quite chilly at the end of october, it was, of course, hotter than blue blazes that year. She probably lost 2 lbs in sweat!

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  6. How perplexing - who would have thought there would be more demand for clown costumes than menswear... I don't have children, so my experience with the genre is limited, but I personally haven't seen a lot of people out there dressed as clowns. Even at Halloween! No clowns. We did have a hobo this year though - which I thought was delightfully retro, but I digress.

    I do own a vintage clown pajama pattern, tiny kid size, from the late 40's early 50's. My grandma gave it, along with all of her other patterns to me. The best part is that there is also a home movie of my dad and uncle wearing the clown pajamas that she made!

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  7. I'm afraid I have never liked clowns. They freak me out. My mom dressed me up as one when I was very very little and I hated it. I cried all through a night of putt putt golf and candy. I've been to the circus twice. The first time a few years after the clown Halloween and again cried all through the show, we sat on the front row and the clowns never left the stage! The second time I was in high school and we sat in the back of a huge stadium. I enjoyed the horses.
    The only element I could say I liked from the costumes would be ruffles but I wouldn't wear them the same way. The top right pattern is the least scary to me. She looks more elegant but a belt would be nice... and maybe wide leg pants that don't ruffle at the bottom. More of a jumpsuit. Fitted top... bell sleeves... ok not much of a clown anymore. I give up.

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  8. Clowns don't wear belts because it's HILARIOUS when your pants fall down.

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  9. Thanks for the entertaining post. I don't need a costume to be a clown - just comes naturally! I believe that Michael is correct about the belt.

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  10. Ohmygoodness, I'm pretty sure my mom made me that simplicity clown pattern when I was a child black on one side, white on the other, with three poofy balls on the front She even made the hat). I *loved* that costume. Maybe because it was like wearing pajamas.

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  11. I have never been to the circus, but clowns still freak me out. Maybe little kids dressed up as such would be cute, but sometimes the big ones (who would be adult humans, there is no such breed as clown, thankfully!) just seem SO creepy. Maybe it is more of the full make-up rather than the clothes that disturb me? I like the big ruffles and big bold colors and prints of the costumes. So, it must be the make-up: the stripy-pants guy in the back left (of the pattern you purchased) will most definitely give me nightmares tonight. Shudder.

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  12. I made a clown costume for my son when he was two. He wore it for 2 years as it was not only roomy, but with elastic cuff ruffles at the wrists and ankles, I could add on some excess length without him tripping on it. It got lots of wear (Halloween/ Mardi Gras) and then I passed it on. It was a washable cotton white with primary colored polka dots. If it was cold he had clothes underneath and if it was hot , not so many clothes underneath. He looked adorable. The rest of the family costumed in other non clown ways.

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  13. I keep for getting: clowns can be traumatizing.

    There's something creepy about them for sure, with or without a belt.

    It's that smile, for starters.

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  14. @ Peter: or when they smile but they have a painted frown!

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  15. I love that du Barry pattern drawing. That's one glamorous clown. Could the finished product possibly live up to that image? I have my doubts.

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  16. Clowns wear sashes, obviously. Not belts. :D I always liked a harlequin look more than a clown look.

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  17. Yes, that du Barry clown is wearing heels!

    Wait, I thought a harlequin WAS a clown. I'm confused.

    I think you have to go back to the Commedia dell'arte to figure it out. Or Bozo reruns.

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  18. Well, yes . . . I've made three clown costumes (for me and my mother and my sister), using your Simplicity pattern. Made 'em probably 20 years ago. The three of us wore them in a small-town Christmas parade . . . we had the mop-head wigs, face paint, funny/big shoes, white gloves, the whole nine yards. Lemme tell you, it was an absolute blast to be able to act so silly and no one knew who we were. My mom and I later wore our clown costumes to my nieces/her granddaughters school when they were little, and we were such a hit! I've still got my costume (including the fabulous orange mop-head wig); let me know if you need to borrow it!

    Oh, and since you asked, I think my favorite design element was my big purple ruffly collar.

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  19. Ah, Peter. I just can't warm up to clowns - they are a little creepy. Am I the only one - I was so afraid that Judy Garland was going to catch on fire at any minute with those flaming can-things at the front of the stage.
    I will admit, though, that the lady ballet clown's costume is cute. It must be the skirt and bloomers.
    Blessings,
    Patti

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  20. Yikes!-Clowns scare me, always have. Needless to say, could not deal with Bozo as a child.

    Peter, loved the photos of you growing up. I grew up in Queens and have photos of me and my brother at the Worlds Fair. I still vividly remember the "Its a Small World" ride. Thanks for the trip down memory lane-I would not have wanted to grow up anywhere but NY!

    Love, love you and your blog. Your my inspiration as a beginner.
    Vivian

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  21. Nope. Never made a clown costume, don't own one. After peeling my 2 year old son off the top of my head when he first spotted a clown at a fair and he ran over and literally lept into my arms screaming, well, clowns were off limits in this house.

    As for the belt thing, well, those baggy suits would just look strange all belted up I think. And they must have big pockets from which to pull out scarves and fake flowers, and other "funny" stuff.

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  22. Oh, forgot about the design element question. I do love the big flowy sleeves, gathered up with a cute ruffle.

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  23. I love me some clown... Proof: cheesy family pic in this post - http://el-little.blogspot.com/2009/01/blogging-not-sewing.html. I probably own a clown costume pattern or two hidden in my old Burdas (and I have a Burda special "Carnival", too). In reality, the clown costume sewing for the kids happened between dinner and collapsing in front of the TV, tracing around existing garments and sewing together any which way. By the time the kids were old enough to choose costumes, adn I had energy left over to make an effort, they didnt' want to be clowns anymore, boo hoo. I love all sorts of clowns, but my favorite is the Pierrot style with the stiff neck ruffle.

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  24. I don't currently own a clown suit or a clown suit pattern. I was a clown for Halloween in the first grade though. I will never forget because my mom had painted big clown lips on my face with red lipstick which stained my skin and didn't come off and school pictures were taken the next day.
    It makes sense that you like clownsuits, Peter. Essentially it's a puffy jumpsuit.

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  25. I had to upload this picture to illustrate the only clown costume I ever made. My son, age 3. http://www.flickr.com/photos/54636325@N00/4429667113/

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  26. I made a clown costume when I was in the sixth grade (roughly)--half purple half black. Complete with hat, tie on tulle collar and big yarn pompoms on the front. My school was doing a circus themed musical variety show. I am pretty sure that was the last thing I made before taking a 20 or so year break from sewing. Not sure if the two are related.

    My favorite detail was of course the homemade yarn pompoms. What else do you get to wear three inch diameter pompoms with?

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  27. I have no words ... but I'm looking forward to the pictures.

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  28. Do clown dolls count? I made three as Christmas presents last year from a vintage 30s mail order pattern...

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  29. This one is what I made... Do a search for "Clown doll pattern" C'mon, I dare you!

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  30. Laura, I am afraid that clown dolls do not count; Barbie in a clown outfit, maybe. You'll have to go home and re-do your assignment.

    Kay, I love that shot: polka dots AND stripes!

    Puffy jumpsuit -- yes!

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  31. I do admit that Clarabell was my favorite doll of all time...even more than my Toni. BUT, I really dislike clowns (except for Clarabell, of course) They are SO CREEPY!

    Did like looking at the pattern envelopes though and do agree that you could learn things from the pattern pieces and instructions. But, I would need to wash after. gggg

    I just LOVE coming here. You never know what you're gonna find.

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  32. We had this exact costume--pattern and fabric choice. In the 70s your choice was Clown, Hobo, Ghost or Hooker. Or, some sort of made up ghoul you put together out of whatever you could find. In the 80s we added things like cheerleader and punk rocker. But again, these were all homemade options.

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  33. Aw, Man! Okay, if my brother and sister-in-law want to dress Evie as a clown for Halloween.... Though I wouldn't count on it. Last year, I was required to make Evie a Foofa costume. And she was cute, too!

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  34. almost fifty years ago my grandmother made a Pierrot style clown costume for my brother to wear to the school end of year fancy dress ball. It was made from red and green poplin (mirrored halves) with big white frills at the sleeves and a big white frilled collar. Pompom buttons and amatching cone shaped hat. A few years later when I was big enough I wore it. Later on my oldest brother's children took their turn at wearing it. Then my daughter wore it. Then my niece. It now resides at the home of it's original owner, my brother.
    We all loved that costume.
    Maybe the great thing about clown costumes is that they are unisex and timeless. You can't say that about too many garments!

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  35. Do you own any of these patterns?
    Yes! The very one you bought on ebay! Only I have the childrens version- my mum made it for me many many Halloweens ago. Picked up a copy of the pattern in a thriftstore.

    Have you ever made a clown outfit? (are you wearing one right now?) No. I don't plan on using the thriftstore pattern I just bought it cos I remembered mum making it! Nostalgia!

    Favorite clown costume design element: I liked the neck-ruffle on the one my mum made me. I repurposed it as a ballerina skirt by wrapping it around my middle over a bathing suit.

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  36. That's scary! Can't sleep clown will eat me!

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  37. Oh my goodness, I made that very first pattern (Simplicity 9345 - the one with knickers and the stuffed two-pronged jester hat) for my halloween costume when I was in 9th grade! I still have it too, in my mom's closet. It's a bit worse for wear now, the bells are falling off and the hat is all lopsided, but I love it. Good memories.

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  38. Hi Peter! I found your blog a couple of days ago and I enjoy it so much. Especially this post. I know for sure my Mom used that pattern to make me a costume when I was little. I have the pic to prove it:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cheerful_simplicity/4436352521/

    I'm the kid with the blue coat. The costume was ok but the clown on the pattern envelope did freak me out a little. Good memories...Thanks!

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  39. I can't believe you bought that pattern (Simplicity 7162)! Don't you think that the adult clown on the looking down at the little boy is looks kind of SCARY?! He looks like he might eat him! BTW, I have this one too; it was part of a lot I bought ages ago. I haven't been able to get rid of it yet!

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  40. Dear lord, my mom maid me a black and white clown costume when I was a girl from this pattern: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5ioJqrf4fK8/S5uB5_yecKI/AAAAAAAAPqU/BLnSRlSaSpE/s1600-h/clown3.jpg

    Talk about a blast from the past!

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  41. I made that pattern for my oldest son for Halloween one year! It looked great. Matthew passed away in 1999 and this is one of the memories that hadn't surfaced until I saw your pattern. Thanks for the memories.
    Linda

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