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Aug 4, 2010

The Greatest Show on Earth!


As any longtime MPB reader knows, I love the circus.  Maybe it's the elephants, maybe it's the midget clowns on tricycles, maybe it's all those men in tights, I don't know, it just excites me. 


Mind you, I haven't actually been to a circus in decades, but no matter.   It isn't so much the actual circus I love, it's circus kitsch, which is something quite separate from the real thing.

It's Bozo and Red Skelton on TV, it's movies like "The Greatest Show on Earth," "Jumbo," and of course, Joan Crawford in "Beserk!" 



Perhaps you read my popular clown pattern blog entry or more recently stumbled upon this cute-if-highly-derivative effort.  Big Top culture is here to stay!

We all remember Circus Day on the Mickey Mouse Club (Thursdays!) and while I'm not quite old enough to have caught the original broadcasts, I did enjoy them greatly in reruns even if I was a little long in the tooth for Cubby and Karen and the gang by age fourteen. 

Anyone who was watching TV in the Eighties has a special place in their heart reserved for the  popular "Circus of the Stars," where we got to see glamorous celebrities like Deidre Hall ride an elephant and teen Brooke Shields walk barefoot on broken glass.  It seemed like the nadir of television broadcasting at the time but by today's standards it was "Masterpiece Theater."


So friends, imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this yesterday at my own little Budget Bergdorfs, the Salvation Army:



It's a vintage linen curtain panel, presumably meant for a child (or the child-like), in fantastic condition.  Just look at these details:











There's not a whole lot of it -- it's roughly 42"x 42" -- but there's definitely enough for a tote bag, shorts, or maybe a cute little sleeveless sundress.



Wise readers with excellent taste, I ask you: What would you do with fabric like this?    (No snark now, I'm serious.)

Do you think a middle-aged man is too old for circus-themed clam diggers?  Would a woman want to wear an elephant on her chest?  The truth.

Btw, I'm still sitting on this...not literally, of course.



For you Joan Crawford fans....



P.S. -- What's your favorite circus movie (or memory)?

41 comments:

  1. Methinks the scale of the print is too large for shorts.

    Personally, I would find a coordinating fabric and make a tote worthy of the big top (or the beach).

    If there was enough you could make a sheath dress. But then you wouldn't get nearly as much use out of it.

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  2. Another vote for tote bag, that way you can be entertained nearly every day.

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  3. I like the idea of clam diggers, I think they would be fantastic for the beach!

    My second choice would be a tote bag - still fun, more functional but I think the clam diggers would be more fun...

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  4. I'm all in favour of the tote bag. That way you could enjoy the circus theme every time you go shopping.

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  5. I would make pajamas pants and wear them everyday..

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  6. I would make anything I could out of that. I LOVE novelty fabric. Probably a little shift dress would be my final choice.

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  7. shorts shorts shorts!!!

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  8. Love that fabric! I would be tempted to not cut through the design and break it up, so tote bag would be my preferred option.
    Or I would turn it into a novelty cushion or two by backing it with another fabric.

    Actually, what I am more likely to do myself is fall too far in love with it and only ever admire it as I am tidying up THE STASH of fabric.

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  9. not a favourite circus movie, but a book: Final Confessions of Mabel Stark by Robert Hough. If you are not familiar with it, seek it out immediately. Mabel has been my number one heroine ever since. I am 100% sure you'll love it.

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  10. tote bag! I'm not a big circus fan, but that fabric is really cute.

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  11. I would love to see a short sleeve shirt made out of this fabric! If you don't have enough, you can use the print for the back and two front panels then use a solid linen for the arms, collar and other details.

    I'm not a fan of animals being used in circuses.

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  12. Ooo, some great ideas I hadn't thought of. I wish I had more of it.

    Thanks for the book recommendation, too!

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  13. Personally, I'd make a simple A-line skirt out of it. It would preserve the pattern more than anything else, except a tote maybe, but I need a new tote like I need a hole in my head. The fabric pattern is casual, so I could pair the skirt with a simple t-shirt or blouse and either a pair of Chucks or flats.

    It's definitely not a pattern for a top, at least not in my opinion. I'm a little, how do you say, booby? So I tend to stay away from large prints "upstairs."

    Of course, how cute would this be as matching Chihuahua outfits? Or would the pattern overwhelm them?

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  14. sigh.

    You know, we just did this clown thing over at Selfish's blog last week.

    I am surprised you didn't list Chucky http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/468/ and all his lethal friends too, Mr. 80's Clown guy.

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  15. I LOVED "Circus of the Stars" and remember BEGGING my folks so that I could stay up for the whole thing. Loved it. Seriously.

    I'd make boxers out of it, just so I could say, "there's a circus in my pants"! And then I'd laugh hysterically. This fabric would be bizarre as anything really "wearable". Like outside.

    Maybe it could be a re-usable shopping bag? That would be fun, too.

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  16. Hmm, "fun" vs. "usability" is definitely an issue here. I'd love to see you make it into a shirt. I also love the idea of a tote---maybe a reversible one, so that you can be over-the-top if you want or just have a snazzy secret inside your grocery bag. It would also make an awesome lining for a light-weight summer jacket, but you probably don't have enough fabric for that.

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  17. I'm going to say a tote or a purse. I would totally use it. It might be just a bit busy for a skirt.

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  18. This isn't very creative but how about a wall hanging? Since you love it so much the entire pattern will stay intact and it wont get worn from use. It could also be the center panel of a quilt if you're inclined to dabble in quilting.

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  19. If truth be told I find myself leaning toward tote bag. I don't see myself lounging in these though I think many of you do! LOL

    I could see using red bias trim maybe. I have never made a tote bag (or any other kind of bag) but I guess I might as well try.

    I do use tote bags -- when I tote that is.

    Line/ not line?

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  20. Of the ideas thrown out there, I would lean toward the tote bag. Since you've never made one, why not? They are easy peasy. I would keep it simple and I agree--don't break up the print with seams or anything.

    That trailer is sick!

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  21. How about a butcher's apron? It would show off the print very well. Pattern suggestion here - http://etherwork.net/ejmtph/sew/apron.html.

    btw the boxers comment has to be the funniest.

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  22. Oh Peter. *sigh*

    Did you see the picture of me in a clown outfit from that exact pattern I posted a while back? It wouldn't have been so bad if my parents had used real stage makeup, or if I hadn't had this depressed look on my face since birth. Either way it was a disaster. Here I am at the bowling party for Halloween. http://smartypantalons.blogspot.com/2010/05/tonight-we-bowl.html

    No dresses from the curtains, please. I like the cushion idea. Tote is fine. Or frame it, if you like it so much. Go back to the army, find a gaudy frame to spray paint and voila! Art.

    That fabric style was popular at one point, but I couldn't nail down a decade. It seems to have quite a bit of poly in it and it's heavy. (Can one of our experts date it. I searched online for other examples of it with no luck.) I've found two curtain panels with similar prints, possibly from the same designers, that seem to have been designed for nurseries too. I'm guessing they are post war. One of the prints I have is circus and one is old mcdonald farm stuff.

    Hold out a day or two and you might stumble into the rest of the set.

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  23. Favorite movie: Toby Tyler!

    I'm leaning towards a tote--it keeps more fabric in tact. Or a great big pillow?

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  24. Oh, I just LOVED Circus of the Stars. I remember the show that Brooke did and I also remember Donnie & Marie's, too. :)

    I think you should make a pair of awesome shorts for yourself, Peter. You love the circus, you love circus prints, so who cares what anyone else thinks? :)

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  25. Fab fun fabric!!! I think an apron (pefect for juggling dishes in the kitchen!) or a lovely large throw cushion would be wonderful. I think you should try to cut into the print as little as possible. It's a real find!

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  26. Hm. Out of that much fabric, methinks I could manage a shorts outfit for Evie and maybe a matching purse. Sewing for kids is very economical! ;) And I have to admit that my fav is Disney's Dumbo. "Baby Mine" always makes me cry. With a little kid in the house, I'm rediscovering the world... and movies... though her eyes.

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  27. I think it would be best for a tote bag, well lined, of course. There might be enough for a couple of little organizer bags inside, as well. I think the pattern is too big for a garment.

    I took my 9 kids to the circus every spring for years. One of my sons left the hospital and went to the circus at 36 hours of age. I wonder if that's why he loves elephants?

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  28. I love Trapeze and I love La Strada. The triangles in each film are equally compelling! I watch them every time they're on TV!! To bad all six characters couldn't have been in the same movie -- especially too bad that Richard Basehart never became a bigger star!!!

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  29. Oh, I'd forgotten about "La Strada." Circuses were something of a Fellini obsession.

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  30. I'd make a sleeveless sheath. I'd wear that fabric and make it fun. Blue or yellow shoes and bag. I have a special fondness for Circus Boy, or am I the only person here old enough to remember it?

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  31. I agree - a sheath - please! OR fun fun fun clam diggers - please! or well, all right, if you insist, a tote (as long as it has a fun contrasting print lining).

    The idea of a garment with that fabulous print is delicious. Is that why all the animals ('cept Dumbo) are licking their lips?

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  32. Tote bag(s) for your Salvation Army and Flea Market shopping. It will add even more whimsy to your life.

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  33. Oh Peter, I thought that pattern was long gone! What has happened while I have been away?! If you are going to make that pattern, at least make the tracksuit. (I will never give up on that!) ;)

    Anyway. Tote bag please. I think with red trim it would look fantastic. Even with the creepy clown on it. (Although I have to admit, that isn't nearly as scary as the clowns on the pattern. *shiver*)

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  34. I like SewSisters shirt idea.Or a selection of kitchen mits could be nice.A tote is always fab.I recently made a frock with a curtain.Whyever not!?
    My fave circus movie has Gina Lollobrigida in it,but I can't for the life of me remember what it is called.

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  35. I love the circus.I took my 9 year old daughter when she was 5 and had her completely convinced that I had once been part of the circus (I was of course the elegant lady with the white horses and who spins in the big hoop high in the air). I told her I taught the current performer everything she knew. She totally bought it.

    I'm am thrilled to find someone else who remembers Circus of the Stars! Brooke Shields and the broken glass is seared into my memory for some reason.

    As to the fabric... Clothing would be fun. I wouldn't personally mind having an elephant on my dress, as long as it didn't land right on the stomach, butt, or thighs.

    And that preview for Berserk actually made me feel sorry for Joan Crawford. Maybe that's why she was such a bad mother...

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  36. Perhaps I am too late to post but I think Cathy would be lovely in a simple sheath (is that how you spell it?) dress made from the circus fabric. With red shoes and red gloves, a straw hat with a red flower and maybe some red ric rac on the dress - around the armscye, the neckline and the hem - well, I can surely envision her wearing such a design. Good luck with your decision.

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  37. I'm not one for the traditional circus, the animal acts make me sad . . . and now that I've seen the Beserk trailer, OY! But, I love Cirque du Soleil -- especially their Beatles tribute show. And, well, I think the butcher's apron is a great idea. What a great "costume" for grilling.

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  38. Oh, I don't include Cirque du Soleil -- it's simply not TACKY enough! LOL

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  39. If there's a tacky circus threshold, I think it was breached first with Fellini's La Strada . . . but do tell, what's the verdict on your circus print?

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