Clown Costumes vs Clown Accessories for Costumes
If you are looking to dress up as a clown for Halloween or a party, you could buy a clown costume that includes most of what you need for the event. But if you want to create a clown character, if you want your own look and personality to make an event truly special and bring a big smile to everyone in the room, then you need clown accessories.
What are Clown Accessories?
Clown accessories are the many choices you make to assemble a final character. They include clothing, such as shoes, socks, suspenders, buttons, gloves and hats. Clowns pay special attention to their face and so some kind of face painting or clown makeup is essential, along with perhaps a clown nose and a skullcap or wig. And a unique clown personality will add decorative details to complement that clown character. Pins and clown jewelry, special glasses, or props like balloons and magic tricks are other clown accessories to consider.
So many choices! Where to begin?
It might help knowing that there are different ‘traditions’ or ‘types’ of clowns that have developed over many decades and even centuries. You can develop a character within one of those traditions, or for the more adventurous, incorporate different elements from across the types.
The Whiteface Clown
As the name implies, a Whiteface clown uses white base face makeup – like that of a classic circus clown. Despite the artificial coloring, whiteface makeup is not meant to hide but rather to accentuate, or in some instances exaggerate, the clown´s facial features.
Female Whiteface clowns generally have one type of costume, but use additional makeup to accent the feminine facial features.
The male Whiteface clown has several varieties. The Classic (European) Whiteface is a jester, with soft shoes, baggy pants, a loose fitting top, a neck ruffle, and a soft pointed hat. A floppy hat or black skullcap can be substituted for the traditional pointed hat.
The Straight Whiteface clown also dresses in baggy clothes, but uses either all-white clothing with a colorful trim, or multi-colored clothing with a contrasting trim and ruff. Typical clown accessories are a skullcap and wig.
The Grotesque or Comedy Whiteface clown often has more exaggerated makeup than the Straight Whiteface to reflect a more buffoonish character, as well as irregular body proportions such as long stilt-legs, a big fanny, etc. Baggy clothing is used, but tailored to highlight these irregular proportions, and is often colorful – or even mismatching. This type of clown often wears gloves and wig among other clown accessories.
The Auguste Clown
The classic Auguste clown may seem at first glance to be closer to the Grotesque Whiteface than the Classic Whiteface, in that the costume is often extravagant, exaggerated and mismatched, sporting bold colors and large prints. Augustes often use oversized or undersized clown accessories, such as a huge bow tie, a tiny hat, enormous glasses, too small pants, or boat-sized shoes. Suspenders and gloves are other important clown accessories. But the overall point about Auguste clowns is that there are few absolute costume “rules,” and the character has more leeway as to how to convey the ‘zany-ness’ of this type. Auguste makeup includes whiteface but may keep partial flesh tones, and otherwise complements the overall ‘exaggerated’ look with additional, feature-exaggerating makeup.
Female Augustes frequently sport long eyelashes, wear outrageous dresses, and carry purses.
Tramps are the most common of another type of clown, sometimes known as a “Character Clown”. Besides Tramps, character clowns can include “Cowboy Clowns”, “Rodeo Clowns” and other modern or contemporary types of professionals like policemen or firemen or nurses.
There are different kinds of Tramps, such as “happy, vagabond Hobo” or “sad, down-on-his-luck Tramp”, but the costume is the similar for all of them. A heavily patched dark suit or tuxedo, battered shoes, a crumpled derby or top hat (often without the top) and fingerless gloves are the basic costume components. Clown accessories for tramps include brightly colored vests, long dark overcoats with lots of pockets, and walking sticks. Makeup may include white face, and sometimes ‘soot’ makeup from purported train-travel may be applied to the face as well. (The “Bum” type didn’t travel, so would probably not have ‘soot’ on his face.)
Female Tramps, called Bag Ladies, usually wear sneakers, a frumpy dress, a scarf or cheap costume jewelry, and a kerchief or a floppy hat.
So that´s a start for building your clown personality. Whether you want to be a ‘traditional’ type of clown, or create a wildly original character, clown accessories are the building blocks for your own clown character. Good luck, and happy Clowning!