Clowncore is the new quirky aesthetic taking over from runways to Tik Tok this new colorful circus-inspired look is growing in popularity. The aesthetic, like maximalism, uses bright colors, textures, and patterns. In 2023, #clowncore has continued to grow in popularity due to Tik Tok, where you can find clown-inspired outfits, makeup, hair, and accessories. Clowns have been inspiration in the fashion world and film industry for a while now.
Clowns have a peculiar repetition. Many people are coulrophobia, which is the fear of clowns since many books, shows, and movies have been based on the killer clown forming its own category within the horror genre. One of the earliest films was "He Who Gets Slapped," made in 1924. The film is about a scientist who loses his life's research and wife and decides to become a clown whose popular act is being repeatedly slapped.
A more modern clown movie features the famous clown, Pennywise from "It," a Stephen King novel that was eventually turned into a movie in 2017. Another popular clown movie that is more recent is "The Terrifier 2" from 2022, Art the Clown was inspired by Beaumont from the early film "He Who Gets Slapped."
Costume designers often look to vintage clowns and films for inspiration, as these traditional clowns inspire more fear than the ones you would run into at the circus. This shows, the media and public have been fascinated with clowns for a while, which extends to clown fashion.
The earliest image is of an actress by the name of Sarah Bernhardt taking a film still from 1883 in clown costuming as Pierrot, a popular French clown character. Many other actresses, including Carole Lombard and Katharine Hepburn, were photographed in these clown-like costumes. Around the late 1930s, when the designer, Travis Banton showcased his old Hollywood costumes to the world. Joseph Grimaldi was known for originally designing the whiteface clown. This clown look consisted of a white face and neck with painted on eyebrows, blush and lips, often black and red. Other popular clowns are Bozo the Clown, Ronald McDonald, Krusty the Clown, John Wayne Gacy and Emmett Kelly.
Clowns are known for their signature look, whether it be a distinct hair color, signature makeup, or even a staple clothing item. Banton was the Chief Designer at Paramount Pictures known as one the most important costume designers from the 1930s. He has made fashionable clown looks for movies like "Tonight is Our" and showed interest in frilly white collars and the iconic harlequin pattern. Around the 1990s and 2000s, the circus appeared more frequently on the runway. For example, designers like Dior, Miu Miu, Gareth Pugh, Undercover, Victor & Rolf, and Moschino have all had circus-inspired shows or looks.
One of the most spectacle of shows is the Alexander McQueen Fall show from 2001. The show was a genuine circus from the costumes, colorful lights, merry-go-round, and themed music. McQueen takes a neutral and sophisticated take on the clown, including ruffles, excessive hair, sheer fabric, themed makeup, and lots of leather. A runway show has vintage and modern elements. The pantsuits, dresses, Napoleon jackets, blazers, and trousers gave off a fashion-forward clown headed to the office.
Source: Vogue Runway
Dior is a brand familiar with the clowncore aesthetic with circus-themed shows in 2007, 2011, and 2019. The focus will be on the couture Fall/Winter 2011 show that has whimsical prints, geometric headpieces, editorial makeup, and playful shoes and accessories. Most of the models are in colorful pastels, moving onto some nude looks, back to patterns but more saturated, and ending with black and white. The final is Karlie Kloss dressed as Pierrot, a popular French clown character we discussed above. A grey ballgown, a take on clown cone hat, and a white and black ruffled collar for a Pierrot go to the ball look. Pierrot seems to be a popular character for inspiration among luxury designers.
Source: Vogue Runway
The last runway show is Vivienne Westwood Spring 2018 Menswear. This show's circus started with a fall by a trained acrobat paying homage to the 1993 infamous Naomi Campbell runway fall. A show inspired by climate change, with trash like cans, packets, and crushed plastic balls put into their fishnets. While some models wore clown-like makeup, others had red noses or lips pairing perfectly with a lot of looks that were red, black, and white, reminiscent of playing cards with diamonds, hearts, spades, and clubs. Using colored hair, pattern, and striped suits feel like a take on the Joker paired with colorful clown-like shoes. A chaotic runway shows the tricks, makeup, hair, clothing, and accessories.
Source: Vogue Runway
Keep in mind these runways shows are just scratching the surface of clown inspired looks over a century if you include costuming for films. Clowncore has been influencing the runway for years and has found its way to social media. Instagram and Tik Tok have several clowncore content creators like Galaxy Clown, Tiny Ana, and Sara Composarcone, and even celebrities are taking notice like Julia Fox and Harry Styles.
While not the most common aesthetic, these clown looks tend to have a fair amount of views and likes. The aesthetic can go in many different ways from more alternative, to bright pastels to taking inspiration from famous clowns. Clowncore is all about positivity, boldness, and creativity; it is a way to express oneself, and as fashion becomes a more accepting space, more people can embrace their more whimsical side.