Many elements for a traditional clown costume can be found in your closet or at a thrift store, though some you may need to purchase at a costume shop or party supply store. With a little ingenuity, you can create a variety of clown outfits.
You can make your own clown nose by cutting a small slit in a red foam ball of appropriate size or by using a red foam microphone screen. Use removable spirit gum adhesive -- found in most costume stores -- to securely attach the nose to your face. You can also paint your nose red with lipstick or costume makeup. Find extra baggy pants that are several sizes too large at a thrift store and use colorful suspenders to hold them up. Any bright shirt can be worn -- red, yellow and blue are good colors -- and you can hot-glue a large silk flower to your shirt to look like a silly, oversized boutonniere. Dye your hair red with temporary Halloween dye or purchase a clown wig at a costume shop if you prefer. White gloves are a good accessory. Find bright, colorful shoes at the thrift store or purchase canvas shoes and paint them yourself with waterproof craft paint. Paint your face white with costume makeup. Draw exaggeratedly large lips on your face with a black makeup crayon or eyeliner and fill in the lips with red costume makeup or lipstick. Outline your eyes and eyebrows with black eyeliner and add any other desired embellishments -- like dimples -- to your face.
You can create a hobo clown costume by wearing tattered clothing and sewing or hot-gluing bright patches randomly on the outfit. An old suit works well as your base outfit. Find a wide, loud tie at a thrift store and knot it loosely around your neck. Find an old bowler, derby or similar hat and poke a hole in the top so a chunk of fabric sticks up to make it look ratty. Put on a pair of worn, scuffed shoes; you can poke a hole in the toe of one shoe for added effect. Top off your outfit with an old, battered walking cane. You can also cut the fingertips off a pair of old gloves to make fingerless gloves. For makeup, a white face base is optional. Create the appearance of facial stubble on your chin and jaw using brown eye shadow or brown costume makeup. Draw and fill in a white circle around the outside of your mouth, then line your lips with a black makeup crayon or eyeliner. Paint your nose brown, black or red. You can create tired-looking eyes by painting a white ring around each eye and then shading the edges of the rings with gray. Outline your eyebrows in black.
Harlequin clowns have their roots in ancient Italy and are also known as jesters or jokers. To create your harlequin costume, begin with a pair of brightly-colored tights or leggings. A matching baggy, long-sleeved shirt can double as a tunic. Harlequins traditionally wear checkered clothing, so use checkered fabrics if they're available. Tie a ribbon or string around each shirt cuff to make it look like it's ruffled. Make a cone-shaped hat by rolling poster paper into a cone and taping or gluing it. Decorate the hat using paint or markers and glitter and attach a string or elastic to the base of the cone to hold it under your chin. Wear Mary Jane-style strappy shoes. For makeup, paint your face white. Paint your nose white as well. Fill in your lips with red lipstick and outline them in black. Outline your eyes in black, and add desired embellishments to your face using glitter makeup.
Fear of clowns is called coulrophobia and it's quite common. To create a scary clown costume, use the same elements as you would to create a traditional clown costume, but when it comes to makeup, draw black slants at the corners of your eyes and eyebrows to create an angry scowl. Add costume vampire teeth or fangs and add fake blood dripping from the corner of your mouth.
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