This was a reader request from a while back, and since Lilly Peppermint professed her own affection for this style in my recent interview, I figured that now was the time. :-)
Carnival Goth's closest relations are dark cabaret, burlesque and neo-Victorian; but obviously this style takes its inspiration from a variety of ideas and images including sinister circuses (it's also known as Circus Goth), the dramatic make-up of sideshow performers and trapeze artists, and creepy, abandoned funfairs.
Goths plus carnival/circus themes might bring up clown images for some. Whilst there are some carnival and circus Goths who do in fact use clown-esque make-up and imagery, for example make-up inspired by pierrots and harlequins, we're not talking sloppy or badly-applied, and the look is not generally played for humour. Usually the make-up could be described as charming, cute, but a little bit sinister, dark or macabre. (Here's an example of a Victorian Gothic Circus make-up tutorial on YouTube.)
Carnival Goth fashion tends to involve ruffles, stripes, chequered patterns (usually in black and white or black and red), lots of red, white, cream and off-white accents and can look very Tim Burton-inspired. The clothing styles can often be reminiscent of Neo-Victorian or casual steampunk fashion (the look I have linked to here could easily work for a carnival Goth look with a few extra touches such as make-up and ripped fishnets.
For the ladies, wardrobe staples are likely to include bloomers, a bustle skirt (not necessarily full length), vertically striped or chequered tights or stockings, top hats or mini top hats, Victorian-esque blouses and waistcoats and Victorian-style boots.
The gentlemen are likely to be clad in Victorian-styled shirts and waistcoats, a top hat or bowler hat, jabots, trousers of some description (tight trousers with chains or straps could actually work well with this look; with a frock coat, big boots and top hat for a surreal ringmaster look), big chunky boots and possibly a cane.
The look is often designed to be very surreal; there may also be some more macabre touches such as ripped, tattered or decayed clothing or even some fake blood here and there.
The musicians who are associated with this style have a visual or musical aesthetic that matches closely the themes and images tied in with carnival Goth, such as Voltaire, Stolen Babies, Vermilion Lies and Emilie Autumn.
|Dominique of the band Stolen Babies|
Image by Pixie Vision Productions
Image source: Steampunk Girls