Strongmen were a mainstay of many a turn of the century sideshow, much rarer however was the strongwoman. There were several of note, often lifting men above their heads or offering a sum of money to any man who could beat them in a weight-lifting competition, as well as plenty of other odd displays of their inordinate strength. I figured my Ten-in-One wouldn’t be complete without a glamorous strongwoman of its own, so here comes Barbara Kettlebelle.
Despite her scrawny appearance, Barbara possesses unnatural strength for a woman having grown up wrestling with her fourteen older brothers. The circus offered her a place after witnessing her performing a clean and press with a baby elephant in the strongfolks Olympics. As you can imagine, a lady of her abilities needs a lot of fuel and her daily diet includes eight whole chickens, a gallon of chocolate milk, and her bodyweight in peanut butter and jam sandwiches.
Both Mr Monster and I are unashamed fans of anything to do with Oz. We were both spellbound by the original as kids, terrified by the Wheelers in The Return to Oz, and the Mr has been to see Wicked on stage on many occasions. It was inevitable then that we would be drawn to the new movie featuring James Franco as The Great and Powerful Oz, and the gorgeous Michelle Williams as Glinda the good.
Date night was declared and after a cheap and cheerful trip to Frankie and Benny’s we headed to the posh bit of our local cinema to have a cheeky glass of wine and some complimentary chips and chocolate in their plush leather seats; making it quite worth the extra few quid they charge for the pleasure!
It was an odd film in some ways with some great nods to the style of the original, quite cheesy with some proper hammed up performances. It gives the background of how the wizard comes to be in Oz and the transformation of the good witch Theodora played by Mila Kunis (a particular favourite of Mr Monster) into the evil, green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West who was the stuff of our childhood nightmares.
It was an enthralling couple of hours heading back to Oz and I highly recommend a watch while it’s still in the cinema. Rather fittingly, the story starts with a black and white James Franco working as a dodgy magician in a circus sideshow in the early 1900’s. With my current sideshow starlets project on the go, it was rife with inspiration for me and I found myself trying to work out how costumes were made and coming up with new ideas for the remaining dolls of my Ten-in One. The film quickly moves into glorious technicolour once the wizard crash lands in Oz. He meets three of the four witches of the land, all very different, but all beautifully outfitted and with defined characteristics.
It got me to thinking that one day I might like to make them in doll form. A little Oz of my own, good vs evil played out in fabric. I’ve got so many ideas of projects I want to work on, if only there were enough hours in the day!
I’ve been searching for a suitable branding for my new style of creation. I was toying with the idea of a total rebrand, but I’m rather attached to my pseudonym now so it’s here to stay. Instead, I’ve decided to give the dolls an umbrella name of their own, so from here on they will be known as
‘THE DOLLFACE COLLECTION’ By The Mistress of Monsters.
Anyone who sees them seems surprised by the size of them, so I thought it would be a good idea to give you an idea of scale by having a photoshoot with my little darlings. Nothing beats the feeling of having an armful of things you’ve made!
Mr Monster is busy designing me a logo for the collection so will be able to show you that soon too. I love it when a plan comes together!
Another new addition to the sideshow arrived today. Introducing Ms Juliana De’vine.
Juliana had a very successful career as a stockbroker, until she was a little TOO good at predicting the next big money-maker, leading her to be investigated for insider trading. No one would believe that it was her ‘gift’ which was her secret to success and so she was forced to leave the profession. After the circus came to town one fateful day, she realised that with the sideshow she could make her fortune by telling punters their own. And so the rest is history.
As promised, I’ve been sewing like a demon this morning to complete the second of my ‘Ten-in-one’ Sideshow Starlets. Making her debut is Bridget O’Hair, bearded lady extraordinaire.
Bridget was born with a full head of auburn locks, and by her third birthday she was already sporting a pretty impressive moustache. Her beard kicked in at age eighteen and scuppered her plans to become a seamstress as she kept getting it caught in her sewing machine. She tried her hand at welding after seeing the movie Flashdance, but it soon became clear that she was a fire-hazard, so her only option was to join the circus as the sideshow bearded lady where she shares digs with best-friend and partner in crime Elsie.
Bearded ladies were a firm fixture in circus sideshows of the Victorian era. Few women are able to grow an impressive enough beard to shock and amaze paying customers so their facial hair was often ‘enhanced’ or even entirely faked, although this was rare.
One of the most well-known and successful bearded ladies was Annie Jones. Born in 1860, she joined her first circus at just nine months old, and continued to exhibit her fully genuine beard until she died at the age of 42.
I used her fairly plain style of Victorian dress as my inspiration for Bridget’s simple dress which worked quite well as her face is the main focus.
So now Elsie and Bridget can keep one another company while I work on the next act for my sideshow. Hmmm….who shall I make next?