he circus is coming to town” is a time honoured phrase of pure Americana, but there’s nothing clichéd about Circus 1903, because from boots to braces, this circus is pure imagination. 


Circus 1903 is the product of many creative minds, and one of the most important is the veteran costume designer Angela Aaron. Angela has worked on everything from major theatrical productions, to billion hit music videos and the TV commercials we watch during prime time, but this Los Angeles based designer felt challenged by Circus 1903. 


“Each production presents different challenges, this time we had to take a black and white past and bring it into the present in believable colour,” she said, “everything had to be just right or it was back to the drawing board. We wore out many pencils, erasers and seamstresses!” 


When the idea Circus 1903 was first floated by Producers Simon Painter, Tim Lawson, and Director Neil Dorward, no one truly understood the size of the challenge in front of them. For Angela it meant six months of research followed by hundreds of drawings, and then hundreds more as the stories of these fabulous performers changed and took shape. 


“It was never a case of one costume for each performer,” said Angela, “in the small traveling circuses of the early 1900s, everyone did everything, so we created street clothes, performance costumes and contemporary costumes that reflected various culture groups that commonly performed. It wasn’t easy.” 


While audiences might not notice the details as they whirl by above their heads, Angela certainly does: “We have to please everyone. Performers need comfortable costumes that stretch in every direction they want to go, producers want costumes that last a season on the road, and I need to have the ideal material in the right colour with the perfect details to make everything come together.” 


Angela sourced fabrics and materials worldwide, from the U.S., France, Korea, Germany, Japan and Great Britain, but built the costumes in the United States using seamstresses and tailors nationwide. 


Making the costumes was only step one, they were then dyed and aged, put through processes to help them look like the cast has been on the road for, well, about a hundred years. Sometimes the process takes specialised dyes and real antique techniques from the period and sometimes it took...a cup of tea. “New, bright fabrics not only don’t match the palette, they don’t look good under bright stage lights, and we have to dull the materials, so we wash them in a strong breakfast tea.” 


Circus 1903 is a symphony of detailed color and artistry using the talent of artists like Angela Aaron, to bring the true spirit of theatre and circus back to audiences worldwide. 


By Ben Skerker