Hospital Costuming from Nurse Lulu's Clowning on a Budget

As with any clown, the costume is critical not only for the character you’ve created, but also for practical purposes, especially in hospital clowning. The main costume piece to be concerned with in the hospital is your lab coat.

Upon hire, The Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit (later “Healthy Humor Red Nose Docs) gave us two long white lab coats with only their logo on it. We were to customize them once we developed our characters and performance pieces. The supervisor we had at the time seemed to have had his cut, but with four large pockets inside. What he actually did was to fold and sew the long coat, thus creating pockets with minimal tailoring. This idea was perfect for me to use because I don’t sew and I wanted to have large pockets in my coat.

It is essential for the pockets to be large and sturdy on the inside, copious and appealing on the outside. Pockets help the hospital clown to be a self-contained, portable variety show. Items used for sleight of hand tricks like Squeak Removals should be in outside left or right pockets near where your hands naturally hang to help the tricks go smoothly.

The hospital clown should have one outside pocket that is left empty. It is only to be used for items that the patient has touched or for items that fell on the floor. They call this the “dirty” pocket. Items placed in it must not be touched again until they can be sanitized or cleaned.

Once the structure of the coat is done and the clown character has been discovered, the coat should be decorated with trim, patches, etc., perhaps replacing the simple white buttons with colorful large buttons. Colors and notions chosen should reflect the clown character or theme. Next, it is necessary to create the rest of the costume, hopefully with shirt, pants and socks expressing your character's personality. Shoes should go with the theme, but they must be non-slip, safe shoes that completely cover the feet. (High-top sneakers are popular.) It is important to keep in mind that, for all intents and purposes, you are working in a hospital.

As I have mentioned in other posts, we do not wear wigs, only hats that can be cleaned. Gloves are not practical, as we must wash our hands often.

Creating your costume is a lot of work and it will take time, as you are always improving it, but it helps you grow into your character and can be lots of fun!

Materials needed:
- a hat or headpiece that can be cleaned, long lab coat, colorful trim, large colorful buttons and covered, non-slip fun shoes or sneakers


Lucy E. Nunez has been a theatrical performer since 2002 and an improv performer since 2003. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care program in 2014. She is now Baptist Children's Hospital first-ever resident clown! For more information please visit:

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