Mardi Gras Style — Mardi Gras Insider Tours (2024)

From feathered masks to elaborate sequin costumes, one thing is for certain when it comes to dressing up for America's #1 Party: ANYTHING GOES!! The more unique, colorful and crazy your costume is, the more heads you'll turn! So suit up, or don't - Mardi Gras is the place to see and be seen!

Author: Written by freelance talent for Ai InSite

For those wondering what to wear for the annual Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, there is a short answer: anything. Because when it comes to Mardi Gras costumes and fashion, the only rule is that there are no rules.

"It is absolutely anything," says Andrea Kolasinski Marcinkus, Academic Director for Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing & Management at The Illinois Institute of Art - Schaumburg. Marcinkus is an avid Mardi Gras fan and frequent spectator. "As a rule, the more brightly colored and crazy, the better. It's anything goes, as long as it's over the top."

The variety with Mardi Gras costumes is seemingly endless: satin, sequins, embossing, feathers, rhinestones, masks, headdresses, wigs, beading, makeup, and more. From the parade participants to the crowds watching, everyone celebrates in style by dressing in outrageous getups.

"Revelers often get all their friends together and decide on a group theme for their costumes," says Bobbi Mannino, public relations director for Compucast, the company behind the Mardi Gras New Orleans website. "These creative costumes can be as low cost as a can of paint and cut outs from cardboard boxes to extremely elaborate creations - it's anything goes."

Mannino, a New Orleans native, says themes and trends from pop culture and current events pop up in each year's Mardi Gras fashion. Political satire is always popular and the Shakespearean look also features predominantly, she adds.

Overly-sexualized costumes and gender crossing dress are also common, Marcinkus says. And because of the city's French origins, people often dress in costumes illustrating French history and culture, complete with powdered wigs. But a theme is not a necessity for spectators, who can and do dress in the types of costumes seen at Halloween - everything from animals to nurses. Mardi Gras, however, is not a party-goer's average Halloween.

"It's Halloween times ten," says Marcinkus.

With the Saints' Super Bowl victory, there will undoubtedly be many football themed costumes and more attire heavy on black and gold.

Like most of the Mardi Gras traditions, the traditional colors of purple, green, and gold are steeped in history. The Mardi Gras New Orleans website explains that those official colors were chosen in 1872 by the Rex Krewe, a parade krewe responsible for many of the Mardi Gras traditions and consisting of 600 male riders. The colors also serve a purpose, says Peggy Blum, Academic Director for Fashion at The Art Institute of Austin.

"Purple represents justice, green is faith, and gold represents power," she says.

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, a term for the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season. Because Lent can require periodic fasting, many who practice it began eating more than usual on what became known as Fat Tuesday. The celebration is rich in history and tradition in other ways that play a part in the costumes. Mannino says Mardi Gras is put on by 50 to 75 krewes, which are local social organizations. While not all of the krewes parade, each has a Mardi Gras ball or other events marked by the holiday associated with it. Every Mardi Gras, each krewe has its own theme and those that parade use it to tie together the floats and their costumed riders.

For Marcinkus, one of the best parts of Mardi Gras is seeing the krewe known as the Mardi Gras Indians, whose costumes are some of the most intricate and beautiful of all of Mardi Gras.

"Their costumes look like plains Indians with huge feathers and bells," she explains. "They are really incredible."

For all krewes, theme selections are made for the next year's Mardi Gras as soon as the current one is over.

Regardless of the theme, Mannino says the queen, king, maids, and dukes for each krewe require elaborate attire that can cost thousands of dollars. The costumes for those riding the floats remain fairly basic with tunics and pants. And satin is one of the most common fabrics.

"We're probably the satin capital of the world here during Mardi Gras," Mannino says. "One krewe might have 1500 members and need 1500 costumes."

That means mean big business for the costume and fashion designers who work with the participants. Local companies cater to the clientele by working year-round on the costumes, Mannino says. A few costumes such as those used by dukes or pages can be repurposed, without incurring the large cost that comes from working with professional designers.

"If you have the skills, you can make the costume," says Marcinkus. "Or you can commission a basic costume and embellish it yourself. Some people, the only thing they do is make Mardi Gras costumes as their business."

And because of the prestige involved with being one of the organization's royalty, people are often willing to shell out big bucks for the costumes.

"It is definitely several thousand dollars for a maid's dress and train and headpiece," Mannino says. "Maids' costumes are extremely elaborate. The train of their gown is going to have very, very intricate beading and embossing."

Sometimes the bill is paid by individuals, and sometimes by the organization or krewe. Queens and maids are usually featured in the society section of newspapers, Mannino says, adding that the role frequently runs in families - with generations of women playing the part of a krewe's maid.

Families and traditions are what Mardi Gras is all about, according to Mannino. Mardi Gras may conjure up images of beads and breasts for the rest of the nation, but to New Orleans natives, it is much, much more.

"So many people think of Mardi Gras as Bourbon Street and flashing and that's not really what Mardi Gras is," explains Mannino. "That's the tourists. Mardi Gras is family. Mardi Gras is tradition."

She says that as a child, her mother made themed costumes for the whole family and that each year it was something different - from cowboys to clowns. That is still her favorite thing to see at Mardi Gras - families dressed alike, "from the baby to the daddy."

So while the partying visitors flood Bourbon Street, New Orleans' families gather elsewhere for food, music, fun, and other parades. Mannino says the streets are lined with ladders, with young children at top where they have optimal viewing privileges and their parents at the bottom, ensuring their safety. The ladders are yet another Mardi Gras tradition and part of what makes the day so special for the locals.

"To everyone else in the world it's a Tuesday," Mannino says, "to us it's a celebration."

Author: Written by freelance talent for Ai InSite

Mardi Gras Style — Mardi Gras Insider Tours (2024)


What not to wear at Mardi Gras? ›

There's no dress code unless you're attending some Mardi Gras balls or certain parties, and pretty much anything goes.

What should I wear to Mardi Gras in New Orleans? ›

Anything goes here – and we do mean anything – but if donning an extravagant ensemble isn't your thing, wear the traditional Carnival colors of purple, green and gold to fit right in. Either way, be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

What colors to wear for Mardi Gras? ›

Remember: Wear the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold during Carnival whenever you're not in costume. You'll get more beads – and that's a fact no one can deny!

Why do people dress crazy for Mardi Gras? ›

There are many different reasons why people choose to dress up in costumes for Mardi Gras. For some, it is a way to express their creativity and have fun. Others believe that the costumes represent different aspects of life and have a lot of meaning and symbolism.

What is prohibited during Mardi Gras? ›

Don't Interfere With the Parade

Also, getting in a band's way, hanging on a float, joining the parade by marching along, acting aggressively toward anyone in the parade, or jumping over the barricade are all surefire ways to get yourself arrested.

Why can't you pick up beads in New Orleans? ›

It is rumored that it is bad luck to pick up beads from the floor. On the realistic side, the ground in New Orleans during Mardi Gras especially is not the place where you want to pick up throws from. Even if they are in tacked and great throws.

Can I wear jeans in New Orleans? ›

Good news: New Orleans is the Big Easy, which applies to clothing! While dressing up for a night on Bourbon Street or wearing a Halloween costume every day in October is perfectly acceptable, so is relaxed attire of jeans and a t-shirt.

What is traditionally worn for Mardi Gras? ›

Mardi Gras is about music, parades, picnics, floats and excitement. It's one big holiday in New Orleans! Revelers know to wear costumes or at least dress in purple, green, and gold, and adorn themselves with long beads caught from the floats of previous parades.

What special clothes do people wear on Mardi Gras? ›

The variety with Mardi Gras costumes is seemingly endless: satin, sequins, embossing, feathers, rhinestones, masks, headdresses, wigs, beading, makeup, and more. From the parade participants to the crowds watching, everyone celebrates in style by dressing in outrageous getups.

What are five common foods eaten during Mardi Gras? ›

  • King Cake. This delicious and traditional cake is a staple for the Mardi Gras season. ...
  • Crawfish Étouffée. Though significantly harder to find in Athens, crawfish étouffée is a very traditional dish in Cajun and Creole cuisine. ...
  • Dirty Rice. ...
  • Po' Boy. ...
  • Jambalaya. ...
  • Crawfish Boil. ...
  • Pancakes.
Feb 12, 2018

What does krewe mean? ›

A krewe (pronounced "crew") is a social organization that stages parades and/or balls for the Carnival season.

Why was Mardi Gras banned? ›

After the French-Indian War Louisiana was ceded to Spain in the Treaty of Paris of 1763. With this change in leadership over the region, Mardi Gras celebration began to be put to a halt.

Why do people dress up as Indians during Mardi Gras? ›

The Mardi Gras Indians named themselves after native Indians to pay them respect for their assistance in escaping the tyranny of slavery. It was often local Indians who accepted slaves into their society when they made a break for freedom. They have never forgotten this support.

Is Mardi Gras fun if you don't drink? ›

At the end of the day, Mardi Gras is whatever you want to make of it. If you want to go to a parade or indulge in traditional foods, that's great. If you prefer to stay home and watch movies, that's okay too. There's really no wrong or right answer here.

What is the dress code for Mardi Gras ball? ›

Many of the events will require formal attire, some invitations will actually say “strictly formal.” Besides figuring out what to wear, you will also have to find a way to make through the night comfortably while looking stunning.

What do people wear during Mardi Gras to hide their identity? ›

Wearing Masks

Masks were first worn at Mardi Gras celebrations so that wearers could mingle with anyone, regardless of class. Today, the tradition holds strong. Those on floats are actually legally bound to wear masks that conceal their identities.

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