Mardi Gras Costumes

mardi gras costumes

Photo by Infrogmation on Flickr

Mardi Gras costumes run the gamut from simple to elaborate, playful to grotesque, and store-bought to creative, so you are limited by only your budget and your imagination. Of course, if you land a coveted invitiation to one of New Orleans' exclusive masquerade balls during the season of Mardi Gras, costumes should show that you've put some effort into them.

The simplest of the traditional Mardi Gras costumes is the feathered mask, available in most costume shops anywhere, or if you're in New Orleans, pretty much any store that sells anything.

Also traditional for Mardi Gras are the more elaborate Venetian Masks, which trace their roots to the society of the Venetian Republic (which lasted from the 7th to the 17th century) and are now part of the modern Carnevale celebration in Venice, Italy. These ornately designed masks are brightly festooned with gold and silver and elaborate designs in the Baroque style. (The masks were featured prominently in the 1999 Tom Cruise movie "Eyes Wide Shut.")

Traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold, so those are the hues that you'll want to emphasize in your costume. But don't be afraid to mix in some other shades from the palette; the more colorful, the better.

Anyone who's people-watching in the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras season will see costumes of all stripes, from elaborately constructed themed creations to, literally next-to-nothing, body paint.

Ubiquitous, though, are the beads. Whether you snatched them from the air as they were being tossed by parade float riders, or traded a flash of bare breasts for them, beads are nearly considered currency in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Costumes are accessorized during the festivities by the sometimes elaborate strings of plastic jewelry, and even in other communities that celebrate Mardi Gras, beads are everywhere.

Then there are the Mardi Gras Indians – African-Americans who don Native American-inspired costumes for their revelry. These feather-laden Mardi Gras costumes can be over the top: A chief's suit can weigh as much as 150 pounds and cost $5,000 or more. The Indians comprise nearly 40 tribes of various sizes who take part in the dozens of parades in New Orleans leading up to Fat Tuesday, and they've been participating since at least the middle of the 19th century.

Regardless whether you're having a Mardi Gras party at home or taking place in one of the public celebrations, the sky's the limit when putting together Mardi Gras costumes.

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