Mardi Gras is consumed with food, parades, camaraderie and tradition, but it wouldn’t be Mardi Gras in Louisiana without the sequins and feathers, fur and beads, ribbons and flair. Though the official colors of this annual tradition are green, gold and purple, Mardi Gras costumes break all the rules.
To celebrate Mardi Gras, there are local community groups called krewes. Though there are many aspects of being part of the krewe, one of the big things they do during Mardi Gras is participate in formal balls, put on showy presentations and dress up in elaborate costumes, which often represent some sort of theme. These costumes can take a full year to create, and the average costume weighs more than 50 pounds once fully constructed. Those who choose to participate in the costume-oriented activities have to pay for the costumes themselves, and some of these impressive creations can cost several hundred (and even thousands of) dollars.
But Mardi Gras costumes are wow-worthy. There’s no getting around that. Just when you think you’ve seen it all—people dressed to represent the seven deadly sins, Hollywood signs, capes that drag 40 feet behind, chickens—you see yet another costume that seems to outdo all others.
When I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana, for Mardi Gras this year, I had two ideal opportunities to look at and appreciate the detail, time and effort that goes into Mardi Gras costumes. First, I visited the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu, which has the world’s largest collection of Mardi Gras costumes in the world. There are hundreds of costumes on display, and the exhibit is rotated every few months, so there are always new ones to see. Secondly, I had the opportunity to go backstage at the Royal Gala, which is the only event in Louisiana that allows the public to see the krewes’ royal courts in full costume.
Mardi Gras may be a welcome tradition for the taste buds and party-like vibe, but it’s also a feast for the eyes and a treat for the imagination.
My trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana, during Mardi Gras was compensated but all opinions are my own.