Mardi Gras Costume Information

Updated November 21, 2016

Mardi Gras costumes make the celebration even more memorable. Mardis Gras is an extravagant holiday that started out as the last day for Catholics to indulge before the rigours of Lent started on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras has a long tradition in New Orleans and in Rio de Janeiro, while many people elsewhere plan Mardi Gras parties to coincide with the day. A Mardi Gras costume can range from a beaded necklace and mask to a more elaborate fantasy creation.

History of Mardi Gras and Costumes

The Mardi Gras holiday has European roots but is a tradition in New Orleans in the French Quarter as well as in Rio de Janeiro. The holiday started as a day for European Catholics to indulge a bit before the fasting required during Lent. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and Mardis Gras is always the Tuesday before, which is why it has become known as "Fat Tuesday." The upper classes held masquerade balls on the day, from which developed the wearing of costumes for parades and private parties.

The Celebration

New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro celebrate Mardis Gras with parades of elaborate floats and fantastic costumes. For parade watchers, wearing a costume is optional but most people wear at least a beaded necklace and a mask or silly hat for the celebration. Participating in the holiday can be as simple as standing and watching the parade, riding on a float or performing a crazy talent as you walk the parade route. All float riders and performers wear elaborate costumes. Marching bands in full costume, playing mostly jazz music, take to the streets to make the holiday more festive.

Mardi Gras Costumes

Mardis Gras costumes are much like Halloween or masquerade costumes, based on a character or fantasy element; just about any type of costume is accepted. Since Mardis Gras is mostly celebrated and indulged in by adults, some of the costumes can be racy. Dressing up is a way to let your inhibitions down and leave your identity behind. In a costume, a person can look sexy, crazy, wild or silly. Some Mardi Gras goers will choose a costume that makes a political statement. Men will often dress up like women. One popular style of costume consists of a court jester outfit, hat, crown, multiple beaded necklaces and clown-like make-up.

Mardis Gras Beads, Boas, and Masks

Probably the most noted Mardis Gras costume accessories are the colourful metallic bead necklaces, feather boas and the masks. The necklaces are tossed out by the handful during the Mardis Gras parade from people riding on the floats. Many celebrants wear colourful masks, similar to masquerade masks, decorated with sequins and feathers.

Wear to Buy Costumes

Since just about any type of costume can be worn during Mardis Gras, Halloween costume shops are a great place to buy a costume. Mardi Gras masks, beads, hats and feather boas can be found online in Mardi Gras supply stores.

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