From Parade Route to Runway: Mardi Gras Did It First
Words by: Alison C. Schreuder
It was the first Monday in May. I had my box of wine, my takeout, and a group chat ready for “The Met Gala Presents: Camp”. I was especially excited this year because I had no clue what camp meant besides what I googled a week before: An intentional over-the-top-ness, a slightly (or extremely) “off” quality, bad taste as a vehicle for good art. However, as soon as Billy Porter and Lady Gaga hit the pink carpet I understood in full, Camp was everything Mardi Gras is, and they’d ripped the fashions right off parade route.
Like any good Millennial without a full grasp of Instagram, I took to my stories and started matching my friends costumes to the outfits trotting up those famous steps. The idea crossed my mind (as my bag of wine shriveled) that fashion is just Mardi Gras without a budget. Anything creative MUST have first come from the belly of New Orleans, I was sure of it. Thus @mardigrasdiditfirst was born.
I was worried after the Met Gala I would run out of material, but the deeper I got into the world of fashion I realized I would have no trouble at all. Kanye and Katy Perry were an obvious help, but designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Iris Van Herpen, Moschino and even Chanel have turned out some incredible pieces that fit in to the Mardi Gras scene so well. A.k.a they’ve been stolen from the streets of New Orleans, given a runway and now called “designer.”
If you’ve never experienced New Orleans costuming firsthand don’t worry, there’s plenty of time and Jefferson Variety is open 7 days a week during the season… so get with it. Whether you peep the Mardi Gras Indians, the walking krewes, the late night dance parties, or the behemoth floats toting Robin Thicke, there’s something for everyone. Below are a few trends to lookout for while you’re out and about.
Feathers: An obvious ode to the Mardi Gras Indian:
Around June of 2019 feathers were a big deal. Everyone was wearing them, big, small, short, tall, shoulders, hemline.. whatever, they were IN. Maybe inspired by spring and its obvious tie to cute furry little animals but DEFINITELY an ode to the Mardi gras indian. If you’ve never read up on the history of this beautiful Louisiana tradition, do yourself a favor and start googling.
Yeehaw: take one look at freaking Diplo and you’ll know this trend is huge right now.
Everyone’s stylist is fitting their clients with a damn cowboy hat and chain stitched suits. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about it, but I think it should be known that Mardi Gras made it weird first.
Horses in the back? We’ve had them for awhile now.
Urinal shaped head pieces: Yeah we did that first
Sticking gems on your face: ahemmmm need I repeat myself?
The Masked Singer: are you kidding me?
These examples are just the beginning, so if you’re planning on joining the festivities I have some helpful suggestions to make your costume stand out. The key to it is to really lean into whimsy, ride the wave of textures & shapes, and really fucking go for it. There are so many different ways you can use paper mache it’s insane, so just harness your idea and take off.
A few tips before you start:
- Have a sturdy base. A material called buckram is your best friend. Headbands or an upside down visor are also helpful.
- Construction is key. If you think something might come loose, it will. No one was ever upset that they wired something together instead of glued it.
- Embellishment should make an impact, don’t just add fringe to have fringe. Go big or stay home. No really, stay home.
- Shop local. There are dozens of stores in the area who are go to’s for costuming, so before you order online and get a poor mans take on Mardi Gras, take a look around New Orleans first because so many talented people are willing to share their skills to make you look AMAZING.
I hope to see you on the parade route, and then on the runway.
Follow @mardigrasdiditfirst on Instagram to follow every creative thought that has come from New Orleans.
Alison has been an incredible, imaginative individual for as long as I have known her..she never stops amazing me.
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