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New Orleans-Inspired Costumes

In preparation for Halloween, we’ve pulled out our imaginary costume box…

Mardi Gras costumes
Festive costume go-ers make Halloween a special holiday in New Orleans (Photo: Zack Smith)
- Photo by Zack Smith

I remember one time a few years ago, I dressed up as a nun on a Saturday night to join the entourage of a friend’s arm wrestling competition (her arm wrestling persona was a nun — don’t ask). Another time, July 4, to be exact, my husband decided he wanted to dress up as Uncle Sam while we kayaked along Bayou St. John. That’s just how we do things in New Orleans. There is almost always an occasion for costuming, and if there isn’t, people won’t look at you twice should you walk past them in a rabbit costume.

New Orleans has a plethora of historical and contemporary personas, and even objects, from which to pull creative costume ideas, from Marie Laveau, the legendary Vodou queen of New Orleans, to today’s 610 Stompers male dance troupe, to beignets. So in preparation for Halloween, Mardi Gras, Voodoo Fest, St. Patrick’s Day, your friend’s birthday party, or, let’s face it, the odd Saturday night…we’ve got plenty of ideas for your next costume, NOLA-style.

Ideas for New Orleans Costumes

The 610 Stompers during Mardi Gras (Photo: Paul Broussard)

610 Stompers

The 610 Stompers are a New Orleans men’s dance troupe that performs during Mardi Gras and other special events. They are so immersed in the fabric of New Orleans that they have even shown up on bicycle and pedestrian safety advertisements. True to their motto, “Ordinary Men. Extraordinary Moves,” the 610 Stompers strut their stuff across town in their little blue shorts whenever an event beckons.

The 610 Stompers costume would be ideal as a group costume, but it could work as an individual costume as well. Just make sure to put on some sass and be prepared with a dance routine.

What You’ll Need:

  • Old or inexpensive sneakers
  • Gold spray paint (for sneakers)
  • White knee-high socks (preferably with blue and red rings at the tops, per photo)
  • Red satin jacket
  • Baby blue shorts
  • White shirt or 610 Stompers shirt
  • Mustache or faux mustache for the ladies
  • White sweatband
Arthur James Robinson, or Mr. Okra, as he was fondly and well-known, passed away in February 2018. His daughter Sergio Robinson has since taken the reins. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Mr. Okra

Though we lost the beloved Mr. Okra last year, his legacy lives on in New Orleans. Easily recognized by his old pick-up truck covered in colorful, hand-painted advertisements for watermelons, bell peppers, and sweet corn, Mr. Okra, whose real name is Arthur Robinson, was a produce vendor who took to the streets, snaking his truck in and out of neighborhoods while announcing his available produce through his truck’s P.A. system. He reminds me a bit of Santa Claus coming to deliver (for a few dollars) gifts.

This costume makes sense as an individual costume. For a little lagniappe though, especially if your friends are set on a group costume, have your friends dress up as fruit and vegetables so you don’t have to carry any around.

Note: You can also take a page from the Krewe of Barkus and create a pint-sized Mr. Okra truck for your pup.

Krewe of Barkus (Photo: Paul Broussard)

What You’ll Need:

  • Any pair of pants will do
  • Fake beard (unless, of course, you already have a real beard)
  • Plain t-shirt or white sleeveless undershirt
  • Suspenders
  • A pillow or stuffing to create your belly
  • Small poster board sign (painted with “Mr. Okra” and several advertisements for fruit)
  • Optional: “Mr. Okra In Your Pocket,” a keychain with voice recordings of Mr. Okra’s sing song produce advertisements (can be purchased for about $10 in local stores like Fleurty Girl)
  • Optional: basket of fruit (real or plastic)

Zatarain’s Jazz Man

If you’ve ever bought a box of Zatarain’s (jambalaya mix or dirty rice, for example) you may have noticed a little man playing what appears to be a clarinet. To be fair, he is a mere silhouette, but the branding strategy very much incorporates the spirit of New Orleans. The company dates back to 1889 when it was started by Emile Zatarain from the New Orleans area. About 200 of its products are still produced right across the river from New Orleans.

This one is perfect as an individual costume. Once you’ve collected all of your items, the only craftiness you’ll need to get into is spray-painting your toy clarinet. If you’re itching to do this as a group costume, why not “jazz it up” a little by creating a whole band of silhouettes?

What You’ll Need:

  • Black suit
  • Black shirt
  • Black tie
  • Black shoes
  • Black fedora
  • Toy clarinet
  • Black spray paint for toy clarinet
  • Optional: box of a Zatarain’s product (ladies, you could get crafty and even make this into a purse!)
Pick up a wig from Miss Claudia’s Vintage Clothing and Costumes (Photo: Justen Williams)

American Horror Story: Coven cast

American Horror Story: Coven was the third in the series of American Horror Story seasons on FX. The season, both filmed in and set in New Orleans, follows a coven of witches.

This group costume is pretty straightforward. Everyone can be a witch, and everyone can wear black, probably something they already own.

What You’ll Need:

  • Black dress (if it looks a bit Victorian, even better)
  • Black shoes
  • Black hat

NCIS: New Orleans cast

NCIS: New Orleans is a police drama set in and filmed in New Orleans. The spin-off of the original NCIS television show follows the professional and personal lives of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s New Orleans branch.

If you are looking for an easy group costume, this one is an option.

What You’ll Need:

  • Police officer uniform
  • Navy blue baseball cap
  • Iron-on letters “N,” “C,” “I,” and “S” for hat
  • Toy police badges
Beignets from Café du Monde (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Beignet

Beignets, those puffy fried doughnuts covered with powdered sugar, are synonymous with New Orleans, but their origins travel back much further in time and place. When the French migrated to l’Acadie in what is today Nova Scotia, Canada around the 1630s, they brought with them the tradition of beignets — whose origins date back to at least ancient Rome. When the Acadians were forced out of l’Acadie by the British about a century later, many of them, and their beignet traditions, migrated to Louisiana. Today, Café du Monde is best known as the place to enjoy beignets, which they have been serving since 1862.

Beignets are typically served in threes, so this would be a nice group costume. If you really want to, though, you can pretend the other beignets were already eaten (a strong possibility) and do this individually.

What You’ll Need:

  • Light brown pillow case with holes cut for your head and arms (alternatively, you can dye white ones)
  • Light brown or white leggings or pants
  • Fabric glue (to glue the snow onto the pillow case)
  • Craft snow (powdered sugar)
  • Fabric stiffener (so you can shape the pillow case into a permanent beignet shape)

Marie Laveau

Marie Laveau, the New Orleans Vodou (or Voodoo) queen, is a figure shrouded in legend. She was born around the turn of the 19th century in New Orleans. A free woman of color, she was the first of her family’s matrilineal line to be born free during the period of slavery. Laveau gained notoriety for her role as a Vodou priestess, which was controversial during her time. She was also known for her charitable deeds towards prisoners, orphans, and the sick. Interestingly, Laveau was also a lifelong Roman Catholic.

Marie Laveau would work best as an individual costume. Feel free to make modifications to the below suggestions:

What You’ll Need:

  • Head scarf
  • Shawl
  • Loose fitting Bohemian shirt and long flared/flowy skirt (or any long, old, Caribbean-inspired dress will do)
  • Lagniappe: religious pendants on a necklace

Princess Tiana

Princess Tiana, the character from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog is a fictional character based on the Brother’s Grimm fairy tale The Frog Prince. The Disney movie takes place in New Orleans in the 1920s. Tiana was Disney’s first African American princess.

This costume can technically go one of several ways (Princess Tiana does turn into a frog in the movie so that’s an option). Below is just one suggestion.

What You’ll Need:

  • Flapper dress
  • Feather headband
  • Heels
  • A toy frog
King Cake Baby (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

King Cake Baby

Initially, the king cake baby was actually a bean, but luckily for us, today’s king cake baby makes for a much more charming costume. The custom of including a favor in king cakes was brought over from France. Today, the person who gets the baby in their slice of cake is named king or queen for the day (and has to either host or bring a king cake to the next party…or both.)

This one can get really fun. I’m envisioning a lot of glitter.

What You’ll Need:

  • Nude body suit
  • A yellow blow-up inner-tube (for you wear around your waist)
  • Purple, green, and gold glitter paint to decorate the inner-tube like a king cake
  • Lagniappe: glitter make-up for eyes and lips

Blue Dog

Artist George Rodrigue’s loveable Blue Dog first appeared in 1984 in the painting “Loup Garou.” That first Blue Dog painting was inspired by Rodrigue’s late dog Tiffany and the Cajun Werewolf, the Loup-garou. Since then, the Blue Dog has achieved national recognition, appeared on Jazz Fest posters, Absolut Vodka advertisements, and been featured in paintings in iconic Louisiana settings — including supporting the Saints (how’s that for loyal?).

This can be a costume for either humans or our canine companions. Just make sure if you plan to dye your dog, you do it safely (forget the human hair dye and use something like food coloring or Kool-Aid).

What You’ll Need:

  • Royal blue face paint (for humans) or royal blue food coloring or Kool-Aid (for dogs)
  • Royal blue pants (for humans only)
  • Royal blue top (for humans only)
  • Royal blue pointy dog ears (you may need to dye a white cat ear headband with blue dye)

Happy costuming!

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