Costumes are the life blood of Carnival season in New Orleans. During Mardi Gras, you’ll stick out if you’re NOT wearing a costume, or at least an accessory like some feathers, glitter, or a funky hat. At the very minimum, you may want to dress in the official colors of Carnival – purple, green, and gold. Stick with us for tips on how to assemble the perfect Mardi Gras get-up plus where to see great costumes during Carnival. After all, we take our costumes serious in New Orleans.
Mardi Gras Costuming Tips
1. Wear comfortable shoes
This tip may not seem like the most fun, but it’s crucial. Mardi Gras involves a LOT of walking, especially if you want to see costumes, so we encourage you to wear shoes that will keep your feet happy. But wearing comfortable shoes does not mean wearing boring shoes! We recommend light-up or bejeweled sneakers. If you want to get crafty, you can take a hot glue gun to an older pair of shoes.
2. Dress in layers
The weather during Mardi Gras can be a bit unpredictable, with sunshine and warm temperatures at times and chilly and rainy at others. You’ll want to build some flexibility into your costume. Wear tights or leggings for an extra layer plus consider a jacket that fits with your costume’s color scheme. You can always decorate an old jacket with glitter and feathers to keep with your theme!
3. Wear a wig
Whether you’re sporting a pink wig and some wacky accessories or your wig is part of a well-coordinated character costume, wearing a wig is one of the easiest ways to turn a regular outfit into a real Mardi Gras ensemble. New Orleans costume shops are full of wigs, so if you travel here without one, we’ve got you covered!
New Orleanians know that feathers and sequins make a costume. But your accessories can be functional as well as flashy. Try carrying a sequin fanny pack to hold your cell phone and wallet or using a feather boa to add texture and keep you warm.
5. Get creative with makeup
False eyelashes, body glitter, face paint – makeup is a fun way to add interest to your Mardi Gras get-up. Try adding some stick-on rhinestones around your eyes or decorating your cheekbones with colorful body glitter.
6. Remember your carnival colors
Not sure what to wear? When in doubt, deck yourself out in the official colors of carnival: purple, green, and gold. Think a green shirt, purple wig, and gold body glitter!
If you’re in the market for a wig, look no further than Fifi Mahony’s. Shopping in this French Quarter boutique is an experience – staff will expertly fit wigs based on customers’ face shape, coloring, and costuming needs. You can also purchase body jewels, makeup, and other Mardi Gras accessories there.
Located on Magazine Street in the Irish Channel, Funky Monkey is a resale boutique that specializes in costumes. Here you’ll find pre-made costumes, shoes, accessories, and vintage ballgowns, in addition to the traditional resale options.
Miss Claudia’s Vintage Clothing and Costumes
Miss Claudia’s is the Lower Garden District costume shop of your thrifting and vintage dreams. Unassuming on the outside, you’ll find a treasure trove of fun accessories, including glittery purses and majorette boots.
Southern Costume Company
Are you looking to rent an elaborate costume rather than buy? Southern Costume Company is the place for you. You may even be able to find a costume used in a movie filmed in New Orleans. In addition to rentals, the shop also offers custom costume services, tailoring services, and supplies.
Uptown Costume and Dancewear
Located on a stretch of Magazine Street that’s full of boutique retailers, Uptown Costume and Dancewear is hands down one of the most comprehensive costume shops in the city. With lots of selections for all your costume needs, this should be your first stop when shopping for Mardi Gras staples.
The New Orleans Costume Center
Featuring both new and previously owned, hand-crafted costumes, The New Orleans Costume Center celebrates the unique and handmade. In addition to full costumes, it also carries supplies to make your own – like trims, feathers, and sequins. If you really want to go all out – you can hire a costume designer to make you something special.
Nikki’s French Quarter Halloween Store
We know Nikki’s has Halloween in its name, but that doesn’t mean its not a great place to snag some Mardi Gras accessories. Here you’ll find plenty of wigs, masks, body paint, and makeup to augment any costume.
Where to See Mardi Gras Costumes
Bourbon Street Awards
If you want to see some of the city’s most elaborate handmade costumes in action, look no further than the Bourbon Street Awards on Mardi Gras Day. The event has been called “the most famous drag-queen contest in America,” and each year awards are given for Best Drag, Best Leather, Best Group and Best of Show. To watch the awards, make sure to arrive near the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets early in the morning on Mardi Gras Day to get a spot on the street.
Red Beans Parade
Lundi Gras (or the day before Mardi Gras) means the Red Beans Parade, with Krewe members parading in special hand decorated suits. The suits are adorned with – you guessed it – beans! The Krewe members parade alongside any unofficial revelers who want to join in. The parade starts at 2p.m. on Lundi Gras in the Marigny and meets the “Dead Beans” parade, with their Day-of the-Dead-themed bean costumes, in the Tremé.
St. Anne Parade
The society of St. Anne is a Mardi Gras marching Krewe that parades on Mardi Gras Day. In the true spirit of the day, St. Anne does not have a set time or route, but you can usually catch up with them at Mimi’s in the Marigny around 10 a.m. or at R Bar later in the day. Those who walk in St. Anne spend all year crafting their costumes and you’ll be treated to one of the most beautiful spectacles New Orleans has to offer.