The most wonderful time of year is nearly upon us here in New Orleans, and we all know what that means: Costumes.
Whether you’re joining a group of friends to go romping through the French Quarter, or taking your family down to the parades to see the Carnival royalty roll past on St. Charles Avenue, Mardi Gras is the time walk in someone else’s bedazzled shoes for the day. And, luckily, with its hundreds of years of experience masking, New Orleans is home to all sorts of places that can help you zhuzh up even the most basic of outfits.
The funny thing about Mardi Gras costumes, though, is that you don’t have to necessarily be anything in particular. You could just be shiny. You could be weird. You could be yourself, just a little fancier than usual. Or you could go political, make a statement and poke some fun at the mayor or the Sewerage and Water Board. You could get a group of friends together and be every color of the rainbow, or grab the family and dress in your purple, green and gold best.
The key, however, is to be a little bit outrageous.
Consider this your guide to sewing, gluing and glittering your way to Mardi Gras DIY costume glory.
Why here: Secondhand costume pieces
Pop-up markets this time of year are often filled with secondhand costume pieces, fabric scraps and handmade accessories that can help you make a costumed vision come to life. Here are a few markets to consider making part of your shopping experience:
- Carnival Costume Art Market, Feb. 19, at the Music Box Village
- 13th Annual Mardi Gras Costume Sale, Feb. 5 and Feb. 12, at The Kingpin
- Piety Mardi Gras Arts Market at the New Orleans Healing Center on Feb. 12
- Bayou Gras Makers Market on Bayou St. John on Feb. 5
Red, White and Blue Thrift
Why here: Organized by COLOR
The key to success at Red, White and Blue is to pay attention to the daily deals, like when the shops offer fill-’em-up garbage bags for a set price, or half off certain tag colors. What makes this thrift shop most helpful, however, is how many of the racks of clothing are organized by color. Know that you need a green jacket? You can scan the racks without feeling lost in miles of deeply discounted clothing.
Red, White and Blue Thrift
605 Lapalco Blvd., Gretna, LA 70056
5728 Jefferson Highway, New Orleans, LA 70123
Bargain Center, 3200 Dauphine St.
Why here: Inspiration, discovery
You’re just as likely to find a bag full of old doubloons as you are vintage mom jeans, which makes The Bargain Center a great place to go for a little inspiration. While it’s not the most organized of options on this list, that sense of discovery is definitely part of the fun.
Bargain Center – 3200 Dauphine Street, New Orleans, LA 70117
(504) 948-0007 | Mon-Thurs 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
NOLA Craft Culture, 127 S. Solomon St.
Why here: GLITTER, Crafting spaces
A relative newcomer to New Orleans’ DIY scene, this Mid-City shop was opened by a few friends who got tired of ordering their Mardi Gras glitter online. Now, it’s a haven for anyone who could use a custom glitter color, Elektra cosmetics or a 5-foot-long rope of hot glue (because who has time for refills?). This shop also offers crafting space and lockers for rent, in case you’ve got a roommate who isn’t keen on you glittering Muses shoes or Nyx purses on the dining table for three weeks straight.
Broadway Bound, 2737 Canal St.
Why here: Longtime Carnival institution
A longtime Carnival institution, this is the kind of neighborhood place where you’ll stand in line next to Black Masking Indians picking up any last-minute rhinestones and feathers they need to finish up their suits in time for Mardi Gras. Get ready to spend a few minutes making your choices for your own glittering stones as they get counted out by hand on the glass counter just inside the door.
Fifi Mahoney’s, 934 Royal St.
Why here: Wig bar
Need lime green pigtails? Maybe blonde curls upon which you can perch a handmade headdress? That’s when you head to Fifi’s. This French Quarter gem is home to its very own wig bar, where you can try on different colors, styles and lengths to give your Mardi Gras ‘do a test run.
Miss Claudia’s Vintage Clothing and Costumes, 4204 Magazine St.
Why here: Finishing touches
This Uptown mainstay is the place to land when you just need that final touch — say, sequin hotpants or elbow-length gloves — for your costume. With a mix of vintage pieces and costume accessories, Miss Claudia’s is a dependable stop for just the right finishing touch.
Miss Claudia’s Vintage Clothing & Costumes – 4204 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70125
Get your craft on
Because sometimes we all need a little help sometimes. While there are certainly some excellent costumers in New Orleans who when armed with an endless supply of E6000 glue and enough elbow grease are able to make an iconic look out of a pile of garbage, there are just as many of us who need a little more hands-on assistance. Here are a couple ways to learn the ropes this season.
Botanical Fascinator Workshop at Longue Vue Gardens on Feb. 19
Craft Happy Hour, Mardi Gras Face Shield Workshop, at Ogden Museum of Southern Art on Feb. 8
NOLA Craft Culture, various classes on resin art, head pieces and more; see Instagram for latest class schedule