From its inception Carnaval, or Mardi Gras, has been an excuse for indulging in excess – and that applies to Mardi Gras costumes as much as to food and drink. The “over-the-top” and “out-of-control” aspect of the whole celebration ushers in the sobriety and austerity of Lent.
Mardi Gras costumes are theatrical, fanciful, and bejeweled. They are often skimpy, sexy, and suggestive. Mardi Gras costumes are colorful. Some are elegant; some are silly; and some are inappropriate. Mardi Gras costumes assist the reveler in sinning joyfully, leading to full confession later.
Of course, Mardi Gras costumes vary in a lot of important ways, depending on the country (or the locale) of the celebration, the age of the wearer, the ball or the parade that is scheduled, and the year’s theme. In some countries, notably Belgium, for the Carnaval de Binche, Mardi Gras costumes are more a uniform than an expression of individuality. There are even Mardi Gras costumes for babies, and for dogs; there are unisex costumes and there are group costumes. And at least one company specializes in custom-made Mardi Gras costumes for couples.
As any veteran of a Mardi Gras will attest, the most popular Mardi Gras costumes combine the traditional Purple, Green and Gold. “Flights of fancy” are definitely appropriate when it comes to designing Mardi Gras costumes – especially for popular peacock -feathered headdresses and masks. Red and black, and joker/jester themes are popular, as are body and face paint.
In New Orleans, in particular, Mardi Gras costumes for the various Krewes are opulent , extravagant, and enhance the year’s theme.
Mardi Gras costumes for royalty can take your breath away, and some of the Mardi Gras costumes you see on the street will make you gasp. Despite its free-wheeling reputation, Mardi Gras is well-grounded across the globe in religious tradition. However, historical references cannot fully explain the reasons for donning costumes.
But it’s fun to dress up. Or to undress. So, for Mardi Gras, go ahead; indulge your inner child!
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