Mardi Gras Costumes
We’re only about a month out from Mardi Gras 2015! It’s a little early this year, on February 17 – which means that Mardi Gras weekend actually starts on Saturday, February 14. Valentine’s and Mardi Gras collide? There’s never been a better excuse to get questionably dressed!
Mardi Gras Costumes
The most basic requirement for any Mardi Gras costume is that it uses the three basic Mardi Gras colors: purple, green, and gold. The reason for this is that Grand Duke Alexis of Russia happened to be visiting New Orleans during the first Rex Parade, and his house colors were purple, green, and gold. The city used them as their color scheme, since the Duke was the guest of honor, and the colors stuck.
For the ladies, sexy Mardi Gras costumes are almost a requirement, too. It’s never a bad idea to play off of the jester or harlequin motif (which also makes Harley Quinn a viable option), and peacock costumes are always applicable. They’re one of the few animals that naturally wears Mardi Gras colors.
Mardi Gras Masks
Masks are a huge part of Mardi Gras – New Orleans actually suspends their laws for a day that normally would make it illegal to conceal one’s identity with masks, and another law requires float riders to wear them.
The history of Mardi Gras masks, and the reason that they became tradition, stems from differing classes. When you’re wearing a mask, nobody can tell who you are, whether you’re rich or poor, etc. This way, the parties at the original Carnival festivals and Mardi Gras(es) were open to all comers. Making the masks for everyone look as fancy possible helped to further blur those lines. Masquerade masks and Venetian masks were associated with the upper class then, and they’re still associated with Mardi Gras today.
Mardi Gras Beads
These shiny and colorful symbols of Mardi Gras have been around forever. Tens of millions of pounds of them are thrown from parade floats and handed to partygoers every year, but why do they exist? How did Mardi Gras beads start becoming associated with the holiday?
History of Mardi Gras Beads
The first big Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations in New Orleans took place in the first half of the 19th Century, and the first King of the Carnival, or Rex, was elected to preside over the main parade in 1872. The Rex would throw candies and nuts into the crowds lining the street, beginning the tradition of Mardi Gras throws. Cheap glass beaded necklaces started to work their way into the fold around the turn of the century, and were such a huge success with tourists that they never died out.
Thankfully most Mardi Gras beads are painted plastic nowadays – just imagine going out to party and getting hit the face with a fistful of glass. If it’s late enough into the evening, you might not feel it, but it still wouldn’t be pleasant. Glass beads have come back to Mardi Gras celebrations the last few years, though (thanks, hipsters!). You probably still aren’t going to see many retro-styled strings getting thrown from floats on Bourbon Street, but they have their place at parties, as beads meant to be given away and actually worn. Let’s be honest – if you’re going to shell out for the good stuff, you’re not going to want to waste it.
It might even be better for your health to go glass, anyways. According to The Ecology Center, the average Mardi Gras’ supply beads might contain up to 10,000 pounds of lead-based paint and pigment. Nothing says “party hard” like heavy metal poisoning! (We associate a different type of heavy metal with NOLA, anyways.) Of course, it’s also extremely unlikely that anything bad will happen to you because of a string of beads – unless you ingest them, but that probably opens up a whole different array of emergency room tales.
Alternate uses for Mardi Gras Beads
Okay, like any good partygoer would do, you’ve gone and purchased several grosses of beads for Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, even though Mardi Gras is amazing, it’s still only one day a year (maybe a couple more if you get rowdy, but still). So, what are you supposed to do with all of these things now that Mardi Gras is over? Here are a few ideas.
Team spirit – If your favorite team wears any one of or some combination of green, gold, or purple, spent Mardi Gras beads become a way to show off your fandom.
Recycling – No, we don’t mean save them for your next party (even though you can totally do that, too). A few charities in the New Orleans area operate drop-off points at which people can drop off beads, which get cleaned up and re-sold later (you can Google up some more for your part of the country). More than anything, it’s a great way to clean up Bourbon Street aftermath, since lots of beads end up as litter.
Beaded curtains – Get all the atmosphere of a smoky Volkswagen bus, in the comfort of your own home! Strings of differently colored and shaped beads can be fused together to create a DIY craft like this.
Christmas garland – Why not? You won’t use it for another 11 months, but beaded garland is pretty much the same as a beaded Mardi Gras necklace, only longer.