It started last year with decorating the fence in front of my house with beads and garland in purple, green and gold.. Then I redecorated my Christmas wreath with masks and more beads. Then, I redecorated my Christmas tree with Mardi Gras ornaments. This year, the fence is beaded, the wreath is hung, the tree is lit and I’ll also be redecorating myself. For the first time, I’m planning to costume up for Fat Tuesday.
The most basic costume is a mask. There’s an unimaginable quantity and variety of masks to chose from here. Feathered ones, masks on sticks, black and gold ones with Saints logos, masks with beads dangling from them, masks with long, phallic noses, ones that looks like animals, ones made of plastic, papier maché, satin or leather, even elaborate masks delicately cut from metal into spiderwebs.
I got a very simple one this year but as my costume evolves, I plan to go shopping again next year at Maskarade. The French Quarter shop specializes in leather masks and features one of a kind delicacies sure to make me the belle of any ball. Unlike the $10 – $30 masks found at the French Market and various shops along Decatur, Maskarade’s more exclusive designs start at $30 and go up to nearly $500, but unique beauty and excellent quality cost money.
Mardi Gras costumes typically have a sense of humor or whimsy. I went with whimsy and indulged an age old love for petticoats. I’ve wanted a big twirly petticoat since I was toddling so when my benefactor suggested I not choose between the knee-length fuchsia one and the black and green shorter one (that would also work during St. Patrick’s) and just get both, I felt like I’d won the little-girl lottery. It was like getting a Barbie Townhouse AND the Corvette. I’m still giddy over it.
The New Orleans Party and Costume shop in the CBD (Central Business District) is a fully stocked party supply store with a 2nd floor full of flights of fancy. There were racks of wigs, dozens of hats, and rows and rows of costumes divided by type. There was even an entire rack of plus-size costumes ranging from silly to sexy. Oh yeah, and plenty of petticoats.
I got a pair of harlequin purple, green and gold fishnets to go with my mask and petticoats, but decided to keep searching for my favorite wig. First stop for wig shopping in the French Quarter has to be Fifi Mahoney’s. A drag queen’s dream as well as makers of fabulous wigs for everyday wear, Fifi’s has hair for every occasion. Look through their custom wigs to see heart-shaped red Valentine’s hair or Marie Antoinette-type lunacy. Just taking in all the glitzy accessories and fanciful stylings put me in the mood to play-lady-dress-up like I was rummaging in my mother’s closet.
But, I ended up getting my gorgeous deep green wig on Magazine Street at Funky Monkey. Funky Monkey is part costume shop, part vintage clothing reseller and all fun. It’s where The Brady Bunch would shop for their groovy rock star outfits if they lived in the Big Easy.
Next year, I’ll find the perfect shoes and more, but for now, I have all I need to join the revelers in the age old tradition of masking and parading through the streets celebrating Carnival.