I was delighted to attend the opening of Carl Mack’s Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes & Culture this weekend. It was the perfect way to kick off the first day of Carnival, especially since they had plenty of King Cake on hand. The walls displayed vibrant photos, mostly by Carlos Gonzalez, celebrating the year-round costuming culture of New Orleans. There were even a couple of photos from our wedding in a display book. I especially enjoyed when the photos were placed next to the actual costumes they captured.
The fancifully displayed costumes are the real stars of the show. The majority come from the personal collection of Carl Mack and were designed by partner, Ty Johnson who is memorialized for his work with a photo and the quote, “My whole heart was into this.” I’m a sucker for a Mardi Gras Indian suit and I loved seeing the 610 Stompers and Organ Grinders represented but the most spectacular costume for me was the Erté creation. The silver-gowned goddess and her regal dog were so perfectly executed that I immediately recognized the Erté painting’s image – from the back!
The ceilings were festooned with beautifully beaded trains from gowns. There was a “costume closet” where guests tried on elaborate headpieces and glittery Mardi Gras suits. A band played while beautiful young ladies danced in bright, well-placed sequins and feathers. There were costumes and uniforms from Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, Tableau balls, Mardi Gras Kings and Queens and even the fabric-stripped pointy hats and suits of Cajun Mardi Gras.
Carl Mack is known as the owner of Carl Mack Presents, a local costume company and talent agency that handles everything from hand balancers and hypnotists to female impersonators and harpists. He’s also well known as a bow-tied xylophonist. He’s clearly brought his talent and energy to this latest endeavor. The museum is appropriate for all ages and serves as an excellent place for people to experience many parts of of our costume culture all in one place at one time.