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Mardi Gras is a time a celebration that starts with Carnival and extends through the start of Lent. The actual day, means Fat Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday. Since Lent begins on that day, Mardi Gras is considered the last day of revelry and debauchery before the start of Lent, a time of sacrifice and reflection. Check out our super selection of mens and womens Mardi Gras costumes.
History of Mardi Gras
Like many of today’s Christian celebrations, Mardi Gras stems back to pagan spring and fertility rites. The holiday today is meant to celebrate excess and indulgence before Ash Wednesday and Lent. While Mardi Gras, Carnival and Fat Tuesday are all the same celebration, the two months leading up to Fat Tuesday, also called Mardi Gras, is called Carnival.
Today, Mardi Gras and Carnival are celebrated around the world. Feasting on King Cakes decked out in purple, gold and green icing is popular around the world, and some slices even have a small token inside one slice. An old tradition says the person who finds a token in their piece is "crowned" king for a day, and can enjoy the best food and drink served to them. So watch what you're eating!
Besides bead throwing and intense parties, Mardi Gras also features incredible masks and costumes, and the Krewe that wear them. Krewes are party organizers, and once the masks were used to protect their identity as they sang and danced around, begging for food and money to make communal gumbo. Today, these masks are just as much a part of protecting identity as they are a symbol and part of their costume.
Facts About Mardi Gras
All fun has to come to an end, which is actually what Mardi Gras is, the day marking the end of Carnival. And while the French brought Mardi Gras to the states, it’s celebrated all over the world, like in Ireland, England, and even Canada, where it’s called Pancake Day. While Mardi Gras is known for being in New Orleans, the first Mardi Gras celebration in the US was in Alabama in 1703, but the first parade was in New Orleans in 1837, and it took another twenty years before floats became commonplace. But every Mardi Gras has three main colors: gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice. See these facts and more in our Mardi Gras Facts infographic.
Men's Mardi Gras Costumes
Are you a Bookman, or a King? You can be anyone you want to be today, so choose wisely. Pick out a royal cape and don a magnificent crown while feasting on Kings Cake, or cover your human face with a devil mask, skipping around with the beast himself for a day. Indulge in a Carnival character costume and become a giant bat, or join the Cow Band, where you can either be the matador or raging bull. Or, go for the classic French mask and cape. Anything from domino masks to skin suits goes, so be creative. Maybe you’re looking for comfort and will stick to a simple mask and Mardi Gras beads, or maybe you’ll go all out for the occasion and dance around in a full jester costume. Fat Tuesday is a day where just about anything goes. Pick out bright colors, shiny masks, glittery clothes or wild wigs. Today is about food and fun, so be sure to be cheering along the sidelines with everyone else dressed in wild costumes as parade floats with wild scenes drift by. Just be sure to keep your color scheme to the traditional green, purple and gold.
Women's Mardi Gras Costumes
Go all out at this wild celebration. Pick out the wildest costume you can think of, and you may still look tame compared to the performers. Decorate yourself in stunning swaths of green, gold and purple, float down the road in royal cloaks, or mesmerize from behind a mask. Mardi Gras is a celebration where you can be anybody, so dress up however you like. Your mask shields your face, so go out and have fun! Prance around in a full jester outfit, or do it the Mardi Gras way by making it a sexy jester costume. Go as the classic harlequin clown, or get fancy in frilly dresses as a baby doll or pick out a classy masquerade costume to spend the day in. Wear a tinsel wig to really shine, or simply stay comfortable in a shimmery mask. Or, if you can’t make it down to New Orleans to see the parade go by, set up your own Mardi Gras party. Everyone should be able to celebrate Mardi Gras. Have masks at the ready and plenty of beads to throw. Just be sure to include King Cake covered in icing, plenty of music and dancing, and lots of good food!
Mardi Gras Masks
Not only is it encouraged for everyone to wear masks at Mardi Gras, but those on floats are also required to wear them by law. There are many different kinds of masks, from simple domino masks to full-face masks. Some look like dunce hats, while others are more animalistic, and can even feature real fur. Wireframes, feathers and cardboard make up standard masks, but some of the more decorative and beautiful ones can be ceramic or porcelain. But while there are masks, there are also some recurring characters at Carnival, like baby dolls, who are women dressed in frilly dresses and bonnets carrying a baby doll mean to represent an illegitimate child. Watch in fear and amazement as bands of bats, imps and beasts march by, headed by the Bookman, said to reflect the face of the devil himself. Enjoy the sophisticated dances of Dame Lorraine characters, dressed in fancy hats and dresses, witness the power of Fancy Indians worn by Native Americans, easily spotted because of their incredible headdresses, and keep your coin purse out of the clutches of the Midnight Robbers, picked out of the crowd by his black clothes and wide-brimmed hat, adorned with skull and crossbones and coffins.
Mardi Gras Accessories
Anything from masks to beads goes, but there is so much more! Use a skin suit as a base for your costume and add layers of decoration to that. Get a simple mask and add feathers and rhinestones and paint, or buy one pre-made and add it as a finishing touch to your costume. Every king needs a crown, so if you’re feeling royal be sure to pick up a regal crown to wear for the day, and maybe even a scepter to wield. Wear a red suit and add a mask topped with frightening devil horns to complete the look, or go for the old world feel and hide your face with a domino mask, paired with a fabulous cape of course. Or make like some parade performers and go animalistic. A kitty mask or long-nosed bird-like mask are the perfect additions to take your costume from good to great.