How to Dress for Mardi Gras

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Costumes are to the Carnival season as peanut butter is to jelly — indispensable. We encourage you to consider wearing one, or at least to accessorize with a sparkly headdress and some feathers. At the very least, wear something in the Carnival colors — purple, green and gold. Not only will it get you into the Mardi Gras spirit but you will fit right in. Here are our tips on how to dress for the Carnival and where to get the best costumes and costume-making supplies.

Practical Tips

  • Think about what you want to wear while visiting New Orleans during the Carnival before you pack your bags. There’s no dress code unless you’re attending some Mardi Gras balls or certain parties, and pretty much anything goes. Thinking ahead will ensure that you’re comfortable but also feeling good about what you’re wearing during your visit.
  • Also think ahead about transporting your costume if you’re bringing one. Will the headdress fit into the suitcase? How do you pack your mask so that it makes it to New Orleans in one piece?
  • No costume? No problem! You can pick up one up here, rent one, or make one. New Orleans is a costuming city, with plenty of options (see our shopping recommendations below).
  • If you want to really enjoy Mardi Gras, dress comfortably. It’s a long party and you’ll likely be doing a lot of moving around, attending multiple events in one day, and spending a lot of time outside.
  • You will likely also be standing on your feet for hours during parades, so bring comfortable shoes. And expect to walk a lot if you are watching any parades. The streets on and near the parade routes will be closed off, traffic will be congested, and cabs might be hard to come by.
  • Do pack some heels though if you plan to attend any formal events.
  • The only thing predictable about New Orleans weather is that it’s unpredictable. February temperatures have ranged from 48° to 65°. Dressing in layers would be wise. Carnival takes places at the end of winter, and some Fat Tuesdays have been really cold while others were positively balmy.
  • Also, check the weather. If there’s any chance of rain, be sure to pack a raincoats, rain ponchos, umbrellas, and rain boots. Mardi Gras muck is a thing, especially if it rains, so rain boots will save your shoes from being ruined by the festive mix of mud, parade debris, and thousands of feet.
  • Choose a bag that fits your needs. You’ll need to carry your essentials like phone, wallet and phone charger, of course, plus a bag for throws if you’re attending a parade. But also consider packing water, an umbrella, and things you’ll need throughout the day without returning to your hotel. Snacks and beverages along parade routes are available, but you may not want to leave your spot or wait in line.

Costume Tips

  • If you want your costume to stand out it will have to be truly fabulous. The bar is very, very high in New Orleans, and people here take costuming very seriously. A costume will be a must if you’re riding or walking in any parades.
  • This doesn’t mean your costume shouldn’t be comfortable, of course. Mardi Gras is a marathon, and a lot of it is spent in the streets and getting yourself from point A to point B for another parade, party or ball. Choose a costume that will allow you to fit into the doorways, use a public restroom, won’t fall apart at the end of the day or cause scrutiny (the bar for the latter is very low in New Orleans though — only truly offensive and outrageous costumes would get any kind of negative attention — pretty much anything else goes, the crazier the better).
  • Accessorize wisely. Don’t let the accessories weigh you down. You have some serious partying to do, for long stretches of time.
  • Consider wearing a mask. You’ll notice that a lot of people wear masks, especially on Fat Tuesday. If you aren’t making one, there are plenty of places in New Orleans where you can buy one, from an inexpensive mass-produced one to an exquisite thing of beauty made by a local artist. See our suggestions below, and happy masking!
  • Finally, don’t feel like you need to conform. The point is to be yourself and feel good about wearing your costume. This is the perfect time to live in the moment and be free.


Mardi Gras Lips Queen T shirt

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