Do Whatcha Wanna: Mardi Gras Style
It’s Carnival time in New Orleans. That means full on festivities, King Cake, throws, parades and, of course, costumes.
by Andi Eaton
Before donning your sequins and beads, let’s take a look back at where Mardi Gras style began. In 1827, the first Mardi Gras parade hit New Orleans as a group of elaborately dressed partygoers, emulating parades they’d observed in Paris, reveled through the streets. Thirty years later, the first recorded krewe was established. Considered secret societies, krewes are a New Orleans Carnival scene fixture. Members dress in highly detailed costumes, including masks, trinkets and beads, often made by the hand of the wearer. The krewe’s queen and her court in couture gowns of crystal, lace and silk rosettes are honored at each krewe’s Carnival ball.
So, what goes into designing a gown for a Mardi Gras queen? In New Orleans, the go-to resource is Louisiana native Suzanne Perron. Perron spent more than a decade in New York City on Fashion Avenue. Working for some of the highest- regarded design houses including Carolina Herrera and Vera Wang, she earned her stripes — well, her crinoline and silk actually — and then returned home to open an atelier specializing in “once-in-a-lifetime gowns in white and ivory.” Perron’s approach is a collaborative one. She works one-on-one with the queen — from sketch to finished garment — with her goal being to create a gown unique to each queen’s personality and style.
In March of 2012, Perron released “Designing in Ivory & White: Suzanne Perron Gowns from the Inside Out.” In the book, she shares her process: from foundations and crinolines, draping and pattern making, pintucking and folding to hand sewing beads, lace, embroidery and hems.
Asked why she chose to come home to New Orleans to open her studio, Perron says she’s committed to bringing something beautiful to the city of New Orleans. For her, it makes sense to make gowns of such distinction in such a historic city.
If you aren’t in need of a couture Mardi Gras gown, but still want to show off your Mardi Gras style, here are a few other local favorites to get you in the spirit!
Loomed NOLA – Get your Mardi Gras Hand Towel here. All of Loomed NOLA’s products are hand woven from 100 percent Global Organic Textile Standard cotton or linen on old-style shuttled looms. They work directly with families in Turkey who weave as a trade. A hand towel that’s both festive and hand crafted with organic cotton? Perfect!
KREWE du Optic – The Charles 610 Stomper Edition is inspired by a traditional 1960s wayfarer and the 610 Stompers, who are “Ordinary Men (ranging from 20–60-plus) entertaining the world with Extraordinary Moves.” The guys have danced in the Macy’s Day Parade and on “The Tonight Show,” becoming Carnival celebrities and always a treat to see perform.
A few other favorites that will make Mardi Gras dressing easy and comfortable are Jolie & Elizabeth’s “Dowhatchawanna” tee, found on their website or in their wholesale showroom on Upperline and the Hazel & Florange “Gypsy Jetset” tee, available at their website or in the H&F studio in the Bywater.
If you’re a local or heading to New Orleans during Carnival season, make sure you’re dressed to enjoy the revelry of the city.
Photo credits, from top: Jolie & Elizabeth Dowhatchawanna tee from Jolie & Elizabeth Facebook page, Mardi Gras queen courtesy of Suzanne Perron, hand towel from Loomed NOLA and Charles 610 Stomper Edition from KREWE du Optic.
Andi Eaton is the creative director and founder of New Orleans Fashion Week. A lover of vintage and local fashion plus editorial styling, her newly launched women’s apparel line Hazel & Florange is available athazelandflorange.com. Read more of her musings on Southern fashion on her blog at ouiwegirl.com.