The Importance of Costumes During Carnival Season in New Orleans 1946

Costumes have always been a significant part of carnival season, especially in 1946. Assorted Krewes had previously stated that there was a possibility that the ball would be held without the royal court due to the limits in costume material. While multiple stores sold a variety of costume options during carnival season, they charged from around 99 cents to $6.98, meaning creating costumes en-masse would cost more than a pretty penny. 1

Marion Post Walcott “Sign advertising Mardi Gras costumes, New Orleans, Louisiana” (January, 1941)

Some citizens spent their time making and selling Mardi Gras costumes and other paraphernalia for the parades. Mardi Gras costumes normally involved headdresses, spangles, and normally anything flashy and ornate. Many seamstresses started the process of sewing costumes for the year following as soon as carnival season concluded. One article, “Views on Sundry Topics” from the Times Picayune, included readers’ opinions on topics that concern or intrigue them. One expressed a reader’s concern about Mardi Gras behavior, as they found it unnerving that normal people did not know how to participate in normal Mardi Gras activities and traditions. They requested that someone make a Mardi Gras preparation list; specifically, a list that would dictate when and where to wear costumes during carnival season.

Costumes give people the feeling of being someone else, allowing them to play a character or a role. During Mardi Gras balls, costumes represent royalty, the most extravagant of which worn by kings and queens. The Krewe of Comus were the first krewe to have themed parades, carrying torches to light the path. African American men would also parade down routes in costume, some dressing like Native Americans. Many people say that the purpose of the costumes are to give people the ability to socialize with every social class ranking.3

The shortages in material made the outfits very expensive which proves to show that costumes are a very significant part of Mardi Gras.6

“Carnival Costumes” (February 6, 1946) 11
   “We’re Ready with Carnival Costumes for Girls” (February 3, 1946) 15

Many of the costumes were sold during carnival season in a variety of different stores. If the costumes were bought from a seamstress it is very likely that they sell year round to finish the costumes in time for the season. Kings of the court are normally seen wearing crowns, capes, and suits of some sort. Queens of the court are seen wearing extravagant ball gowns. Both costumes are very eye-catching and flashy and include some extra accessories depending on the krewe theme for that year. As time went on, and Mardi Gras became more synonymous with costuming, wearing a mask became required for any float rider.

Costumes are usually chosen based on the krewe them for each year. Overall, costumes will always be a large part of Mardi Gras tradition and will continue to be worn during carnival season parades.7

Written By: Gracie Elizabeth

Originally Published: December 11th, 2020 || Last Updated: February 22nd, 2020

A part of Doc Studio’s History of the New Orleans Landscape Collection


  1. King Felix to Visit Mobile After All.” (January 28, 1946), 20
  2. Marion Post Walcott “Sign advertising Mardi Gras costumes, New Orleans, Louisiana” (January, 1941)
  3. Carnival Costumes” (February 6, 1946) 11
  4. We’re Ready with Carnival Costumes for Girls” (February 3, 1946) 15
  5.  “Carnival Costume Designer to Retire After 58 Years” (February 17, 1946) 35

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