The Art of Carnival Costuming in New Orleans

In the Crescent City, playing dress-up is serious business.

There truly is nothing like Carnival season in New Orleans; it’s something everyone should experience at least once. Don’t arrive in town until after Fat Tuesday? The parades may have passed, but you can still catch the Mardi Gras spirit at area museums, which feature a variety of exhibits exploring Crescent City costuming. Grab a mask and check out:

Backstreet Cultural Museum

This former funeral parlor (where the North Side Skulls & Bones Gang kicks of their Mardi Gras morning romp) is the perfect place to study up on Mardi Gras Indian traditions, the Baby Dolls and other African-American Carnival celebrations.

Backstreet Cultural Museum

Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum

Wells, the daughter of Arnaud’s restaurant founder Arnaud Cazenave, reigned over more Mardi Gras balls than anyone else in New Orleans Carnival history. Numerous queens’ gowns and other costumes are displayed on the second floor of the century-old eatery. Free during regular restaurant hours.

Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum at Arnaud's New Orleans

Louisiana State Museums

The permanent “Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana” exhibit at the Presbytère features scepters, tiaras and a wide array of Fat Tuesday finery, from royalty regalia to patchworked Courir du Mardi Gras outfits. 

Mardi Gras Day 1912 New Orelans

Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture

The name says it all. Culled from the private collection of costumer Carl Mack, this fun space overflows with feather-and-beaded Mardi Gras Indian suits, ornate ball attire and over-the-top homemade get-ups.

Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture



Douglas Brantley
About the author

Doug serves as the New Orleans editor for Where. He has lived ...