“Where Can I Find A Carnival Costume?” – most frequently asked question even in a pandemic so this blog post is a comprehensive guide on where to find carnival costumes whether you’re prepping for when carnival returns or otherwise..
So before we get into details; there’s a few terms you have to get familiar with if you’re brand new to carnival.
Carnival – Historically a pagan festival celebrated by Europeans prior to the Lenten season. European settlers in the Caribbean celebrated at masquerade balls in which black slaves were unable to participate so the origin of the Caribbean carnival is mostly rooted in the emancipation of slavery in Caribbean nations and subsequently the diaspora. Cultural traditions, practices, costumes, folklore will vary depending on the location of said carnival. Read more on the history of the Caribbean carnival here.
Carnival Band/Troupe – a carnival mas band or carnival troupe (really depends on the location) is an actual business/company/group with many moving parts who’s objective is to curate a traditionally rich and entertaining road experience inclusive of costumes, music, food/beverages etc. Bands/troupes put on band launches where they present costumes based on a theme and usually costumes are split into sections.
Example: If the theme was Elements; different sections would be named Earth, Wind, Fire Water and so on.
Types of Carnival Costumes
There are different types and tiers of carnival costumes and these tiers will vary by section/designer/band. The higher the tier, typically the higher the cost (which also includes food/beverage package and amenities for the road experience). Here’s a bit of a breakdown:
- Backline – generally the baseline costume in a section that includes bodywear and accessories (which can vary depending on the section or band)
- Frontline – a variation of the backline costume that’s more intricate in decoration and size (headpiece, feathers, leg/arm pieces)
- Section Leader – a larger scale costume similar to the frontline tier with a particular backpiece, headpiece etc.
- Individual – typically a costume that is a custom larger version (bigger than the section leader)
- Monday Wear (Tuesday Wear/Las Lap Wear) –
- Add ons – typically items that can be customized or added on to whichever tier you choose (ability to add on depends on the section/band)
How To Find A Carnival Costume
There are numerous carnival bands so there’s several options on how you can get one even if it’s just for personal use (i.e. photoshoot, exhibition) but here are some tips to navigate band launch season.
- Keep an eye out for band launch dates/registration times. If you’re brand new to carnival, there are particular dates per location and so band launches typically occur up to 7 months ahead of that particular carnival date. Tip for planners: You should have your deposit money ready ($$$) because costumes range from 100’s upward to 1,000+ dollars depending on what you want. Also, the demand is great during carnival time so securing the costume you have your eye on can be a bit of “who got there first”. Whole sections can sell out in days depending on the popularity.
- Committee registration is common…. for certain bands/locations. Sometimes, you will need a go to person (committee member of said band) to register. But, there are also other options where you can just go on the website or send an email without having to deal with a “middle man”.
- After you’re registered… you can just work on making your payments and counting down the days to your first carnival.
Other Ways You Can Find A Carnival Costume
It’s definitely a thing to just get a costume for personal use whether that’s for photoshoots (maternity, fashion, birthday, wedding etc.) or using pieces as a part of an outfit for a special occasion. So my number one tip is run to GOOGLE, INSTAGRAM or even PINTEREST. Best search terms or hashtags I’ve found while searching are:
- carnival costume
- where to find a carnival costume
- carnival outfits (it’s really supposed to be costume but I get it)
- carnival bra
- Samba bra
- monday wear
- samba carnival costume
- carnival blogger
- carnival designer
You can get really creative with a DIY costume including all types of adornments and embellishments from gems to custom patches. For example, often spectators for Miami Carnival DIY their own costumes and make them their own.
Just searching these terms will pull up soooooooo many places that sell carnival pieces or costumes however if you’re looking for specific Caribbean carnival costumes; it will take more of an in depth search. Tip: After these general search terms, try adding a location (i.e. Trinidad).
Other ways you can find a traditional or authentic Caribbean carnival costume any time during the year are the following:
- Custom carnival costumes… can be made anytime during the year even now while carnival is “on the fence”
- Purchase an already made costume from the designer or band… that you’ve seen online. It just takes a bit of digging to find it and contacting the designer or band.
Or like I said earlier buy it already made online; here are a few places to purchase from (affiliate links used):
I really hope this blog post answers the question on where you can find a carnival costume. If not please feel free to email me at [email protected]. And remember, carnival is for any one and every BODY, check out this article on Essence that breaks down the inclusivity of carnival for different body types.