January 20, 2023
A Sparkle Lover’s Guide to Mardi Gras
Fringe + Co.’s Epic Carnival Schedule
New Orleans Mardi Gras Schedule-
Carnival season is here! If you’ve never been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, you must make the trip. It’s a decadent time filled with over-indulgence, joy, beauty, and tons of SPARKLES.
Many of y’all have asked what to see and do (and WEAR!) during Carnival season. So, I’m compiling all my tips and essentials for an epic Mardi Gras. If you’re a first-time visitor or a local just looking to get the most out of the season, read on and start filling in your calendar now. You won’t want to miss these amazing parades and parties.
Quick word for the visitors, Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French but the Carnival, or Mardi Gras, season lasts about 4-8 weeks, depending on the year. So, there’s plenty of things to do in those weeks leading up to the big day.
In New Orleans, January 6, or the Epiphany, is when the holiday decorations come down and the Mardi Gras bunting goes up. It’s the day to take down the Christmas tree…or at least string some beads around it.
But most importantly, it’s the official start of Carnival, and the first day to eat King Cake!
Of course, purple, green and gold work all season, but a tinsel jacket or head wrap in any (or all) of the traditional Mardi Gras colors is the best way to dress for the day– or night if you’re staying up on the 5th. Yup, we are known to stay up late the day before the Epiphany so we can get our King Cake fix at the stroke of Midnight.
And please don’t even ask me about eating King Cake before January 6. I don’t care if you see a stack of them at the grocery store or bakery or if your friend mailed you one across the country. It’s tradition for a reason and you don’t want to curse us all and condemn your household to a sad, sparkle-free season.
For the rest of January, it’s prime costume-prep time. This is the time I try to find inspiration for my Mardi Gras day costume and start trolling local craft stores.
The first big weekend parade of the season is a walking parade with a Sci-Fi theme: Chewbacchus. Cosplayers, nerds, fairies, unicorns and all things neon and sparkly converge on the Marigny in the city’s largest walking parade.
Their mission? To “save the galaxy by giving the disenfranchised, socially awkward, and generally weird masses access to the magical revelry of Carnival.”
We love to see it.
You don’t have to be a Sci-Fi queen or expert cosplayer to celebrate Chewbacchus. Just throw on a sparkly outfit and some graphic eyeliner and call it a day.
The creativity at this parade is off the charts, whether it’s in the costumes or contraptions that roll alongside the revelers. And it’s always a treat to be gifted one of the sub-krewe’s handmade throws. Chewbacchus is super DIY and they emphasize homemade and sustainable throws.
Leave the kids at home and wear your raunchiest look of the season. Grab a one-of-a-kind sequin or feather sleeve party tee and build your outfit (or lack of one) around that.
On Sunday, get up at a reasonable hour (AKA before Noon) to make your way to the Quarter for the most adorable parade of the season: Barkus.
The Mystic Krewe of Barkus is the only parade in New Orleans specifically for the canine population. This non-profit organization starts the party in Armstrong Park and makes their way through the French Quarter. Of course, stopping for potty breaks along the way.
Barkus is the perfect parade to bring the kids and the parading pups are a crowd pleaser for the whole family. Or, just grab a stool at your favorite Quarter watering hole and pop out from time to time. Barkus moves at a notoriously slower pace as dogs aren’t particularly known for their time management, which just means more time to make new canine friends. Word to the wise: if you are attending the parade, bring treats- we promise you won’t regret all the kisses you’ll get along the route.
Many Krewe of Barkus paraders go all out and craft costumes for their dogs that match their decked out mini-floats. Usually, we stick with some Fringe + Co. essentials for our pup.
The following Monday after Barkus is usually a rough start trying to go back to work. The first three days of the week are tough, but once hump day hits, the city officially enters Deep Gras.
Deep Gras, a totally made-up term coined by musician Dominique LeJeune a couple years back, is the Wednesday before Mardi Gras to Ash Wednesday (the day after Mardi Gras). This is the time where your life becomes fully about Mardi Gras and nothing else.
Deep Gras is when you run into every old acquaintance you know and make new friends with strangers.
You eat too much, drink too much, and don’t sleep nearly enough. Deep Gras is filled with sparkles, and keeps you fueled on King Cake, and champagne. Your house is filled with a layer of glitter on top of everything you own, and sparkly outfits are strewn about (that you will totally get to laundering on Ash Wednesday).
Then, Thursday rolls around which only means one thing: Muses.
The Thursday night before Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Muses rolls. This all-female krewe throws one of the most coveted Mardi Gras collectibles of all-time. You would be hard pressed to find any sparkle-loving New Orleanian who doesn’t have a glittered high heel on their mantle during Carnival.
Catching a Muses shoe is the number one priority for most parade go-ers and earns you bragging rights for at least a year. These decked out beauties take months to make and are bestowed upon only the sparkliest of revelers.
If you can, call it an early night after loading up on all the amazing goodies Muses throws. You’ll want to wake up bright and early to make it to Bourbon Street by 10 AM to start your day with a 50-year-old tradition: the Greasing of the Poles.
The Greasing of the Poles is considered by many to be the official kickoff to Mardi Gras weekend. The Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street started the ritual of greasing the building’s support poles as a practical way to deter drunken revelers from climbing up to the balcony.
Over half a century later, this tradition has now turned into a full-on party in its own right and even a competition. Every year, a few local personalities are invited to compete as “greasers,” assigned the hilarious task of lubricating the poles.
It’s the greaser's job to give an over-the-top performance, with extra points for costume and personality. A panel of local celebrity judges chooses their favorite, with a “people’s choice” award going to the audience favorite.
Even getting invited to compete in the Greasing of the Poles is a huge honor. And I had the pleasure of receiving that invitation during Mardi Gras 2021.
Due to covid safety, I topped it with a silver sequin mask, and even though only a sliver of my face was showing, you can bet I slathered that skin with even more sparkles (AKA glitter).
I was so excited just to be nominated as a greaser, you can imagine how amazing it felt to actually win!
Sometimes I hear that although Fringe’s fashion is beyond fun, it isn’t always the most practical. Well, I will swear up and down that my Greasing of the Poles win would not have been possible without the epic bounce and shake of my tinsel duster. I mean really, it stole the show.
So how’s that for practicality?
But in all seriousness, winning the Greasing of the Poles was a huge honor, and one I will never forget. We take traditions very seriously in New Orleans and being a small part of Mardi Gras history was truly special.
After cheering on the newest winner of the Greasing of the Poles, head to brunch in the Quarter with your friends and plan a sparkly day out.
Friday luncheons are always a big deal in New Orleans, but during Carnival season? They are the place to be. And don’t forget, we dress to impress around here. The bigger the headwrap, the closer to the Mardi Gras Gods.
I’ve seen comments on Tik Tok or Instagram calling my outfits outrageous or “too much.” Luckily, I live in New Orleans, and the sparkle aesthetic is a way of life around here. When people see me in head to toe sparkles, they don’t gawk and clutch their pearls. They ask where I’m going and often want to join in on the sparkly fun.
So when you’re dressing for a Friday lunch during Mardi Gras…you can’t go too big.
Saturday is a great time to head uptown and hit the parade route. There’s nothing like a day out on the St. Charles neutral ground (or sidewalk side) to celebrate with friends and family.
Both Iris and Tucks roll on Saturday, so bring a chair (or a ladder) and get ready to camp out for the day. Don’t forget to bring an extra bag for all the throws you’re sure to catch. And of course, have a potty spot planned.
Wearing something fun but comfortable is key. Sequin overalls and some glitter are a favorite of mine for a day parade.
For the kiddos, a tinsel jacket is key, but a mini party wrap is super flexible and fun even on the warmer parade days. Yup, kids' Mardi Gras outfits are getting just as epic as their parent’s looks and we love it.
Sunday brings Mid-City, Thoth and Bacchus Krewes parading down St. Charles avenue. Same fun, different day. Sparkle up, and prepare to pace yourself for a full day of family-friendly revelry.
I also love to wear a fringe duster on the parade route because they're comfortable and attract immediate attention (hello beads!). Liz usually opts for a sequin party tee and a bold print or bright pants. Masc outfits can sparkle too!
The day before Mardi Gras is called Lundi Gras, or that’s Monday for those who live anywhere else. Many locals spend the day parading (like the Krewe of Red Beans and Dead Beans) while some use Lundi Gras as a day of rest before the main event.
Personally, I usually spend the day doing last minute rhinestoning, sewing or bedazzling to finish my Mardi Gras day costume. Oftentimes, that means hot gluing something at 1 AM to stick on my head knowing I have to wake up in just a few hours.
A self-crafted headpiece is a right of passage in New Orleans, and it’s the perfect accessory to your Carnival costume.
But for those who wait until the last minute, or enjoy too many pre-season parties to get their costume together, there is no shame in forgoing the DIY headpiece for a party wrap, and throwing on a Caftan or Tinsel jacket plus a thick layer of glitter.
There’s no judgment on Mardi Gras day, only sparkles and joy…and maybe a drink, or two.
Somewhere around 5 AM on Fat Tuesday, is when the sparkliest and most creative folks of the city wake up. They paint their faces (or bodies) and don their most epic costume creations, or the thing they threw together last minute, and they converge in the Marigny.
For those of us who take costuming seriously, this is the biggest day of the year. By this point, we’re exhausted, have probably had at least one mini-emotional breakdown, and our fingers are covered in glue gun burns. But, it’s all worth it. It’s Mardi Gras.
The day starts early in the Marigny neighborhood for the St. Anne’s parade. Friends and walking krewes in their most elaborate costumes, pushing handmade contraptions, make their way down the pot-holed riddled streets.
The Society of St. Anne. started in the late 1960’s by locals who wanted to return to earlier traditions of walking krewes which had dwindled with the introduction of large float parades. This brought the celebration back down to street level where folks on foot can celebrate the history and traditions of New Orleans.
Less than a mile away the super krewes like Rex and Zulu parade too, but the marching krewes of the St. Anne's parade are not only a beacon of light for bohemian and creative types, but the parade itself is a symbol for the LGBTQ community.
During the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s, the Society of St. Anne veered their walking path to end at the Mississippi River, so revelers could spread the ashes of those who had passed away and celebrate their lives on the most special day of the year.
To this day, you can still catch paraders just down from the Cathedral carrying hula hoops high atop sticks, covered in ribbons and streamers, scattering the ashes of their loved ones. It’s a beautiful sendoff and the energy is contemplative and celebratory, not somber.
After winding your way down to the River (or if you miss the early trip to the banks) you’ll want to head into the Quarter to impress the masses with your sparkly attire. Don't forget to stop at Lafitte’s for one of their signature purple drinks.
One other word to the wise for visitors- don’t sleep in on Mardi Gras day. We go hard all season, and with bars being open 24/7, people don’t realize just how early everything starts (and ends) on Fat Tuesday.
At midnight on Mardi Gras day the NOPD and Mayor lead in the official end of Carnival by sweeping Bourbon street and shutting down the party.
But don’t worry, if you didn’t get your fill of food, and fun, and beads, and sparkles, and sequins…we’ll do it all again next year!
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