Photographer : @tituspierreparker
Models: Antoinette & Erika E.
You know that wonderful, giddy, excited feeling you get during that last few seconds of the New Year’s Eve countdown? Well about a month later that’s exactly how people in New Orleans feel for about two weeks. Actually, they seem to feel this way all the time. How could you not? Living in an environment filled with exceptionally flavorful food, rich culture, and mild weather, you’re sure to be in good spirits for a large majority of your days. On my recent visit to this southern cultural hub, I discovered a whole new side to America.
Some might describe walking down Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras night as an experience that is crazy, overwhelming, and rowdy. I prefer to use words like vibrant, artistic, and just plain fun! Current pop and hip hop hits are projected through the streets while the smooth, upbeat tempo of authentic jazz music fills the insides of local clubs. The usual lively local crowd mixes with blissful tourists from across the country and even the world. There is no age limit – kids and old folks alike are seen in similar numbers. The music is loud and the booze is plenty. The backdrop of palm trees interspersed with horse-drawn carriages makes the entire scene seem more like a dream than everyday reality. This is the magic of New Orleans, particularly in February.
Living in the little midwestern bubble of Ohio for so many years, I was completely unaware of all the rich history, culture, and time that has gone into what Mardi Gras is today. Some of you may be in similar situations, so I’m going to enlighten you all just a little bit more. The roots of this festive Christian holiday can be traced back to pagan Spring and fertility celebrations from thousands of years ago. Roman leaders picked up the tradition when Christianity first arrived. Soon it became a widespread tradition in Europe to celebrate the holiday in the days leading up to Lent. First spreading to America in around 1699 when French settlers landed in Louisiana, Mardi Gras was believed to have been initially celebrated just 60 miles south of New Orleans, in what is now modern-day Mobile. The name “Fat Tuesday” was termed by the French due to the custom of indulging in all the meat and dairy left in people’s homes before they had to eat fish and fast for weeks. Elegant and luxurious masked balls and parties on the streets became a staple of the holiday until they were banned for a brief period when the Spanish took over. 1837 marked the first Mardi Gras in which parades were seen. Soon, “krewes” were formed as sort of clubs of people with their own procession of floats and marching bands holding their own lavish gatherings with masks and costumes. The first known of these krewes was called the Mistick Krewe of Comus. The most important one included the symbolic King Rex and established the official colors:
green for faith, purple for justice, and gold for power
Customs of the festivities include throwing beads and trinkets, eating delicious King Cake, and wearing crazy, fun, colorful, and sequined costumes and masks. Mardi Gras is known as Carnival or Carnavale in other parts of the world, with some of the biggest celebrations outside of New Orleans happening in Brazil, Italy, Canada, and Germany. Interestingly, according to History.com, “Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.” That’s probably because not a lot of other states tolerate people drinking openly in the streets. What a lot of people don’t seem to know is that while Mardi Gras is celebrated specifically on one day, the festivities and parades begin in New Orleans about two weeks prior. Also, it takes an entire year to get all of the themes, designs, and floats together for the next Mardi Gras! As soon as it ends the krewe members and float artists get right back to work. If you ever want to check out some really cool floats done in the past I highly recommend visiting the Mardi Gras World Museum in New Orleans.
As I sit here typing all this out, my Spotify feed projects some of the world’s finest jazz musicians: Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald…the list goes on. Jazz music has been around for over 100 years, originating in New Orleans. While it is said to be a mix of blues, swing, ragtime, and brass band elements, jazz can be a difficult genre of music to define. It is heavily syncopated, often upbeat and always very rhythmic. A long list of subgenres and fusion genres has emerged onto the scene since its birth; including acid jazz, Latin jazz, smooth jazz, jazz rap, and folk jazz. It can make you want to get up off your feet and dance like crazy, as people often do in the French Quarter, or simply sit back and enjoy sipping your Mint Julep. Whatever the case jazz music is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. During my visit, running into a local talent playing his saxophone in the middle of the street was not an uncommon sight. On any given night you could come across the most perfect little jazz club and hear an upcoming talent. However it is rumored that the best musicians play in the mornings or during the day.
Just as with New Orleans fashion, music is an expression of the inner soul.
It seems to me that the good people of New Orleans have some of the world’s happiest souls.
A look at recent runway shows and trend forecasts shows us that the spirit of New Orleans is alive in all of us; even if just a little bit. We all like to party, enjoy life, and act crazy sometimes! Our personalities often reflect that, and so should our clothes. Technicolor fur has been spotted everywhere: from Altuzarra’s Fall collection last year to Saint Laurent’s collection this year. Balmain this year also used a palette of bold colors, including the traditional gold, green and purple of New Orleans. Bloggers, editors, and celebrities everywhere have been snapped in some fun, party-like attire that often includes beads, sequins, and color-blocking. With Spring and music festivals just around the corner, I predict lots of fun prints and colors popping onto the street along with equally adventurous and spirited people. Hopefully some of you will get to experience the wonders of New Orleans soon. Perhaps for the Jazz and Heritage Festival in April! How would you incorporate this vibrant, party-like trend into your wardrobe? Let me know in the comments!
History.com staff. “Mardi Gras.” History.com. A&E Networks, 2010. Web. 11 March 2015. http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mardi-gras.
“Mardi Gras History.” Mardi Gras New Orleans. MardiGrasNewOrleans.com, 2015. Web. 11 March 2015. http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/history.html
Feudi, Monica. Taylor Hill (IMG). Digital image. Feudiguaineri.com. Vogue.com, 5 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <http://www.vogue.com/slideshow/12164861/balmain-fall-2015-rtw-runway/#7>.
Feudi, Gianni Pucci. Lili Sumner (Next). Digital image. Indigitalimages.com. Vogue.com, 9 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <http://www.vogue.com/slideshow/12327556/saint-laurent-fall-2015-rtw-runway/#46>.
Photographer : @tituspierreparker
Models: Antoinette & Erika E.