Costuming is a way of life in New Orleans. We’ll take any excuse to dress up in something a little crazy and stretch it all the way to its limit. Halloween, Mardi Gras, Fourth of July – you name it, we’ll dress up for it.
In my opinion, the true test of a costume is how well you can dance in it. That’s where the rubber meets the road. I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this, after being imprisoned in a banana costume for a month straight. That’s a story for another time.
So here’s a breakdown of some of the common costuming mistakes for those with a passion for their getups as well as a desire to get down.
The Oversized Suit
This one is always good for a laugh. Normally the inflatable type, some common oversized suits include the inflatable sumo wrestler man costume, the inflatable t-rex, and others like it. I give it an 7/10 on the comedy, because people look hilarious in an oversized inflatable…anything. But functionally? Not so hot.
Two things to consider with this. How can you get any high quality dancing in if you can’t even wrap your arms around yourself? And how are you cutting through those crowded Frenchmen Street crowds with that massive costume? It boggles the mind. I love the costume idea, but forget about partner dancing with one on. I could see some bodacious solo jazz happening, though. Consider that.
The Inflexible Getup
There are plenty of creative looking costumes with fun themes that limit your mobility in some way. Whether its your ability to look left or right, or maybe it’s just prohibiting you from reaching down, the inflexible costume is a serious no-go on the dance floor.
Usually these costumes start out as great ideas. Maybe you love the theme or the idea is just too clever to pass up. So you think to yourself, “I don’t really need to move my neck for a few hours straight”. But when it’s 10:00 PM on Halloween night and you’ve had that costume on for 4 hours or more – straight – you’re gonna regret it. The things we do for fashion, am I right?
The Mess Waiting To Happen
Personally, I’m a fan of intricate makeup and creative dyes. I’ve seen some really incredible, homemade artistry come out of some of my friends here in New Orleans with makeup and even body paint. Plenty of costumes incorporate makeup into their aesthetic, and that’s great. My only recommendation is to be mindful of where that makeup might wind up.
All makeup plans start with good intentions. But be wary of smearing and running makeup from sweat and heat. It could get everywhere! Also remember that if you’re going to be partner dancing, some of that makeup may make it on to your new dance bud. Probably not the end of the world, but it’s nice to share a dance, not the costume.
The Work of Art
I know some people who started planning next Halloween or Mardi Gras the day its over. Costuming can be a full time job all year long. Maybe you’re poured your heart into your costume and its your magnum opus. You definitely want to show that bad boy off.
Here’s the thing – don’t risk your beautiful, perfect costume by even trying to dance in it. If you’re at a venue with some music and it’s poppin’ off in there, don’t let yourself get swept up (we’ve all been there!) if you think your work of art will be destroyed in the process. My advice? Clap along with the band, dance by yourself as much as you’re able, and look beautiful. You’ve earned it.
You can have your cake and eat it too (note to self: consider baker costume for next year). Pour your heart into your costume and your dancing. We’re here to have fun with whatever we wear. Remember in costumes, dancing, and life - it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.