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February 8, 2013

Skirting Mardi Gras fashion

Looking for the right costume for local Mardi Gras festivities is fashionably difficult. Plus: Details on Saturday's bash at City Roots

SAY YES TO THE DRESS: On Monday, this was posted on Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya’s Facebook page: “YAYA!!!!!!!!!! So.... what are YOU going to wear?” The post was written the day after the krewe’s Super Bowl Sunday sash and costume-making party at Cock ’n’ Bull.

Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya is hosting its third annual Mardi Gras event Saturday, and, like the ratio you’d see at a Halloween party, there will be more people dressed in costume than not. The Mardi Gras revelers wear capes, straw hats, wigs and masks. They paint their faces and wrap colorful boas around their necks.

The traditional colors of Mardi Gras – purple, green and gold – are represented in a spectacular array of clothing on many of the thousands who march in the parade that goes through the Rosewood community.

This year’s Mardi Gras parade, which will once again include pets, begins at noon at City Roots. A festival featuring more than 30 bands will follow at the sustainable farm.

The costumes are at once a personal statement and one of solidarity. If not the city, I let myself down last year. My neon green bike helmet, like the beads I wore around my neck, didn’t count. (I rode a bike in the parade, so I was wearing a helmet. The beads I got I caught or picked up off of the ground.)

I was determined to have a costume this year and, because I went thrift shopping along Two Notch Road last weekend, I was able to answer the question posed on Columbi-Ya-Ya’s Facebook page in the affirmative.

Anna Redwine, a visual artist and krewe member, went shopping with me. Last year Redwine wore pink, sparkly tights and a feathered boa and a cotton frock, a last-minute outfit pieced together with the Mardi Gras ethos. Her krewe sash was repurposed as a belt.

“Everybody will be dressed up,” she said. “You can wear your craziest outfit and no one will look at you funny.”

I was in search of a kilt, though not the traditional Gaelic kilt with a tartan pattern. Really, I was looking for a skirt that I could pretend was a kilt. In recent months, the knee-length garment has struck a chord with hip-hop’s fashion-forward set. Kanye West wore a Givenchy kilt during the tour supporting “Watch the Throne.” A$AP Rocky has worn a Rick Owens drawstring kilt and Theophilus London has appeared in another designed by Owens.

At the first store Redwine and I stopped at, I found a cast iron skillet. It was on the master list, but that’s another column.

At the second store, I found it – a purple, sequin blouse. It’s rather gaudy, but for $5, it will shine for the occasion. I’m going to pretend it’s protective mail, the battlefield armor of choice in the Middle Ages. (I also bought a merino wool sweater and 12 vintage ties for $12. The tie loot included designs by Oscar de la Renta, Christian Dior and Pierre Cardin. OK, I’m gloating.)

The blouse will hopefully be on par with whatever Jenny Maxwell, the only other official person in our unofficial bike krewe, wears. Last year she wore a purple-ish blue and white cape that was a hit at Mardi Gras.

“It just had a second life as the cape of The Catnapper, the villain for my Origami Ninjas class at The Nick, so I’d say that was $24 well spent,” Maxwell said.

She bought the cape, which she says looks like a woven potholder made on a loom, at Hip Wa Zee two hours before last year’s parade.

“I may have to bring it back out because I don’t have anything better,” she said.

Redwine bought a purple sequined cocktail dress and a yellow zip sweater. One or both will, undoubtedly, be creatively blended into her ensemble. (She also scored a terrific rabbit fur coat, something to be kept, not as a costume. But if anyone wants to wear a pair of plaid slacks to Mardi Gras, she’s got them.)

This year’s Mardi Gras celebration will benefit The Animal Mission. The 2012 event attracted about 3,500, according to Tom Hall, one of Columbi-Ya-Ya founders.

“I want this to be our one-day Spoleto Fest with a parade,” Hall said, referring to Spoleto Festival USA, the multi-week arts festival in Charleston that draws performers from around the world. “This should be like Jazz Fest ( New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival) with more. That’s my goal and vision.”

Hall is wearing what he referred to as a crazy farmer’s outfit.

“It’s so much fun to dress up,” he began. “If you’re in costume, you’ll have 10 times more fun. Once you’re there in your costume, you’ll be glad you did. In the past, my costume has been a two. I’m going for a six this year.”

He’s also driving a tractor in the parade.

“And I’m trying to bring four of my horses,” Hall said.

How are the horses going to get home after all the partying?

“I’ve already got somebody nominated, but they don’t know that yet,” he responded.

Let the good times roll.

2013 Columbia Mardi Gras from Coal Powered Filmworks on Vimeo.

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