It’s Carnival season, which means it’s time to dust off that plague doctor mask and meet your friends at the intersection of fashion and function, which is — surprise! — nowhere near Bourbon Street.
In fact, it only exists in your living room, in front of a computer screen, or maybe in someone’s yard — at least 6 feet away from all other humans. Costuming, thank Sweet Baby King Cake Jesus, is one of the rare traditions New Orleanians can still safely embrace.
Claudia Baumgarten, owner of Miss Claudia’s Vintage Clothing & Costumes, says business has picked up in recent weeks at her Magazine Street boutique with people coming into the shop or calling her up to order accessories and decorative accents instead of full-blown costumes.
Due to the lack of the usual citywide parties, she says requests are somewhat more toned down but still festive. Some krewes are keeping “social distancing” in their theme by hosting virtual events, and of course everyone is getting in the spirit with the Krewe of House Floats.
Baumgarten says there’s been an uptick in sales for waist-up accessories, because as we’ve all learned, pants are not necessarily a requirement during a pandemic.
“The top is the most important,” Baumgarten says. “People are doing Zoom stuff, or sitting on their porches this year, so they’re wearing things from past years, but they also want something new.” She says that’s most often in the form of a headpiece or wig.
Liz Zibilich, aka Crafty Li’l Devil, has shifted her focus as a custom costume maker this year to painting and decorating windows in homes and local shops (her work is on display in the windows of Fleurty Girl’s Old Metairie location, among others) — and even someone’s car this year.
Despite the overall pivot to doing exterior decorating, she has still retained a client base looking for new accessories, some of whom have been booked since last year’s Lent. In the upcoming days, she will be checking elaborate custom headpieces off her to-do list — including one she will wear Fat Tuesday on a family stroll to admire house floats.
Both Zibilich and Baumgarten say getting creative and keeping their local businesses afloat has been good for morale. They have connected to their clients, new and old, through word-of-mouth and social media.
“Once people realized the porch floats were such a big deal, people started getting in the mood,” says Baumgarten. “There are not as many elaborate characters or group themes, but people are coming in for vintage pieces, shirts from the Krewe of Red Beans — today we sold some marching boots and a float costume.”
They also remain upbeat about still being a part of the city’s creative landscape as they look forward to a more lucrative 2022 season.
“Normally, I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off” finishing Carnival crafts, Zibilich says.
But getting to help with house floats and making other accessories for locals who want to celebrate safely, she says, “has been a fun way to be creative in a different way, since everything is different anyway.”
— SARAH RAVITS
— to www.nola.com