If you missed Mardi Gras this year, or if you simply have a love for the ornate costumes and sometimes regal/sometimes ostentatious pageantry of the one-of-a-kind party, there’s still a place you can visit year round for a powerful dose of all things Mardi Gras.
The Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu in Lake Charles, La., is a treasure trove of lavish costumes, revealing insight into how they are designed and made as well as historical information on details of the krewes and courts and the early beginnings of the festivities.
The museum, actually set in an old school that is now an arts and humanities center, is home to some 300 costumes that were worn in Mardi Gras celebrations from years gone by. One strolls down a hallway decorated with mannequins outfitted in queen gowns and king capes as well as all the other accessories such as ornate headgear, masks, specters and more.
Rooms, each dedicated to a different aspect of Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, on each side of the hallway offer journeys into the making of Mardi Gras with one a replica of a designer’s workroom–detailing how concepts are sketched on paper and then transformed into costumes. In one room the costumes are elegant and regal. In another they’re over the top, whimsical, campy or theme-oriented. Some rooms have a looped video or motion-sensor-activated audio that reveals background information. Elsewhere on display are photographs of various courts, invitations, souvenirs, newspaper clips and more. In one room, visitors walk up a few stairs and find themselves standing atop a float in the middle of staged revelry.
As someone who didn’t know much about the intricacies of costume-making, I was fascinated learning about the planning, production and attention to detail for costumes with explosions of color—not to mention sequins, crystals and bugle beads. These outfits range in cost from $700 to $10,000.
There’s so much memorabilia packed into the Mardi Gras Museum—especially the hundreds of costumes—that in some places there’s a narrow path for visitors to meander along.
Among the 50 krewes (carnival organization staging a parade or ball) participating in Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, which is reported to host the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the nation, Feb. 12-16 are:
Krewe of Cosmos-Calcasieu Parish’s First Merrymakers
The Krewe of Cosmos was formed in 1951 to provide entertainment and merriment for the public as well as its members.
Krewe of Omega
The Krewe of Omega was formed in 1970 by Joseph Moffett Jr. and its purpose is to provide social activities for the young and elderly.
Krewe of Mystique
A trip to a Lafayette Mardi Gras ball led to the formation of this ladies’ krewe. In 1973, the Krewe of Mystique held its first pageant.
Krewe Chetu Jadi
Krewe Chetu Jadi was formed in 1987 to encourage interest of young African Americans to take part in the Mardi Gras celebration.
Krewe of Illusions
This krewe, that formed in 1989, is most known for its theatrical extravaganza and elaborate costumes at its annual ball that is open to the public.
Krewe of Morpheus
In 2002, this social krewe was formed to allow members to celebrate Mardi Gras in an economical krewe with “fun and no politics.” and many social activities.
The Madri Gras Museum is located at 809 Kirby Street in the Central School Arts Humanities Center in Lake Charles. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $3 for adults, $2 for children and seniors.
Call (337) 430-0043 or visit www.swlamardigras.com for more information.