Mardi Gras costumes of all sorts can be found in shops along Magazine Street. Options range from recycled vintage outfits to shiny new ones, or a mix of the two, plus some custom-made options.
As Denise Lyons of Buffalo Exchange put it, “Carnival season is huge for Magazine Street.” Uptown residents can easily take advantage of many costume offerings within a 12-block stretch of Magazine.
Miss Claudia’s Vintage Clothing & Costumes, at 4204 Magazine St., has a long history of combining vintage and newer pieces. Its mission includes both promoting costume creativity and preserving clothing to reduce waste and pollution in the fashion industry.
“We feel even more strongly about recycling clothes,” said owner Claudia Baumgarten. “Our goal is to provide an enjoyable experience for all different kinds of people and provide levity in a difficult world.”
Baumgarten said Carnival season is the highlight of the year in her shop; she loves hearing customers’ ideas on how to wear a vintage costume or incorporate vintage pieces into a costume.
A block away is the Uptown Costume & Dancewear in the distinctive orange building at 4326 Magazine St. Their slogan is: “Where it’s usual to find the unusual.”
This shop is floor-to-ceiling costumes along with wigs, shoes, makeup, tights, jewelry and other accessories to complete the look. During peak costuming seasons, expect a line to get in. Customers will find the windows decorated for each time of the year.
Costume made designs
Made-to-order options can be found in a pair of shops at 3528 Magazine St., across from the shuttered Harry’s Ace Hardware. On the ground floor is Dark Garden Corsetry and Couture, and upstairs is the place for custom-made costumes and headdresses in The Queen’s Needle studio.
The Queen’s Needle upstairs has a flair for dramatic that reflects owner Monique Motil’s strong theater background. Her custom costume work includes entire outfits, headdresses and even embellished shoes.
“I want to make other peoples’ fantasies come true, and I have the skills to make that happen,” Motil said.
Dark Garden offers made-to-order corsets as well as an in-stock inventory of corsets at the boutique, plus sparkly accessories, loungewear and special occasion attire. The quality is high, with prices to match.
The items are all made in-house at Dark Garden, to accommodate a variety of fit and design customization. The proprietors pride themselves on making corsets for “every size, every gender, every shape, every aesthetic,” according to the website. What they don’t have in stock, they can make.
“[Carnival] is a chance to experiment with mixing colors and textiles and pushing the boundaries on costuming.”
Jennifer Mayfield, Funky Monkey
The shop is based in San Francisco, where it has been fashioning custom corsets since 1989. After years of serving New Orleans costumers, it recently opened its Magazine Street location.
“Dark Garden has a long history of making corsets for Mardi Gras, from Venice Carnival to the Sirens and the Merry Antoinettes in New Orleans,” shop manager Annabelle Zakaluk said. “Our corsets are investment pieces for years to come.”
Previously owned costumes at Buffalo Exchange are on display at 4119 Magazine St. Rarely will you find racks of the same thing in different sizes. Calling itself “a pioneer in the resale fashion industry,” Buffalo Exchange has been buying, selling and trading clothing since 1974.
This shop offers customers the option to recycle their own clothing and accessories for cash or store trade on the spot. According to Denise Lyons, the store manager, they buy some of their best costumes following the season, when costuming is the last thing on people’s minds. Throughout the year, they look for one-of-a-kind costumes.
“Many of the costume shops and regular retailers throughout the neighborhoods welcome locals and tourists alike,” Lyons said. “It’s a terrific time for us to make new friends and to help outfit people that have never experienced New Orleans’ level of costuming.”
Further downtown, at 3127 Magazine St., is Funky Monkey, which also buys used clothing and accessories. This shop specializes in vintage clothing from the 1920s to the 1990s, and it has plenty of costumes, wigs, crazy hats and more.
Owner Jennifer Mayfield said that Funky Monkey doesn’t confine itself to one area. “We specialize in novelty vintage pieces, carry modern clothing for every day and mix in recycled or gently worn garments through the clothing exchange,” she said.
“The Carnival season is important to the store because it keeps the creativity alive,” she added. “It is a chance to experiment with mixing colors and textiles and pushing the boundaries on costuming.”