10 Things I Know After My First Mardi Gras

Shani Silver
6 min readMar 8, 2019

Big Freedia 2020.

In search of next year’s plane ticket.

I recently returned home from my first Mardi Gras. I am 36 years old. I know, it seems like an affront of some kind, like those people who have gone their whole lives without seeing The Godfather. But I did it, with the help of my best friend and two bottles of Gem-Tac, I came, I saw, I saw more, I Mardi Gras’d.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans isn’t what you think it is. It’s not constant flashings on Bourbon Street or an entire city of shitfaced tourists. That’s the misleading myth that makes us get it all wrong, and perhaps keeps us away from the greatest party on earth. At least that’s my theory.

Now that I’m back, I feel more educated in the ways of Fat Tuesday, and given that there was so little information available to me in my initial research, I’d like to share my learnings here. Quick hint, start next year’s costumes right now.

A small sampling.

Costumes. You need them.

New Orleans is probably the only place in the country where you can dress up in any configuration of sequined clothing and accessories in your possession and no one will ever, ever ask you in a condescending mean girl tone, “what are you supposed to be?” The answer at Mardi Gras is always simple, always the same, and always unnecessary. I’m at Mardi Gras, that’s what I am.

I myself created a white blazer with iridescent fringe shoulder epaulets and ended up wearing it all four days I was in New Orleans for reasons you’ll read about in a minute. I also purchased multiple styles of sequin pants and affixed chunky silver glitter to an old pair of lenseless glasses because I found traditional masks limited my vision. My two year old adidas Stan Smiths were sacrificed on the alter of good times, covered in sequins and rhinestones, worn for four days, then tossed out with so many stale king cakes.

The costumes during Mardi Gras are fabulous. This is an example of what I mean by fabulous. People take time, care, and astounding amounts of creativity to construct wardrobes we only wear in our dreams. I am so glad I was awake, and properly dressed, for this.