It’s that time of year when most people in New Orleans are scurrying around for gifts and feverishly working on their Mardi Gras costumes. What? You haven’t started on your costume yet because you can’t even believe it is already the holiday season and the thought of Mardi Gras is just too much to take on mentally? Well, you aren’t alone. Mardi Gras is around the corner though, and as the sounds of “Rudolph” and “Carnival Time” simultaneously fill the airwaves I couldn’t help but think about what gifts would make the crafty costumers of the city inspired for the upcoming season. So here are a few suggestions that are also going to double as my Christmas list. Are you listening Santa?
1. Tasteful Trim
The wall of ribbons at Promenade Fine Fabrics is a sight to behold. The array of colors and patterns is dazzling. These aren’t the cheap acetate ribbons you find at craft stores. True to the store’s name, Promenade carries only the finest velvet, jacquard, grosgrain, satin, taffeta, and brocade ribbons. They specialize in vintage ribbons and you can find stacks of the most beautiful, elaborately woven ribbons in a variety of widths tucked into showcases all over the store.
Stacks on stacks on stacks of ribbon!
If you know a budding milliner or someone who loves making their own handmade embellishments they will be thrilled to receive a yard or two of the unique ribbons you can find at this exquisite fabric and notions store. Promenade Fine Fabrics is located at 1520 St. Charles Avenue. http://www.promenadefinefabrics.com/.
2. A Night of Inspiration
For a real splurge why not treat your costume lover to a show where the costumes are as memorable as the performances? Three productions that are sure to inspire your costumer are coming the Nola right after the New Year so its the perfect time to spoil someone special (and possibly help them get an idea for their Mardi Gras costume).
The Lion King is a must see as far as costuming goes. Even if you have seen it many times, the colors, shapes, and silhouettes of this larger than life show are a satisfying visual feast. The Lion King returns to Nola this January 4-29 at the Saenger Theater. http://www.saengernola.com/shows/the-lion-king.
Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk, The First Flight. I haven’t seen this particular production, but a mash up of Cirque du Soleil and James Cameron’s Avatar seems like it is has limitless potential for stunning costumes. Toruk comes to the Smoothie King Center February 1-5. Tickets available at Ticketmaster.
Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. This transportive show takes the audience on a journey through 5000 years of Chinese music and dance. Your visual escorts in this journey are dramatic animated sets and elegant historical costuming. You can catch this traveling show at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on January 20 & 21. Tickets available at Ticketmaster and https://www.shenyunperformingarts.org/new-orleans/index.
Give your costume lover the gift of learning and innovation. Whether you are a beginner who wants to trade in your hot glue gun for a sewing machine or an experienced fabricator, there is a class that can help you improve your skills. Why not sign your friend up for a class or take one together? Or maybe you know someone who just needs a better workspace that is always set up and filled with top quality tools and equipment? At ricRACK and IDIYA, the two premier makerspaces in town, you can find all kinds of classes for every age and ability, plus both places offer memberships that provide access to their beautiful work rooms and machines.
ricRACK is a makerspace dedicated to sewing and costuming with a variety of sewing machines, sergers, work stations, and studios available for use by members. They have sewing classes for the kids and adults (members and non members), as well as specialty classes and workshops that change monthly. You can even learn how to make shoes and purses! To learn more about ricRACK’s calendar of events and their mission to reduce textile waste and support the art of sewing and costuming in Nola check out their website: http://www.ricracknola.com/school-of-ricrack.
On December 16 ricRACK will announce the dates of their annual Hollywood Thrift Mardi Gras sale and begin selling VIP and Early Bird tickets. Trust me when I say this is a sale not to be missed! Give your costumer a VIP ticket to gain first access to the sale and I guarantee they will be calling you gushing gratitude. ricRACK is located at 2359 St. Claude Ave (next to St. Roch Market).
4. Fancy Hands by MAD Nails
There comes a time in every costume maker’s year when your hands are totally jacked from…you name it: needles and pins, scissor callouses, burns, dried paint, layers of gluey crud and glitter, and whatever else you experimented with while not wearing gloves. Let Morgan Dixon, aka MAD Nails, take your costumer friend’s hands from sad to fab with a one of a kind nail art gel manicure. Not only will your creative friend love the TLC for their hands, Morgan’s nails are miniature works of art. A detail oriented costumer will appreciate having custom nails to go with a costume, and who doesn’t want to sport extra flair during carnival season? It’s like playing dress up just with your fingertips. MAD Nails is located in the French Quarter. Booking Info: StyleSeat.com/MADNAILS. http://www.MAD-Nails.com.
Instagram: @MADNAILS l Facebook: M.A.D. Nails l Pinterest: MADNAILSALON
5. A Cutting Edge
If there is one gift you can always give a crafty costumer that they are sure to appreciate and use, it is a pair of scissors. Simple as this gift may be, a good pair of scissors is essential when sewing and cutting fabric. The thing about fabric scissors is that they are super sharp so they slice through fabric. A dull pair of scissors will snag on the fabric and you will end up with a rough, choppy edge to your fabric or worse. That’s why sewers tend to be fanatics about protecting their scissors.
No matter how careful you are, inevitably your scissors become dull or you kill them by accidentally grabbing them to cut glue covered wires. It happens. Give your costumer a fresh start with a new pair of good quality scissors. A pair of scissors would be a useful and memorable host gift for any crafter. You can find fabric scissors at any craft or fabric store, but if you want to spend local head over to Uptown Needle & Craftworks where you can also get cool yarn, notions, and fabric. Pick up an assortment of goodies and make up a basket of essential supplies that will keep your crafter sewing all year long. Uptown Needle & Craftworks also hosts sewing classes. Why not go all out for your costuming BFF with an assortment of supplies AND a gift certificate for a class? To learn more go to http://www.uptowncraftworks.com/home.html. Uptown Needle & Craftworks is located at 4610 Magazine Street.
6. Weekend of Wonder
If you have a friend into cosplay give them the gift of being immersed in the culture of science fiction and fantasy dress up with a weekend pass to the New Orleans Wizard World ComicCon. ComicCon comes to Nola on January 6, 7, & 8th. This year features an impressive line up of pop culture icons–Carrie Fisher and David Duchovny!!–and who wouldn’t get excited about meeting Drago Malfoy (Tom Felton) or Biff from Back to the Future (Tom Wilson)? At ComicCon you can find just about any kind of super hero or fantasy related merch, as well as costumes and accessories, from one of their hundreds of vendors. There are demonstrations, interactive exhibits, costume contests, gaming stations, and opportunities to meet and talk with all kinds of artists and makers. Tons of people dress up so the people watching in and of itself is worth the price of admission. To find out more about what is on the agenda for this year’s ComicCon go to http://wizardworld.com/comiccon/neworleans where you can also buy tickets for the weekend.
7. Wig Envy
When you love to costume you can never have enough wigs. They are a staple of any well appointed costume closet. Add to your costumer’s collection by giving them a new wig from the most fabulous wig shop in town, Fifi Mahony’s. Treat your costumer to a one of a kind pre styled wig or simply pick out a ready to wear wig that you think your friend will like. Fifi’s has wigs in all kinds of eye popping colors and flattering styles. In this town you can always find a reason to throw on a wig and a nice wig (one that hasn’t been destroyed by season after season of partying and parading) is a sweet gift! Score extra points and give the wig on a styrofoam head with a wig cap and a proper wig brush. Plus, at Fifi’s you can pick up cool accessories and make up while you are there. Fifi Mahony’s is located at 934 Royal St.
8. Field Trip
Invite your costumer out for a day of playing tourist and take them on a carnival tour of the city. There is always Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, which everyone should see at least once. But for more of a costume related expedition spend the afternoon exploring the history of Mardi Gras at the Presbytère through an elaborately appointed exhibit called Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana. Then slowly make your way through the French Quarter, day drinking, shopping, and people watching of course, until it is time for dinner at Arnaud’s where while you dine you can take in the stunning collection of costumes and memorabilia on display at their Mardi Gras Museum. This museum is tucked away in the back halls of the restaurant and is a true hidden gem for anyone who loves the decadent opulence of the Mardi Gras elite. Be sure to outfit yourself in appropriately ridiculous attire for the day.
The is Presbytère is part of the Louisiana State Museum and is located at 751 Chartres St. http://louisianastatemuseum.org/museums/the-presbytere/
Arnaud’s is located at 813 Rue Bienville. https://www.arnaudsrestaurant.com/about/mardi-gras-museum/
A well organized stash of craft supplies is a godsend. Crafty costumers tend to be like hoarders. We like to collect things for a never ending list of projects and when years, decades even, have passed we still won’t part with our treasures because “One day…”. It may not seem like an exciting gift, but a set of clear plastic bins in multiple sizes is super thoughtful and USEFUL! Small boxes and containers with lots of small compartments for things like beads are especially helpful in keeping supplies organized. Think about what materials your costumer works with and take a look at their work space or supply closet to figure out what sizes they might like. I prefer clear plastic so I can see what is in a bin, but if your costumer has a favorite color go for that. Or if plastic isn’t your thing look around for other kinds of containers at places like thrift and home decor stores.
A vintage jewelry box is a stylish and effective way to organize small bits and bobs.
Organizational stuff is also great for a costume closet. Hat boxes, nice hangers, make up organizers, and stacking plastic bins make a big difference when you suddenly have to throw together a costume or are planning for your next costume. And every costumer can always use more styrofoam heads. The best place in town to get styrofoam heads is at any of the local Beauty Supply stores, which are also gold mines for accessories!
If you give your costumer containers you can always throw in a little Lagniappe like a tub of glitter, a tube of glue, feathers, an assortment of sequins, needles, fabric paint…any supplies you can think of, BUT whatever you do, do not fill the containers! That kind of defeats the point.
A crafty costumer loves to DIY, but there is something to be said for enjoying the work of others. If you make costumes then you know the time, effort, and money that goes into creating something spectacular. Sometimes it is nice to let someone else take all that on and to enjoy the experience of wearing and sharing someone else’s art. Give your costumer the gift of a stress free costuming event by buying them a full ensemble or pick out a special accessory like a headpiece or mask. A headpiece is a fantastic gift because it gives a costumer something to design the rest of their look around. Don’t worry about what event or when they might wear the costume, let them figure that out. It’s not hard in Nola. Of course, you know we are going to recommend that you shop with us, http://www.thenolacostumecenter.com. We offer free delivery for locals so you can send your gift directly to your costumer’s door.
If you really want to go the extra mile, hire a costume designer for your someone special. Maybe your costumer is going to be too busy this year to make a costume or maybe you have a costume lover who isn’t so crafty and needs help bringing an idea to life? Whatever the motive, you can hire a local designer for a custom costume and feel good knowing you helped support a local artist while also giving your special costume lover a little extra free time! To hire a designer go to https://thenolacostumecenter.com/hire/ and let us know you are looking to hire a Guild member for a gift.
Hope you found some ideas for your crafty costumer (or yourself)! Happy Holidays. Now get to work on your Mardi Gras costume.