Bikinis and feathers and beads, oh my! It’s band launch season, which means we’re all in full Carnival costume selection mode and the excitement is real!
During these few weeks in July/August the various Trinidad Carnival bands present their bedazzled creations to the world. Amidst much pomp and circumstance, their offerings are revealed and obsessive masqueraders (like me) spend a few days (or weeks) lost in a whirlwind of colors and bling in an attempt to select the costume they’ll be wearing on the road next year.
Every year its the same sweet song and dance. The feverish anticipation…The excitement of that first look…The intense scrutiny of each section…and then finally…The One reveals itself and you just KNOW.
For some, costume selection is as simple as going with a color combination they like, while others just stick with their crew. However, the process has the potential to go a little deeper than that. I wouldn’t call it a science, but it definitely requires some thought and consideration. As such, the first blog post in my Trinidad Carnival Guide series outlines 5 steps you can take to help you make the biggest decision of your Carnival journey – choosing the ideal costume.
Step 1: The Band
Most hardcore masqueraders are loyalists who play with the same Carnival band every year. If you’re reading this guide however, you’re most likely a newbie in search of some direction. The good news is, there are countless bands to choose from – big and small, all-inclusive and not, those geared toward a younger crowd and those that cater to more mature masqueraders. The bad news is that it’s way too many for me to distill.
Fortunately, I found these relatively comprehensive lists of Trinidad Carnival Bands compiled by LoopTT and TripSavvy. Largeup.com then took things a step further with this guide to help you decide which of the biggest Trinidad Carnival bands is right for you.
In the end though, getting into one of the more high-profile bands is easier said than done.
- Accessibility: Will it be relatively easy to get into the band or will you need to bang on some doors, make endless calls and jump through a few hoops?
- Service: Costumes aside, are they known for delivering reliable service or are they habitually plagued with issues, from costume delivery to road experience?
- Size: Do you want a massive crowd you can get lost in or are you looking for a smaller more intimate atmosphere?
- Designs: Are you going for all-out sass and sex appeal or are you still expecting some level of artistry in your costume?
- Vibe: Are you planning to completely let loose, or will you be a more reserved masqueraded?
The band you choose depends heavily on your answers to these questions, so think long and hard, do your research and choose the camp that best suits your personality and expectations.
FYI, for me, TRIBE has been that band for my entire Carnival career but I know many people who have found great homes in other camps.
Step 2: The Cost
Now that you’ve found your band, it’s time to determine how much parading through the streets of Port of Spain is worth to you. Your options range from basic backline to full frontline. A bare-bones backline costume will most likely comprise a bikini, jeweled headband, leg and arm pieces and maybe some accessories. If you’re so inclined you can upgrade by purchasing a feathered headpiece and collar or backpack. On the other hand, a fully loaded frontline costume usually includes a wire bra, an over-sized headpiece and backpack, as well as large leg and arm pieces, along with accessories. This however, can be toned down with a jeweled headpiece. The rare option of section leader is also up for consideration but those costumes aren’t just handed out to anyone.
- Do you just want to jump with the band, drink, eat and be merry? If yes, keep your budget low with a backline package. Price range: $4,895 TT ($783 US) to $6,850 TT ($1,096 US).
- Do you want to make a bold statement and own the road? If yes, get a larger than life frontline (or section leader) package don’t bat an eyelid at the cost. Price range: $8,795 TT ($1,407 US) to $10,895 TT ($1,743 US).
NB: Prices vary from band to band. These estimates are based on TRIBE’s costume offerings.
Step 3: The Colors
Now that you’ve found your band and determined your average expenditure, let’s geek out over all the pretty colors! Because before you have time to inspect and dissect each costume, the hues of the over-sized plumage and glittering gems will catch your eye. Each of them will be beautiful in their own right, but different combinations evoke a different spirit and vibe.
- Are you looking for cuteness with some popping photos at the end of the experience? Then go with the bright color combinations.
- Are you going for a sexier, more sensual finish? Dark and/or muted shades are what you’re looking for.
- Are you in the market for a hot but more subdued aesthetic? Earth tones are most likely for you.
- Are you dirt and stain resistant? Then you are one of the Chosen Few who can rock that lily white costume all day without ruining it.
Whatever you decide, whatever your motivation, make sure your final selection can deliver the aesthetic you want to achieve on the road.
Step 4: The Cut
A decision has been made regarding backline versus frontline and you’ve found a few color combos you like. Progress. Now, it’s time for closer inspection. You’ll be rocking this costume all day so you need to make sure you’re comfortable in it physically as well as mentally. Are there parts of your body you’re self conscious about? Are there portions of it you definitely want to show off? What type of bra will provide you with the best support? Will you be wearing stockings that you’d like to conceal beneath your bottom piece?
Things to consider:
- One piece or two: Monokini to provide extra coverage but make for complicated restroom runs? Or two piece to show more skin?
- Bra: Full bra for full coverage, demi for a little more exposure or wire bra so you can bring the sexy? Straps, strapless or halter?
- Bottom: High waist to cover the tummy or low rise to expose it? Boy shorts to completely hide the buns, bikini bottoms to give just a little peek or thong to show it all off?
- Waist band: Thick waistband to provide more coverage to your front and back or a thinner waistband that’s also lighter and neater?
In the end, confidence is key. Once you’re comfortable in your Carnival costume you’ll be confident about your appearance and you can rock any costume you choose.
Step 5: The Details
Carnival costumes are a pretty pricey indulgence. Add to that the cost of other ‘essentials’ such as makeup, hair, boots and Monday Wear, and you really want to make sure you get as much out of your costume as possible. So, before you fully commit to that costume that’s in your price range with just the right color and the ideal cut, consider the details.
- Does it have a necklace?
- Are there arm cuffs and/or bangles?
- Are earrings included? (This is rare but always a plus)
- Is it decked out with feathered and/or beaded arm and leg pieces?
- Is the body wear blinged out enough to stand on its own?
If you end up with more ‘Nos’ than Yeses’ you will have to purchase some, or all, of those items to jack up your Carnival costume to a satisfactory level. That means more money. So my recommendation is to find a costume where the answer to the majority of these questions is ‘Yes’, especially if you’re working on a budget.
In the end, whatever your preference, there’s a Carnival costume out there that’s perfect for you. Just take the time to consider the options. Be honest with yourself about your comfort levels in terms of exposure and expenditure but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. No matter what you decide, when the time comes for you to don that bejeweled creation I’m certain you’ll feel like the goddess you are. #OwnTheRoad
My Carnival Costume for 2018
Just for funsies, here’s a look at the amazing creation I’ll be rocking on the road for #Carnival2018.
- Band: TRIBE
- Theme: Once Upon a Dream
- Section: Maleficent
- Designer: Gail Cabral