Carnival costumes are an integral part of the Carnival parade. They add color and fantasy to the atmosphere, as well as movement for the samba dancers. Costumes are known to be over-the-top and have minimal coverage. In the Rio Carnival, basic bikinis are covered with beads, sequins, and feathers, and topped with a sky-high headpiece. Some dancers paint their faces to look like masks, or skip a costume altogether in favor of body paint (not recommended for our colder northern climate!)

While it might be too cold to wear just a decorated bikini to the Bellingham Carnival Ball, you can adapt ideas from the photos shown here, or do a Google search for "Rio Carnival Costumes". A lot of photos come up! Carnival costumes are relatively simple to make. Here are some ideas:

  • Like any good costume, start with a theme, such as a bird, place, etc., and design around it
  • Add feathers, sequins, and beads to any article of clothing
  • Use bright colors and an outrageous design
  • Face paints and glitter to add more fantasy to your outfit
  • Feathers and glitter to a headband can make a headpiece
  • There are a lot of similarities with New Orlean's Mardi Gras, although Carnival colors are usually brighter, more feathers, fewer beads, and even more elaborate.
  • Feel free to go back to Carnival's roots and adapt more traditional motifs used in Venice, such as theater masks and period clothing. See images on Venice Carnivale :

Men's Costumes

rio-carnival-grande-rio-330-01_maleMen have it a bit harder than women, since most costumes you see are on women. Men do dress up for carnival in Rio and many of the recommendations above apply to men's costume, as well. Here are some ideas especially for men:

  • Like women, you can also get away with decorating a Speedo, body paint, etc. Feathers work for guys too.
  • Colored body suits with lots of decoration
  • Don't forget something on your head
  • Gender norms can be bent. Drag is perfectly OK

Sites to look

Other Resources

Background on Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
Details about Brazilian Carnival Ball, Bellingham, WA
Brazilian Carnival Ball Flyer (114 kb, .pdf)
Directions to Rumors Cabaret