Brazil Carnival costumes are some of the most spectacular and elaborate on earth - they can even eclipse some of those seen at New Orleans Mardi Gras parades. While the most common costumes associated with the carnivals in Brazil are on the racy side, they will vary widely. Some are sexy, but just as many are glamorous and exotic without being revealing.
Styles of Brazil Carnival Costumes
Brazil's Carnival is held 40 days before Easter and traces its roots back to pre-Christian days. The modern Carnival began in Rio in 1641, imitating the great masquerade balls of Paris and Venice. While the costumes were originally European, the people of Brazil began to incorporate traditional Brazilian styles into them, thus placing their own unique stamp upon the event.
Each Brazilian state has its own form of Carnival. Rio, as the oldest, is also the most popular. There are parades in every neighborhood, most with a large contingent of samba performers. The samba costume is the backbone of Brazilian Carnival.
Different styles are seen in the other states. Sao Paulo, Bahia, Pernambuco and Minas Gerais all have their own variations on Carnival. The music, however, is almost overwhelmingly samba, and some variation on the samba costume is the most widely seen in any parade throughout the country.
The Look of Carnival Costumes
Color is the first aspect of a good Brazil Carnival costume. Most costumes are skimpy, yet absolutely explode with color. Costumes for Carnival typically include feathers, beads and sequins galore. You can see a strong African influence in the style of the headdresses and masks. Bones, grasses, beads and shells can all be a part of the completed costume. Headdresses can be two feet high and twice as wide. Some costumes feature huge wings and many have long and busy trains, all the better for whipping around while dancing. With its intricate design, often encompassing layers of beads, glitter and feathers, it's no wonder a costume can take months to complete.
Making a Carnival Costume
Many of the Brazilian costumes are made professionally by costumers associated with the various samba schools. Not only do the costumes have to look fabulous, they must be able to stand up to many hours of rigorous dancing in the streets. It takes an experienced costumer to create an outfit that will last through the several days of festival.
If you are not dancing but will be attending a Carnival and feel daring enough to wear something traditional, you can try your hand at creating your own costume. You can find costumes for sale, but you'll better capture the spirit of Carnival if you make it yourself. It does not have to be as difficult as a professional costume, but it will still be time-consuming.
The headpiece is the most important and difficult aspect. You needn't have one that is several feet high. Rather, you can use a standard headband and attach a wire design, then glue on feathers and sequins as you see fit.
For your main costume, choose a basic bikini and glue sequins or rhinestones in intricate patterns over the entire top and bottom. You can then further accentuate the bottom by creating a simple train using sequined or sparkly fabric cut in strips and glued on. You can add a few feathers that match the headdress as well. Be sure to add lots of accessories in the shape of beaded necklaces and bracelets, and paint your face to match your look. You will be able to hit the parade in style!