Every February, the city of New Orleans lights up in celebration of Mardi Gras, the parade-filled holiday that brings thousands of visitors from around the world. People dance, dress up, drink, and have fun. The most important aspect, however? The outfits. Though Mardi Gras seems like a laid back holiday that would never have a dress code, it is actually one in which wearing the colors of purple, green, and gold are immensely important and those may just be the only three colors you see all of Mardi Gras weekend. But when did this start, and why?
The first true origins of colorful costumes during Mardi Gras lay in 1827 when a group of students “danced through the streets of New Orleans” in colorful and fun costumes, influencing the outfits people would eventually wear a decade from then during the first recorded Mardi Gras parade.
The origins of Mardi Gras colors, however, can be traced back to the Rex parade of 1892. The theme was “Symbolism of Colors,” with purple representing justice, green representing faith, and gold representing power. Ever since that day in 1892, the city of New Orleans has adopted those colors to represent Mardi Gras as a whole.
Something important to note, however, is that though these colors represent inspiring ideals to stand for, the racist and sexist values of the city of New Orleans at the time, as well as those who were in charge of the celebrations of Mardi Gras, were not in line with the true meanings behind the purple, green, and gold. Even so, in the present day society’s values have positively shifted and Mardi Gras has certainly taken many steps forward towards inclusion.
The colors of Mardi Gras now influence the outfits of the thousands of people who come to New Orleans every year to watch the parades and have one of the most fun (and chaotic) weekends of their lives. Everyone from local families to college students to out-of-towners will wear costumes and avant-garde outfits while they join in on the celebrations.
Something excitingly noticeable as well is if you look at the college students at the Mardi Gras parades, it can sometimes be very easy to notice what university they attend. It is said that the Mardi Gras colors influenced the school colors of Louisiana’s two largest universities – LSU and Tulane University. LSU’s colors are purple and gold, whilst Tulane’s school color is green. Each of these schools wear their colors proudly, especially around Mardi Gras season.
In 2023, dressing up for Mardi Gras is now seen as a symbol of individualism and allows people to be whoever they want to be without judgment for a whole weekend. You can dress however you please, with sequins or feathers, with a bikini or not – truly anything you want – showcasing how Mardi Gras is a proud symbol of originality, fun, and personal expression.
Featured Image via Pinterest.