Southern Costume Company Dresses Mardi Gras Krewes

Southern Costume Company Dresses Mardi Gras Krewes

In a town known for its costuming culture, Southern Costume Company is looking to raise the bar and encourage people to take more creative risks. “Tradition has its place, but we like doing the fun stuff,” explains owner Wingate Jones. Founded in 2011, Jones brings 25 years of experience to Southern Costume Company, having not only worked for his father’s company, Western Costume Company, but in the wardrobe department of Universal Studios as well.

Wingate Jones at the showroom on the corner of O'Keefe and Lafayette
Wingate Jones at the showroom on the corner of O'Keefe and Lafayette

Costume awareness is important to Jones. “The whole reason I’m doing this is to kick it up a notch. There’s some creative, wonderful stuff out there but we can do a little bit better.” He’s passionate about bringing back the old world craftsmanship of the 1800s vs. the modern day cheap stuff. “Everything doesn’t need to be made out of acetate. We brand the city with Mardi Gras- we should do something a little bit nicer.”

Champagne creating the base for a hat
Champagne creating the base for a hat

In 2012, Southern Costume created 98 costumes for the Zulu governors and 930 pieces for the Krewe of Nyx, including outfitting the captains and the goddess. In addition to this year’s orders was the Captain of Iris’s gown- a resplendent, form fitting number in fiery red, adorned with intricate beadwork and magnolia blossoms. The dress took 3 months to create, and after it made the rounds at the Carnival ball, it was sent back for minor repairs to get it ready for the parade. With that much handiwork, many clients opt to display their pieces on mannequins in their homes, long after the last long bead has been thrown.

Campbell putting the finishing touches on a costume
Campbell putting the finishing touches on a costume

Even though Mardi Gras royalty and silver screen sirens comprise a bulk of the business, you don’t have to have a carnival pedigree to rent.  Whether you’re looking for a hat to top off your Victorian mourning dress, or a full Roman gladiator costume, walk ins are welcome, as well as private commissions. “I love those, those are my favorites” remarks seamstress Clara Diaz, “Those are the ones that let you go wild.” Diaz has a penchant for creativity. “I quit my job at Time Warner to be creative. I wasn’t going to wear a suit anymore to go to work. Just let me go and be creative.” With her son in the industry and connections on the movie sets, Diaz truly found her calling at SCC.  “I wasn’t planning to do this, I just fell in place.”

Mardi Gras orders start trickling in May, but if you are looking to rent Jones recommends coming in 30 days in advance for a big costume event such as Mardi Gras or Halloween. “Organized people have been in here right after Halloween, decided what they wanted and put a deposit it down {for Mardi Gras},” remarks Jenny Campbell, another seamstress at Southern Costume Company. Rentals are 7 days, and the onsite seamstresses can adjust to your size. Rentals cost between $30-$300, depending on the item. Accessories, historically accurate underpinnings, even tuxedos and ball gowns are available.  With a vast inventory of theatrical quality costumes, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Campbell recommends coming within an idea already in mind “because the inventory can be overwhelming”.  However if you are looking for ideas from the staff “We have a propensity to steer people into a direction when they don’t know what to do” Wingate adds.

In addition to costume rentals, manufacturing, and procurement, the company offers production services for movie crews such as offices, prep spaces, and sells expendable supplies such as hangers and safety pins. But the glitzy stuff is what the seamstresses are really into. “I want the rhinestones, I want the feathers, and the sequins,” Campbell says. With four seamstresses and paper maiche expert Dennis Villadeleon at the helm, Southern Costume Company can accommodate a myriad of requests. “We’re all multitalented, and have different expert areas” Campbell adds.

For more information about Southern Costume Company, visit their website.