EveryBODY Is Welcome! The Curvy Girl’s Guide To Carnival Costumes
Photo Credit - Stephanie Brown

You’ve heard of Caribbean carnivals – the epic fetes aka parties, the nonstop partying, the intoxicating soca music, lack of sleep and countless stories of it being an absolute must experience for any traveler. You’ve also seen pictures of beautiful costumes adorned with feathers, jewels, and beads, and probably said to yourself that only skinny or fit women can wear those costumes. That couldn’t be further from the truth! If you are a woman with a few extra curves that has a Caribbean carnival on your travel bucket list, this curvy woman’s guide to carnival costumes is just for you.

Choosing The Right Costume

Each island’s carnival includes what is known as band launch season. Each masquerade band presents its theme and costume designs for the upcoming carnival. This gives potential masqueraders – a.k.a you – a chance to see what each costume looks like while offering a look into the experience you will have once you sign up with the band.

While you might see wire bras and skimpy bikinis being modeled at the band launch, many masquerade bands offer a number of options to help customize the costume to your liking. Costume designer Rawle Permanand has designed for carnivals in Trinidad, Barbados, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, New York City, Miami, and Toronto. He mentioned that although some of the costume designs are not made with the curvy woman in mind, everyone deserves the same experience. “More and more, we are seeing bands introduce monokini and high-waist options to ensure that everyone can fit in and be part of the experience,” says Permanand.

Photo Credit - Stephanie Brown

High-waist bottoms, full coverage bras or one-piece bodysuits are a few options available by many masquerade bands for an additional fee. It’s important to wait until the band website launches to see all available options. If the option you had in mind isn’t available, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Curvy women shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to costume designers or section leaders that make the costumes and ask if they do modifications or have variations of the costumes. You’d be surprised at the things they can do.

Bonus Tip: Be sure to pack your own backups to the bras and high waist panties you purchase from bands. Make sure the backups are the same color or close to the original set’s color just in case you need to swap it out for any reason.

Photo Credit -Anquanette Gaspard

Customization is Key

Getting customized body wear is another way to make your carnival costume work for your curves. Designers like Nicole Weekes of Creative Creations Unlimited create custom pieces that will match your carnival costume perfectly. From bedazzled footwear to jeweled body wear, her tagline, “Paving De World with Beautiful Creations,” caters to everybody regardless of shape or size. “As a curvy full-sized female myself, I’m a strong believer that carnival should be for everyone and there shouldn’t be any restrictions,” said Weekes. “The key is to know what complements your body type and shape to find the balance between sexy and flattering.”

Photo Credit -Anquanette Gaspard

Accessories are EVERYTHING

Having the right accessories are important to helping curvy women look and feel their best when on the road for carnival. The right footwear can elevate a costume in a number of ways. If you’re a DIY kind of person, bling out a pair of boots or sneakers to match your costume or have it professionally designed. A handbag to carry your road-ready items such as lip-gloss, keys, money and more helps to further complete the look, while face gems are the perfect addition to your flawless makeup for carnival day.

However, the most important addition any woman can add to their costume are skin tone stockings. That added layer of protection offers peace of mind knowing that you’re not fully exposed while giving your costume a complete look. Companies like Carnival Kicks offer an assortment of footwear, accessories, and hosiery that caters to carnival and festival-goers all around the globe. Choose from rhinestone fishnet stockings or plain sheer stockings that come in a variety of shades up to size 4XL. See what we mean? Carnival for the curvy girl is more than possible.

Photo Credit -Anquanette Gaspard

Bonus Tip: Grab a pair of gel insoles for your sneakers or boots for increased comfort. Your feet will thank you after dancing, chipping and wining all day for 9+ hours.

Carnival is Acceptance of Self

One thing about carnival is that it welcomes people of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Many of the societal norms about weight, size, and beauty can continue to be a roadblock for many women. Thanks to body positive movements like everyBODYplayahmas, people of all shapes and sizes are provided an outlet where they are represented and showcased within Caribbean culture.

Founder Nadelle Lewis made it her mission to make a safe space for #everyBODY to be comfortable playing mas after being body shamed in a popular carnival magazine. While she agrees that women in costume still face body image issues, she said that the key to playing mas is being confident in your own skin and embracing your curves. “There are women who want to come out and be free, but society, insecurities or self-doubt make them feel that it is not a space for them to be in,” says Lewis.

Photo Credit - @abowmanphotography

In many Caribbean carnivals, the women who model beautiful carnival costumes do not reflect the variety of shapes and sizes that are seen on the actual carnival day. Lewis believes this is the reason many women do not feel comfortable and confident enough to play mas.

“Carnival is a time of unity where women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities are moving in the same direction to the same rhythm. It is a beautiful, euphoric sense of freedom that everyBODY should participate in.”

So throw caution to the wind and find the carnival costume that will have you feeling like the best version of yourself. Follow these tips and your carnival experience will be complete – costume and all!

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