In other words:” How do I know which costume to choose”? Trust me, I was so lost when it was time to buy costumes. I got a lot of questions asking how the process works, so here’s a guide to get you prepared to pelt your waist and start chippin:
Caribana has a website and they will list all the bands that are participating in the parade. I used Instagram and typed in each band to find out all the different sections/costumes that will be in the parade. Do your research and click on each band and then find the section leader to get a glimpse of every outfit in detail. You can contact the section leader for any questions you may have before purchasing. EVERYONE can be a masquerader! Costumes are not limited to specific countries/tribes or whatever else your thinking of. Everyone is mixed together to celebrate. If you are American, yes you can participate!
Caribana is usually the first week in August, and costume registration closed may 20th for my section- this varies for each section, so this is just an estimate of when you should expect to have chose your costume and have it paid for. Note: by the time I paid for my section, other sections were already sold out, so expect to pay sooner. Sometimes the costume you love will sell out before a different band even launches theirs so you have choose wisely (do I buy now or do I wait for all the sections to launch and risk losing the one I love).
*How do I know which costume to get?
All in all- you have a list of bands to choose from (I chose Carnival Nationz because they were 8X Toronto Carnival Band of the Year winners). Within Carnival Nationz band, they split in sections and you choose which section you want based off the costume you like. This is the same for all the other bands. (Refer to Caribana for other bands).
*During the parade, the entire band jumps together and all the costumes are mixed. At the end of the parade right before you cross the stage for judging, each section in your band must separate to show off the costumes.Frontline costumes lead the section, while backline follows behind.
*When you cross the stage you are expected to give all you’ve got. The parade is a huge competition. Your energy has to be high to wow the judges.
*Keep in mind; each costume is handmade with love. Each section ‘should’ come with different options for each costume. The goal is for everyone to look the same, but for those that are completely free, you can get a thong option. Meanwhile those that are more conservative can get a high wasted or monokini costume. Do not hesitate to contact your section leader because we are all not the same and everyone should be comfortable. (Also by the time you hit the road you wont even be worried about your body, you just focus on having the time of your life-nobody body shames at carnival). For the ladies with larger breast, contact your section leader about purchasing your own bra and getting it customized for you. Some women buy skin tone sport bras and wear that underneath their bra.
Costume Pickup Process:
*Once you are all registered for your costume, you section leader will contact you near the event to let you know when you are able to pick up your costumes. Pickup is usually a day or two before the event. (They do not ship costumes). The pickup is usually in a warehouse or open building and everything is already packaged and ready to be handed off. The process should take no more than 20 minutes. They will explain how to properly assemble your costume and adjust anything if necessary.
-Switching sizes is often not allowed but sometimes you may get lucky and they will have extra, or you can swap with someone else that is there.*Helpful hint: Contact your section leader about paying a deposit (then paying the rest when you receive your costume). They won’t list that on the website, but you have the option to do that. I paid $150 for my deposit and the rest in exact cash when I arrived (must be exact change because the pickup process is quick).
*Shoes: I advise you to invest in a good pair of shoes. Tennis sneakers to match the outfit are preferred, and it is common for women to wear boots. Sandals and cheap shoes from local stores had a lot of ladies with blisters are sore feet during the parade. And ladies, heels are only cute for photos! You are walking & dancing for miles, so if you can do that in heels you are one bad mama jamma! Don’t forget to break in your new sneakers at least 1 month in advance, and it’s best to have rough feet to get you through the parade. This is the one time scraping all that dead skin during a pedicure is not recommended.
*Stockings: Stockings are provided as an extra cost from your band or you can order from several sites online. If you wear mas stockings (not the kind from the local supermarket), cut the toe part out and apply clear nail polish so they don’t run. Your toes will thank you later! Keeping clear nail polish will be handy on the road in case your stockings do have a run. Stockings will keep all you bodily fluids on you and ladies please make sure you wax. Everyone loves the ladies that throw their legs up to dance on trucks, coolers, rails and whatever else is in sight, but no one and I mean no one wants to see your pubic hairs. Wax wax wax, and if that’s too much at least shave.
*Make Up & Accessories: buy all the accessories you need. Lots of women wore glitter everywhere. (buy hairspray or Vaseline to help it stick). I bought glitter from the makeup department in Ulta and the beauty supply store.
A lot of women also bought gemstones to place on the face (use eyelash glue to apply) But warning, don’t be that girl with the gemstones rolling down her face lol. Also, don’t forget sunscreen, gems will make one horrifying tan line on your face.
Do not apply makeup to a bare face! It’s best you put on the bare minimum (eyelashes/eyeshadow and lipstick). Hopefully your having the time of your life at the parade so you’re guaranteed to sweat and make up will be everywhere. If not applied correctly, it’ll be a mess. Leave it to the professionals or stick to the minimum.
Don’t forget to wear your flag….and for the Americans, don’t even think about it, they will laugh at you!
There is no where for you to place your belongings, so I recommend buying a pouch and carrying nothing but your phone, money, and small items. When you’re on the road you’re so busy having fun you don’t want to carry anything you don’t need.
Here’s some vocab you may question while searching for costumes:
FRONT LINE: Front line costumes are more extravagant than back line. They often come with bigger feathers; more jewels on the costume, and larger attachment pieces (usually on arms or legs).
BACK LINE: For those playing mas, the backline costumes usually have less. These costumes allow more mobility on the road, so sometimes less means more.
ULTRA FRONT LINE: The largest feathers in a section and even more jewels, just take my wallet already!!!
HOT SHORTS: (booty shorts): Most costumes come with the regular bikini cut swim bottoms, but hot shorts are just “the boy shorts” option
BOA: the feather pieces that attach to the back of your bikini bottoms.
BAND LAUNCH (costume release): Each band in the parade has a designated location where they will have a fashion show to model the new costumes being released. Once they have a launch, costumes will be available online to buy.
I hope this helps. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask and I will try my best to help. Remember if you have to ask, there’s someone else that probably has the same question. See you on di roooooad.