Rio de Janeiro Carnival Costumes
Rio de Janeiro Carnival costumes are vibrant and colorful and provide the flare this lively time of year is known for. Some are very skimpy as well, not to mention liberal on the whole, so anyone attending the main parades and even the numerous street festivals that pop up around town should be prepared for a little debauchery. It's all in good fun, and when it comes down to it, Carnival is all about letting go of inhibitions and having a blast before the more reverent period of Lent begins, as any pictures of the Rio Carnival show.
Rio Carnival costumes haven't always been so liberal, or skimpy for that matter. They have evolved over time, with the warm Rio weather having a lot to do with the changes. In the 1800s, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival costumes usually featured masks, and people often wore rather elegant clothing with their masks to lavish balls. Wearing a skull mask was among the most popular things to do at the time, and people also donned "old man" costumes, doctor outfits, devil attire, and donkey suits, among other curious things. Odd costumes like these and the masks that invariably went with them started to decline in popularity in and around 1930. This had a lot to do with the Great Depression. Buying materials for the Rio de Janeiro Carnival costumes became more of a luxury after this period of economic downturn set in.
The dates for Rio's Carnival change depending on the year, but late February and early March is the general period. This coincides with the hottest time of the year, and it has a lot to do with the Rio Carnival costumes getting smaller over the years. Dancing samba for an hour or more in the hot summer heat doesn't lend itself well to wearing heavy costumes, or masks for that matter. The population here and most visitors started becoming more liberal in general after the Great Depression in Brazil, and the changing of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival costumes also owes a lot to this sort of "freedom of movement." In many ways, the changing of the costumes reflects the changing of the city's history.
It wasn't until after the onset of the 1950s that women started choosing bikinis as their Rio Carnival costumes of choice. This was around the same time that the city's famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema were helping to make bikinis a major fashion trend. It wasn't long until bare bust, or topless bikinis started to emerge among the Rio de Janeiro Carnival costumes, and to this day, a fair amount of Carnival girls still go topless.
You've likely seen images of Rio's Carnival girls. The tanned and toned beauties in bikinis with elaborate plumage accessories on their heads and backs. These are the most iconic Rio de Janeiro Carnival costumes, but they aren't the only ones that you can expect to see if you attend the main parades at the Sambodrome or happen to catch some of the auxiliary events.
The samba schools that participate in the main parades, which are easy to spot in most photos of the Rio Carnival parades put on themed shows of sorts, and the different costumes that their members wear reflect these themes in various stages. Some can be very liberal, while others are more family friendly. Out in the various neighborhoods, special music groups often get their neighborhood-specific celebrations under way during street festivals. You can expect to see costumes of all kinds during these neighborhood events. The Banda de Ipanema, which is among the most renowned neighborhood Carnival groups, or Bandas, sees most of its male members dressing up as drag queens, for example.
If you are looking for fun and interesting things to do on your Rio de Janeiro vacation, you might don a costume yourself and partake in the Carnival celebrations. It is actually possible to march with one of the samba schools if you can get your hands on a costume. There are tour agencies that can help you figure it all out, as you might find the process of joining a local samba school a bit intimidating. If nothing else, you can put together a costume of your choice and join in the fun at one of the many neighborhood street parties. It's sure to make for an unforgettable experience.
Top image: nateClicks (flickr)