Southwest Louisiana’s Mardi Gras Museum
The Largest Collection of Mardi Gras Costumes in the World
Royal Court Costumes at the Mardi Gras Museum in Lake Charles, LA
Judged strictly by the number of participating krewes and parading organizations, Lake Charles hosts the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana. And krewes mean royal courts, which mean costumes. So it should come as no surprise that Lake Charles has a rich tradition of elaborate Mardi Gras royal regalia, and, accordingly, a storied history of krewes trying to outdo one another in this area.
The result is an annual flood of creativity and creation in the form of large, colorful Mardi Gras headpieces and costumes for the kings, queens, princesses, dukes, and duchesses of each krewe's royal court.
When the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu was founded in 1997, Lake Charles gained a home for these incredible creations. The museum is a place for the krewes and the city of Lake Charles to proudly showcase their history, and for the public to get a glimpse of all that Mardi Gras costumes can be.
Inside the Mardi Gras Museum in Lake Charles, LA
With costumes, memorabilia, and Mardi Gras art/craft donated to the museum from krewes, locals, and generous benefactors each and every year, the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu’s collection has grown quite large. Among the museum’s collection, visitors will find hundreds of Mardi Gras costumes, masks, and Mardi Gras paraphernalia.
The museum also offers a fascinating exhibit on the costume design, approval, and construction process as it moves from approval of a yearly theme (decided upon separately by each krewe) to pencil sketches, then on to colored renderings, and finally the stitched, sewn, glued, and wired final masterpiece. Quite often this process fully occupies the year between Mardi Gras celebrations. It may begin the day after Fat Tuesday, and continue throughout the year, right up to the moment the costumes are publicly displayed for the first time.
The museum also has an exhibit on the role of krewe captains, detailing what/who they are and their importance and contributions to krewe organization, and to Mardi Gras as a whole.
A King & His Queen Preside Over the Mardi Gras Museum
In addition to the staggering depth of the collection on display at Lake Charles' Mardi Gras Museum, Bernard and Dolores Beaco, the museum’s regular guides, are themselves former Mardi Gras king and queen. As members of numerous krewes, and having served at all levels of these organizations, they provide a unique insight into, and commentary on, the inner workings of Mardi Gras, and the importance of the costumes and regalia to the community and to the Mardi Gras celebration. Their involvement personalizes the experience, somehow making it more real.
The Royal Gala - Lake Charles' Main Event of the Season
While the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu houses the largest collection of Mardi Gras costumes anywhere in the world, the collection is static, and fairly begs to be followed up with a demonstration of these majestic creations in action. Fortunately there really is no better venue for this than Lake Charles' annual Royal Gala celebration, held each year on Lundi Gras (the night before Fat Tuesday).
At this event, krewes proudly display and parade their annual line of Mardi Gras costumes in an evening long “fashion show" of opulence and creativity. It’s a chance for the public to glimpse all of that year’s royal costumes in one place.
To view a gallery of photos from the Mardi Gras Museum of Lake Charles, Click Here.
Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu
809 Kirby St.
Lake Charles, LA 70601
Open: Tuesday-Friday 1-5p.m.
$3 seniors and children under 12
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The Royal Gala- Lake Charles' Annual Mardi Gras Royal Regalia Fashion Show