Photo by www.monsoursphotography.net
From elaborate headpieces, to flowing gowns, crowns, and scepters, Mardi Gras krewes outfit their royal courts in the best and brightest royal regalia. And, if the Royal Gala is any indication, nobody takes Mardi Gras costumes more seriously than the people of Lake Charles, in southwestern Louisiana, where more than 60 krewes (parading organizationsshow off their Mardi Gras finery on the night before Mardi Gras day.
 
Photo by www.monsoursphotography.net
Each year, the Mardi Gras krewes of Southwest Louisiana put on a colossal costume pageant that is open to the public, providing many with their only opportunity to see these grand creations.  Often, the royal regalia (costumes) are only worn at private (krewe and guest only) balls and functions. As a result, the Royal Gala (the exception to the rule) is not so much a competition as it is a community celebration, and a chance to show off the year’s designs and handiwork.
Photo by www.monsoursphotography.net
Krewe members work year-round (sometimes beginning to design and build the next year’s costumes the day after the previous year’s Fat Tuesday celebration). Some krewes display just a couple of costumes (e.g. king and queen), while others present a dozen or more towering beaded headdresses perched atop the king, queen, dukes, duchesses, and other members of their royal court. The costumes are often 12 to 15 feet tall and weigh a hundred pounds or more. Yet these creations are the pride and joy of Lake Charles, and krewe members compete for the honor of wearing them as proud representatives of their organization. 
 
Photo by www.monsoursphotography.net
The Royal Gala is a full evening of entertainment, as literally hundreds of ornate Mardi Gras costumes are presented to a packed auditorium of celebrants eager to embrace the Mardi Gras spirit. Held each year on Lundi Gras night (the night just before Fat Tuesday), the energy, revelry, and mayhem of the Royal Gala are a great way to warm up and get in the spirit of Mardi Gras before the next day's events.
 
 
Up Close and Personal at the Lake Charles
Mardi Gras Museum
While the Royal Gala is an ideal introduction to the costumes, headpieces, and royal accoutrements of the Mardi Gras krewes, spectators at the event can only get so close to the finery. But, just a few miles away at the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu, anyone with a few dollars to spare can see hundreds of costumes from years gone by, and learn a great deal about the design process in the bargain.
 
Glenn Kaufmann is the editor and publisher of All About Mardi Gras, a website that covers Mardi Gras across the united States.