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Creating a Costume: The adventure

For all of my admiration of the Carnival season, I’m not a very good costumer. In fact, I’m rather pathetic at it. I am so helpless that a friend, Jolie, who’s a seasoned costume-maker, offered to help me for this Carnival. Early on I decided that I would be Bienville since he founded the city and since he and his big brother Iberville’s group spent their first full day in these parts on March 3, 1699, which happened to be Mardi Gras that year.

From a costume shop I bought a tricorn hat and what passed for a powdered wig. The real artistry came from Jolie, who sewed together a vest and knee-length pants. The fabric (gold and silver with subtle fleur-de-lis images) came from Jefferson Novelty, which specializes in Carnival fixings. One Saturday afternoon we shifted through reams of fabric. Fortunately Jolie’s husband, Jim, was there, so he helped lift the bulky fabric rolls because everything we liked was, of course, on the bottom.

My costume also required tights, which I was able to find in a manly size, but no, I just couldn’t make myself wear them. I settled for long socks instead. I also needed a puffy shirt. (OK, “Seinfeld” fans, go ahead and chuckle.) I actually had such a shirt from a previous costume; unfortunately I couldn’t find it in time for the costume’s debut on Twelfth Night, so Jolie fashioned a lacy neckpiece attached to the vest, which seemed to work. I also needed a long coat of the sort that explorers wear. That I got off the rack.

Entirely because of Jolie’s efforts, the costume looked really good, so it was with pride that I walked from my car to a party on Twelfth Night. The first person I encountered, a lady sitting on her steps, hollered out, “Hey, Mr. Pirate.” A little later a partygoer said, “Hey, it’s Ben Franklin.” A few days later someone said they recognized me in my Paul Revere outfit.

What mattered though was that for the first time in my life, I received compliments for my costume, though nothing could compete with Jolie and Jim, who were there as Cajun Astronauts.

With only some minor modifications I hope to be wearing the same costume on Mardi Gras. So if you see Paul Revere dressed like Ben Franklin imitating a pirate, just know that it’s me, Bienville.

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