A big part of the carnival season for many fans and devotees is the selection and choices of the mas band costumes. You can’t attend a single carnival event or parade or read a carnival blog without seeing the beautifully elaborate costume designs in all their colourful glory. Costumes are as much a part of carnival season as is the Caribbean music, warm ocean air and seemingly endless supply of intoxicating beverages. But, as with anything that is controlled by market inflation, our carnival entertainment and the costumes as well, are becoming more and more expensive with every passing carnival season.

Premium Frontline, Midline or Backline?

The band launch is usually the start of any carnival season and can be considered the start of your economic woes, as the band launches are basically a costume fashion show and a fete wrapped into one amazing night. There, you visually see the costumes on the models and select the one you think is for you.

Once upon a time, the only choices you had to make were the costume choices in the section you were playing in. Now you have to choose what section costume within that section! Confused? Don’t be. To clarify, each band will have a central theme and multiple sections that have costumes within that theme. There are usually 3 sections within a mas band costume section. The most elaborate female costumes in each section are labelled “Frontline” or “Premium Frontline”, “Midline” and “Backline”. Some of the bigger mas bands will actually offer Ultra Premium Frontline and to be honest, the only difference is really the price, a few freebies and the fact that your social media presence may go through the roof due to the mere fact that you can afford Ultra Premium. Male costumes usually come in only one variety, although in some bands like Yuma you can choose more elaborate headpieces for an additional fee.

Why are carnival costumes so popular?

Give the fact that many of these costumes are probably worn a handful of times, why are carnival costumes so popular? Aside from the historical significance of carnival costumery, the carnival experience itself is a lifestyle for many and that includes the events, the fetes, parade and, yes, the costumes. Just as every musician needs their instrument, every carnival performer needs their costume to play an important role in the overall performance and of course social media! Trinidad carnival spawns the dawn of carnival selfie kingdom and ‘all hail Instagram’ as Trinidad sets it ablaze with amazing costumes and costumes fitting perfectly on sculptured bodies. Thousands of likes can be gained on your eye-popping costume and can throw you into carnival stardom.

Have carnival costumes always been so expensive or is this something that is only happening recently?

The rising cost of premium frontline costumes is apparent and while the backline and frontline costume prices are also on the dollar increase, it is the premium frontline costumes that will set you back a small fortune. Lower-end carnival costume brands may offer a wide range of beautifully designed midline carnival costumes, with average prices ranging from $450 – $600, but their premium costume lines costing more than double that. But if you want a quality premium frontline costume that is unmistakable in its quality and appearance, expect to pay in excess of $900 – $1200 each.

Pre-2000’s, carnival costumes would cost an average of $120 for a costume with lots of feathers. Then, somewhere approximately around 2010, that price doubled. Then it began to steadily increase year after year along with other carnival-related expenses pricing many people out of the festivities.
Still, many people accept the increase in price as just another part of celebrating carnival and usually make slight changes to their carnival season schedule to accommodate the additional costs.

However, how long can we continue to accept the rise for what seems less costume and more feathers?

See the Real Soca Deal’s article on questions you should ask yourself when choosing a carnival costume.

Why not pose your questions to the Real Soca Deal’s forum and establish a conversation with like-minded individuals?

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