The Rio carnivals are the largest spectacles of their kind anywhere in the world. It’s a nationwide gathering of dancing, partying, parades, and positively jaw-dropping costumes.
While the costumes may seem just another part of the festivities, each with its own meaning and no connection to the next, they are actually a very important part of the parades and have to follow very strict guidelines.
The Sambodromo is the hub of the Rio De Janeiro parades, with flashy floats and costumes as well as partygoers packed like sardines in a can. Shrove Tuesday is the ultimate peak of the event, when the top 14 samba schools give their presentations for the judges, each school hoping to be crowned the best in the carnival.
This crucial performance is the showcase of the costumes. Each costume plays to the chosen theme of its school. Once the school has chosen its theme, it needs to fashion the costumes to match. The costumes are generally handmade, with sequins, feathers, and other details carefully chosen and attached by hand to each costume.
These complicated costumes will be equipped with gaudy accessories and an elaborate headdress. While the rules forbid outright nudity in the competition, many of the revelers are scantily clad, wearing carefully placed, tiny bejeweled bikinis.
The parade splits the school’s performances into wings. Each wing plays a specific role and wears a specific costume. The musicians and dancers that surround the moving float are called the Ground Wing. The Ground Wing welcomes tourists to purchase costumes and join the parade with them, thrusting them fully into the experience.
The next wing is called the Float Wing, which is the float and the performers dancing on it. The samba schools take the Float Wing seriously as this is the portion of their performances that are judged. The performers will have dedicated many hours to rehearsing, and these costumes can cost anywhere from $9,000 to $10,000 USD.
Surrounding the parades are street parties. Lots and lots of parades. These street parties are all about fun costumes, with no costume requirements. The street partygoers can dress however they want, although pirates, Indian, sailors, police, and cowgirl costumes are the most popular.
Street parties are generally hot because of the Rio De Janeiro temperatures and the huge crowds. Some partygoers may opt to not wear costumes, but at the least they will be sporting bright accessories, vibrant colors, and face paint.