Thursday, June 30, 2016

#3 of the top 10 things to experience during Trinidad Carnival

(3) Playing mas: the costume

We’re now at #3 on our countdown and we’re finally at the costumes!  But, first let’s talk a little bit about the lingo so we’re on the same page: 

  • Playing mas - participating in the Trinidad Carnival Parade of the Bands as a costumed masquerader (the word “mas” is short for masquerade). 
  • Mas costume – a mas costume can be several things.  The most common female costume consists of BBF - bikini, beads and feathers.  There are also several versions of this common costume, from elaborate feathered and beaded headpieces to full piece bathing suit costumes (for more ahem, coverage) to costumes that are as tall as several stories!    The typical male costume consists of shorts, a torso piece and arm and leg bands.  Some men purchase t-shirts to match their costume or go bare-chested. 
  • Mas band or mas camp – mas bands are collections of mas costumes.  Their operation is similar to that of a fashion house; they launch a mas costume collection, called a presentation, annually for each Carnival season.  Each annual presentation usually has a theme and the collections of costumes, called sections are different colors.  Some bands have a few sections, some have many; it just depends on the size of the band!  Mas bands sell mas costumes to the general public.  
  • Pretty mas – this term is used to refer to Carnival Tuesday, which is the day of the Carnival parade that all masqueraders are in full costume.  On Carnival Monday the first day of the parade, many masqueraders don’t wear full costume. 
Great – now we’re on the same page as far as the lingo goes.  Let’s get into the playing mas experience as far as your costume goes.

Why is playing mas one of the things you must do during Carnival time?   
There are several reasons, but in our opinion the main one is you get to be completely immersed in the Carnival culture this way.  It’s not enough to be “just a bystander”!  Why watch the parade when you can be the parade?  Playing mas in your costume is the ultimate form of self-expression and exhibitionism, so if you’ve been dreaming about “being the show” at some point in your life, then this is the one for you. 

Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m a shy, modest and am usually a wall flower.  This can’t be for me!”  Not exactly.  Remember, when you’re playing mas, you’re in a band with thousands of people in costume, just like you.  You’ll be surrounded by others just as *ahem* naked as you are and having a great time, just – like – you!  A mas costume is really the introvert’s ultimate fantasy: put on your costume and get to act like an extrovert by parading in the street all day without having to verbally interact much.  Chip "down de road" partying with your crew - laugh, dance, wine, jump, drink and repeat!

Now, if you’re thinking you’re not a size 0 so playing mas isn’t for you, think again.  The Trinidad Carnival parade embraces and celebrates all colours, shapes and sizes!  Curvy girls can easily get costumes in their size and proudly parade the streets of Port of Spain during the parade.  If you’re also thinking that you’re too out of shape to participate, you don’t have to be a marathon runner to take part; Carnival is about endurance.  Just make sure that you start some form of consistent exercise that makes you sweat at least 3 months before Trinidad Carnival and you’ll be fine!  If you get too tired and you're in a mas band that offer rest stations, then use it and get off your feet for a while.  Just rejoin the parade when you've had some time to rest up!

There’s nothing like seeing your costume in person for the first time, putting it on and getting ready for the big show!  We have clients who put their costume on several times before the Carnival parade starts just to dance around their hotel room to practice lol.  Selfies and “usies” abound as the excitement and anticipation builds.  We don’t judge – we do it every year too!  Unless you’re a Vegas show girl, when else can you adorn yourself with glitter, jewels and feathers attached to a skimpy costume AND dance and drink in the streets with pure abandon?

But oops – we’re getting ahead of ourselves!  Stay tuned for #2 on our list…

Til de next lime,

Esha and Tarik 

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