It's said clothes make the man. And just like a tux or formal gown might make one walk with more formality and grace, the transformation from a t-shirt and old shorts to something atypical changes a personality, especially if it's covered in intricate embroidery and colorful feathers.
Early on Mardi Gras morning I joined the Golden Blades Uptown Mardi Gras Indians as they gathered at the Purple Rain Lounge on Washington Avenue. It was the day to show off what they've created after countless late-night hours building their intricate suits by hand. Everyone in the tribe arrived in old, everyday clothes and besides the hellos and hugs, it was mostly down to the business of getting dressed.
The transformation of Derrick Hulin to his role as Big Chief or Nia Jackson to her role as Little Queen, both of whom friends described as being usually quiet and calm, into poised Indians, singing and dancing out on the street, was mesmerizing.
"I feel good today," Big Chief Hulin said doing some last minute sewing on his suit. "This is last minute hustle and bustle, just trying to get it all together. Last minute preparations are crazy."
It took a couple hours for the entire tribe to get dressed and assembled before they walked out of the dark bar and into the bright, mid-afternoon sun where crowds had gathered, cameras in hand, waiting for the tribe's Mardi Gras debut.
The Golden Blades gathered outside the bar and sang "My Indian Red" then paraded out into the streets of Central City, hoping to run into other tribes to compare, showoff, and do a little bit of bragging about whose suit looked better.