It was an enchanting sight. On Thursday (Jan, 12) evening, eight young women clustered on a porch in the Holy Cross neighborhood, showing off their newly made costumes. Each woman's green outfit was topped by huge floppy flower petals lit with strands of tiny lights. As the ladies jostled, their petals shimmied like the paper flowers on old-fashioned Mardi Gras floats. Which is no surprise, since the flowers on floats is what inspired the costume design.
The eight women were part of the Krewe des Fleurs, a relatively new Mardi Gras marching group founded by Laura Dean-Shapiro. On Saturday (Jan. 14) the 29-member group plans to meet in Armstrong Park at 4-ish to pose for photos. A little later the bunch will cross Rampart Street and informally wander the French Quarter, debuting this year's design theme, the Iris.
Dean-Shapiro, a sociologist by profession, was a member of the renowned Pussyfooters Mardi Gras marching group for four years before branching off to form her own group.
A few years back, she said, she and a friend costumed as "Floral A Rangers," a pair of superhero florists. By 2015 the idea had blossomed (sorry, but the botanical puns are just irresistible) into a 13-member organization, which has since grown to more than twice that size. Each member makes her own flower costume, which changes year after year.
Dean-Shapiro said the all-female group is accompanied on marches by male overall-wearing "guardeners" who "keep them hydrated," (and presumably look out for pests). Their costumes only permit rudimentary dances, like the twist, she said, so they are mostly a spectacle, "like a real Louisiana landscape coming to life," she said. The Fleurs distribute throws that are hand-made from recycled materials.
Marching groups, especially female marching groups, seem to have mushroomed in popularity in the years since Hurricane Katrina. Dean-Shapiro said she's interested in "how culture evolves and changes." Carnival, she said, was "such a great mechanism for bringing the city together" during the recovery and beyond.
"Everyone has a place," she said, of do-it-yourself Mardi Gras costuming. "It's a real culture of acceptance. There are no mistakes, just new things to try."
Look for the Krewe des Fleurs in the Cleopatra parade on the Uptown route at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 17; the Iris parade on the Uptown route at 11 a.m. on Feb. 25; and possibly other parades.