Alonzo Van Wilson Mardi Gras costumes displayed at USC

By Karamie Sullivan

Decorative Mardi Gras costumes with intricate beadwork, large plume feathers, and striking historical accuracy will soon be on display at USC’s McKissick Museum.

The costumes were designed by Wilmington, NC native, Alonzo Van Wilson. The exhibit is titled “Well Suited: The Costumes of Alonzo V. Wilson for HBO’s ‘Treme.” The series tells the story of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It ran on HBO from 2012 – 2014.

The exhibit will open Aug. 1, and will be displayed on the second floor of the McKissick museum until July 2018.

Wilson worked with Mardi Gras Indian community members to make sure the costumes were an accurate representation of the real thing.

Photo: Alonzo Van Wilson (ColaDaily/Karamie Sullivan) 

The nine costumes being displayed at the exhibit were created over a four-month period, each of them prior to different seasons of the show. According to Wilson, the real Mardi Gras Indians normally make a single costume over a year’s time.

Many would consider these suits works of art, but that is not always how Wilson viewed it.

For me, it was a costume because that is what I do… costume design. But now museums like the McKissick say they’re art work. So I guess that somehow makes me an artist too,” said Wilson. He describes designing the costumes as “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Wilson hopes that when people see these costumes, they will be able to understand some of the culture of New Orleans. He wants people to take away not just the artistry of it, but the history as well.

Mari Gras Indians are nowhere except New Orleans,” he said. “It’s a joyous thing to see colors and beadwork like this, really the pageantry of it all.”