Art exhibit highlights costumes of women, people of color and historically marginalized New Orleans groups



An exhibit opening at Antenna Feb. 2 celebrates costuming among historically marginalized groups in New Orleans, including women, LGBT people and people of color.

"King for a Day" is curated by Zibby Jahns and Lindsey Phillips and includes four installations representing costumes that are worn by various New Orleans communities, such as Baby Doll marching groups, Lords of Leather and punk and DIY groups. The costumes are displayed among fabrics and materials artisans and crafters commonly incorporate in those garments.

Phillips says costuming has power for its ability to allow people to experiment with identity and explore self-expression, and for the way it unites disparate groups. She was inspired by her experiences at Jefferson Variety Stores, the crafting and Mardi Gras supply purveyor where worlds converge during Carnival.

"[At Jefferson Variety Stores], you'll be standing next to a Mardi Gras Indian, or you can be standing next to, like I was today, a woman who is in [Krewe of] Muses and she's decorating her shoes," Phillips says ."All these people, who would probably never interact with each other on a daily basis, are all coming to this one place to get these weird materials — and then go back out into the city and celebrate."

Phillips made a short film, The Exceptionally Extraordinary Emporium, about the store, which helped inspire this exhibit.

Several community events take place at Antenna during "King for a Day," which runs through Feb. 25. An opening reception with DJ Ann Glaviano (of the Heatwave! party series) begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 2. There's a costume market at the gallery from noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 3 and a headdress-making workshop from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 4.

One highlight of the community events series is a panel discussion set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 5. At that panel, Kim Vaz-Deville — author of The "Baby Dolls": Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition — moderates a group of women including Alana Harris of the Creole Belle Baby Dolls, Cinnamon Black of the Treme Million Dollar Babydolls, and Miss Berry Hill, who designs costumes for Baby Doll groups and others including Krewe of Oshun and the Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indians.

Panelists will discuss the costuming traditions of Baby Doll groups, and Phillips says she's incredibly excited to hear their reflections.

"[The Baby Dolls] truly just embody feminism and community and this empowering feeling," she says. "They just have this century-long tradition of being these very fiercely independent women."

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