Carnival costumes are designed by the costume designer. This is the person who decides on the theme of the carnival band for that year. A theme can be anything a designer chooses: maybe underwater creatures, butterflies, Africa, India, the Romans, or mythical beasts.

Designing a Costume

The designer creates sketches so people can see what the costumes will look like. They can then decide which one they would like to wear in the carnival. The designer’s team will then buy all of the materials they need to make the costumes.

I always loved dressing up when I was little. I would make costumes from old boxes and Christmas decorations.

These costumes can be huge butterflies, skeletons, dragons and masks. You can be as creative as possible when designing a large costume – but you have to be careful it isn’t too heavy for someone to wear, as they have a long way to dance on Carnival day!


In Carnival you can use anything you like to make costumes – beads, feathers, fabrics, shiny paper and special paints called dyes. A lot of designers will use recycled materials such as leaves, bottle tops and papier mâché (made from old newspaper).

I think it is very important to use materials environmentally in Carnival. Carnival is only for two days which means a lot of the materials can be saved and used afterwards. We use the feathers and sequins from really big costumes when we go into schools. The feathers recycled from one big costume can be used to make a whole class of headdresses!.

Mas Camp

The places where costumes are made are called ‘mas camps’. Up to 100 people can work in mas camps, each with a different job to do. One group of people will make the headdresses while another will glue all the sequins – it is very important to work as a team in a mas camp to make sure all the costumes get finished by Carnival day. 

It can take months of hard work to finish all the costumes ready for Carnival!

It’s very busy in a mas camp as there are so many different jobs to do. We listen to soca music and work at long tables. One day you have to sew lots of fabric and the next you can be making glittery eyes for a dragon! Every day is different!

The most impressive costumes at Carnival are the King and Queen costumes. These are the costumes that lead each band through the streets. They can be as tall as a house and thousands of feathers in each costume. There is a competition to decide which costume is the winning King or Queen.

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Illustrations © Rhian Kempadoo-Millar
Banner photo © Tony Bartholomew (2019)