Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The "Total Art" of Rio's Carnival

On Monday, a fire ripped through the warehouses storing the vast majority of costumes and floats for this year's carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The event gets underway in just a few weeks, so very little of what was lost will have a chance to be replaced. One samba school alone lost 2,800 costumes.

For anyone unfamiliar with Rio's carnival, billed as the greatest festival in the world, it is a several days long event involving massive parades with full floats and sets, all day and night dancing, extravagant costumes, thousands of musical performances (both planned and impromptu), and a grand competition between the city's highly respected samba schools (organizations to promote the development of samba music and education, along with all the related social and community elements).

In other words, it is complete art. Every artistic form is represented and integrated into a single event, in some ways similar to Wagner's concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, though his idea was restricted to the theater stage and carnival manages to take over an entire city!

Because the arts are so closely integrated during carnival, the loss of costumes and floats is all the more devastating. However, the heart of the festival, and indeed the very heart of the city and much of the country, lies in the rhythms of samba music. As one spokesman for the event says, "There are a lot of people who spend the year dreaming and working for this, for their moment to go out there and shine. You can't take that away from them. The material things are gone, but we still have a samba to sing."

So sit back, enjoy a little samba music, and take a look at some of these costumes from carnivals past. The colors and energy are absolutely infectious, and in honor of the total art that is carnival, I've paired the costume images with related works of art and fashion. Enjoy!

Samba school Beija-Flor's carnival competition song from 2007
(translated from Portuguese, beija flor means "hummingbird")

 Green Spider Mum - Fine Art Macro Metallic Photograph 5 x 7
Dress from Proenza Schoueler Spring 2010
Green Spider Mum photograph by Deborah Lynn Akers $15

 Golden Lotus Flower Art Photography 8 x 10 or 8 x 12 Nature Print Yellow Green
Dress from Christian Dior couture collection Spring 2009
Golden Lotus Flower photograph by Jade Pond Crafts $12

Fringed platform pump from YSL Fall 2010
Yes art print by Amanda Trader $14

 Gold Henna Art Print
Separates from Sass & Bide Fall/Winter 2010
Gold Henna art print by Melissa Taylor $12

The Daisy Sun - Fine Art Macro Photographic Print 5 x 7
Dress from BCBG Pre-Fall 2011
The Daisy Sun photographic print by Deborah Lynn Akers $10


Here's a collection of great pieces to help you create your own carnival-inspired look, featuring feathers which are basically a must on the costumes. These pieces are stunningly crafted and capture the energy of carnival while still managing to be incredibly chic. Hope you like them!

2D-two dresses-transforming space dress no-3 by indie collective, steel blue with bright yellow feather shoulders, day to night, comes in a leather pouch, one of a kind
Transforming Space Dress No. 3

PARROT- long single feather earring
Parrot Long Feather Earring
by LovMely $60

Ariane hand-sewn hat with hand-dyed feathers
by Behatty $179

P L U M E E // F L E C H E E . Necklace . 3 .
Flechee Necklace No. 3 from the Plumee Collection
by Noemiah $75

Black Crew Neck T-shirt - Gold Feather
Black Crew Neck T-shirt with Gold Feather Print
by Sealmaiden $26

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