Samba Costumes in the Carnival of Rio Brazil

Rio Carnival Costumes - Best Carnival Costumes in the World

Carnaval costumes are an element I find particularly interesting to describe in the Carnival of Rio.   Without them, merry-makers, revelers, would not have the delightful ability to forget – even for some days or hours, the tough realities of our lives.  By wearing a Carnaval costume in Brazil, we can fantasize whoever we want to be, as well as the form we want to interpret that persona.  From luxurious outfits seen in fancy balls, to five dollar Obama masks used in one of the 400+ street carnival marching bands in Rio, no rules are determined and everything is possible.  Clowns, Brazilian Indians, famous thieves, dull politicians, odalisques, retro-hippies, soccer players, sensual devils and nurses are some of the common found costumes seen in Rio Street Carnaval.

See below AMAZING new Making Of VIDOE of a true Samba Carnival Costume photo shoot!

On the other hand, literally everything has been used as inspiration for the official carnaval parade costumes developed by samba-schools: astronauts, Aztecs, Zorros, giant dices, dinosaurs & dragons, middle age entertainers, etc; you name it.  At the official parades, costumes compose an essential artistic expedient used by Carnaval Producers to illustrate the plot themes and are considered important adornments.  Finally, carnaval costumes are a vital element to enable revelers to become not only spectators of this massive party, but true participants.  Let´s now take quick look at how they are structured at the official parades.

Samba Costumes

Photo Credit: Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro 2007 / Danielle Cezar

Below we see Amanda Gomes - Floor highlight from São Clemente Samba School in a delightful Costume:


Costumes within the Samba-School Parades

At first, the samba-schools had their samba-school members just dressed up in baianas costumes.  The revelers were then grouped at the parade, with identical costumes-uniforms (today they are called Alas – Wings.)  According to the Velha Guarda (the elder samba-school members of a samba-school) report, Vizinha Faladeira Samba-School was the first school to dress up their revelers in costumes.   Other authors said that Império Serrano Samba-School was the first school to dress all of their revelers in costumes in 1948, when they performed the theme “Castro Alves” and obtained the first place.  But it was only in 1952 that the parade regulation obligated the use of costumes to all samba-school parade members as a mandatory requirement.

In terms of a formal definition of parade costumes at the samba-schools, they are figurative outfits worn by wings and float members, and aid as adornments to the theme construction and development.  Wondered and created by costume designers and carnival producers, they are at first elaborated in drawings, the so called “costume design”.  The materials used in the costumes are specified in this costume design as well.

There are some carnival producers who are also costume designers and who design such costumes.   When this does not happen, the school hires a costume designer specifically for such task.   In this situation, it is necessary a perfect integration between the carnival producer and the costume designer.   João Trinta, a legendary Carnaval Producer had a great connection with Viriato Ferreira, a competent costume designer working with him at Beija-Flor Samba-School.

SAmba costume

Photo Credit: Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro 2007 / Danielle Cezar

 Costumes Logistics

The presidents of the wings and floatees are responsible for some of the costumes confection and make sure they are loyal to the original designs.  They can also be responsible for material (factories, hats, shoes, and the other garments) purchase as well.  After that, the wing´s Directors calculate the prices for the costumes and exhibit the costume designs and/or the prototypes in the samba school’s facilities on scheduled days, so that the samba-school members are able to buy them.  The materials and the confection are included in the price (dressmakers, hat makers, shoes makers, etc).

Carnival Costume Video Shoot - Making Of Photo Shoot Session:

The samba-school members are then able to go to the samba-school facilities and freely choose the costumes in accordance with their preferences and price.  Today, the majority of the samba-school members do not choose the costumes in such way though.   They are committed with the wings in which they normally go on the parade, and just follow the costume that was presented by the Wing President/ Director.  The payment is usually done by means of installments.  The board of directors of the school and/or the Carnaval commission establishes a limit for the number of the samba-school members in each wing - in average, at maximum 100.  When this number is reached, they stop selling the costumes.

The presidents of the wings follow the elaboration of the costumes under the carnival producer supervision.   On a specific day, the Samba-School schedules a date for the costume to be delivered to the samba-school members.  The parade highlights – destaques, or members that are placed on floats, deserve a special attention, under the carnival producers’ guidance.

Below, a 2008 Viradouro Carnaval Costume, with luxury and detail

Samba Costumes

 Photo Credit: Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro 2007 / Jaime Silva

Samba-schools provide an atelier with designers, dressmakers, embroiders, hat makers, shoes makers, and assistants centralized at Rio´s Cidade do Samba, to produce the costumes that are of responsibility of the school, like baianas and children wings, mestre-sala and porta-bandeira, Drum section, opening section, velha guarda ( Old school – elders ) , composers, directors, and stowage (people who push the floats and adornments). Carnival producers supervise the overall confection of all carnaval costumes within a samba-school.

The Carnaval outfits must also allow movements required for the choreography, the samba dance, and naturally the samba singing.  The solutions may be figurative, symbolic, realistic, or stylistic, according to the several styles of the artists’ creation.

Samba Costumes Requirements

Finally, as we stated before, costumes must follow a few “guidelines” in order to present a positive image to the judging panel in terms of the costume relationship with theme and other issues, such as:

•    suit the theme (conception and fitness);
•    be developed with an imaginative creation (originality);
•    be diversified, as to utilization of the theme potential (variety);
•    have an accurate overall look, in terms of confection (finishing);
•    provide a good sensorial impression (effect);
•    allowing favorable color use

Sometimes we can´t know exactly what the costume represent, at a first glance!

Samba Costumes in The Rio carnival

Photo Credit: Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro 2007 / Danielle Cezar

Bookmark and Share