The Carnival of Venice – Carnevale di Venezia in Italian – owes its success and splendor to the passion of people who, year after year, invest time and spare no expense to create elaborate costumes in tribute to the traditional character of a baroque event that takes its roots in the Renaissance. They turn the city into a vast costumed theater, parading spontaneously in the streets, the piazzas, voluntarily entertaining hoards of tourists who just can’t get enough.
Flashback to February 2012. It was an unusually cold month in Europe – so much that Venice’s city lagoon froze for the first time in over two decades – but we still decided to head down to Italy and feast our eyes on the fabulous costumes. Unfortunately, it was easy to foresee that the commercialization of the carnival is starting to make it look a bit schizophrenic.
More and more, tourists dressed up like it’s Halloween are just there to get wasted as if they were on Bourbon Street (there was a record number of alcohol-induced coma this year in Venice). They only come for one day, bring their own booze, don’t buy from local vendors and trash up this town that is one of the most precious and most fragile of humanity. Pure breed Venetians aren’t at all happy about the way things are going and leave their homes during that period. You’d think one of the world’s most entrancing cities would deserve better than an ordinary carnival with cougars in gondolas…
Understandably, costumed revelers have been increasingly upset to witness that commercialization over the past few years. The organization of the Carnival is trying to contain the event in order to make it more lucrative; they want to park the costumed behind fences, and you have to pay to approach them, and plan to organize rock concerts completely irrelevant to the traditional celebrations. Paraders resist and desert more and more the assigned locations, roaming in the streets and in the piazzas to the people’s benefit rather than to the organization and its advertisers.
The main purpose of our trip was to get inspired and to deliver a comprehensive study in costumes; my mom was actually in attendance, all dressed up like a Baroque Queen – and guess what? Despite the horrible weather conditions, it was absolutely worth it.
It doesn’t matter whether there’s 3 million tourists or none, it’s always nice to get lost in Venice and I would go again in a heartbeat except next time… with a costume! Peek at with our selection of this year’s most dazzling attire, photographed by Victoria Fishel.
A fascinating piece of trivia…
In old Venice, wearing a special society mask and disguise called “Volto e Bauta” in daily life and work was common among the citizens, not only during the Carnival period. The use of the society mask was based on an anonymitiy concept which was regulated by government and widely accepted for several hundred years. – via
A Guide To Your Options To Buy Costumes Online
Venetian Artiquity creates fabulous traditional Venetian masks and artwork that have been featured in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and a number of international publications. Visit their Etsy shop.
Venetian Masks Shop offer a wide range of high quality, authentic masks and costumes with colors and design patterns following traditions dating back to the 13th century. Visit their online shop.
As featured in the New York times, Tragicomica have been practicing mask-making in the historical center of Venice since 1436. They also organize traditional events and balls around Carnival time. Visit their website.
A family owned business, 1001 Venetian Masks offers a wide selection of flamboyant and a considerable wealth of information about the festival’s origins and traditions. Visit their website.