CARNAVAL: Costume Buying Guide

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Carnival costumes – what and where to buy

Get down to the feria market on Calle 72 for the best deals on carnival costumes.

In addition to the usual feria artesanal, a huge amount of pop-up stalls have appeared this month selling all you could possibly need for the carnival celebrations. Marimonda masks, red and white spotted head ties (for la Negrita Puloy costume), ‘vueltiao’ sombreros and sparkly waistcoats line the street in an explosion of colour.

“Now is the time to buy”, one shop owner tells me. “As Carnival weekend approaches, the prices will go up considerably.”

This may just be the classic sales spiel he gives every foreigner, but I decide not to take my chances and buy a suitably garish waistcoat.

Vueltiao’ sombreros are also very popular and “key” to any carnival costume, another shopkeeper explains. “You can’t dance Cumbia without one!”

Exactly – this sombrero is a classic prop for the man as he pursues and tries to ‘woo’ the lady, shuffling his feet back and forth while shaking his hips. Not having one of these provides me with the perfect excuse to simply watch more masterful dancers show off their skills, rather than being pressured into doing my own pathetic attempt (which looks more like a stalker with a limp).

“But next week they’ll be more expensive!”

“Fine! I’ll take four.” (My friends can wear one too if I’m really going through with this).

I’m also attracted to the bold summery shirts, covered in bright pictures of dancing carnival characters and tropical fruit. But check the designs carefully – I was about to buy one before I looked at the back to find a huge picture of the Marimonda sawing a lady’s bum off! Whatever the metaphor was, if there indeed was one, I chose to play it safe and get the one with tropical fruit.

Material is key – many of the costumes are made from the same sweaty, synthetic material as my very fake Colombian shirt, so it’s worth running them through your fingers before making any rash decisions. It may feel relatively cool in the city at the moment, but it’s likely the temperatures will soar again once Carnival weekend arrives. Baking in a Teflon jumpsuit for 6 hours at the Batalla de Flores parade isn’t my idea of fun.

Our purchase of the day, however, has to be a Marimonda bum bag (I can’t bring myself to write the American English name for that!). Although the vast majority of people go to these events to celebrate their city’s cultural traditions, thieves certainly take advantage of the situation so you must take care.

A group of people tried to pickpocket me at El Garabato parade last weekend by spraying foam in my face and ramming their hands in my pockets while I was disorientated. Luckily they weren’t able to take anything as my belongings were tied to my belt, disappearing into the crowd before I could even see their faces. This is apparently a very common technique, so it’s advisable to leave all valuables at home during these events for peace of mind. Carnival shouldn’t be spent in a constant state of paranoia, frisking yourself every thirty seconds to check everything is still there, so take the bare minimum and enjoy!

-The market is on Calle 72, next to the Joe Arroyo/Romelio Martinez Transmetro station.

-Get ready to haggle – I don’t think we paid the original asking price for a single thing we bought!

-Shop around – prices vary considerably between stalls, especially the temporary ones at the far end of the market.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Good info! I’ll definitely keep the “leave your belongings at home” in mind and to make sure to haggle a little. Here in the States, at least where I live, haggling isn’t common unless we are at a garage sale, but if it’s a tent sale at a fair, prices are fixed and nonnegotiable.

    • Hi; thanks for your note! I’ve found that haggling is pretty common across Latin America; especially if you’re a gringo. 🙂 And on that note, to avoid ‘gringo-pricing’ on high-value items, it’s best to have a local friend make the purchase for you.

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