Kerry’s Dramatic New Orleans Costume Style

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

New Orleans is known for its costuming culture. Here in the Crescent City, we have an entire season – for which people prepare all year – dedicated to masquerading. But dramatic attire isn’t exclusive to carnival season. Outside of Mardi Gras, New Orleans offers many opportunities to stretch the limits of style. One person whose wardrobe embodies the city’s joie de vivre is Kerry Maloney. We toured her French Quarter apartment last year. The centerpiece of her home is a wall display of elaborately decorated wigs. With Fat Tuesday here – and city-wide costuming in full swing – we thought it would be fun to catch up with Kerry to talk about her style and see what she cooked up for Mardi Gras.

See Kerry’s full House Tour → Kerry’s Fun French Quarter Apartment

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Three words that describe your style: Dramatic, comfortable, retro

Three items in your closet that you couldn’t live without:

  1. Head scarves — Dresses up an outfit and hides your bad hair days.
  2. Pashmina — It’s a scarf; it’s a sweater; it’s a blanket, and a hair wrap. And it looks fashionable while doing all those things.
  3. J.Crew v-neck t-shirts

The #1 item from your fashion wish list: Vintage leather jacket

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

How has living in New Orleans influenced your style? Living in New Orleans has opened me up to so many style possibilities. I wouldn’t say completely changed, it just gives me license to really be myself. I grew up in Illinois and it’s just not a place where standing out is greatly encouraged. The first time I visited my hometown with purple hair, the flight attendentant on the regional jet was so amazed that she had the pilot come out to see it. That’s when I thought: I’m not in New Orleans anymore! This city is such a mix of cultures, styles and traditions. Since I live in the French Quarter, half the people I see are on vacation and half drunk; they are ready to throw on a wig and pass a good time. I’ve never felt judged based on my appearance here; in fact it takes a lot to get noticed here. It’s easy to let go of your inhibitions and be influenced by the different types of people you encounter.

Go-to source for style inspiration: Street fashion. Most recently we were in Istanbul where we snagged our bodices for this year’s Mardi Gras costume from a street vendor. The use of color and pattern was exciting and inspirational.

See Kerry’s full House Tour → Kerry’s Fun French Quarter Apartment

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Favorite travel outfit: Romers and jumpsuits. I’m terrible at matching. I like to have one easy piece that looks great. They can be dressy or casual. I try to find lightweight, quick-dry, wrinkle-free fabrics in neutral colors and let my accessories do the talking.

Favorite beach/poolside look: 30 spf. Trashy Diva vintage high-wasted two piece swimsuit, over-sized hat, sarong, head scarf, lipstick

Favorite 3 accessories:

  1. Voyager necklace — favorite concert swag from Jenny Lewis’ most recent album and is fitting for my travel lifestyle
  2. Sunglasses — Current faves are Krewe out of New Orleans and Valley
  3. Stila Lipstick — Not something I wear in everyday life, but when I’m traveling it’s a must to polish off a look. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really appreciated what a difference lip color can make. My favorite colors are Bella (hot pink) Como (purple that currently matches my hair) and Tesoro (orangey red). Stila lasts and lasts without needing a top coat or drying out your lips.
(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Favorite occasions for dressing up in New Orleans: Mardi Gras is kind of like my religion, but opening day at the race track and Easter are fabulous costume days as well. We dress up a lot during Christmas time, birthdays, obviously Halloween is huge. Southern Decadence, Festival International, all the festivals really.

Favorite places to shop: I actually hate shopping, I get pretty much everything online at H&M, Betabrand, Mod Cloth, When I was in Chicago over the summer, I found a great company called Trunk Club. At that point, they were just starting to shop for women. I had an appointment with a stylist, Elena Cohn, who now sends me boxes based on my style. I keep what I want, and send the rest back. It has introduced me to more well-made clothes, and pushes me out of my style comfort zone. There is always at least one thing in each box I wouldn’t have tried on in a store but end up loving. You can contact Elena directly at Tell her I sent you! When I’m not shopping online, I visit local boutiques, especially Trashy Diva.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Favorite hairstyle: Color! Pink and purple have been my favorite. I love playing with faux hawks, head wraps, and turbans lately. My hair stylist Remy Begnaud is so fun and up for anything. Last year before Mardi Gras, I walked in and said, “I want Mardi Gras Hair!” She said, “YES! Let’s do it.” Two hours later, my hair was purple, green, and gold. She works out of a wonderful little salon in Mid-City called Lux.

All-time favorite Mardi Gras costume you’ve worn: I always love the one I’m currently working on the best, but they are usually delicate and don’t live long past Fat Tuesday. My drum major costume is one of the only ones that stayed intact and was super fun and comfortable. I love having a huge statement headpiece; it makes it easier for my friends to find me.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

What went into the construction of this year’s Mardi Gras costume?
My friends choose a group costume theme for each Mardi Gras day. This year we settled on “Las Vegas.” As soon as we get back from whatever New Years trip we take – this year was Brazil – we start working on it. We spend the next month trying to outdo each other for the biggest, brightest, flashiest costume. My fellow Traveler Broad Fender and I are dressing as showgirls because we found amazing bodices in Istanbul. I’ve already put in about 40 hours constructing it and will probably continue adding to it. I got my feathers from Jefferson Variety, the one-stop shop for the best and brightest fabric, glitter and trim; everything you need to make a costume. The flowers were all purchased at Michael’s and individually hand-glittered and glued on. The insider tip for glitter is Elmer’s Glue; don’t bother trying to use anything else. My favorite Mardi Gras tradition, which started long before I ever moved to the city, is a visit to Fifi Mahoney’s to select a wig. If you buy a $5 wig cap, you can try on all their wigs, and even have them custom-decorated for you. They have the best variety and quality wigs in the city, and it’s just a super fun activity.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

The TV or movie character’s wardrobe you’d steal in a minute:
Solange Knowles. She moved into a house around the corner from me and I’m pretty obsessed with her style ever since. She mixes funk and drama with classic fashion. Her wedding dress had a cape, need I say more?

Best fashion advice: Own it. If you believe you’re pulling it off, everyone else will believe it too.

See Kerry’s full House Tour → Kerry’s Fun French Quarter Apartment