If there one thing you should know about performers, it’s that there’s nothing we like better than not being ourselves. What we like even more is attention, and given the right opportunity, fancy costumes. As such, I decided to take another trip to this year’s Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, Brooklyn, which is now quickly becoming my favorite day of the year.
For those of you that are unacquainted, the Mermaid Parade, now in it’s 35th year, is a crazy mermaid themed bohemian art parade that celebrates Coney Island’s rich and wacky history. Mostly, though, it’s for artsy people to have a good time, create things that are beautiful and crazy and, of course to be mostly naked.
Anyone who wants to can march, there’s no heavy branding or corporate sponsors and no one’s really out to make money. Artists from all over the world, in a variety of fields (think costume designers, burlesque dancers, sculptors, textile artists and graphic designers) come out to celebrate by making elaborate, ridiculous and beautiful costumes, all because….why the fuck not? It’s fun.
Think of it like Halloween, except your one lame friend who goes to the party every year as ‘himself’ isn’t invited. Make no mistake, the Mermaid Parade is not about half-assing it. You have to use, like, your entire ass. (Or tits, depending on how many weirdos you want photographing you. And there are A LOT of photographers. Mobs of them. Everywhere.)
I had the basic concept worked out for my costume way back in October, when I decided to be Marie Antionette for Halloween. After an exhausting search, (Seriously, it took a few weeks,) I found the perfect wig, which was unfortunately, $80. I couldn’t justify wearing it only once for that price so, the idea for Mermaid Antionette was born. I just took out some of the old flowers I had sewed into it and replaced them with sea inspired embellishments.
This gave me some time to slowly collect various floral pieces and little accessories throughout the year instead of trying to put together everything all at once. I also reused the panniers (the thingies that make your dress puff out and give you giant hips) from my original costume.
Since I went for a full dress on Halloween and the parade is all about (partial) nudity, I thought I’d work the Marie-Antionette-in-her-skivvies angle. I bought a fantastic white brocade corset from Phialli on Etsy. It was beautiful and well made for a great price. (Keep in mind their items are coming from Australia, so it took about a month to get.) I got the beautiful sequin fabric from la20fabrics on Etsy. They’ve got every kind of sparkly, holographic or spandex-y fabric you could dream of and it came super quickly.
Initially, I had planned on covering the corset entirely in the sequin fabric, but I loved the way the brocade looked, so I only sewed it onto a few panels. I had no idea what I was going to do about the skirt, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got much more fabric than I thought.
I wanted to use real shells to glue on the bra part of the corset, but since I had no good way of attaching them, I went with a cheap pre-made sea sell bra that I took apart and decorated to my liking. This was also convenient since they had pre-drilled holes in them so it was easy to sew onto the corset.
I actually painted the shells with nail polish, which seems ridiculous but worked really well. Then I glued some lace to the back of the shell. After I had sewed/glued the seaweed into place on the corset, I sewed the shells on. Lastly, I embellished the shells with pink beads. I decided to skip the starfish because they were extremely brittle, so I didn’t think they’d make the trip to New York. (Also, because they were real starfish, they smelled pretty gross. Now I have a bunch of dead starfish I have no idea what do to with.)
I did almost nothing with the skirt. After I was done using the fabric for the corset, I cleaned up the edges a bit. It’s SUPER annoying to cut with the little sequins everywhere but luckily, it didn’t really need to be hemmed. Then I sewed a seaweed boa that I used for an old costume along one edge. Basically, I just ended up with a big rectangle. After I put the corset and panniers on, all I did was drape it over the panniers and safety pinned the crap out of it, which worked surprisingly well.
Next, it was onto the small detail stuff. Since wide fishnets are all the rage, it was easy to find those white fishnets on Amazon. The necklace I found a few years ago at the Brimfield Antique Show. Lastly, I painted my nails sea foam green and found some awesome nail stickers at Walgreens that went perfectly with my costume.
I did my makeup roughly the same as when I did Marie Antionette for Halloween but with more PIZZAZ! I mixed a super light foundation with white face paint and used lots of blush and a dark pink lipstick. Since this was non-traditional costume anyway, I also did a pink sparkly eyeshadow with a cat eye and tons of mascara, as I wanted to be seen from afar.
The parade itself was rainy but absolutely did not disappoint. Despite the rain the parade was packed with marchers in beautiful ridiculous costumes and spectators alike.
While we were on the subway there, we were photography mobbed by a bunch of Asian tourists, and then when we got off the train when it was pouring, mobbed by the people waiting out the storm in the subway. (Seriously, whenever we stopped there would be a circle of photographers that closed in on us.) When we got sick of it we opted to walk into the pouring rain, had a bunch of cops yell, ‘Let them eat cake!’ at me though a loudspeaker in a police van and when the rain stopped about 20 minutes later, we were mobbed by photographers in the actual march. It was glorious and exciting and totally crazy. There’s always a general positive vibe throughout the march and it really feels like you’re part of a community.
This year, I made it a point to really up the ante costume-wise. While I liked what I put together last year, my mistake was not realizing it really needed to be seen from afar. I had a lot of small details in it, that generally went unnoticed when in the middle of a giant swarm of people. That’s why, this year, I opted for a giant wig. Two feet of hair is hard to ignore.
My goal this year was to get a couple of photos in a few news outlets/have a few professional photographers interested in me, instead of a bunch of nerds with iPhones. Sure, there is technically a costume contest, but no one really pays much attention to it. The way to really tell you did a good job is if photos of you made it out there. And yeah, there’s probably a little more crotch than I’d like to see of myself in a media now, but hey, it was worth it.
Now that it’s over the only thing I can think of is: How the hell am I going to top this next year?
Want to see more pix online….and also me? Check these links!