Best wardrobe tips for a stay in the Big Easy

New Orleans’ hot and humid weather tempts some to forget everything they ever learned about how to dress in public. Though Mardi Gras itself promotes partying with wild abandon and embracing all things gaudy, even it involves functions requiring formal wear. In every way, the whole hot city is an exciting, crazy mix that requires a versatile wardrobe depending on the time of year.

Here’s everything you should add or drop from your New Orleans packing list.

What to wear

Casual chic: Wear dressy, casual and comfortable outfits for lunch or dinner at upscale eateries. Most restaurateurs, especially in the French Quarter, don’t insist on a dress code, but wearing something a little bit fancy can make the experience more memorable.

Shoes: Long days filled with a lot of walking and uneven sidewalks, including the brick and block commonly found on Bourbon Street, call for walking shoes. Visitors wearing high heels risk a twisted ankle or a fall. Women should choose flats, and men should choose boat shoes or loafers. Comfortable shoes like sneakers are a good choice for anyone, especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of outdoor activities.

Crossbody bag or a fanny pack: Tourists are more likely to be scammed by a street huckster than robbed by a pickpocket in NoLa, but fashion-forward accessories that protect your essentials will bring you peace of mind. You can find great options on Amazon to coordinate with all of your outfit ideas.

Leave these at home

Tight jeans are miserable in Louisiana’s humid summer temps. Pack a pair only if you plan to spend a night clubbing and don’t want to dress up, or if you’re headed to the Big Easy in the cooler months.

Tank tops, sleeveless T-shirts, crop tops, and booty shorts leave your arms, midriff, and legs exposed to the sun during the hot summer months. Wear loose-fitting shirts and knee-length shorts to help prevent sunburn.

Dress for the weather

In the summer, New Orleans is famously hot, and the heat is made less bearable by the humidity. Dress for comfort. T-shirts, rompers, short sleeve shirts, midi dresses or skirts, and sandals all suffice. Steer clear of fabrics like cotton that don’t wick perspiration away from your skin. Expect afternoon thunderstorms; a rain jacket is always a good choice to pack no matter the destination, but many shops in the French Quarter sell ponchos and raincoats

Average temperatures in the winter remain steadily at around 60 degrees. Pack a light jacket or light sweater for cooler evenings. Denim jackets are especially versatile and look great with most outfits, so it’s perfect for those who want a capsule wardrobe.

How to dress for Mardi Gras

Pack a light jacket, comfortable slacks, anything with long sleeves and sensible shoes for Mardi Gras, New Orleans’ most famous celebration. The festivities end the day before Ash Wednesday, but parties and parades start weeks before the official end in early spring. Some masked balls require formal attire, so check the invitation to see if black tie, white tie or costume de rigueur is expected.

The French Quarter isn’t the only part of the city that celebrates Mardi Gras. Some parades, like those in the Garden District, are more family-friendly. Parade viewers and participants at these festivities should choose less risque dress than they might for the Quarter.

Select outfits with at least one of Mardi Gras’ official colors. Purple signifies justice, gold is for power, and green stands for faith.

Packing tips

Pack day-to-day clothing and toiletries in a carry-on bag, and buy your costume, a mask, and formal wear once you arrive. Mask stores are abundant in the city, selling everything from simple half masks to elaborate full masks like the Arlecchino, a joker-like mask with a large headpiece. Or stop by the French Market Mardi Gras Mask Market for a one-of-a-kind creation, and ship it back home before leaving so you don’t have to pack it.