MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — One of the most recognize items worn by Mardi Gras royalty are their long, decorative trains. Although these trains are a huge part of Mobile’s Mardi Gras culture, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, there was a time when trains weren’t worn at all. So, how did we get here?
Mardi Gras trains started to appear in the 1890’s when Mardi Gras Queens became popular. Originally, only Kings were featured in the parades with the start of Felix I, and trains were not part of the Mardi Gras attire. Once trains became popular, they became more important in the Mardi Gras traditions.
Cartledge Blackwell, curator of the Mobile Carnival Museum, said Mobile’s Mardi Gras trains are much more than a piece of clothing.
“Trains are works of art, they’re much like tapestries,” said Blackwell. Like tapestries, Mobile’s Mardi Gras trains tell a story. They tell the story of the wearer.
“The trains speak to the monarch, their family and their relation to Mobile,” said Blackwell.
The creation of a train is no easy feat. It requires time and dedication to turn these long pieces of fabric into wearable art for the 50 members of Mardi Gras Royalty.
WKRG News 5 spoke to one of Mobile’s most recognized dressmakers in 2020. Patricia Halsell Richardson is a designer who crafts many of the trains worn by Mardi Gras royalty. Blackwell said there are five active designers working in Mobile. It’s typical for each designer to have 12 people working under them complete the trains.
So, the next time you spot a train during this year’s season, take the time to look and appreciate all the hard work that went into telling the wearer’s story.