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How to Dress for Cádiz Carnaval

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How to dress fr (1)

So, I attended Cádiz Carnaval last weekend and to put it short- IT WAS FREAKIN AWESOME.

There will be a more detailed post covering my experience coming soon.

For now, as there is one more weekend of Cádiz Carnaval craziness coming up, I thought I would share my insights on just how to dress…. Since apparently, I, myself, didn’t know beforehand.

I searched and searched but found little specific information on what type of costume to wear. Sure there were loads of pictures and everyone so gratefully informed me to ‘wear a costume’ (uh, duh.), but I was looking for more. What do the locals wear? What are the norms? What themes do the masses gravitate toward?

I take my costumes very seriously and I wanted to be prepared. Is that too much to ask?

Well, if you’re anything like me and you want more information, here’s what I saw, what mistakes I made and what I wish I would have worn!

Here you have it:

How to Dress for Cádiz Carnaval:

Wear a Costume

Faux pas #1- wearing normal clothes. Hey, you! You’re going to Carnaval! Suck it up and wear a costume!

This may seem like an obvious point, but some of our friends came without one. If you don’t show up in a costume, you will most likely be the ONLY one. Sure I saw a few people walking around sin disfraz- but they were either old or thought they were “too cool” aka boring. Chances are this is your one time to experience Carnaval and the whole point of the festival is to dress up- so do that.

No fear! If you don’t have time to buy one beforehand that’s absolutely fine. The streets will be lined with vendors selling colorful wigs, masks and accessories. Money also shouldn’t be a problem, as for under 10€ you can get pretty damn creative at one of Spain’s infamous ‘chino’ stores. You pretty much have no excuses…. 😀

drunk in costume

Dress as something specific

Dress as something specific or risk getting flooded with the question- ‘what are you?’
Pretty much everyone roaming the streets was something clear-cut. There was no guessing involved and outfits were pretty damn easy to identify.

Our mistake- my friends and I just bought random things to throw together. I shopped pretty aimlessly, grabbing shiny sparkly accessories from different stores with no sort of plan. I guess I thought I was dressing for Mardi Gras or a some kind of neon rave? Thankfully my glitzy butterfly wings somehow brought it all together and I started calling myself a fairy.

What are we? ….. good question.

Find a group to be a matching theme

Apparently, my friends and I didn’t get this memo either. From the wee hours of the day we observed the masses stumbling around in small similarly dressed groups. These little matching posies of Carnaval goers all followed some sort of theme. Families, friends, couples- they all either completely matched or complimented each other in some way. Try to find someone to be the bacon to your eggs and you’ll fit right in.


Be funny
The best part of Cadiz Carnaval is that there are NO rules. Everything and anything goes. No one was dressed seriously and many were dressed controversially. After all, the main spectacles of the festival are chirigotas. (Chirigotas are satirical groups of entertainers who poke fun at everything from world news and current events to celebrities and politicians.) Follow their lead and incorporate some sarcasm in your costume. Make fun of something or someone. It’s all about laughs and humor. Nothing is ‘too soon’ or ‘too extreme.’ Get critical. Heck, get controversial. It’s all in good fun.


Get creative
In the words of SpongeBob- just use your IMAGINATION. People got really, really creative with their outfit choices. Even after 4 years of university theme parties, I was extremely impressed! An exceptional costume is so much more than ‘just a costume.’ It’s a conversation starter. People make a point to engage you if they are intrigued by your ensemble. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box. This is the time to get clever.


One of my favorites of the night

Dress warmly

Newsflash- Cádiz is an Island. Carnaval is in February. Another point my friends and I somehow looked over.

Sure Cádiz is in the south of Spain and more temperate than most of the country, but at night the Island breeze gets COLD. Especially in the spring months where a light sprinkle is common and you’re likely to be damp. During daylight hours the temperature was very pleasant, but I suggest bringing layers for later, because even under that beer blanket, you’re bound to get chilly.

Zip-up fleeces and tights are the way to go

After we realized how chilly we were, my friend and I bought new costumes [AKA 10€  fleece cheetah PJs] at a chino. It was possibly the best purchase of the weekend.

Be comfortable
Carnaval is a nonstop all-day, all-night party, so if you’re planning on lasting throughout, comfortability is key.

From what I observed- no one went out of their way to be “cute.” In fact, we saw quite the opposite. Don’t worry so much about how you look; worry more about how you feel. Sorry ladies, you may not be meeting your future husband this weekend, but you’ll have a damn good time. Plus I’d rather romp around in converse than 5 inch heels any day. In the end, I promise you’ll thank me.


  • Wear substantial footwear– I’m serious. Aside from the mounds and mounds of garbage, broken glass, and soggy confetti, you’ll encounter more pleasant substances such as vomit and floods of pee. Seriously, there are people EVERYWHERE pissing all over the place. Please, for the sake of my sanity, cover your feet.
  • Be careful with your belongings– Carnaval attracts a shit ton of tourists. Drunk tourists. Careless tourists. With money. And Cameras. And iPhones. Pack all of these inebriated bodies in a tight place and you have a pickpocket’s fairytale. If you’re not good at keeping an eye on your stuff, leave it at home. I bought a fashionable 2 Euro fanny pack and tucked it under my costume. No shame.

I almost forgot,

The most important rule of Cádiz Carnaval—>
Have fun!!!!


Oh, and god speed 😀

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