Mardi Gras Indian suits are composed of three main pieces: a crown, a dickie, and an apron, according to Chief Alfred Doucette, a leading chief in the Flaming Arrow tribe.
The crown is the elaborate headdress worn by Mardi Gras Indians. The Big Chief, the highest-ranking Mardi Gras Indian in each tribe, can have a headdress that weighs upwards of 40 pounds — some are as heavy as 100 pounds.
The dickie is the patched portion of the suit that spans from the upper chest to the waist, with designs that portray a story on the front and back.
The apron is the final part of the suit, visible from the waist to the ankle. It comes in different shapes and sizes depending on the artist behind the suit. It can be a mobile, a teardrop design, or a large canvas.
Chief Doucette has created his own Mardi Gras suits since 1988.
“I was doing some carpentry work at a house and I saw a picture resembling a battle scene, and it gave me an idea of how Indians used to live,” he says.
That idea became the driving force behind his first suit. Deemed “Brother John,” the suit portrays a story of an American Indian warrior fighting off Spanish soldiers. The dickie shows the initial battle scene, while the apron showcases the burial scene of the warrior.
“A lot of Indians sew from a vision or a dream. My suits represents people’s pain.”