- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) - Carter Church’s talents as a costume designer keep him busy working with Carnival krewes in Mississippi and Louisiana all year long.

“I’ve always enjoyed Mardi Gras,” the Jackson-born and New Orleans-reared Church said. “It’s a fun time, and it’s fun to watch somebody transformed from one life to somebody else.”

But the creative demands under deadlines have given Church what he jokingly calls a seasonal ulcer.

“In November, the ulcer starts kicking up, but once Mardi Gras is over, it settles down,” said Church, who has lived and worked in Bay St. Louis for the last 27 years.

He began his career as an after-school and weekend helper to a neighbor who made headpieces for the all-female Krewe of Iris. When the neighbor abruptly left for a job in New York, the Iris captain looked to Church for help.

“She asked me to finish up and I did,” he said.

Soon Church was asked to make the men’s costumes for the krewe and again he agreed.

“I figured I’d bluff my way through it,” he said. That was 53 years ago. “I’ve been doing Iris costumes ever since.”

Church attended design school in New York briefly and when he came home to New Orleans to recover from an emergency appendectomy, he never returned to school, instead building his design career among local Carnival organizations.

The Krewe of Nereids, Waveland’s all female krewe, came calling in 1970, the year after Hurricane Camille, and except for a brief break, he’s been costuming members ever since.

Church said he has cut down considerably on the number of krewes he works with to around a dozen, including krewes in Lake Charles and Thibodaux, La.

He doesn’t sew for all of them but creates sketches of the costumes instead. He keeps copies of all his creations in binders for reference “so I don’t do the same thing for the club again.”

Among the ulcer-inducing tasks Church tackles every year is rounding up far flung krewe members for costume fittings.

“When I first moved from New Orleans to Bay St. Louis, everybody had weekend homes here so it really wasn’t a problem. Since Katrina, people are scattered all over the country.”

Still, it’s easier to bring people in than transport costumes with sequined trains and collars as large as 8 feet across and 6 feet high.

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