Iris ladies get shady for Mardi Gras


Members of the Krewe of Iris decorate their signature sunglasses. The all-female Krewe rolls Uptown the Saturday before Mardi Gras Photo credit: Amy Ngo

Amy Ngo

In a room full of glitter, glue and giggles, the Krewe of Iris is carrying on an old Mardi Gras tradition. The oldest, all-female krewe came together to create their hand-decorated masterpieces: sunglasses.

“Kristen, our captain, wanted to have a special throw that made you scream, ‘Iris’ when you saw it,” said Denise Barnett, assistant float lieutenant.

“Muses started decorating shoes years ago. That fits them. Since we are a day parade, we started making sunglasses to throw to the crowd. Iris sunglasses are our coveted throw,” said Mary Beth Verdigets, Krewe of Iris float lieutenant.

Nine years ago, the Krewe of Iris captain decided that hand-decorated sunglasses were the perfect fit. The women of Iris get together throughout the year to craft the perfect throws for parade-goers at decorating parties.

“We love to share our decorating ideas with each other. Sometimes we steal each others’ designs,” Barnett said.

These parties give the women the opportunity to share their experiences with each other and tell stories of why they love being a part of Iris.

“You don’t always get to see everyone on your float because of where you stand, but when we have these parties, we come together. We are a part of this together,” said Barnett.

Over 3,400 women in the krewe think Iris is the perfect fit for them. It’s more than just being in a Mardi Gras krewe.

“I was always an observer of Mardi Gras, but I started riding because my best friend from when I was 10, her mom has been riding for 38 years. [My best friend] asked me if I wanted to ride in Iris, and I said, ‘why not’,” said Barnett. “I always said it would just be for one year, but here I am 10 years later.”

Iris welcomes women from near and far.

“We do have a lot of women who are from out of town on the float. Some of them have ties to New Orleans. Others are just coming to ride and be a part of the culture,” said Verdigets.

The women of Iris describe being a part of Iris as a sisterhood. The most valuable part of the experience is the camaraderie that comes with it.

“It’s changed my life: the camaraderie of the group, of the people you ride with. When I first got on, I only knew [my best friend and her mom]. Going to the parties and going to meetings, I met all these women who are now my close friends,” Barnett said.

The Krewe of Iris rolls through uptown every year on the Saturday before Mardi Gras.