By Ana Gabriela Ribeiro, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With less then a month to go before Carnival 2012, revelers need to hurry up if they still want to buy Fantasias (Carnival costumes) to parade on the “Sapucai” at the Sambódromo in Rio. Each samba school participating in the parade competition has their own set of costumes based on the year’s Enredo (Theme), and with only a limited number per Ala (wing or section), there is no time to waste.

A parader in costume with Unidos de Vila Isabel in Carnival 2011, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
A parader in costume with Unidos de Vila Isabel in Carnival 2011, photo by Raphael David/Riotur.

There are two general ways to get a hold of official Carnival costumes, either through travel agencies, or online direct from the samba schools or specialized Carnival sites, like, or

With travel agencies the process is simpler. One has only to pick the samba school of choice and they do everything from there, including contacting the president of the specific samba school parade Ala (“wing”) to check if the chosen costumes are still available.

Costume prices typically range from R$500 to R$800 (US$480) for the Special Group schools that will be parading on February 19th and 20th, and these prices will continue to go up until Carnival. Costumes for the Access Groups, which parade earlier, are less expensive at around R$400 (US$240) each.

Most costumes are unisex, equally used by both men and women and the sizes are very forgiving. Height is the main factor when deciding on size, a Medium fits a person of 5’8 inches but when in doubt go one size higher. As for shoes, a U.S. size 6 for men and or 7 1/2 for women is roughly equivalent to a 36.

Laelson Bezerra, who works for Rio Show Turismo, explains that the client pays a deposit of fifty percent of the cost of the costume into the agency’s account. The rest is paid three days before the parade starts. “We will also take our clients to the barracoes (workshops where the costumes are kept) to a final fitting, which is already included in the price” says Bezerra.

Elaborate costumes in motion during Mangueira's 2011 Carnival performance, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Elaborate costumes in motion during Mangueira's 2011 Carnival performance, photo by Adriana Lorete/Riotur.

The other option is to go directly to the samba schools, and most have web sites that clearly display the costume options. From there, although in Portuguese, it is possible to select sizes and see prices and check availability, however that is just the first step.

Next is to contact the president of the Ala or the person in charge of the costume and speak to them (most likely in Portuguese). Unless a fluent Portuguese speaker, it is advisable to have a Carioca friend to deal with the procedures and to negotiate with them.

Some of the presidents of the sectors, such as Hélcio Correia, president of the samba sector “Amar é viver “ (Imperatriz samba school), have their own site for loaning Carnival costumes. Correia suggests that international money transfers be done via Banco do Brazil or Western Union which have lower processing fees. The costumes are only ready three days before the parade.

For Carnival costumes see the samba schools sites:
Unidos da Tijuca
União da Ilha
Grande Rio
Porto da Pedra
São Clemente


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

12 + 9 =