Crown Heights Costumer Oufits Kids For West Indian Day Parade

By Sonja Sharp on August 28, 2013 9:35am 

Slideshow
  Pat Nurse outfits scores of infants, toddlers, children and teens in high Carnival style — many in the last week before the parade, and most for just $25. 
Crown Heights Historian Creates Affordable West Indian Day Parade Costumes
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CROWN HEIGHTS — It's a feat in feathers

Every year, West Indian Day Parade costumer Pat Nurse manages to outfit scores of infants, toddlers, children and teens in high carnival style — many in the last week before the parade, and most for just $25. 

"This week is the week that kids come home from vacation and they say they want to play," said the longtime designer, whose elaborate yet affordable children's costumes attract longtime participants and last-minute masqueraders alike. 

"In Trinidad, if you’re playing in the parade in February, you pay down on your costume by November. But [in Brooklyn] people only decide to play late," she said.

All across the borough, revelers are busy trying to outdo one another with elaborate costumes.

Customer Olivia Cole — whose daughter Tiara Eastman, 3, chose her costume on Monday, less than a week before the children's parade — said she appreciated having a low-cost costume option.

"All the other costumes are $200 to $300 — it's ridiculous, just for one day, she said. "It's reasonable, it's pretty, and the kids get to do the same thing [as those wearing more expensive costumes]."

Working in her Crown Heights apartment, Nurse designed costumes for people in her parade group based on continents, with four distinct outfits for Africa, Antarctica, Asia and the Americas, plus half a dozen characters with references to India, the Eiffel Tower, the Liberty Bell and an African violet. 

Customer Diamond Waldren recently searched for a costume for her 3-year-old daughter, Davonnie. She said participating in the parade is a way to celebrate her origins.

"I'm Guyanese-American. I'm mostly American, but we want to show our heritage and pass it on," she said.

In Nurse's more than 20 years of designing costumes, she has amassed an impressive collection of carnival couture. Her home overflows with outfits she plans to display in a small museum she wants to open this fall. 

"The costumes are choking me. We’re looking for a warehouse to set up the museum, because [a] storefront will be too small. " Nurse said. "I have two bedrooms, and one is filled with something like 25 huge pieces." 

When she's not sprinkling glitter, Nurse teaches English at Medgar Evers College. She is also the author of "Carnival Woman," a 2002 novel about Trinidadian carnival that includes an exhaustive historical index.  

But when it comes to Labor Day weekend, Nurse has only one thing in mind. 

"They call it a parade, but it’s a costumed carnival," Nurse said. "You might not know anybody in the [group], but all of a sudden you make a friend. Everyone puts on a costume and the spirit of carnival takes over."  

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