My Sew Journey to Trinidad Carnival 2020 and Getting Shadow Banned

Martha wears an elaborate Carinval costume, with strappy bikini and cutaway leggings, a glittery harness, and bright blue and yellow wings. She has a matching spangled headband as well.

Trinidad Carnival is life!!! You are more than welcome to tell anyone who questions that statement that Martha from GariChild told you so! It is one of the best celebrations of life and culture that I choose to participate in, and I wanted to share with my sew family some of the celebratory me-mades I included in my suitcase on this last big adventure before the pandemic hit.

First some background: Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is an annual celebration held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and is known for its beautiful and colorful costumes and music. Take a moment to google it and be prepared to be delighted. It’s truly is one of my favorite carnivals to attend and lives up to the notion of being “one of the biggest street festivals ever!”

Let me start with… No, I did not make that amazing Goddess-like ensemble above! All credit goes to the Designer, Alejandro Gomez, for Paparazzi Carnival Viper Section. My friends and I felt and looked amazing and had a great time Carnival Tuesday! Sighhhh. It seems like a lifetime ago now. #takemeback

Martha and two friends pose for a selfie win their matching Carnival costumes. It's possible to see the glitter, metallic vinyl, and beadwork on their costumes!

How much fun is Trinidad Carnival, you may ask? Those smiles above were generated at the finale of my 2-week party infused journey to Carnival. And ohhhhh, what a 2 weeks it was!

On this journey to Carnival, my friends and I attended several themed parties with some dress requirements or more so suggestions in my opinion. This is what made sewing for my suitcase series really fun.

Martha wears a sleeveless dress with a twist detail under the bust. The fabric has stripes of white and animal print.

What does one wear to the All White Party?

Animal print because I am a rebel!

I went with McCalls 7922 in this amazing scuba in animal print that I got from Minerva Crafts.

For some reason, we booked four boat rides during this trip. Yikes! Not sure how that happened, but I don’t need to attend a party at sea for a good while. All of them were fun, and did I mention that they allow you to bring your own cooler full of drinks onto the boat?!?! It’s all coming back to me now. At this point I was in full party mode and I went with rompers and coordinated skirt sets for easy dressing!

All-inclusive days and pool parties are plentiful during Carnival, and I chose the most colorful fabrics in my stash to make these amazing outfits.

Martha wears a long-sleeved maxi dress with a plunging neckline. The fabric has a white background with a floral/jungle print in bright colours, and horizontal stripes of transparency. Her white swimwear and dark skin can peek through the dress.

When I first got this burnout floral fabric, I knew I wanted something pool party ready. The South Shore Romper from Ellie and Mac is one of my TNT patterns, and I swear it looks amazing in any knit fabric I throw at it. This looked awesome with my all white swimwear underneath.

This was definitely pool-side ready!

Martha wears a cropped wrap top with drapey sleeves, and long trousers made in matching fabric. The print has jagged vertical stripes in acid yellow, gold, white, and blue.

This multi-colored striped rayon challis spoke to my spirit in so many ways.

I hacked the bodice of McCalls 6552 into a wrap top and used the Glebe Pants pattern from Muna and Broad. More details on my pants can be found here.

One of the parties we attended was Soca Brainwash, and this year’s theme was Treasures of the Orient. This Soca Music Festival explored and incorporated the rich culture of East Asia inspired by Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Macau and China. I immediately knew that I wanted to honor the influences of these beautiful countries with respect while fusing a little bit of me, so I chose to make a kimono style wrap dress using Simplicity 8925 in Ankara fabric. The Ankara fabric is of Angola’s typical textile prints, called “SAMAKAKA” or “SAMACACA” and it’s one of my favorite prints, so this makes it an even more special me-made.

Now while I did not make my costume for Carnival Tuesday, I did make one for the pre-show on Carnival Monday! I went with a 2-piece bikini using my bodice from my South Shore Romper (TNT for life! And yes, I used it 3 times for one trip #itsthatgood). I hacked the Evie one piece swimsuit pattern for my bikini bottom for some serious thigh action. As I said on that Carnival Monday, “I truly believe that I’ve been sewing all these swimsuits to get ready for this day. Being able to make a suit that flatters all my curves is soooo empowering.”

Martha wears her Carnival Monday outfit, in a rainbow snakeskin print. She has high-cut bikini bottoms and a three-quarter sleeve crop top -- and coordinating colourful sneakers!

One of the main reasons I love to attend Carnival is because I love to see adults just having fun and enjoying life to the fullest.

Sewing the majority of my suitcase for my trip and sharing my carnival adventures with my friends on Instagram was a big highlight for me — so imagine the heartbreak when I discovered that many of my pictures on this carnival journey were being “shadow banned” on Instagram.

What is shadow banning?

Shadow banning is the act of blocking or partially blocking a user or their content from an online community such that it will not be readily apparent to the user that they have been banned. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_banning

When Instagram shadow bans your account, only your followers will be able to see your feed, and not the entire Instagram community. It didn’t take long to realize that some of my pictures were not coming up under some of the hashtags that I used on my posts, or that some of the hashtags themselves were being muted by Instagram.

Based on my research, an IG shadow ban tends to happen when you’ve broken a rule or if someone reports your content as inappropriate. I want to know what rule was broken, because at first I thought it was only my carnival posts but deeper research revealed that some of my sewing content was also missing on public feeds.

What is not clear to me is who (Mrx. Algorithm seems to be the culprit at every turn) ultimately decides what content is appropriate and when a shadow ban is lifted.

This left me utterly disheartened and made me take a step back from social media to fully assess why it bothered me so much. I have virtually met many amazing people, learned new things, and have engaged in shared experiences through social media. The thought that Instagram’s algorithm chooses to censor content based on a set of rules known only to the cloud pisses me the hell off. My emails to Instagram continue to go unanswered regarding the matter, but I will continue to shed light because I am more than sure that I am not the only one.

I hope you have enjoyed my sew journey to Trinidad and if you want to see more of my makes, you can find me as GariChild on Instagram and look up the hashtag #SewYourSuitcase to see other stuff I made for my trip.

Another view of Martha's Carnival Monday ensemble. The crop top has a wrap at the front, with a deep V neckline, and the bikini bottoms are high waisted and cut high in the thigh.

Until next time,

GariChild!

Bio: Martha, 1st generation Garifuna princess born and raised in New York City by my Guatemalan parents. I’ve always been intrigued by the art of sewing garments but continuously found a way to push the thought aside for years. Forever challenged by my friend to dig deeper “What would you do if you were not afraid?” #lightbulbmoment Learning how to sew is such a rewarding experience and I absolutely love it!!! I am self-taught and still learning which can definitely be an adventure as I traverse the art of sewing for my curvy body. You can follow my sewing journey and shenanigans on Instagram @GariChild.


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