Written by Jewel Levy for the Cayman Compass, February 27, 2017
West Bay fashion and costume designer Reba Dilbert has plans to cover up some of Cayman’s “nakedness” at this year’s adult Batabano Carnival.
“My topic this year will be Cayman flora and fauna,” said Ms. Dilbert. “Personally, I am tired of seeing just feathers and nothing creative behind it. My creations will be the beautiful hibiscus trees, parrots, black ‘ching chings’ with gold beaks, and iguanas.”
At her home in West Bay, Ms. Dilbert’s colorful costume of the Cayman hibiscus was on display on a mannequin on her front porch.
She said she started making costumes in 1983, and that she has been sewing since she was 3 years old.
Her intent, she said, is to offer Batabano parade costumes that are quintessentially Caymanian and offer more coverage than in recent years.
“In the Honduras carnival, the girls do not go as naked as they do here. Carnival is about color, it’s not about exposing your body. Cayman is small. I remember my people for what they traditionally like – they don’t want no nakedness.”
She said she hopes that after she creates the less revealing costumes for this year’s carnival, people might stand up and say, “This is how we want our carnival to be.”
Since starting her designs for this year’s carnival, Ms. Dilbert said she has created about six costumes, which were featured at the Red Sky at Night multicultural art fair at Harquail Cultural Centre on Saturday.
Over the years, Ms. Dilbert has won many awards for her designs, the products of hours of painstaking work.
An unofficial cultural ambassador when it comes to showcasing the creative flair of local carnivals, Ms. Dilbert gained national recognition in 1998 when she was nominated for Outstanding Work in Costume Design by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation.
In 2002, she gained international acclaim, winning Best National Costume in the Miss Bikini World (Malta) and Miss Tourism World (Turkey) pageants.
Since then, Ms. Dilbert has visited many countries to showcase her designs and to participate in various pageants and carnivals.
Batabano, started in 1983 by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, is held annually during the first week of May. The festival also includes a junior carnival.