It's Fat Tuesday, the final day of an annual celebration in New Orleans dedicated to beads, booze, and Rob Ford floats.

At least, that's the modern-day version of Mardi Gras. But the fete traces its history all the way back to ancient Roman times, when it was a rather staid Christian holiday meant to kick off the Lenten season.

1966: The float carrying Rex, King of Carnival, squeezes through a massive crowd in New Orleans. | (AP Photo/Jack Thornell)

While today's more bacchanalian incarnation still signals the beginning of 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, the bead-throwing and costume-wearing are more modern interpretations.

So before donning a scandalous outfit and sashaying down Canal Street, take some inspiration from these 1950s revelers, who used plenty of creativity — and fabric — in crafting their Mardi Gras "fancy dress" looks:

1955: Show some skin. This is, after all, a party! | (Three Lions/Getty Images)

1955: Don't be afraid to let pop culture guide your sartorial selections. | (Three Lions/Getty Images)

1955: Embrace your inner Flower Child. | (Three Lions/Getty Images)

1956: Clowning around (sorry...) makes for a fun day. | (Three Lions/Getty Images)

Date Unknown: When in doubt, add pearls. This reminds everyone that your beads are classier than theirs. | (Bradley Smith/CORBIS)

1950: This is a case of what not to wear. Ask yourself the question, "Will my mask scare small children?" If the answer is a definitive "yes," then do us all a favor and leave that accessory at home. | (Bradley Smith/CORBIS)

1955: Shiny helmets scream Daft Punk. Tinfoil hats recall old sci-fi movies. But shiny tinfoil helmets? Those are your DIY Mardi Gras "statement pieces." | (Three Lions/Getty Images)