Applied to dress is a cant phrase which probably arose in humorous allusion to the fig-leaf costume adopted by Adam and Eve.--Eliezer Edwards' Words, Facts, and Phrases, 1882
This pagan-Christian hybrid with deep European roots came to New Orleans in 1699, where it was celebrated by explorers on the banks of the Mississippi. The quasi-official colors of Mardi Gras -- green for faith, gold for power, and purple for justice -- were introduced in an 1872 parade. Today there are more than seventy New Orleans-area parades and eighty others in Louisiana and Gulf Coast towns during the fortnight before Lent. In 1893 the New Orleans Times-Democrat reported: "Masking in the streets is common among children of all grades of society. But as far as grown-up street-maskers, excepting those engaged in the regular parades, few if any of them are of a class among whom one would care to mingle socially." By 1910, when locals still dressed semiformally to attend parades, some women took to the streets in various costumes despite social castigation. Traveling in groups, they often carried small whips to fend off male advances.
...little knowing that doing so just made things worse, apparently.