I like clothes the way I like dogs—borderline ugly. Oversized sweaters, loose t-shirts made of thin cotton, and flannels that unite colors that would normally not associate on purpose dominate my wardrobe. For this reason, I have never written a fashion article (until now).
But for what I lack in knowledge about festival fashion, I make up for in knowledge about concerts. In the past few years, I’ve been to roughly three dozen carefully selected shows. I’ve driven through hours of rush hour traffic to make it to DC after class for a jazzy Sondre Lerche show at the 9:30 Club, held up crowd surfers during Third Eye Blind and of Montreal, and most recently sung along to every Beck lyric while an enthusiastic fan ran through the audience around me, goofily dancing and grabbing people’s butts. At 5’ 2’’, I can usually be found leaning on the stage at most shows, being deafened by Panda Bear’s booming speakers or serving as a buffer between The Shins and drunk girls screaming raunchy things at James Mercer despite his wedding band. And two years ago, I became what is known as a Bonnaroovian, that happy-go-lucky breed of music fans willing to drive hours through the night in order to camp out in a Tennessee field for four days filled with music.
Despite all of these groovy nights, I didn’t actually realize that people dressed up for shows until very recently. I’ve always worn what I feel most comfortable in, and maybe it’s because my clothes are on the hipster/indie end of the spectrum or maybe I don’t notice other people because I’m usually so intensely focused on the bands, but I’ve never felt out of place at a show. Still, I’ve got a few tips to offer from experience.
Support the Girls
I derped around Bonnaroo in sports bras for most of the weekend, but now that I’m a few years older and wiser, I’ve discovered the wonders of lace bralets. I personally didn’t shower during the festival because let’s face it, showers are expensive at nearly $10 a pop and frankly you’re going to be sweaty and covered in dust the second you step out anyway. (Instead I washed up with baby wipes a few times a day.) However, not showering meant that my clothes had to be extra able to handle sweat and dust. The thicker material and padding of most bras can become grody quickly during hot days, so I’d recommend tanks with built in support or bathing suit tops as other good alternatives to bralets. If you are #blessed and need real support, just make sure you bring some extras to change into so that you won’t have feel too sweaty, The lighter and more breathable the fabric is, the better.
Keep Your Feet Happy
The most important thing to consider is your footwear. Do not plan to wear flip flops unless you are actively trying to hate yourself. (Just imagine walking along and then BAM, you’re suddenly shoe-less and your flip-flop is halfway to the center of the Earth in a pool of mud. Also, port-o-potties tend to flood, so–yeah.) Because I insist on being squashed up front at shows, I generally wear close-toed shoes–boots in the winter or light canvas sneakers like Keds or Vans if it’s hot outside. When someone inevitably slams down on your toe, you’ll be glad for the extra protection. However, sandals are undeniably cooler than even the lightest sneakers. If you want to go the sandal route, try something strappy that will stay on no matter what you’re walking through, like Chacos or Tevas. All of these choices are also easy to wash. As cute as your dainty gladiators might be, they will shred as hard as your favorite guitarist if you bring them to a festival.
Essential Accessories: Bandana + Sunglasses
If jewelry is your thing, by all means wear it—but be warned that it will become coated in sunscreen, mud, dust, sweat, beer, and more. You will be bumped and spilled on, you will dance and shimmy, and you don’t want to lose your family heirloom along the way. My recommendation is to leave all your jewelry at home and just bring two things: Sunglasses that you don’t care about and a bandana that you will come to care about deeply. You don’t want to bring Ray Bans that could get crushed or swiped, so shell out $5-10 on a pair from the drug store. A bandana will become your lifesaver: Tie it around your head, and it will prevent sunscreen from melting into your eyes and blinding you. Dump some water on it and it will cool you down when you’re overheating. Tie it like a blindfold when you want to take a nap. Use it to polish your drug store sunglasses. You won’t be sorry. Hats are also a good idea, as they’ll help to keep you safe from the sun!
You know the drill: Dress in light layers that can be added and subtracted as the sun rises and sets. I was sitting on the ground during many shows, so bring bottoms that are darker in color so that you won’t be worried about mud stains. The best thing I brought was my denim button-front shirt, which was light enough to wear when the sun was still up, could be tied around my waist, could serve as a pillow during naps, or as a blanket to sit on. You might opt for a light flannel, alternatively.
Also, don’t be a jerk
Every year, someone seems to wear Native American-style headdresses to Coachella and incite the Internet’s righteous outrage. Never appropriate Native American fashion, or any indigenous fashion for that matter; instead, learn about its history.
In short: No one likes a poser. If you’re going to shell out hundreds of dollars on a festival pass, I’d encourage you to do it for the love of music. To do that, you’ll need clothes that help you feel comfortable and free. Stay hydrated, don’t overdo the drugs and alcohol you’ll inevitably be surrounded by, and you’ll have a blast, darling.
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