Every year, at about this time, a strange kind of madness overtakes our high street stores. It creeps in — a fringed kimono here, a crochet crop top there — until suddenly you realise every accessory looks like it’s been pillaged from a Navajo reservation. This proliferation of turquoise rings, body chains and feathered headdresses can only mean one thing – we’re in festival season.
Formerly known as “summer”, festival season has hijacked the months of June and July, and “festival fashion” — the aforementioned kimonos, crocheted everything, and oodles of fringed suede — has somehow taken the place of “summer staples”, as if every woman secretly lives for those few weekends a year she can cut loose and embrace her inner flower child.
While Kate Moss at Glastonbury once set the standard for festival dressing — skinny jeans, band tee, parka — celeb-studded Coachella is responsible for veering it into its current fancy dress territory.
This PR-driven showcase in the California desert sets the festival fashion frenzy in motion, as style blogs pour over the outfits of celebrity festival-goers, most of whom have been meticulously styled in thousands of dollars of designer clothing to look like they just crawled out of a tepee at Woodstock. 16-year-old actress Kiernan Shipka opted for on-trend colourfully embroidered denim for this year’s Coachella. Custom Valentino, it would cost over €4,000 to emulate her simple shorts, crop top and trainers look.
The high street will, of course, churn out affordable alternatives, but they will be no less clichéd, as festival fashion has become nothing short of an exercise in box ticking. Just ask queen of Coachella, Vanessa Hudgens, who never met a floor-length, fringed, feather-trimmed, beaded crochet ensemble she couldn’t top off with a flower crown and a bindi.
Cultural appropriation aside (that’s a definite no no!), there are some simple steps you can follow if you fancy indulging in some summer festival fun but don’t want to look like an ersatz Janis Joplin.
First and foremost, remember what festivals are: long days spent standing in fields. Glam festival looks are all very well for Jenners and Hadids, with VIP access and Californian sun, but in real life those knee high gladiators are going to chafe; that crochet waistcoat will be heavy when rain-soaked; and before you chose a 90s-inspired leotard with crotch fasteners, ask yourself — do you really want to spend more time in a Portaloo than is absolutely necessary?
Instead look to Glastonbury for your style inspiration, where celebs weren’t confined to gifting suites, but had to contend with the mud and the weather like regular punters. Stars like Laura Whitmore, in her simple floral shirt, shorts and parka, proved you don’t have to choose between style and comfort. Opt for a bit of both, and look all the more cool for the perceived lack of effort.
Because ultimately, you’ll have more fun if you’re comfortable and true to your own style.
From a minimal COS t-shirt dress with a pair of Stan Smiths to a tea-dress and a biker jacket, every style can be adapted into something that’s festival fabulous in its own way. You’re not obliged to conform, and you don’t have to be a walking cliché.