My first music festival experience remains, for the most part, undocumented. It was Coachella 2012, and I did not (gasp!) have an Instagram account yet. The only photo I have is a selfie (taken with a MacBook) in which I’m wearing a homemade floral crown. With my fake flowers and white vintage cowboy boots, I thought I was making a unique festival fashion statement. But when I entered the Empire Polo Club grounds, it was clear that everyone had looked at the exact same photos of Jane Birkin and Drew Barrymore that I had looked at.
“Today, festival fashion is a mainstream phenomenon that references past counter- or subcultural looks, such as hippie and grunge,” explains Rachel Lifter, a lecturer in fashion and pop culture at New York’s Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute. “In so doing, the trend links itself with this history of youth cultural resistance and offers its wearers an aesthetic of ‘alternative’ fashionability.”
Instead of women treating festival fashion as a subset of these movements, Roopal Patel, senior vice-president, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, encourages women to sample from the current season’s runways to create something individual. “I think festival dressing is more about the future than it is about retro [looks],” she explains.
It’s a forward-looking perspective that’s reflected in this season’s H&M Loves Coachella collection, says Samara D’Auria, a spokesperson for H&M Canada. The collection, which includes metallic anoraks and black lace spaghetti-strap dresses, is “definitely geared toward the fashion risk taker,” she explains. “That being said, there are also options for the tamer fashion girl, like an embroidered denim jacket.”
Shannon Schafer, senior fashion director at Nordstrom, notices her customers are adopting a high-low approach to festival style. “They are pairing separates from For Love and Lemons, Madewell and Free People with a Chloé handbag or a pair of Gucci slides,” she says. “We’re also seeing more influential pieces like a Simone Rocha top paired with denim cut-offs and Nike sneakers.”
Kayla Seah of Not Your Standard, a lifestyle blog that has over 200 K followers on Instagram, says she plans on dressing more like herself at this year’s festivals. She says the boho look became ubiquitous because everyone was looking at the same social media posts for inspiration. “People don’t typically dress like hippies in their daily lives,” she explains, “so if they’re looking for festival fashion inspiration, they go online and end up recycling what was worn in previous years.”
As for me, I’m on a festival hiatus. I’ve been to six in the past five years, so I’ve developed a touch of festival fatigue. But don’t get it twisted—I still love festivals. Some of my best memories are of dancing alfresco to beautiful music in the company of freak friends, all of us embracing our carefree alter egos. I have a feeling my flower crown hasn’t been hung up for good.
Check out some of our top picks for festival dressing in 2018!