Dolly Alderton | Contributing Writer | Friday, 26 June 2015

The stages of festival dressing

The Many Stages Of Festival Dressing

The Debrief: Spoiler: you can never have too many pairs of pants

Never do the rules of fashion play as fast and loose as when dressing for a festival. Sure, we all vaguely know the generic uniform - high-waisted denim shorts that show both snippets of minge and arse creases, crop top, converse, flower crown, wayfarers - but what are your other options? After all, long gone are the days of Woodstock and Altamont, of free-love and protest songs and hells angels and hippies. Festivals really are "come one come all" these days - for estate agents from Milton Keynes to journalists on a free bender. The festival look is measured on a spectrum of boho that starts on the milder scale of Freedom at Topshop feather earrings, middles with Sienna Miller and ends with Shane MacGowan. By the time you’ve got to the third festival of your life, you’ve tried all of them on for size – glamping princess to sexy boho to stinky hobo. We've collated for you, the stages of festival dressing:


Wacky fake eyelashes 

Or Other Face Accessories. The things you’d never buy unless you’re going to a festival – glitter, neon face paint, obtrusive eye masks, offensive bindis. Time-consuming, expensive, silly accoutrements that – for some reason – you convince yourself you must pack otherwise your entire festival experience will be negated. 

This often means running around like a headless chicken at nine AM on the Thursday morning of Glastonbury, raiding Claire’s Accessories or Penge Pound Shops, because of course it’s the last thing you think to pack. Only when someone sends a passive aggressive message on the group whatsapp: 'GlAsToNbUrY gAls' do you remember that you had one job. 

'Clare – I’ve got wet wipes (17 packs) did you make sure you bring the face feathers and green shimmer sticks for our foreheads?? Apparently the theme is space mermaids and we’ll look like idiots if we don’t have any glitter :/ can you get up early and get some??'

Avoid this job at all costs – be the one who buys the wet wipes – because the problem with being The Face Glitter Bestower (although initially a magical, Puck like creature, bringing people together in a whirl of whimsy) is you also become The Glitter Applier. The Glitter Applier is the slightly frazzled, sober person sitting in the middle of a circle of tents while their drunk friends queue up with tinnies asking if they can “do” them next. You’ll work out a routine (a light swipe of nivea then a few dabs of glitter across the cheekbones sticks) but this will continue all night. Word will spread and in the middle of your favourite set, someone sweaty – gurning their face off – will come up to you and shout: “CAN YOU TOP ME UP??” pointing at their neon shimmer scabs. 


City chic 

'Straight from the office to the field!' you think. 'If Kim Kardashian did Secret Garden Party!'

The problem with trying to combine directional urban chic with a muddy field is that it doesn’t ever work and you stick out like a sore thumb. City shorts – Lord knows what they actually are – only look good when paired with heels or brogues, not wellies. Shirts have no place in a festival – neither do tailored jackets (I don’t care if it’s a relaxed linen) or cashmere round necks. Leave your city chic at the door and stick on a cagoule. 

'I'm mad, me!'

Nurses costume fall under this category along with: sombreros, mankinis, fake moustaches, super hero costumes, Native American headdresses (also politically dodgy ground, see: bindis), fairy wings, crowns, fishnets, space boots, Elton John glasses, cat ears, animal onsies, dog collars, PVC tape. 

Everyone’s done it – seen the opportunity to turn a festival into an amalgamation of all RAG freshers events and combine themes into one costume – but this requires a curation and energy that is hard to maintain by day three. 

You can be a free spirit and out of your shell in a less expensive and exhausting way – how about one sailor’s hat instead of the whole costume with the fishing rod, etc? Maybe just the Nurse’s badge – hinting at your convivial and irreverent attitude to festival revelling, rather than the stethoscope teamed with cowboy boots and a Michael Jackson glove. 

Bringing 10 fancy dress outfits also creates a 'mi nun’s habit es tu nun’s habit,' with everyone borrowing from each other throughout the weekend. So be warned – you’ll never see that pirates eye patch again. 

Underwear as outerwear 

I know all the girls in Skins do it, and the mannequins in the H & M window and all the people on the American Apparell website – but you’re never going to want to wear a crochet or spandex bra in lieu of an actual top. I promise. 

50 shades of pant 

The resounding, universal advice when it comes to festival fashion is rooted entirely in one mantra: 'you can never have enough knickers.' 'Bring knickers!' they tell you, 'all you need is loads of knickers!'

Well, I’m here to debunk that myth, fest-goers because every time I go to a festival I mysteriously pack my entire knicker collection, use one per cent of it, then never have room for anything else. You don’t need loads of knickers, you just need one pair of knickers a day + one for luck if you soil yourself (God willing!) 

Save that space in your bag for what it’s meant for: glitter and its adhesive Nivea. Now, rave on my friend. Rave on. 

Picture: Sophie Davidson

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Tags: Festivals