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What Should I Wear to a Music Festival?: Style Guide

Imagine a beautiful place where the sun shines, people gather excitedly, and music can be heard from all around.

Well that place exists and its called a music festival–if you’re wondering what clothes you should wear to optimize your time spent as a free spirit, I’ve got plenty of ideas! SXSW starts REALLY SOON gals, like on March 17th, so you should start packing. Then you can just keep your suitcase packed for all the subsequent festivals.

My first idea? Layer your tank tops! I don’t really like tight fitting clothing on my body. Thus when it comes to tank tops I’ve usually abstained from the whole ordeal. Wearing an oversized tank top sounds like fun but doesn’t really work by itself  because of coconuts and social norms or whatever. But I’ve found a solution that looks even cooler than straight/gay up wearing a tank top! It’s called layering! Wear something fitted underneath and loose on top. This crazy one from Viktor Viktoria was apparently worn by Natasha Beningfield.

Cut off shorts! Today it was 62 degrees outside and for the first time this year I wore shorts, and not just any shorts, my newly cut corduroy cut-offs and it made me so very happy that I’m writing about it now. If you have yet to turn something into a cut off short, or are going to a music festival soon, you should probably grab a pair of scissors and give it a try. My advice to you is, cut off a little at a time. It’s better to have too much to work with than too little. Also longer shorts are in now heyyyy!

Moving on up, let’s talk about headbands/ head scarves/ other things you tie around your head. Somewhere along the line–I’m going to guess somewhere between our impression of native americans and hippies–we began to equate fabric across ones forehead as a stamp of a free spirit. And I loves it.

You can get fancy ones at Urban Outfitters or feel free to make your own!

Sundresses! Just looking at these sundresses make me so excited for the warm weather my heart is squealing.

Rain boots. Music festivals aren’t immune to rain. Yes, things can get muddy, and if you’re not in the mood to take off your clothes and go mud sliding/wrestling (though I recommend you try it) Wellies are great to wear in dealing with the hot tranny unpredictable mess that is nature AND they go with basically absolutely everything.

See? Here I am wearing a ridiculous outfit on a rainy day, note how because of my rubber boots, the weather is not impeding my music playing abilities.

Face paint! I’m not sure how “style” related this is, but I really think everyone should play with face paint.

Sure, I went through a phase where I painted my face with dots like this. But that’s hardly influencing my judgment it recommending it. It’s the cheapest accessory, it’s fun, bold, freeing and it promotes eye contact.

Next up we have yummy worn flats. So, you’re going to be on your feet all day and enjoying this thing called grass. As in that thing you step on sometimes. What this translates to in the grand scheme of things is an environment in which you’re probably not going to want to pull out your best heels. Never fear! That’s why life evolved flats!

Flats can manifest in a variety of different forms. Keds, Vans, and other non-tie sneakers are classic and versatile. You could also opt to wear sandals, so if you’re feeling especially stylish, feel free to check out these sweet vintage leather sandals over at Etsy.

Finish off your look with a cool umbrella and aviators and you’ll be ready for anything!

Now go enjoy some music and fresh air!!!

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I'm Becky. I write about style because I think anybody can look great and I think everybody usually does. I'm into self-expression. I'm into being expressive. When I'm not writing about style for Autostraddle I'm usually trying to make a film. I'm also a dancer, so I will Gahu with you anytime, anywhere.

Becky has written 23 articles for us.


    • Glad you got it out of your (fully clothed, one would hope) chest, it gets lonely sometimes.

    • every gay lady i know has herself some boat shoes. mine were rip-off sperrys and fell apart.

      • i bought mine at nordstrom rack for super cheap. I want to go to the new century 21 by my house sometimes you can find good stuff.

        • i had crazy lime green pastel boat shoes. it was a great time in my life. i also had blue ones, two pairs of brown ones and now i sometimes rock hybrid white/brown ones. does that sound excessive? i think it’s okay though because i’m the style person, right?

  1. BECKY. i just over the weekend turned all of my jeans into cut-offs and ordered some face paint sticks from some weirdo company and bought some aviators. this post is very life- / fashion-affirming.

    i enjoy your yellow boots <3

    oh! i recommend TOMS flats — espesh the vegan ones. they don’t get gross when you go sans socks, like some shoes do.

    • Oh yes. TOMS = favorite shoes. And when people ask me about them I get to say “oh it’s a social-entrepreneurship sort of company – when you buy a pair they give a pair to a child in a third world country” etc. and that makes girls go “Oh that’s so cool” and I say “yeah, I know. Do you think I’m as cute as my shoes?” and take it from there.

      • i espesh love it when a girl says, “oh i love your TOMS!” b/c then i know she’s smart, kind and understands the world, and that it’s totally ok to flirt w/ her.

      • I like them, but my Dad has as many pairs of them as I do converse, so it enevr occurs to me to find them hot.

  2. This is great! Also, I could have really used this the past few years. Let me know if you want to run a “What not to wear at a music festival” story, because I’ve got your photos covered. And they often involve a) a hoodie with the sleeves cut off over a bathing suit. b) a trucker hat with my last name on it and c) body paint courtesy of some dudes really high on acid.

    What can I say? I like to get in touch with my redneck roots from time to time. But I will learn from you!

      • seconded! i will totally write that article…granted, it will probably solely consist of those pictures with funny captions, but please feel free to send them anyway.

  3. Love this, especially the dresses. Adorable (and just imagine the girls who wear them).
    One thing, though: Don’t bring anything you’re not ready to throw out when the madness is over. Music festivals (at least if you live in Northern Europe) are wet, muddy, dirty, sweaty, insane and totally awesome.

  4. Love this list. Especially the cut off shorts I need to get a pair which I will be doing before going to Coachella.

    Also hoodies are great because you can just take off the jacket and tie it around your waist.

  5. What I Learned At Tanglewood: Free spirits are not welcome at classical music festivals in this attire. Even if, like me, the free spirit is also an opera singer.
    Maybe they’ll get a chamber group made up of dirty disaffected hippies to play Bonnaroo this year so I can wear sleeveless hoodies and eat brownies while enjoying classical music out of doors…

  6. girl in hat w/ suspenders & candy shirt = fiiiine. must go to music festivals and find her.

  7. The lovely vintage colorful sandals on etsy were my size, I couldn’t resist and bought them, thank you Autostraddle for corrupting me :D
    No but, really, thanks, I’ve been looking for 70’s looking pair of sandals and you just made my day :D

    Great post by the way :D

    • !!! i’m so glad. sometimes i see really great vintage clothes and if i don’t get them for myself i sinceriously hope (it’ll be a word someday) that they go to a good home. so yay!

  8. My advice: if you plan on getting even remotely close to a stage/port-o-potty line/merch stand do not, I repeat, DO NOT WEAR SANDLES! Your feet will get MANGLED! You gotta protect your toes, that’s all I’m sayin!

  9. first off, you look adorbs with your banjo and boots.

    and this post reminded me that i need new aves ’cause i lost mine walking home drunk in the snow at 3am. i was clearly trying really hard to protect my vision/look like a badass.

    • i wear my sunglasses at night…

      i lost my aviators at a mall but instead of buying new ones right away i mourned their memory and bought some other such sunglasses but now i think it’s time to go back.

      also, sunglasses are really good for protecting your eyes from falling icicles / impromptu snowball fights so it totally makes sense.

  10. note how because of my rubber boots, the weather is not impeding my music playing abilities

    I love your magical, musical boots.

  11. Batten down the hatches, the spammers are here!

    Side note: I love that banjo-playing outfit!

  12. Just went to a festival in Brisbane last week & it down-poured the entire time! If only I had already read this article somehow! I was wearing flip flops though and they were alright in the deep mud b/c you can wear em around your ankles too! Ah so fun :) Great article.

    • BRISBANE! HELLO! :D Which one did you go to?

      There’s a couple of groups that release Summer Festival Guides around Nov/Dec (since our summer is over Christmas and every festival happens around then apparently) – this guide should totally be in those.

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    • the messy hair/bed head look is still in, so that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. If it’s shortish keep it shaggy like “surf hair” if it’s longer you can do a snookie poof/ pompadour but that might be too fancy for such an occasion so just don’t comb it and put on some kind of headband.

      also Shiloh cuts formerly known as “boy cuts” are going to (continue) to be “in” in leu/because of that whole controversy. also there may or may not be a rise in different forms of braided hair because of avatar. seriously. but really the great thing about a music festival is that you can look like you just rolled out of a 4 person tent with 6 people and it’ll be cool because hey, maybe you just did.

  14. Leather is a bad plan for shoes if it might get wet, because they will rub and you will have huge blisters and you vegetarian friend will make fun of you and claim the cows are seeking revenge.

    Not that I would do that. I am a nice lesbian.

  15. Music festival + rain = Mud
    Mud + lesbians (and/or all other womyn there)+ enthusiasm and creativity = mud wrestling

    Mud Wrestling w/ wellies = clumsy
    mud wrestling w/ the dreaded flip-flop = ridiculous
    mud wrestling bare foot = win.

    it’s a chemical formula i learned.

    I mean seriously, what else happens at band camp?

  16. Been a few years since iv been to a festival(it is my mission to go to at least one this year) but I have picked up a few nuggets over time

    1. wear knee high socks with ur wellies( if it’s muddy, th mud gets EVERYWHERE, th mud dries out and th tops rub against ur shins And u get nasty chAffin , I still have th scars, mayb this year go for strippy socks v. Alice in wonderland lol)

    2. Take notice of who ur stAnding next to…. ESP in th moche(spelling I’m bad at btw) pit, if ur beside a couple of skinny girls ur set, tho u mite get a boney elbow to th face, if ur standin to big guys u will b sriously injured, and if ur standin beside a particulary smelly person move away , I’m pretty sure someone pissed on me one year, but every time I turned round it stopped. :/ tho ther was a stoner dude that I doubt ever showered in normal life never mind festival life.

    3. Don’t have sex unless ur know th hotty uv pulled has clean hands, light is never good in a tent, u can be pretty sure this person has been involved with mud ( fight/westle/pies) during th day and finding mud in ur knickers a couple days after uv come home is not a good feeling.

    If I remember anymore I shall impart my wisdom .. Lol but I recommend goin to a festival at least once in ur life, no matter how miserable u are at th time wen u get home to a real roof, hot water & edible food all u will remember are th excellent music moments u had with all those strangers! Half naked, hippy for the weekend types are always th craziest ! Lol

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