Summer Music Festival Style: 10 Pointers for Keeping Your Cool
Summer music festivals can be the most frustrating events you will ever attend in terms of fashion. You want to look cute or at least somewhat OK, since this is a giant party and, who knows, you could even run in to your favorite musician. But spending hours in the heat and camping for days with limited bathroom access isn’t exactly conducive to looking or dressing your best. In fact, you will probably end up covered in sweat and mud, looking worse than you ever have.
You will see girls who somehow manage to look cute under these circumstances. It will frustrate and infuriate you at first, but don’t let it get to you: They’re probably the rich ones staying in air-conditioned RVs with lots of cash to spare on showers. But just remember, you’re around a bunch of other dirty hippies who aren’t judging you for looking like a dirty hippie.
Here are a bunch of tips to help you look slightly better and maybe feel a little less self-conscious than you would otherwise. It’s pretty hard to not look like a hippie or a homeless person when camping for days in the heat, so follow these tips for keeping cool, cute, and comfortable, and try not to let feeling self-conscious about your appearance get in the way of making memories.
1. Dress for the forecast
Your festival garb will depend heavily on what the weather’s going to be like. Many summer festivals are held during the hottest months at hot locations like Bonnaroo in Tennessee or Coachella in the California desert. This is not the place to insist on wearing your favorite leather jacket because it looks really cute. You will be outside and exposed to the elements for the majority of your trip, so prepare for the forecast.
If there’s gonna be rain, bring your rain boots and slicker or rain poncho. If it’s going to be super hot, bring light fabrics that will protect your skin from the sun while keeping you cool. Paying attention to the weather is the most important part of preparing your summer festival wardrobe. After all, if you’re uncomfortable, it could ruin your time and zap your energy for seeing shows. This is not the place to suffer for fashion.
2. Embrace the no-makeup look
Summer festivals are the perfect time and place to embrace the no-makeup look and wear as little on your face as you can bear. Any mirror you find during a summer festival will either be attached to a car or one you brought with you, making touch-ups inconvenient. The heat will turn any attempt at eye makeup into a smudge-fest, and within hours your face will look worse than if you hadn’t put on any makeup at all. Waterproof mascara is OK if you feel like you need it, and tinted moisturizer with SPF — which you should be reapplying throughout the day anyway — is a good way to deal with an uneven complexion. Other than that, face wipes and spray deodorant (the solid kind can and will melt in your car; been there, done that) will keep you looking and smelling as clean and fresh as possible under the conditions.
3. Go grunge, wear flannel
Flannel shirts are amazing for festivals. They look stylish in a rock-and-roll way and they can serve various other functions, as well. Light flannels are perfect for keeping over a tank top or T-shirt, keeping you cool and protecting your skin from the sun. Slightly thicker ones can be thrown over a shirt and shorts for warmth after the sun goes down. One great trick to keep cool and protect yourself from the sun is to soak a light flannel in water and then wear it over other clothes. The water feels great, and, trust me, everyone is already so sweaty that they’re pouring water over themselves left and right. No one will notice or care that you’re wearing a wet shirt, and you’ll be cool and sunburn free.
4. No high heels
Do not wear heels to a summer festival. Just resist the urge. Yes, they make you taller so you can see better and, yes, they make your legs look nice, but the ability to walk is also kind of great (and important). Even shoes that have a small heel and are totally tolerable during a normal day will become hell while standing for hours at a time and walking on treacherous grounds. This does not mean you have to resign to wearing Crocs or going barefoot, though both are options. You should make sure to bring one pair of boots in case it rains — rain boots or leather boots work as long as they’re flat and fairly waterproof. Flat sandals are also fine, though you should exercise care in wearing open-toe shoes in crowds. Flip-flops will be easily lost and not offer your feet much protection from the elements. In addition to boots, a pair of moccasins or sneakers are good for hot days.
5. What to carry
You’re going to need to carry your stuff in something, and taking a nice leather bag to a place where it will sit on the floor of questionable port-a-potties and be dragged through mud is not a good idea if you want it to be useable when the festival’s over. Whatever bag you bring needs to be able to hold a water bottle, a bottle of sunscreen, some toilet paper, wet wipes, your wallet, and your phone. Fanny packs are a good option but undeniably nerdy. Small backpack-type bags are the best bet, as they can hold everything, require minimal effort from you, will end up dragged through less dirt than an over-the-shoulder bag, and don’t look terrible.
6. How to deal with your hair
At festivals, there’s limited access to showers and no access to things like hair dryers or flat irons. Your best bet is to keep your hair pulled away from your face, and for those with long hair, off your shoulders and back. Bring lots of hair ties with you and play with ponytails, pigtails, topknots, and braids. Headbands are great way to keep your hair out of your face without being as boring as a regular ponytail. Dry shampoo can also help deal with the dirt and sweat in between showers, and since it’s a powder, it’s not a cosmetic at risk of melting in the heat.
7. Keep cool with long skirts/dresses
Long skirts and dresses are another great way to keep your skin covered from the sun while also keeping cool. Make sure that the skirt doesn’t drag on the ground or inhibit movement too much, as something that’s a minor inconvenience in day-to-day life can become a major annoyance at a festival. If you’re short, make sure to stick with solid colors. If the material of the skirt is loose and flowing, then you should go with a more fitted top. If you choose to wear a long dress, you can add style by breaking up the shape with a belt. Just be sure to go with a light material like cotton so you don’t get too hot. Another fun option for bottoms? Break out that old pair of jeans you never wear and cut them into daisy dukes. Some tips for making your own cutoff denim shorts can be found here.
8. Pair with crop tops
Crop tops make a great match for high-waisted long skirts, and music festivals are the perfect place to experiment with more revealing looks than you might be comfortable with in your day-to-day life. You can play it safe by pairing a T-shirt-like crop top with a high-waisted skirt, or go more revealing with a bustier-inspired crop top and a lower-waisted skirt. The thing to be most careful about is your shoulders, which catch the brunt of the sun’s rays. I recommend keeping your shoulders covered, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Muscle shirts with open sides are another way to show some skin without exposing yourself to too much sun. Both muscle shirts and crop tops can be paired with long skirts or denim cutoffs for an outfit that will keep you cool and show a little skin.
9. Stylish sun protection
Your clothing during a summer music festival is an important utility for protecting your skin from much harsher sunlight than you’re probably used to. Sunscreen is obviously key, but keeping covered up also helps prevent burns without worrying about missing spots or reapplying. Hats are a great way to keep your face and scalp out of the sun. Sun hats with wide brims going all the way around offer the best protection, but a festival is a good time to play with a fedora or any other funky hat that strikes your fancy. Just make sure to lather up those ears if your hat doesn’t offer them shade. Sunglasses are also a must unless you want to spend days at a time squinting. Again, you can experiment with weird shapes and colors like heart-shaped frames or colorful Wayfarers. Check to be sure any sunglasses you wear offer full UV protection.
10. Take risks, but don’t be naked — and have fun!
At a music festival, you can get away with more risqué clothing than you can almost anywhere else. Depending on the festival, you can definitely get away with being naked or at least topless in public. If this is a fantasy or life goal of yours, then go for it: Just be sure to slather on the sunscreen. Given how difficult it can be to ensure you have the right amount of sunscreen everywhere, I don’t recommend taking this approach. While you can be more scantily clad in public at a music festival than you may ever be able to again, getting a nasty sunburn in a weird place on the first day could ruin your entire experience.
If you have some sort of weird item of clothing that you love but have never mustered up the courage to wear, a festival is a great place to experiment. Own a tiny crop top or short-shorts or a crazy patterned shirt but have been too self-conscious to wear it? A music festival is a great place to muster up that confidence. You might end up liking that out-of-character article of clothing so much that it makes its way into your regular wardrobe.
More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:
- Make It Out Alive: 10 Tips to Survive Summer Music Festivals
- Ultra Music Festival to Turn Miami Into a Three-Day Rave
- Bonnaroo 2014: Kanye, Jack White, and Elton John Among Headliners
Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS