Festival Fashion Moves Into the Real World


The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is known as much for starting fashion trends as it is for showcasing new music. People attend this event in Indio, California knowing they might be photographed, so they pack their shortest shorts and fanciest florals.

People at the festival wear airy, flowing layers for soft silhouettes that are appropriate at a hot outdoor concert.

Historic influences

This look has been criticized for being impractical for events that are in essence long camping weekends, but the Coachella style has roots in several disparate trends from different periods of musical history.

The diaphanous peasant tops that often feature as the top layers of an outfit at Coachella are reminiscent of the shirts worn at the original 1969 Woodstock festival. Viewed through a different lens, they could easily be imagined on fans of ’70s rock music.

These items are staples of music culture, though they fall in and out of favor, depending on which bands are popular at a given time. For example, groups that play upbeat dance music tend to appeal to listeners that wear tight, club-ready clothing, and the bands usually dress this way as well.

Groups that play looser music wear looser clothing and encourage their fans to follow suit. Most recently, the popularity of indie rock has caused hipster fashion to enter the mainstream. This look is an artful combination of tailored high-end pieces and smartly chosen vintage finds.

It encourages layering, which is the aspect of this style that has carried over to the festival style.

What not to wear

Punk style has not made a major impact at Coachella for several reasons. Punk clothing is heavy, dark, and tends to be fitted, which makes it a poor choice for the desert heat.

Punk bands do not generally play the festival, and the nihilistic undertones of the punk aesthetic, when expressed through clothing, do not fit at daytime concerts.

Other options

Some ’90s trends have surfaced at Coachella in recent years. Floral dresses and oversized flannel shirts are favored by female attendees who regard the hippie-inspired as too fussy. Chunky boots are comfortable, mess-free alternatives to open sandals.

Adapting the look for everyday life

Coachella has become such a nexus of fashion that people have begun wearing similar clothing in their day-to-day lives. Some adjustments are necessary, since the basic Coachella look is not appropriate for work, school, or public situations that require modesty.

Dresses made out of eyelet lace are worn with shoes and accessories that contradict the dresses’ inherent femininity. Cutoff shorts are worn with tent-like sheer tops. As can be seen on Designer Vault, layering in ways that play with colors and textures is its own trend now.

A-list attention

Even celebrities go out of their way to make a splash at Coachella. Actresses who rarely attend public events have made a startling appearance among throngs of similarly-dressed people.

Dressing well at Coachella may boost their career: a celebrity who manages to execute the look is guaranteed to receive a great deal of positive press.

The Coachella style is an example of a trend that started organically and gained massive traction. The style’s versatility and femininity makes it easy for almost anyone to develop her own way of wearing it.

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