Festival fashion. The two words guaranteed to create content for blogs and magazines during those slow months between Fashion Weeks. Festival fashion. The two words also guaranteed to set me off on a rant more epic than any delivered by Kanye at an awards ceremony.
I’m not quite sure when festival fashion became a ‘thing’. When I started going to festivals back in the rose-tinted days when a Leeds ticket cost less than £100 and King Adora were higher on the bill than The Strokes I honestly can’t remember deliberating over my wardrobe choices. My ‘festival fashion’ pretty much consisted of my normal ‘fashion’ (a term in itself a stretch considering my early-noughties wardrobe) but with added eyeliner and glitter, as befitting a MASSIVE MANICS FAN. Much higher up my priority list was how many bands I could possibly see across the weekend, why did everything HAVE to clash and what the cheapest, yet most potent, combination of alcohol to take was (Vermouth FYI. Cheap vodka may seem like a good idea but it generally equals death. Death and vomit.).
These days however, festivals are big business and VIP areas and the chance to swap your humble tent for a yurt seem to be the norm. Fashion magazines fall over themselves to offer tips on Glastonbury packing and hold up D-list celebs as pantheons of festival style. Now I’m not against wanting to dress like your idols (Courtney Love at Glastonbury in 1999 will *always* be my go to inspiration) and musical tribes are defined as much by their uniforms as by the artistes they revere but at no point should Daisy Lowe (who in a magazine article last year listed a YSL kaftan as being ‘essential’) be elevated to a fucking festival fashion oracle. The endless articles churned out seem to be written by people who’ve either never attended a festival (or never left the VIP area) and are inane at best. At worst they’re reductive and assume women only go to festivals so they can pretend to be Alexa Chung for the day (a rant better articulated by Gemma Samways’ recent Drowned In Sound piece). Whilst I’d like to think that the lack of similar articles geared towards men is simply down to the fact that Oliver Cheshire hanging out in the V Festival hospitality area will never be viewed as a figure of aspiration, I sadly doubt it.
So, as a seasoned festival goer with over a decade of hanging out in fields under my belt (and surviving two years of riots at Leeds festival) here is my own decidedly non-Vogue festival advice…
1) Never wear open toed sandals to a festival. Even if it’s *really* hot.
Yes, we all yearn for a festival that doesn’t descend into a mud bath within the first 10 minutes of pitching your tent but even if a festival is blessed with endless sunshine and ground seemingly drier than George Osborne’s tear-ducts as he slashes welfare, it will still be damp underfoot in places and that dampness won’t be from rain. Best case scenario, it’s beer. Worst case, wee. Either way, it’s still not something your open toes should be exposed to and even if they survive ‘suspicious mud’, they still run the risk of being jumped on by large, overenthusiastic men in the crowd.
2) Wellies will never let you down and don’t have to cost a fortune.
I’m not entirely sure why wellies which cost more than the price of the festival ticket are now considered de rigueur. I come from Yorkshire where to spend anything over a tenner on wellies would be considered ‘balmy’ and those from Primark, Asda, Matalan or anywhere else budget friendly do just as good a job of keeping your feet dry as the posher brands. Just avoid the ones with heels – you will look like an idiot AND fall over.
3) Bin bags are your new best friend.
Yes it’s fun watching a million bands over the weekend but it’s also bloody knackering and the joy of sitting down without fear of being covered in mud/ suspicious mud/ half eaten noodles/ vomit is pure bliss. Bin bags are also handy as makeshift raincoats or for hurriedly bundling up your possessions in the middle of the night as the campsite has been set of fire and the sight of exploding portaloos signals that it’s probably time to leave…
4) Playsuits are not your friend.
One word – portaloos.
5) But tights are.
They’re cheap. They come in a variety of thicknesses and can be layered if it gets really cold (the hill overlooking the Leeds main stage is the coldest place on earth once the sun goes does). Plus unlike jeans, they dry pretty quickly if you end up drenched in a downpour (or binned and replaced).
6) It’s fine to pay for a VIP upgrade but it’s not actually VIP
The last few years have seen a rise in the number of ‘VIP’ festival upgrades offered. Yes it’s fine if you want to hang out with the cast of Hollyoaks, have a slightly shorter bar queue and marginally better toilets (having attended and now work on festivals, I could devote an entire blog post to the festival toilet hierarchy – the ones in the artistes area are like being at The Ritz) but it’s not really VIP and doesn’t get you a better view of the acts. If you want to pay, fine but personally I’d prefer to spend the money on the entire contents of Lush to rid myself of the festival grime once I’m safely back home.
7) Camping is never enjoyable but you can make it better.
I *really* hate camping and have always camped under duress at festivals. As soon as I get there I’m counting down the days until I can return to my nice, soft bed because I love sleep and camping very rarely equals sleep. I envy people who can stay up all night, have a quick 30 minute powernap and continue on the next day without looking like death because I’m not one of those people. I need at least eight hours a night to feel human and unless you’ve knocked yourself out with an entire liqueur cabinet, you won’t get that at a festival. Over the years, my festival camping kit has expanded to include an inflatable mattress, a pillow and a massive knitted blanket bought onsite for a fiver from Oxfam so I don’t wake up shivering to death at 5am because a sleeping bag never keeps you warm enough during a British summer. Oh and a collapsible wash basin to try and stave off the feeling of griminess as long as possible.
8) A field is not the place for high fashion.
Cover yourself in glitter, stick on a flower headband if you *really* have to (although everyone will judge you and they’ll probably be correct) but don’t bring anything with you that you can’t afford to lose or ruin. ‘Suspicious mud’ will never come out of this season’s must have suede bag and white is never, ever a good choice.
The above is only advice and should not been taken as rules for life. If you want to wear white, do it. Sandals? I will do my ‘told you so dance’ when the ‘suspicious mud’ wins but whatever floats your boat. Wear what makes you happy but please don’t see festivals as an extension of fashion week – go to them to see some amazing bands, get pissed and have a laugh with your mates whilst hurling abuse at Kasabian. The bloggers and ‘celebs’ with perfect make-up, non-greasy hair, pristine outfits and £1000+ kaftans doling out advice are not figures to aspire to and neither are their wardrobes. Dave Grohl and Florence Welsh don’t give a shit what you wear to see them play and neither should you.