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Image / Editorial

Don’t @ me but… festival dressing is bullsh*t


by Sophie White
20th Apr 2018
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Festival peacocking is the worst of the worst according to Sophie White but maybe she’s just bitter because her ‘day-glo thong layered under fishnet tunic’ days might be behind her


I was in a scrolling #Coachella trance, my longing eyes glazed over receiving a veritable montage of insanity in the form of outfits. Captions reading “Look 1 from day 2 #Coachella” were not out of the ordinary. “Look 1 of how many?” I wondered in genuine amazement.

“Clothes have developed from a practical asset to a social marker: they affect the way we see ourselves. They help us to be seen in the light that we wish to be, and also exude our personalities and social status,” reports Psychologist World. In many ways ‘festival dressing’ is almost like a microcosm of this idea of clothes and status. It’s no longer enough to be at the festival, now we must have the most outré outfit, the best Instagram, the perfect light and angles. And what work it must be.

Traditionally festival fashion was survivalist and then maybe you’d incorporate an accessory or two, weather permitting. Footwear was the bedrock for every outfit, stashing cans was the next priority. Garments were rated on a naggin stashability basis and if the clothing didn’t provide viable storage options it didn’t make the cut. In later years, the camelbak – an aggressively unfashion and utilitarian item – became a festival must-have accessory. Oh and full coverage in the form of a poncho was a non-negotiable (sidenote: the poncho is still and will remain forever a festival females greatest ally as it can essentially act as a portable portaloo).

As you can see I’m a veteran of Irish festivals where the weather can almost always be relied upon to be making a concerted effort to destroy us all for the duration of the event. Last summer, I felt like I’d finally cracked festival fash and by extension actually having fun at festivals. I wore a tee-shirt dress and sliders, both of which I binned at the end of the weekend. Not the most sustainable of outfits but – job done.

So here is where I begin to take issue with the Coachella thing which has undoubtedly fuelled the Festival Fash-Off of the last few years: is there actually enough time in between outfit changes to have any actual fun? Is it even possible to have fun while wearing thigh-high suede boots in the middle of a goddamn dessert? (Looking at you Bad Gal RiRi), though in RiRi’s defence, she’s “extra AF” (as her Instagram caption read) in a professional capacity. It is quite literally her job to look this mega. But for the rest of us, is it not all a bit try-hard?

I feel I should qualify this, lest I start sounding like some po-faced devotee of Scandi minimalism. I am not. I am a person that is over-dressed (and enthusiastically so) pretty much all the time. On an average Friday night, I’m hitting RiRi-At-Coachella levels (or at least attempting to) however I’m in a random Dublin bar with likely nothing more exciting to be doing but posting Prosecco boomerangs and sitting in the only position my ridiculous and high maintenance outfit permits. The festival over-dressers are at a festival. Go have fun kids. Ditch the Native American headdress (it’s probably a bit problematic anyhow), throw off the body jewellery contraption and the chain-mail chaps and go do some living.

It all just seems so hopelessly posed and contrived. The Coachella hashtag threw up a lot of questions for me. Such as A) Is anyone wearing this much body jewellery even physically capable of dancing? B) Can thigh chaff actually lead to spontaneous human combustion? C) Why are you doing outfit changes, you’re at a festival? It all just seems incredibly taxing and uncomfortable and not very rock ‘n’ roll. I feel if Janis Joplin could see the way festivals have become little more than excuses for highly curated and overly engineered photo-ops for us women, she’d confiscate our vaginas.

Coachella last weekend was, as always, a spectacle. It was also historical with Beyonce becoming the first black woman to headline and giving fans a landmark performance that has become instantly writ into the cultural landscape – an arresting visual spectacular leaden with symbolism. Against this backdrop steeped in significance, the revellers’ charade of outfit changes and ultimate ‘grams, seems somehow even more shallow.

And look, I have done the festival FASHUN thing, I know how it goes. We get carried away. In the past when heading to a festival, I might’ve thought to myself, “I’m gonna do a Vintage Moss at Glasto meets Minaj Lite at Wireless!” and then before I know it I’m wearing a neon lycra bando top and trying to change into PVC dungarees in a damp tent filled with inflatable items that are all becoming stuck to me. It’s only 8 hours later, when I’ve trudged through both blistering heat and torrential downpour (it’s Ireland remember) and my inner thighs are sobbing with the punishing PVC chaff, that I remember I’ve opted to wear this hell outfit in a hostile environment where access to shower facilities is limited but hey, it’s all about the ‘gram.

Perhaps my reaction to the festival fashion is exposing a deep dark secret of mine: that I have become what is known as “Being In Your Thirties”. I looked at all the Irish bloggers flying the flag for insanely overdressed women of Ireland in a desert and I felt like taking a nap. This antipathy towards a few happy women expressing themselves through the medium of the outfit change is concerning to me. What next? Will I be nodding along to George Hook and looking forward to Sunday Miscellany?

Photo by Caroline Veronez on Unsplash

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