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Image / Fashion

Coachella time machine: 1990s throwback looks stood out among festival fashion clones


by Freya Drohan
15th Apr 2019
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Most outfits from the Empire Polo Club in Indio (aka the Coachella playground), left little to the imagination. But the distinctly wearable nineties looks favoured by many celebrities are perhaps something to daydream about instead.

Much has been written about the homogenisation of festival style and – let’s go so far as to call it – the bastardisation of boho. Recent media dissections of the event declare, “How Coachella killed festival fashion“, “Festival dressing – without the festival” and “Coachella: why all music festival goers look the same“. With increasingly commercial elements integrated into the 20-year-old festival (read: brand partnerships, sponsored outfits, official Coachella-themed drops in stores like H&M) it seems that attendees are having a truly hard time trying to stand out from the crowd. After all, at any other event in the world, frolicking around in sequin thongs, fishnet body stockings or PVC leotards would certainly cause a raised eyebrow, but in 2019 at Coachella that seems to be a rather normalised uniform.

It says enough that since 2018, Vogue.com has opted not to include a ‘best dressed at Coachella’ gallery on its illustrious site. “It wasn’t so much the lack of taste that struck us, but rather, a depressing lack of imagination: ironic slogan tees emblazoned with slang epithets (i.e.“ratchet”), bandanas that would have been better left at the rodeo, bikini tops spray-painted with sparkling body paint, a trend more popularly known as “glitter boobs,” the website’s editors wrote at the time.

Kate Moss at Glastonbury

When the term ‘festival fashion’ was actually introduced into the modern lexicon, probably around 2005, it was thanks to the nonchalant Brits at Glastonbury who rocked their Friday night sequins with a Barbour waxed jacket and Hunter wellies. A can of beer and a cigarette (and a lot of mud) were literally the only accessories required. Thanks to Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Sienna Miller et al, we had a stylish exterior to represent the hedonistic experience, and we all wanted in on the fun.

Granted, the revelers at the original Woodstock essentially created the blueprint for festival dressing with fringing and crochet a’plenty, but those free lovers were far too consumed in the music and the spirit of 1969 to pay a second thought to how they looked to the outside world.

With so many obvious references, from Moss to Joni Mitchell, and the abundance of curated ‘festival edits’ in high street stores, it is understandable why everyone now looks the same – and why many people are going to increasing (and sometimes X-rated) lengths to out-do one another in the originality stakes. Which, ironically, leaves them all looking like they just tried very, very hard. Here’s the surprise trend from last weekend’s festival though: simplicity!

It was evident in a bucket hat here, a low-slung pair of cargo pants there, and plenty of tie-dye for good measure. It was quite nostalgic for 1990s rave and hip hop cultures but also tipped a nod to the reigning trends that marched down Spring Summer runways this year. In a sea of, as Vogue called them, glitter boobs, these outfits managed to seem equal parts normal (by Coachella standards at least) and cool.

Some of the biggest bloggers in the industry and noted style stars seemed to eschew the capital-f-Festival Fashion norm by bringing it back to basics. White jean jackets with embellished halter-necks, minimalist vests worn sans bra, khaki, run-of-the-mill sneakers; it was all so refreshingly realistic and paid homage to actual music culture too (because what’s a good old gig without someone in a Kangol bucket hat?).

When everyone is becoming increasingly jaded by the Coachella look du jour and its sartorial clichés replicated straight off Pinterest, these tastemakers make a fine case for the fact that less really is more.

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