Flower crowns and booty shorts are all very well for the Coachella Valley, but homegrown eccentricity goes down better in the mud.
Festival fashion is an odd concept. It exists in a bit of a bubble and it has, for fairly obvious reasons, its own trends and timescales. A festival is a chance to really go for it – you can live free and not care if your behaviour or outfit are suitable for the budget meeting. But even the most enthusiastic festival-goer probably won’t manage more than a few weekends throughout the summer. So you have your wildest clothes, but you’ll probably only wear then for about six days in the year. The knock-on effect of this is that festival fashion moves much more slowly than general day-to-day looks.
In recent years, the influence has been decidedly Californian. The most photographed are pictured with fringed vests, tiny denim shorts, blue mirrored sunglasses. It’s a look that’s come straight from Coachella. It’s clean and sexy and colourful. There are two huge drawbacks though. First off it’s a bit uniform, which surely defeats the point of festival dressing. Secondly it reveals a lot of flesh, which not everyone is happy doing and no-one sane should do in a standard British summer anyway.
But there’s another festival look and you’ve probably been doing it already. We’re good at it in Britain. Boho. Proper eccentric boho, not Sienna Miller in a tiered gypsy skirt circa 2005, but proper boho. The kind of mismatched, slightly scruffy dressing that would never come naturally to the understatedly sexy French or the hyper-groomed Americans. The kind of outfit that makes you look like you’ve walked through a large house adding random garments as the whim takes you, then put your wellies on at the back door. You stand on the patio, head in the air, mud on your ballgown and still look cooler than everyone else.
There isn’t much to be proud of in Britain right now, so we should cherish our long tradition of embracing freaks, outcasts and gentle everyday eccentrics. Vod from student comedy Fresh Meat is a perfect example of this kind of dressing. Then there’s nearly every cast member in every series of Skins. Those costumes didn’t seem outlandish. Proper British boho is about satin and tat with big boots. About Aran jumpers over tea dresses. It’s also open to everyone, with attitude trumping age, skin colour or size. It’s the spirit of a teenage girl on a night bus, dressed in her brother’s Adidas top and some sari fabric she found in her grandma’s sewing room. It’s an elderly lady cheerfully throwing on a giant jumper over a long satin slip. It’s beyond perfect for festivals as you look cool, dramatic and yet you are warm and have dry feet.
So what works? Well, anything works. But a kimono is a good shout. A proper Aran sweater. A silver dress. Feathers for a headdress that are just feathers, not anything more significant. Wellies, obviously.
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