I don’t understand festival fashion and I don’t think I ever will

Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley

Illustration by Twylamae

I’m sorry, free spirits.

I’m not a festival person.

I understand that they’re huge now, and I don’t begrudge anybody having fun. But I can’t bring myself to attend a festival that’s longer than a day.

Which means I’m one of the people sitting at home on Instagram during Falls or Splendour in the Grass, being subjected to your festival photo spams.

Now, I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they really do have such a diverse music taste that they can get behind every lineup of the year. But a more likely explanation is that festival-going itself has turned into a hobby.

And like all extra-curricular activities – whether it’s netball or the girl scouts – festival season comes with its own uniform.

At the risk of attracting a mob of angry girls in braids, sequin bras and glitter highlighter, I’ll admit that I don’t like festival fashion. I don’t get it, and I don’t think I ever will.

Here are a few reasons why.

It’s a competition, and we all know it.

The tagline for festival fashion is something along the lines of self-expression and letting loose. Hence the glitter, rhinestones and bra-sized tops your grandma wouldn’t approve of.

But when hundreds of people are wearing variations of the same shiny, eccentric festival look, things become less about expressing yourself and more about successfully pulling off a trend.

Trends aren’t a bad thing, and fashion is inherently competitive. But festivals are a jungle, where the weakest and least sparkly get eaten alive.

At the end of the day, the real contest is to see who looks the hottest in the same pre-approved festival trends. Or, more to the point, who gets the most likes on Instagram when they make it back to wifi-connected civilisation.

Festival fashion isn’t accessible.

On the subject of hotness, festival fashion can often feel like a skinny person’s game.

The nature of so many festival trends – tiny, tight and made from fabric that gives me chafing just looking at it – makes them feel like a trap for anybody outside of what’s considered conventionally attractive.

It’s hard to follow the rules when they’re not made with you in mind. And if you can’t shop ASOS’ festival edit because most brands don’t stock your size, you’re starting the race at a disadvantage.

Obviously that’s not the end of the world, and that kind of fashion gatekeeping can be a powerful motivator for creative dressing. But when the pressure is on to fit the ‘culture’ by looking a certain way, not being able to can really put a damper on your fun weekend outing.

I don’t understand how you can all afford this lifestyle.

Festival tickets aren’t cheap.

Which is why it never ceases to amaze me that after people have forked out hundreds of dollars for entry, they can then afford to go shopping for festival clothes.

Take a three-day festival, for example. That’s three outfits, at least. Assuming, of course, that you’re not planning a mid-day costume change (it happens) or an extra look for night-time boogying.

Rinse and repeat two months later for the next event.

What is your secret? Where are you getting this money? How can I get on board?

Everybody develops a festival alter ego.

Of course, maybe people do need to buy new clothes, because as far as I can tell most of you don’t dress anything like this in your daily life.

And call me bitter, but seeing the same girls who made fun of me in high school for wearing the colour yellow living their glitter fantasies at Rainbow Serpent feels like cosmic cruelty.

It’s fun to play dress up and try new things, and it’s easier to take those risks in an environment that’s so supportive of them. But it tends to have a polarising effect, where people only feel comfortable being creative and out-there for three days every few months.

Why can’t we bridge that gap, and incorporate the fun of festival fashion into our everyday style?

Be brave, stop giving weird looks to the girl wearing rhinestone hotpants at the supermarket, and take a leaf out of her book.

How much of your festival gear will end up in landfill?

I can count on one hand the number of bush doof hobbyists I’ve seen repeating outfits from year to year. So it’s safe to assume a lot of clothes are going to that great rubbish bin in the sky after their festival runs.

Which makes some sense. A lot of fast fashion won’t hold up well against that much dirt and dancing, and might come home unsalvageable.

But in this day and age, can we really afford to be endorsing this one-and-done approach to our wardrobes? It seems so counterproductive to the industry’s hard slog towards greater sustainability.

On the other hand, each year more people embrace DIY and upcycling as a way to pull together festival looks. Personally, I’m crossing my fingers that this is the way of the future, for both the environment and creativity’s sake.


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