Fashion forward: Festivals aren’t about the fashion

I’ve never been to Bonnaroo, Coachella or any other big name music festival and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. However, I did get the chance to explore the musical side of our very own Knoxville, Tenn., at the Rhythm & Blooms Festival April 4-6.

I could go on about my love for the music of the Southeastern United States, but this is a fashion column. While music and fashion are linked in the minds of both industry professionals and concert goers themselves, this year I have noticed a particularly prolific tendency at mass retailers to promote their “festival styles.”

These ads tend to feature exactly the type of clothing you might associate with music festivals: paisley and floral prints, fringe elements, crochet tops and the all-too-overdone floral crown.

But even just in an urban environment, where I had the luxury of returning to my own bed and shower each night, I found my own fashion tastes to be more about practicality than looks.

For the first evening, the forecast called for rain. Fortunately, even the outdoor venue in Knoxville’s Old City was covered, so I didn’t worry too much. However, as the night went on, the temperature dropped noticeably. I opted for tall boots, jeans, and a water-resistant jacket with several pockets so I could forgo a purse. I didn’t feel particularly glamorous, but I was warm and dry.

However, the festival atmosphere definitely got to me as I was getting dressed on Saturday. I knew I would have the opportunity to snap a few more pictures that day considering I convinced my roommate to tag along with me, so maybe that’s why I decided to dress up a bit more, despite the chillier temperatures.

My layered outfit of a maxi-skirt, oversized button up and wool hat kept me warm for most of the day. But I knew I had chosen looks over practicality when my roommate and I were essentially running back to the car as the sun went down to put on the warmer clothes we had brought along just in case. Perhaps if I had been a bit less vain from the start, I wouldn’t have ended up changing into jeans in a parking lot.

Luckily, the temperatures finally warmed up enough on Sunday to be able to wear basically what I wanted without much discomfort. I opted for the boots and a dress look that seems to be fairly popular in concert settings and overall was comfortable, if not even a bit warm, during the day.

While a play-by-play of my outfits isn’t the most fun thing about the festival, I wanted to give some context for the lessons I learned.

First of all, pretty much any pair of shoes you wear is uncomfortable by the end of the day. This doesn’t mean you should start off in high-heels and hope for the best, but even your trusted pair of Chacos could start to hurt by the end of an eight hour day. I was most comfortable in my boots on Sunday, but that was mainly because everyone sat down for the first four shows of the day.

Speaking of being uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter how good you look if you’re cold. On Saturday, I admired a girl’s outfit of a crop top and flowy skirt, but when I noticed that her arms were covered in visible goose bumps, I knew my less revealing outfit was the right choice.

And, last of all, music festivals are fun to dress up for, yes. But as in any situation, it’s important to wear something that suits your style regardless. Obviously some things, such as floral crowns, are definitely more appropriate for a concert than your everyday activities. But if that isn’t really your style? Don’t feel pressured to fit into what it feels like everyone else will be wearing. Just have fun wearing what you normally would and listen to the music. After all, isn’t that what people are at the festival for?

At the end of the day, that question was exactly what my thought process was about.

Sure, I love people watching. I think music festivals have somewhat become a game of “see and be seen” in that regard. However, I didn’t pay for a weekend pass to parade around in a fancy outfit. I paid so that I could see some of my favorite local and regional music acts in venues that I enjoy, preferably without shivering in an ill-advised outfit choice.

One thought on “Fashion forward: Festivals aren’t about the fashion

  • April 10, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Good article. Well written and thought out.


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