The Fashionisto is in: Festival Fashion

Dressing for a music festival can be a tricky balance between being practical and looking fresh. We’ll help you strike the right balance.


It can be tough to dress well for summer, especially with the oppressive heat we’ve been experiencing in the Twin Cities. When it’s so warm out, the need for comfort often trumps style.

Music festivals often compound the problem. Being outside for hours makes a hot day seem hotter, and if you know you’re going to get sweaty and dirty there can be little incentive to dress up.

Luckily, your friendly neighborhood Fashionisto is here to help your strike the right balance between practicality and style.


Travel light

This is probably the most important tip for festival dressing. Try to wear all cotton. Check the tags on the thinnest T-shirts from your drawer — some brands add polyester for stretch at the expense of breathability.

Look for breezy shorts made of madras or something similarly thin. Denim or corduroy cutoffs, while great for everyday wear, will be too hot.

Ideally, everything you bring into the festival should fit in your pockets (wearing cargo shorts is cheating). But if you have additional gear, like a water bottle or sunscreen, bring a small tote bag or something you can carry on one shoulder. A backpack will turn your back into a horrible swamp, and those cheap-o drawstring bags are best left at the gym.


Find some shade

You’ll be spending the whole day in sunglasses, but my best advice is to not over-think them.

Sunglasses aren’t “investment” pieces. Use them, abuse them and lose them. Get designer knockoffs for a fraction for the price, and you won’t care when an overzealous festival attendee steps on them.

Style-wise, just make sure to steer clear of sporty shades. Keep things simple with a thick plastic frame in black or a tortoise shell pattern. They’ll go with everything.


Graphic content

Generally, concerts and sporting events have the opposite rules when it comes to clothing. While it’s natural to don your team’s colors, the conventional wisdom is that wearing a band’s T-shirt to its concert isn’t allowed.

It’s a controversial rule, and one that’s stricter with the judgmental hipster set. Let’s compromise, and keep in mind that the festival grounds will be full of other attendees who share your tastes. This is a great time to bust out that Starfucker shirt you can’t otherwise wear in public or a Threadless tee with an inside joke about “Doctor Who.” These are your people, and they’ll appreciate that niche graphic tee more than most.


Guns out

I wouldn’t normally recommend tank tops for men; not everyone can pull them off, and they’re not flexible enough for all-day wear. But a festival is the perfect setting for the hyper-casual and breathable clothing, so get those guns out.

Make sure you have a loose fit — no ribbing allowed here. Don’t be afraid to let your tanks fit quite a bit looser than your T-shirts. You want something flowy, with armholes low enough to avoid sweat stains.

The tank top is a great place to get some bold colors going too; it’s summer, after all. Bright stripes, complex ikat patterns, and flashy (even kitschy) graphics are great choices.

Just be careful with the Native American-influenced looks that have been all over stores like Urban Outfitters in the past year. One or two pieces are fine and look fashion-forward. Just don’t let those patterns spill over to items like flasks or underwear. This misappropriation is insensitive to the heritage behind the patterns, and even landed Urban into some legal hot water.


Button up

If you don’t have the arms for a tank top but are still afraid of pitting out, grab a short-sleeved button-down shirt. They’re squarely back in style and don’t trap as much heat as you might think.

Just like with tank tops, you have a lot of options here. Solids and plaids are easy and timeless, and gingham — tablecloth plaid — is especially big right now. Printed button-ups are also back in a big way, thanks partially to the guys in Odd Future. For a fresh minimalist look, try a solid shirt with contrasting collar and cuffs, like the ones Gap is pushing this season.