Skip to main content

Q: How Do I Dress for a Summer Music Festival Without Looking Like a Cliché?

It's possible, we swear!

In our latest column, "Ask a Fashionista," you can solicit our strongly held opinions on everything from how to wear a midi skirt without looking like a tree stump to whether a certain retail CEO should go ahead and resign already.

Q: How do I dress for a summer music festival without looking like a cliché? -- Michelle, New York, NY

A: Despite being prime street style fodder, festival fashion has gotten a bad rap over the last couple of years. With the prominence of Native American headdresses, neon-centric color palettes, denim cutoffs short enough to qualify as underwear and flower crowns aplenty, it's easy to end up looking like a hippie raver disaster. Personally, I can't think of many things that are more fun than spending a weekend outdoors listening to great music, but there's a fine line between dressing in celebration of your favorite festival and dressing up in costume.

Much like Fashion Week, music festivals are rife with ladies "peacocking" to get their pictures taken, but that doesn't mean that the "less is more" philosophy should go out the window. Luckily, by following just a few guidelines, you'll be able to avoid looking like a Coachella cliché.

Keep the headgear to a minimum. In my opinion, this is where most people go wrong at a festival. Whether your preference is feathered, floral or wide-brimmed, think twice: it's often overkill. If you're looking for protection from the sun, stick with a pair of on-trend sunglasses (avoid those plastic neon ones, if you can) or a baseball cap.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Limit yourself to one piece of any of the following: Tribal print, fringe, neon, crochet or flowy boho. Piling on the trends is a popular festival faux pas. Sticking to one bohemian, rainbow bright or heavily printed piece is your best bet -- pair some embellished cutoffs with a simple white shirt like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (above left) or a printed top with plain black shorts and boots, like Kate Bosworth (above center). Also, keep proportions in mind: If you're wearing teeny tiny shorts, maybe save the crop top for a day you're opting for overalls or boyfriend jeans.

A bathing suit is not an outfit. This is self-explanatory. Wearing a tasteful one piece underneath a pair of jean shorts is one thing, but unless you're lounging poolside at one of the festival's many parties, please put on a shirt.

Leave the designer stuff at home. Sure, your suede Isabel Marant booties are practically made for Coachella, but honestly, if you're wearing expensive shoes to a music festival, there's no way you can really relax and have fun. The grounds are dusty, muddy and generally pretty disgusting: Do you want your whole weekend to be ruined after some bro accidentally spills an entire beer on your $600 shoes? I didn't think so. Opt for a pair of sneakers -- Converse or Adidas are my go-tos -- that you won't mind leaving in your hotel room if they get too trashed to make the trip home. Tough leather boots, like Fryes or Doc Martens, are also a safe bet and easy to wipe clean.

Layering is key. The weather is always a wild card, especially in the desert when the temperature can drop over 30 degrees at nightfall. Have fun with your outerwear: An army jacket, an oversized embroidered jean jacket or even a fashion sweatshirt are all easy to tie around your waist during the day and throw on once it gets dark. Or, opt for a chambray or silk shirt in a wild pattern worn open over a crop top.

Keep your beauty look natural. Unless you're Chloe Nørgaard or a lost member of Empire of the Sun, rainbow hair and face paint should be met with caution.