Why boots you ask? Why not these cute strappy sandal pumps or sky-high wedges from Tori Burch? As you may have guessed, the country's most famous and wondrous music festivals are outdoors on the grass or on the dirt. They also involve several stages of nonstop and oftentimes overlapping musical acts. This means you will walk back and forth among the stages, sometimes a lot.
Speaking from experience, your pedicure is going look really nasty after hour two (if you're lucky), your toes will be stomped on by countless people, and you will have to battle your biggest enemy, the terrain. And, once darkness descends, you will lose this battle! Ankles will be twisted, sandal straps broken, knees scraped.
Another fashion trend born out of necessity is the hat -- and not the baseball cap variety! As most festivals generally have little shade, the hat (and sunscreen) becomes your best ally in another war; this one against the sun. Big floppy sunhats, fedoras and cowboy hats are quintessential festival fashion styles. For those folks who don't wear hats, the de rigueur feather headbands of the 2007-09 festivals have been solidly replaced with flower headbands. The look is very Summer of Love!
Given that staying cool is the key, pants tend to be rather nonexistent in festival fashion. This year's festival style features the ever-popular staple, the maxi dress, in bright tribal prints, ombre-died fabric or nautical stripes. For short dresses, florals are very fashion-forward, especially frocks with lace detailing and pleated waistlines.
Another hot trend in both the festival and indie fashion set is high-waisted short shorts paired with a graphic print crop top or bustier. This style looks great with a roper or cowboy boot; bright, chunky, geometric-shaped jewelry; and some throwback Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Festival fashion makeup is another style of its own. The only kind of heavy makeup you will see at a festival is face-painting and mehndi tattoos. Makeup is usually very natural. Think California surfer girl rather than girls night out. Instead of a heavy foundation, use a tinted sunscreen and light bronzer. Skip the multilayered eye makeup and opt for a neutral or nude eye. Brighten the look with cobalt blue, royal purple or jade green eyeliner. The lip is typically glossy with a hint of color. My go-to festival makeup products are waterproof mascara and eyeliner, lip stain and SPF lip balm.
If all this talk about shadeless venues and foot-torturing situations is swaying you to the heck-no-I-won't-go side of the music festival debate, there is still the fashion to embrace! A style born out of exuberance, playfulness and youth, it truly is a fashion celebrating the joys of summer.
Music festival tips
For those of you interested in taking part of the music festival experience, check out festheads.com for a list of all the U.S. festivals by date, location and type of music. Here are some tips on what to expect when attending:
- Most festivals do not allow in any type of food or beverages, including water. Find out beforehand what you are permitted to bring. Most allow you to bring in an empty bottle for filling at water stations. If this is allowed, do it! Otherwise you could be paying $8 to $10 for an empty plastic bottle once inside.
- Backpacks or small purses that you can wear across your shoulders are a good choice because you will have to schlep it around for hours. There are some fabulous options out now.
- If you are not a hat person, try my favorite festival look, a Chinese-print parasol. It offers more sun coverage and has the bonus of making you look mysterious and exotic -- unless you have sneakers on, then it just looks weird. Note that some music festivals do not permit umbrellas as they block the view.
- Bring waterproof, sweat-proof sunscreen in at least SPF 50.
- This may seem like a no-brainer, but drink lots of water (the kind with no beer in it). Otherwise you may end up being one of those people being pulled out of a crowd suffering from heat exhaustion. Similarly, if the festival has a cool room or "spray station" where you can cool down, take advantage of it.
- Bring wet wipes and hand sanitizer. While most festivals have fairly clean porta-potty facilities, water for hand-washing tends to run out at the end of the night.
- A sarong is one of my go-to items for music festivals. They are lightweight, can be stuffed into most bags, and they are very versatile. You can use them as a blanket to sit on or as a cover-up if it gets cold at night.
- While a small wedge is fine, don't wear heels. By the end of the night, you will hate yourself -- and your friends will end up hating you too.
- Festivals are the best way to get exposed to the most exciting up-and-coming musical acts in one small time period. While you should research all that is offered at your festival, leave a little room in your schedule to wander about and enjoy the experience. These are the Woodstocks of our times!
Dennise Smith is a Charleston lawyer, fashion designer and co-founder of the local arts group Nomadic Tribes Collective.