Plan A Stylish and Functional Outdoor Festival Wardrobe

Illustration by Mia Johnson/Foghorn

Planning what to pack and wear for multi-day outdoor festivals becomes a challenge every spring and summer. Camping, hot sun and long days on your feet makes wearing some of the adorable things you’d typically wear to a concert impossible. However, you don’t have to completely sacrifice fashion in favor of practicality. With a little creative thinking and a lot of layering, you can look fabulous without compromising comfort.

Of course, checking the weather is always an important first step. If it’s going to rain or if temperatures are cold, pack accordingly! Check both day and evening temperatures to make sure you’ve got an adequate range of options. Whether you’re headed to Coachella in Indio, Sasquatch in Seattle or Bonnaroo in Tennessee, here are some tips on what to pack and wear from myself and other Foghorn staffers that have been to more than their fair share of outdoor festivals.

Shoes often prove to be the most important fashion choice for the day at a music festival. You spend countless hours on your feet and in dense crowds where people have no regard for personal space and often accidentally stomp on your toes. “A nice sneaker slip-on is the way to go (think Vans or Converse),” said Campus Chic’s Chloe Schildhause.  “A thin pair of ankle socks won’t sacrifice the look of the sneaker and allows for adequate sweat absorption. Never wear a cheap brand of sneakers.  If you bought a pair of sneakers for $10 at Urban Outfitters, you will not be happy.  They are cheap for a reason and your heels will be burning from scabs by mid afternoon.  Invest is some top quality shoes with thick soles. All that money you save on band-aids will make it worth the price. In addition to the obvious sneaker route, ankle boots are always a welcomed option.  Unlike mid calf or knee high boots they won’t make your calves sweaty.  Ankle boots are sturdy, allow for a breeze to graze and cool your ankles, and most importantly make your outfit look a touch dressed up.”

It’s also important to pick a good bag for the day. Rich media editor Elizabeth Brown has very strong opinions on bag choice: “Attention all festival-goers: neon fanny packs are officially over! We all have our favorite ironic piece of clothing, but fanny packs must be retired to the back of your closet. Fortunately for you fanny pack fans there is a new alternative that provides the same amount of storage and is just as hands-free. This, my confused music-lovers, is the miniature backpack. You are probably thinking Clueless, and you are oh so right. The backpack has been reincarnated by the likes of Louis Vuitton and Alexander Wang, but, more importantly, they can be found at most thrift stores for and small price. I found my leather miniature backpack at the Salvation Army for $5.99. My backpack has lasted me three years, two music festivals, and countless concerts where carrying a purse just wouldn’t cut it. You will be surprised by the amount of necessities (sunscreen, water, sunglasses) your backpack can stretch to fit, and there is no doubt that it will be admired by your new festival friends.” If a mini backpack isn’t your thing, a solid messenger bag will also do nicely. It will hold a lot, but you can swing it in front of you when things get packed and you don’t want a backpack stretching behind you (which will inevitably hit everyone behind you).

Whatever type of bag you choose, there are several crucial things to keep inside of it. Most important of all: sun block. Maybe you want to get your tan on outside all day, but nothing feels more horrendous than trying to party all night with a sunburn or sun poisoning. Take the necessary precaution and pack at least SPF 30. It’s sunny and you’re exposed all day. Don’t forget to reapply! Make sure you have a water bottle on you. It’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re in the hot sun all day (especially if those of you 21 and older are drinking alcoholic beverages). If you bring your own reusable bottle, most venues have spots to refill. Along the lines of heat protection, it’s always nice to have a hat. Ladies, if you part your hair it’s easy to get a burn there, then when the burn starts to peel it looks like you have dandruff. Gross. A hat can prevent that entirely.

Now for clothing! The trick is wearing layers. You’ll be outside from the hottest point of the day (mid afternoon) to nighttime, which often gets cold. A light, cotton dress or skirt and tank top makes for a simple, easy to pack and stylish look. A loose fitting dress allows for a lot of movement, which proves convenient when you’re outside all day. However, if you’re wearing a dress, be sure you wear bike shorts underneath. Every woman knows the misfortune of the chafe – when you spend the day in the heat, walking around, your sweaty thighs start to rub together leaving painful and ugly chafe marks. It’s best to just avoid that situation entirely.

The other positive aspect of wearing a dress or skirt is that it’s easy to layer throughout the day. If you put leggings in your bag, when it gets cold you can easily slip off the bike shorts and slip on the leggings. Throw a T-shirt on over the dress or with the skirt and you can adapt to evening weather. Then all you need is a cardigan and a hoodie (or light jacket) for later. It’s also nice to throw a scarf or hat in your bag for evening. Scarves make you feel much warmer without taking up much space, and for hats keep in mind you lose a lot of heat through your head. It’s also good to bring a pair of warmer socks in your bag. You can change into them easily and they’ll help keep you warm.

For dudes, Foghorn staff writer Chad Heimann suggests straw fedoras, cut offs and Vans. The straw fedora is good for keeping the sun off your head without getting as hot and sweaty as you would with a baseball cap. Guys also need to bring layers for the evening, and it’s not as hard as it seems. A tee-shirt and shorts are perfect for wearing during the hottest part of the day. Have a western shirt or a button up in your bag to throw on when it starts to get colder in the evening. A cardigan and a hoodie can provide additional warmth the later it gets. If you pack a pair of tube socks in your bag, you can change socks when it gets cold and pull them up high so your legs are covered. It looks awesomely 90’s skater/punk rock and will help keep you warm. Dudes should pack a warm hat too.

With that instruction in mind, enjoy the show! Last but not least, remember to leave a little extra room in your bag if you want to bring home some merch.


2 thoughts on “Plan A Stylish and Functional Outdoor Festival Wardrobe

  1. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog. A fantastic read. I’ll certainly be back.

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