I wrote this about four years ago, struck by the irony of an emergence of a festival ‘uniform’. Surely, thought I, dressed resplendently in a frog-green wimple, we should be making the most of the opportunity to dress with creative wild abandon? I think the argument still stands today.
Festival fashion has become as tragic as a Shakespearean play. Or Eastenders. Muck fests used to be synonymous with creative and fearless style but in the last few years a cringe-worthy uniform has emerged. The first day of Oxegen saw hordes of girls clunking around Dublin city to get the bus in Hunter wellies, over-sized sunglasses, denim cut-offs, fringed tops and floral headbands, and I couldn’t help but be struck by disappointment that festivals, with their creative and free-spirited ideology, could have borne such homogenous sartorial ‘sheepdom’.
The whole point of festival fashion is the beauty of ‘anything goes’. Such is the spirit of things that people are either happily accepting or too pissed to slag off your gear, resulting in forecasters recording below average egging of ‘weirdos’ during festival season.
It’s true that fashion lines have blurred dramatically in the last few years, and certainly that may be attributed to the steady processing of festival goers into a uniform consistency. Hard-faced skangers who would have happy-slapped any girl in a floral headband now flock to the shops in their droves to shoplift them and no more are brogues only the footwear of choice for pretentious shoegazers. Poor Al Capone would have died in mortification if he’d known his precious wing-tips would one day hang in Penneys for a tenner and hipsters who feel a sense of ownership on more alternative styles seethe with resentment when they see them sweep through every shop on the highstreet. But such is the nature of fashion: there’s no ownership on it and in a media-saturated world ideas spread like wildfire are universally adopted.
I often find it surprising that women’s magazines are so far behind. Popular magazines are still churning out festival clichés. We’re urged to wear fringing, the tacky mass-produced side of ‘boho’ and lots of other overdone tat. Then again I suppose these are the clothes the highstreet is selling.
Of course there are many girls whose style I am in awe of, who really pull it out of the bag in terms of originality and creativity. Go to any Irish festival and you will be blown away by the gear on some ladies. Some. But similar to the wisdom of Father Dougal McGuire when he said: “It’s like a big tide of jam coming towards us, but jam made out of old women”, style that starts out autonomous and original soon becomes over popular and often copied turning us into a big pile of indistinguishable, well, jam.
To stop this from happening we must keep changing, keep growing and find the fun, creativity and scope for inventiveness in fashion. Don’t take it too seriously but at the same time be confident enough to shy away from the universally accepted notion of style or a particular trend and find your own.
Celebrities who are moving with the changing times in terms of festival fashion are Josephine de la Baume, Katy Perry, Dita Von Teese, Charlotte Kemp Muhl and Florence Welch—and of course Sienna Miller deserves a special Lifetime Achievement Award or something for being the original festival style inspiration. These are girls who have their own style and adapt it for festivals, instead of heading out and buying a ‘festival uniform’ because they think it’s the ‘done’ thing to do.
First published August 2011