Monday, June 6, 2011


This coming week I will be attending the Bonnaroo music festival. I have written about festival fashion before, but this post is about what I have learned over many years of music festivals to be the best fashion choices to look great and feel great while there.

Bonnaroo is four days of camping, music, art and fun on a farm in Tennessee. It is hot, there isn't any shade, you are often walking many miles each day. It can be so dry that there is dust in the air, so humid that you feel as though you are walking in a sauna, or so rainy that you might as well be enjoying the show from a swimming pool. You need to prepare for the elements to be able to relax once at the music festival and enjoy the show. A proper wardrobe helps you have the best time possible.

My Bonnaroo must-haves:

Cotton sundresses. 100% cotton doesn't stick to you when it's humid, rainy, or you are sweaty. It dries fast and will catch even the slightest breeze, keeping you cool. Old Navy and H&M are great shops to find cheap yet trendy cotton sundresses. I like them with pockets to hold small items and, if above the knee, you don't have to worry about them dragging in mud (or the muck at the bottom of the porta-potty).

Bike shorts. Having a pair of moisture-wicking bike shorts under your sundress means that you won't be flashing the crowd when you sit on the ground to catch a show, and you will prevent the dreaded "chub rub" when walking in the heat. Under Armour makes great bike shorts for this--I've found that a 5" - 7" length is perfect to prevent chafing and also hides under shorter sundresses. Some women choose to wear these in place of underwear; I find that when worn with underwear it keeps me comfortable and stops sweat from running down my legs.

Bikini tops. A bikini top is a great alternative to a bra at a music festival. It's acceptable attire so you can slip off your top and catch some rays, strip down to your swimsuit to wash up at the water station, and you don't have to worry about a bra strap showing with your spaghetti-strap sundresses.

A sunhat. Be it a cowboy hat, a floppy straw style, or a cotton bucket, a sun hat is a must-have. If the hat has a neck strap, you can hang it on your back when indoors. Look for lightweight styles or ones with air vents to prevent overheating.

Hydration backpack. Be it from Camelbak or another brand, it is a wise choice to choose a backpack with a hydration bladder when attending a music festival like Bonnaroo. It may not be "fashionable," but it's smarter than getting sick from dehydration or heat exhaustion. I have a small one from Kelty that fits right between my shoulder blades, weighs almost nothing, but can carry 20 ounces of water along with all my festival essentials (camera, cell phone, sunscreen, lipbalm with SPF, toilet paper in case the porta potty is out, hand sanitizer, cash, ID). There are hydration packs created for children--I find these are great for festivals because they are smaller and come in some really fun colors and prints.

Small crossbody bag. Later in the day and during the evening, a hydration pack is not as important. To ensure you have all your essentials but have the ability to move and dance, a small crossbody purse is a perfect choice. I found one for only $9.99 at Target that is small enough to not weigh a ton, but large enough to hold my phone, camera, and cash. A canvas or cotton bag won't chafe on the shoulder like leather or vinyl, and can be washed once you get home to have it ready for your next adventure.

Hooded sweatshirt. It gets chilly on The Farm when the sun goes down; be ready with a lightweight jacket or zip-up hooded sweatshirt. Keep it lightweight so you can stuff it in your bag or tie around your waist if you get hot from dancing.

Lightweight pants. Again, you want something to slip on when the temperature drops. Some like a pair of leggings to pair with sundresses, others choose to change into drawstring linen pants or loose jeans. Nothing tight (you will be dirty, possibly sunburned, and very likely sweaty) so you can easily and comfortably get changed and be warm. Be it Sasquatch or Wakarusa, it's totally cool to wear jeans or pants with dresses at a music festival!

Canvas shoes. Be they TOMS, Sanuks, or Vans, a simple canvas shoe is a great choice for a music festival. It will keep your feet protected from the sun, aren't too hot, won't slide off in the rain and mud, and can be hosed down afterwards. You may want a pair of "no-see-um" socks with the shoes to prevent blisters, and be sure to break in the shoes prior to heading to the fest.

Boots. In my previous post I mentioned rain boots. Rain boots are a great choice as that come rain or shine, the festival will still take place and the ground will be very muddy. However I personally like wearing a pair of calf-height leather boots to music festivals. My boots have a thin shearling lining which wicks away moisture and keeps me cool in the heat; I douse them with waterproofing spray before I go and they are wonderful even in rain and mud.

Poncho. A small packable poncho takes up little space in your bag, can double as a ground cover when sitting at a show, and will be a lifesaver in case of an unexpected downpour. You can find such ponchos at dollar stores and discount mass retailers like Walmart.

Fun fashion. When the sun goes down, the party really gets going at music festivals. It's a perfect opportunity to wear your silliest, most sparkly attire. No one blinks at an adult woman wearing head-to-toe sequins, a tutu, or rainbow-striped knee socks. Even if you are more conservative, consider a sequined tank or pair of fun dangly earrings to add to your standard festival wardrobe.

Sharpie and a camera. Music festivals are a place where you can end up catching a show standing right next to your favorite celebrity. Be at the ready with a camera to catch the moment and a Sharpie pen to get their autograph on your festival booklet, ticket, or even your hydration pack!
Alison Gary has over ten years experience as a personal shopper, stylist, and visual merchandiser. Her blog Wardrobe Oxygen provides fashion advice to all women, regardless of age, size, budget, or lifestyle. She is a full-time working mother, blogger, wife, and frugal fashionista located in the Washington D.C. area.