The ensembles worn to multi-day shows from Delaware to Chicago are homogeneous to the point of uniformity. Even London, the birthplace of mod and home of Kate Moss, hasn’t been immune. Sure, Glastonbury has given us wellies and jorts, and wellies with romantic dresses, and wellies with, well, everything. But the differences between festivals has evolved as more function than form. Boots are a necessity in rainy Great Britain, and often along the East Coast. Layers are required in the desert.
And though Coachella, currently entering its second weekend, was the first major modern festival to try to embrace the Venn Diagram of music and design, it’s become the epicenter of the trope.
Music festival fashion is no longer fashion.
The downfall is a tale as old as rock ‘n’ roll — innovative idea emerges, gains popularity, catches the eyes or ears of money-makers, is turned into a marketing ploy, becomes less cool. Over the last five years, any clothing or accessories company with an ambitious marketing director has hitched at least one spring campaign to Indio.
Fast fashion retailers, and some department stores, are dedicating entire sections to festival garb. E-tailers sponsor star-studded bashes at desert estates. Even high-fashion designers have gotten in on the fun with product launches amidst DJ sets.
The non-stop sales push occurs in more subtle ways as well. Those designer duds on your favorite Instagram follow? Most likely free with the expectation of a palm tree-studded pic broadcast across their feeds.
Of course, marketing has infiltrated nearly every form of pop culture — even the hottest new social media platform has some type of integrated advertising. But festival marketing has focused on one particular aesthetic: the scantily-clad, boho cool girl.
You know her. She’s backlit by an orange California sunset, in a crop top or bralet, paper-thin caftan draped across her shoulders. Crochet detailing somewhere visible. Possibly feathers. Stacks of cheap jewelry on her arms that are raised in the air. A choker around her neck.
The reverberation of this image from Instagram to fashion blogs to store windows has had a chilling effect on creativity, and produced a sea of uniformity. So much so that Amazon carries Coachella Party Girl Halloween Costumes, complete with bare midriff, and you guessed it, fringe.
The ubiquity has pushed enterprising women and men to go to extremes to one-up each other, and catch the attention of roaming photographers and hopefully bloggers. Outfits have gotten louder, smaller, more exaggerated, more completely covered in glitter. Celebrities are also in on the faux grandiosity, Kylie Jenner’s highlighter hair and Katy Perry’s rainbow fur top. It’s a game of who can be the most extra, one that only Rihanna will win.