Sound Style: A practical guide to staying fresh at ACL Fest

12:00 a.m. Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 Music

Though the words “festival fashion” conjure the flawless Instagram feeds of top-shelf Coachella cuties, those of us who have spent time on the ground at music festivals can attest to the real-life challenges of looking relatively fresh while standing in a field, braving the elements, with a few thousand fellow music lovers for 10 hours.

Case in point: Austin City Limits Music Festival 2014. The year Outkast and Eminem headlined the fest. Also the year of my most epic ACL Fest fashion fail.

I was going through an eye makeup phase. Watching tutorials and re-creating dramatic looks (with varying degrees of success) was my thing. The festival environment invites bold choices, and I created a punky 1980s look, lining my waterlines with heavy black kohl and outlining my upper and lower lids with a thick line of sparkly turquoise liner. I was very proud of the result.

But I made a fatal fashion error: I underestimated the pollen.

Early October is a brutal time in Austin for seasonal allergy sufferers, and my eyes started to water the minute I hit the field. Two hours in, the liner on one eye was streaming down my face in dark, glittery tears while the other remained relatively intact. My look had transformed from “edgy rocker cool” to “’90s-era Kesha reimagined by a faded juggalette.”

Going forward, I’ve simplified. Considering my eyes are hidden by shades till the sun goes down, my go-to is now a natural look with a base shadow and a solid waterproof mascara.

A few important ACL Fest guidelines might affect how you plan your look and pack your bag. For security reasons, many local venues have started restricting bag sizes for large music events over the past year, and ACL Fest is following suit. The official ACL Fest do’s and don’ts list says your bag should be roughly 1,000 cubic inches or 10 by 10 by 10 inches. They say drawstring bags work well. Also, Team Austin360’s favorite accessory of yesteryear, the umbrella — useful for staying dry and blocking sun — has been banned, so consider investing in a lightweight rain poncho and heavy-duty sunscreen for your face. This year, there also will be a full body pat-down and a metal detector at security, worth considering when you accessorize.

For the ACL Fest edition of Sound Style, our new series that examines the way artists approach the idea of image, we asked three local artists, all of whom are native Austinites playing the fest, to create a look based on an ACL Fest muse. We also quizzed stylish festgoers for some ACL Fest pro-tips.

Melat used Zilker Park as the inspiration for this green and blue look. Photo by Laura Skelding

Years attending ACL Fest: 0

Her sound: Sultry alternative R&B with hints of Whitney Houston

ACL Fest muse: Zilker Park

Why she picked it: “It’s my first time playing, and I just found out that it’s the 100-year anniversary of Zilker this year,” she says. The crown jewel of Austin’s park system has special significance for her family. “When I asked my mom (who emigrated from Ethiopia), ‘What’s the first thing you remember when you came to Austin,’ she was like, ‘Zilker Park!’ My parents also took their wedding photos there. It’s special to (her, so) it’s special to me this year, and it’s very special to the city.”

Her look: “When you look at pictures of Zilker, it’s like super-green grass and super-blue sky,” she says. She reflected the great lawn with green thrift store pants spruced up with iron-on cacti and paired with a blue bikini top to represent the sky. On her feet, she’s rocking Vans sneakers with a textile pattern that had sort of a “hippie Austin feel.” To spice it up she added a gold belly chain and matching gold anklets as well as a gold bracelet with an Ethiopian cross.

Fest fashion quick tip: Wear a bathing suit top. It gets really hot, so it will keep you cool, and then if it rains you’ll be good.

Catch her at the fest: 12:30 p.m. Oct. 8 on the Tito’s stage

RELATED: Mélat infuses her R&B style with a larger worldview

Swedish folk-pop duo First Aid Kit is the fashion inspiration for Taylor Baker of Austin duo the Wild Now. Outfit courtesy of Southern Hippie, makeup by Delaney Harper. Laura Skelding for American-Statesman

Years attending ACL Fest: 5

Her sound: Dreamy story pop with catchy hooks

ACL Fest muse: Swedish folk-pop duo First Aid Kit

Why she picked them: “Their music is just really, really beautiful and really cool, and the way that they dress is so vibey. It’s very bohemian and chic and I just love it.”

Her look: She combines edgy rocker and sweet bohemian with a velvet floral crop-top blouse from Southern Hippie and high-waisted, lace-up short shorts paired with chunky-heeled, metal-embellished boots she snagged at Free People a few years back. “I always like to mix up different vibes, mostly because I’m a really indecisive person,” she says. “I can’t really stick with one look.”

Fest fashion quick tips: Wear a hat. You’ll protect your face, and as a bonus you don’t have to worry about your hair. Also, pack mini sizes of your essential beauty products in a small purse.

Catch her at the fest: The Wild Now performs at 11:45 a.m. Oct. 6 on the Miller Lite stage.

Austin rapper Zeale uses “rock ’n’ roll South Austin vibe” as the inspiration for this look. Laura Skelding for American-Statesman

Years attending ACL Fest: 8

His sound: Razor-sharp, battle-honed rap bars

ACL Fest muse: A rock ’n’ roll South Austin vibe

Why he picked it: “That’s the part of the city that’s always been a part of my life.”

His look: A 20-year-old denim vest he scored at a vintage store in Austin. “It took me forever to find, and I started customizing it,” he says. He had “Austin” embroidered on the back during South by Southwest along with a tiger patch that he recently acquired from Thailand and stitched on himself. He collects pins, and for this look he sports mutant Drake — “he’s crying and he has four eyes” — and a quintessentially South Austin “Weirdo” pin that actually came from Australia. Underneath the vest, he wears an orange and black tie-dye shirt. “It looks kind of animalistic,” he says. He completes the look with a weathered pair of jeans and some red Vans Sk8-Hi’s.

Fest fashion quick tips: Shades are a must, and a light denim or flannel layer will keep you ready when the sun goes down.

Catch him at the fest: With Missio: 1:15 p.m. Oct. 6 on the HomeAway stage, and noon Oct. 14 on the Honda stage. Opening for Missio with his own group, the Nght Hcklrs, at an official ACL Late Night Show on Oct. 7 at Antone’s.

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