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.
PHOTOS: Festival fashion pro-tips
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.
FROM THE MUSICIANS
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
Taylor Baker, the Wild Now
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.
Zeale, performing with Missio
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.
Fest fashion pro-tips
Stephanie Bergara (audience development/music tourism program coordinator at the city of Austin Music Office and lead singer of Bidi Bidi Banda):
• Think long and hard about your choice of shoes. If it’s uncomfortable five minutes after leaving the house, it’s definitely going to be uncomfortable five hours later.
• Fall festival season calls for a long flowy scarf, either for protecting your airways from dust or keeping you warm with that evening chill. Either way, keep it light and stylish.
• Don’t over-accessorize! The more you bring with you, the more you lug home at the end of the night. (And bag size is restricted anyway.)
• Check the weather. You don’t want to be the guy who has to walk home barefoot after losing a flip flop in the mud, or the girl who is cute but freezing in that romper she bought over the summer.
• Looking for a fun and easy way for your friends to find you at the fest? Bust out those bright colors, wear your oversized sunglasses, your bright lipstick, belly chain — yes! Flower crown — yes! It’s festival season, baby. Time to show off your best and brightest.
Amanda Garcia Davenport (lifelong Austin music patron, Giant Noise PR): For me, comfort is key. Sneakers or boots are a must because I hate the feeling of dirty toes, along with shades and/or hat to keep the sun out of my eyes, and I always always bring my own little folding fan. They are easy to tuck away in a pocket or bag, help keep you cool in a crowd and, since we’re talking about fashion, are the perfect accessory. I bought some at dollar stores and had friends gift them (to me) after their travels. (Honestly I try to keep two on me at all times even outside of festivals because TEXAS, and I feel bad fanning myself while whoever I’m with sweats.)
Yadira Brown (singer in Keeper, who open for ACL Fest artist Muna at their official ACL Late Night Show Oct. 12 at the Parish): I’m a sweater, so keeping my hair up is vital, as is wearing comfortable, breathable fabrics. In my bag: a handkerchief for blotting sweat and protecting from dust, personal water bottle to refill and stay hydrated with all day, and some cash for Juiceland when the energy levels get low.
Laurel Kinney (style consultant, Laurel Kinney Personal Styling): I’m overly practical when it comes to dressing for festivals. I always recommend some kind of cool bandanna (or bandanna-sized scarf) because it can serve many purposes, be worn in multiple ways and is never out of style. Keep all of your accessories practical! Sunglasses, hats, bandanna, and you won’t ever feel too costume-y at the end of the night, even in your craziest festival outfit. And bring a (small) backpack!
Georgia Bramhall (owner, Honeycomb Hair Boutique): Oil blotting papers (are good to have), although I just blot with paper towels or something. If you wear makeup, use a primer first and then long-wear makeup. MAC Pro Longwear is kind of my go-to. Doing some kind of hairstyle like partly pinned up or braids or some kind of combo of the two is better because you don’t have to fuss with your hair and the constant fight to get it out of your face. Hats are always great, too!
Delwin Campbell and Eric Peana (members of Capyac, performing at ACL Fest at 12:15 p.m. Oct. 7): “Festival fashion” is an appeal to the Instagram generation of festivalgoers that care little about the music they see and much more about how they look while they Snapchat their friends. Come as you are and listen to the music you like. Don’t let anyone tell you how to dress. Don’t let anyone dictate your taste.
In a new series that combines music and fashion, Deborah Sengupta Stith talks to Austin musicians about how image plays into their art.
Austin360 at ACL Fest
The Austin City Limits Music Festival is Oct. 6-8 and 13-15 at Zilker Park.
Catch all our coverage, including previews and live coverage, at austin360.com/acl.