Forty years of Festival Fashion

1969 marked the start of the festival revolution with the founding of Woodstock. Forty years on and the vibrations of the momentous music event are still being felt today, not only in the thriving music industry but the fashion world also. On its anniversary, it’s time to draw inspiration from the magic mud that covered the White Lake hills of Bethel, New York, and pay homage to the festival and it’s style icons that inspired music lovers for the past forty years, and will undoubtedly inspire the next generation of festival goers.

The hippie aesthetic was motivated by the freedom music possessed, thus creating a freedom of fashion allowing people to wear what they wished in order to express themselves. There were no labels, just style, and that mantra is still witnessed today. Hippie chic infected fashion so much that it still permeates the catwalks today, and come festival season people imitate their favourite style icons; from Joplin to Hendrix, Karen O to Pete Doherty and everyone in between.

The come-as-you-are ethos of the Woodstock era was witnessed throughout the 70’s and continued on into the working class industrialised era that controlled the early 80’s when people went straight from work to gigs, and couldn’t afford to purchase new get-up for the summer festivals. Ecological fashion was the main idea behind such festivals, to be able to recycle your old clothes into something durable and looking extremely fashionable without trying at the same time. The 80’s also paved way for the shoulder-pad which has been sewn into every garment on the High Street this season. By choosing either harsh or faint silhouettes, swinging your shoulders at the gigs might get tiring with this new addition, but it is definitely worth it.

The 90’s saw the neon trend reach its climax with trance and dance followers swarming to huge open fields to consume whatever it was that made their body to move in a hypnotic bounce, and let’s hope the multicoloured furry boots will never, ever, grace us with their shuddering inducing presence again. Artists such as M.I.A revived this neon trend in recent years and the explosion of House Of Holland saw everyone, including its labels model, Agyness Deyn, don its sight blinding colours mixed with stone washed denims. There is guaranteed to be some of that haze of colour illuminating from Simian Mobile Disco’s and Orbital’s crowds.

Not all outfits at festivals were made from textiles as mud and body paint seems to have been a hit back in the day. And with the unpredictable weather of our fair country, one would guess that by Sunday of Electric Picnic, everyone will either be strutting in mud encrusted clothes or whacking on the face paint on to cover their unwashed faces.

The trick is to partake in the festival spirit by being comfortable and not too fashion conscious, but still keep an element of your regular style as not to feel completely out of your own skin come day two. By mixing 501’s and blouses, the Woodstock crowd effortlessly, and unconsciously, paved way for the festival uniform of today. Denim shorts are a must, as made famous by Sienna Miller, but for us everyday women, pairing them with tights will look just a chic. Janis Joplin was lucky to have had Vivienne Westwood design for her when she mounted the stage at Woodstock, and many artists such as Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who has her good friend Christian Joy design her outrageous and colourful get-ups, and Blondie don designer gear on stage. This however can all be easily mimicked as the High Street stores have had designers such as Mathew Williamson and, well, model-turned-designer apparently, Kate Moss, doing clothing lines which are sure to be seen on the fashionistas of EP. If, like me, those lines are far too expensive to afford for a festival that already has you in the red, vintage stores contain key ethnic pieces to sparkle up your haversack. And who knows, you might find a dress that was once worn to a music festival back in the sixties or stumble across a pair of boots Patti Smith would be jealous of.

Men seem to have the luxury of not caring what they are wearing after a few pints, whereas we ladies seem to become more aware of other people’s clothes including our own. Flares have been almost completely abolished in favour of skinny jeans, and there might be the odd paisley shirt floating around on a long haired bearded musician, but there is no denying that bands such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Who, and Jimi Hendrix made every man who attends festivals wanting to look like them. Folk five-piece Fleet Foxes channel the hippie hay-day eloquently, both with their harmonies and their flannel check-shirts. Natasha Kahn, a.k.a Bat For Lashes, is sure to have an impressive stage get-up at this year’s festival as she models her look on that of Nico and Cleopatra.

One thing that has consistently been at the forefront of festival fashion over the past forty years is accessories. Anything goes at festivals and be either as subtle or as outrageous as you like. Headbands and hats hide the greasy hair, necklaces and scarves conceal the curry-stained dress, clothes the un-manicured nails, and coloured leggings or tights can distract anyone from your hangover state. The key is to derive inspiration from past icons, and indeed the icons of today such as Chloe Sevigny who always looks effortlessly cool at festivals, and experiment with clothes; that’s what they’re there for. Sunglasses are a pivotal accessory at any festival, even if it doesn’t stop raining all weekend, they should be at the pinnacle of anyone’s check list. Not only do they block the rays but they are brilliant for hiding bloodshot eyes the next morning.

Clearly the Woodstock fashion beat goes on. Fashion has the habit of repeating itself, but with this season’s extreme shapes and body-con style dresses, mixing and matching previous festival styles with these new pieces will be sure to get you a few compliments, and stay comfortable at the same time.

By: Helen Kennedy

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