It's April 2021 and I can almost sense a faint whiff of "eau de toilet" flourishing from a rural portaloo. This can only mean one thing... festival season is fast approaching. But are you already panicking about what to wear? Are you currently saving images of flower-crowned females on Pinterest? Have you excessively browsed H&M? Well stop. I've been there so you don't have to. I genuinely want you to have the most carefree, liberating, and human experience at a festival this year. Therefore, I am going to tell you why you should not give a flying f*** about what you wear.
But first, some context...
Let's go back to 2017, I was 16, had just finished my GCSE's, and had saved up enough dough from my Saturday job at the bakery to buy a weekend V-Fest ticket. I was ecstatic with nerves and equally as static from Primark polyester fibres. My best mate (Eve) and I were going to have the most liberating weekend of our lives, I just knew it.
So, a few days prior to the main event, I rammed half of my wardrobe into my brother's old DofE bag (which has since become home for a rat or two). We hit up Primark (of course) for some unicorn-themed fake nails and other cheap festival tat.
Then, we caught this magical bus straight to Weston Park, on which we were forced to borrow a penknife from this strange guy in order to sufficiently chop said unicorn claws off. It turns out that a finger extension of 10 inches neither looks cool nor is very practical. We were 16, nervous, narcissistic, and completely naive.
Still, we stepped proudly off the bus. Loaded, we waddled our way up the main entrance (I didn't realise that rural Staffordshire had two giant native tortoises prior, but I did say I was naive). We made it through security, we trudged, we then pitched up site.
Now relax.... wait no!
It was time to get dressed. Terrified, I reluctantly unzipped my bag- I gasped. I panicked. I had no idea what to wear. I'd packed two pairs of jeans, three mesh tops, a tiny dress, some satin trousers, two skirts and a knitted jumper. What on Earth could I wear out of that bunch? I had no mirror, what about my makeup? My hair?
Was I begging to drown in a sea of my own sweat in The Wombats' mosh pit? One would think so.
After hours of heated debate, Eve and I opted for the Zara satin trousers and my Urban Outfitter's floral mesh top. But (surprise, surprise) both the top and the trousers are completely unwearable to this day. They still reek of BO and had been utterly clawed to pieces.
I did in fact nearly die in a sea of sweat in The Wombats' mosh pit, but, some divine spirit whispered to me as I took my last, soggy breath, it uttered: "next time you go to a festival, plan each day's outfit prior and organise them into sealed plastic bags so you know where everything is!" It was a miracle. I know- it was like I was drunk or something.
New year, new me?
So, we made it. A year later, and it was the build up to Leeds Fest 2018. I was 17 but felt 10 years wiser post-spiritual awakening. I was fake-nail free, my hair was plaited, my makeup bag was organised, and my outfits were bagged. Eve and I were in a group of 10 this time- a pack of festival familiar dudes and dudettes.
We immediately got to work perfecting our makeup in Eve's tent, our outfits looked hotter than the air temperature inside said tent. We all strutted, united, to the main stage to revel in the glory of Kings of Leon and The Vaccines. It was great. I get goosebumps thinking about the feeling of being part of a crowd that was that large and that rowdy.
Saturday 10am: I woke up with an horrendous hangover. I had makeup the consistency of icing caked to my face, I was spotty, I stank, and last night's clothes were ruined, I felt ruined. So, on that very Saturday, I decided to ditch the makeup and I pledged to wear for comfort.
Changing my clothes would not save me from my hangover, but it would save me from exerting a very large amount of energy unnecessarily. I looked ace in my charity shop-bought yellow culottes, my stain-splattered vintage sweatshirt, my waterproofs, my ex's Depop-bought bucket hat and my broken walking boots. I remained in this state for the entirety of the weekend. I was comfy, only slightly sweaty, and not in constant fear of ruining my clothes or caring what I looked like.
Fast forward to 2021, I am 19, and (thanks to COVID-19) haven't attended a festival since. My friend Ellen was asking me for advice about what she should wear to Parklife this year. This topic had entered my mind earlier that day too, as I had just successfully signed up to volunteer for three festivals this year (ooo get you). I thought long and hard about what advice I would give her, so here goes all:
1. Wear something very old
Yep, don't you dare buy anything new for this festival season. The fast fashion industry does not need your money. Wear something vintage, wear your Dad's old DIY fleece, hit up your local charity shop- it needs your money this year. Think about the environment too, send out a sustainable message.
Plus, rolling around in a muddy field will definitely ruin your clothes. Trust me, you'll look 10 times cooler in something second hand than in something from Primark.
2. Wear something cool e.g. cotton
Stick to natural, cool, fibres. Don't you dare wear a mesh top- I've done that so you don't have to. Avoid sweat patches by boycotting grey. Never wear jeans to a festival.
3. Think small
Just because you have a DofE appropriate bag, it doesn't mean that you have to fill it. Pack for survival and fun. All you will need: some food, some underwear, perhaps a change of top, a water bottle, a sleeping bag, a tent, (you get the picture). Remember you have to carry your bag home with you. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BRING HALF YOUR WARDROBE.
4. Wear the comfiest, oldest, and the most disgusting boots you own
Footwear is key, you should give a damn about your feet. I wore my four-year-old walking boots to Leeds Fest and they were dreamy. Don't buy new footwear for the occasion, they will rub. Wear the comfiest pair of shoes you own. Your step count will exceed 30,000 and you will get blisters.
5. Don't give a f****
Don't be a festival clone. People do not attend festivals to scrutinise your fashion sense. People go to festivals to get squiffy with their mates, listen to some banging tunes and escape reality. But what about the photos? No one remembers to take photographs anyway. Allow yourself to feel complete freedom. Don't get caught up in superficial rubbish- you're much better than that.
My honest advice is to just be human for the weekend. Don't give a flying f***.