The Evolution of Festival Fashion



As the pandemic begins to come to a close, it opens the door for the events industry to thrive. Festivals have become a summer staple throughout the UK, with the likes of Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds and Wireless becoming big names for all generations. However, as the perceived aspect of most festival go-getters used to be music, it has now become the pinnacle centre for summer fashion trends. As brands drop their festival lines before any festivals release their line ups, it is clear how fashion within festivals has become more important than the line-up itself.


Yet where did this begin? Iconic festivals such as Woodstock began in the '60s, followed by the introduction of Glastonbury in the '70s, so surely the festival fashion is just as much as staple as it is now?


Let’s have a look.


The swinging Sixties


In 1969, the world saw one of the most influential and iconic art and music festivals ever; Woodstock. The 'summer of love' saw the introduction of gender fluid, hippie fashion and bohemian eccentrics to the festival scene. A major focus on ‘free the nipple’ and no bra look, held a political stance towards the women’s liberation movement and sexual revolution to reduce the stigma around sexual freedom (Groovy History, 2019).


Yet on the other side, men began to expose their feminine side, which today we've seen from likes of Harry Styles and Billie Porter, but the men of Woodstock opted for lacy headbands and flowers in their hair, seemingly alike to Jim Morrison, and focusing around the idea of self-expression.


The 'me' decade


The '70s was an interesting decade with the focus of new subcultures. As culture wars began to strive and the introduction of Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh, it was an important decade of change. Then followed the biggest festival within the UK to date; Glastonbury.


On the 19th September 1970, the first Glastonbury held 1,500 people, the beginning of a strong relationship with punk rock. The change from the hippie trail to leather jackets began to differentiate the British to American music culture and its influence on festivals held within the differing countries. Dr Martens, Vivienne Westwood, and Malcolm McLaren introduced the punk rock ages focusing on styles of bondage and leather to suit with the music styles within the Glastonbury line up.


The Eccentric Eighties


The '80s projectized pop culture into the music industry, with the likes of Madonna, Elton John, and Whitney Houston becoming household names, it infused pop colours into the fashion industry. Glastonbury became a summer staple, and the attendees were there to be seen, from pop colour blazers to slogan tees, the use of Ray-Ban sunnies and excessively layered jewellery really emphasized the American pop aesthetic. Many festivals in today’s age tend to use '80s fashion staples as their brand aesthetic in order to reach out to older generations, thus proving the effect neon tutus and leg warmers had on fashion history.


The Noughties…


The UK entered its iconic ‘Britpop’ phase, flurried by Blur, Oasis, Suede, and Pulp. This catchier twist on alternative rock began many looks that are worn in todays’ society, and finally made Britons celebrate the British look. The Gallagher's olive green parka become a festival fashion go to for years to come, with many believing it’s an eternal Glastonbury favourite.


This poster boy for ‘lad culture’ began many trends we see now, from bucket hats to round sunnies, football shirts, and a can of lager in hand - the festival fashion scene in the '90s emphasised lads to be lads and girls to be less girly. The UK festival fashion scene throughout the Nineties drove a wedge to differentiate itself between American festival fashion and the hippie-go-lucky aesthetic, in order to truly appreciate its British culture.


The big '00s


Kate Moss and Sienna Miller were the pinnacle fashion trend setters for festivals throughout this decade. From the introduction of low-rise belts and hunter wellies from Miss Moss herself to the reinvention of bohemian fashion alike to the swinging Sixties by Sienna.


As festivals began to become a celebrity retreat doused with paparazzi and muddy boots, this is when high fashion staples began to move in and the music factor of many festivals began to become a second best to the VIP attendees. As men’s fashion stuck with the Britpop aspects, women had different subcultures of fashion to delve into, whether that be bohemian, high fashion yet casual attire, or grunge, as seen with the tee worn by Kate Moss in 2008. (Vogue, 2021)


The Tens


A new aesthetic dropped in 2010, the self-expression showed at Woodstock collaborated with the eccentric accessories of the '80s and became the new norm for any festival attendee. A big name that grew throughout these years was ‘Coachella’, a festival designed for influencers and fast-fashion brands to sell all they can to their millions of followers.


As described by Refinery, 2020 “Where manufactured nostalgia met paid-for promotions of fast fashion brands tagged on Instagram”, Coachella had truly become a commercialised safe haven for influencers. Yet, moving from 2018 onwards the fluidity of gender stereotypes broke the fashion norms and proved to be a powerhouse in acceptance of diversity and originality, in which Beyoncé's iconic Coachella performance proved with the celebration of black culture and creativity, deeming hope into the new generation plagued by commercialisation.


Evidently, we can see how fashion has developed throughout the years in vast array of ways, and as the years begin to move on it becomes clear how past trends begin to come back into fashion. From '70s flares to band T-shirts and specific festivals designed to revolve the fashion of specific decades, the use of festivals as a self expression escape for attendees has proven to change over the years. However let's hope that society can fall back on its individuality before fast fashion truly takes over the festival scene.