Fashion or just exposed skin? A look at EDM Festival Dressing

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Library Hotel, New York City


This past weekend I was at an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festival in Calgary. The music pounded from the speakers throughout the rain, hail and sunshine. My heart pounded when I saw what many were wearing. Or to be more specific, what they weren’t wearing is what made me double take. It wasn’t just the exposed muscles and curves. I felt as though it was a costume party but I didn’t get the memo ahead of time. Perhaps the easiest way to describe it may be to say anything went. Tight, bright and exposed skin was the M.O. The usual “no shoes, no shirt, no service” certainly did not apply. Faux fur space-esk boots and fanny packs were aplenty. Purposely weird and tacky outfits, along with the adorner’s body, are celebrated, not judged here. I came to realize that music festivals seem to come with unspoken dress codes. Some call it festival fashion while others take a firmer side calling it just costumes. Regardless of where you are on that spectrum it’s interesting to take a closer look.

Take Coachella for example. I argue that dressing (and for some, being photographed in) bohemian chic or in hipster vibe is as important for some as the actual music. Critics and supporters alike have noted this tendency. Heck, bloggers and publications that cover style both write about what to wear for the event. I would be curious to see how dramatic of a spike that Forever 21 and Free People enjoy in the spring and summer months of some product lines. Some Brands cater to it. See the Topshop and Kate Bosworth collaboration for proof. However thematic the attire, attendees, for the most part, stay covered up aside from the occasional bathing suit top or overheating bare chested male.

Country music events have their own version of an unspoken dress code. If you are going to a Calgary Stampede concert you ‘cowboy up.’ That usually means getting out the western button up, shining up those boots and whipping out those cotton day dresses. Festivals in Craven (Saskatchewan), Merrit (British Columbia) and Dauphin (Manitoba) share similar sartorial themes. Again, retailers in the regional areas have taken note and have catered to the buyers demand. It’s not just Budweiser stepping up regional specific customization. Whatever one is wearing, country festivals goers, too seem to keep the torsos covered up. It’s country music after all.

Why then does EDM bring out so much exposed skin? To be honest, I can’t land on a good theory. One could hypothesize that the late summer season usually brings hot temperatures. Maybe it’s an up with the thermometer off with the clothes situation? The Rolling Stone notes that there is a sense of ‘letting go’ at EDM events. That could be a part of why some wear such bewildering item combinations. Some could argue that the rumored higher than average drug use and subsequent highs (and some unfortunate complications) at EDM events that may play a part. Perhaps a festival goer ponders something like the following while getting dressed, “Should I wear pants or no pants over this metallic swimsuit? No pants! No one cares what I wear here.” Or maybe another considers, “If a child would want to wear these candy and fantasy land inspired tights, it should be cool for the show, right? Right.”

Through the weekend I overheard someone ask, “Where do they even buy this stuff?” For the first time in a very long time I couldn’t answer off hand where one could shop. But with one simple entry of ‘where to shop for EDM outfits’ into Google, I received plenty of options both online and in store. Should your budget not allow for a new event specific wardrobe, please do not fret festival fanatic. I saw first hand some fantastic crafting in the form of self bedazzled bras, in-case-of-a-sexual-emergency condom enclosed tank tops and more Kandi bracelets than a child’s 6th birthday party. Pinterest LINK has boards dedicated to ‘how tos’ and ‘fun to try’ patterns for this plastic jewelry. After a quick peek it seems as long as you have some time, a glue gun and creativity, you are set. I bet Michaels and the craft section at Wal Mart never knew they’d be such a hot destination for the EDM community.

The main takeaway from festival fashion (or costumes, should you prefer), to me, is that people are at the very least exploring themselves through clothes. They seem to be more comfortable, maybe just for a weekend, to express oneself with the clothing they choose to wear (and the clothes they choose to keep off). Or maybe they are just having fun with it. I encourage others to bring that spirit of a more creative, deliberate self-consideration in their everyday dress. Of course ensuring what you’ll be doing and where you are going on that day is part of my recommended outfit decision-making process. As an aside, it would be funny to see these folks in their 9-5 wearing their EDM gear. The reverse is good for a giggle too.

I say, whatever people choose to wear to a music festival is up to them. Just like getting dressed everyday should be too. To me that’s the point of personal style. I do, however, strongly recommend one universal accessory to festival attendees: sunscreen.

What do you think of the faux fur and colour explosion that is the norm of EDM clothing?