What's In My Closet: Music Festival Edition

My parents are brave. I say that because at the ripe age of 17 and a senior in high school, they let me attend my first-ever music festival. Not a big deal these days, but “back then” it was a HUGE deal. Smart phones were ridiculously expensive and not everyone had one. The “Find my Friend” app didn’t exist and it wasn’t an actual feature on a phone. Google Maps wasn’t very popular so my friend, Ginnie, and I printed out directions from the Mapquest website and took a road atlas along just to be safe. We loaded up the car and off we went to a farm in the middle of Manchester, Tennessee. 

We were young and we somehow convinced our parents to let us go to Bonnaroo, a four-day camp-out-style music festival where you’re surrounded by hippies and their usual cloud of funny-smelling smoke. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We pulled into the campsite and there we were…two very sheltered Catholic school girls amongst thousands of people from all walks of life…all because of music. 

I remember being in my room and blasting The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” through my stereo speakers. They were the headliner that year and the main reason I wanted to go.

In preparation of the big trip, I was running around my room, jumping, singing, dancing, probably waking up my dad, who I know was right below me in the living room in his La-Z-Boy watching some sort of crime scene investigation show while dozing on and off.

My mom was upstairs with me trying to get me to calm down long enough so I could pack appropriately.

She let me borrow some of her luggage since all I had was an oversized Vera Bradley bag I was gifted a couple of years before. It was worn and had seen better days, and I’m sure that looking back, my mom would have rather me taken my own luggage since hers came back with mud all over it. 

I had crammed every swimsuit I owned, a couple of sundresses, enough pairs of shorts and T-shirts to build a tent, sandals, and enough sunscreen to slather on every festival-goer. I was ready. 

I’ll spare you the details of my first music festival – other than the fact I had a blast and danced right out of my shoes and never found them again, which leads me to this part of my column… festival fashion. 

So, what the heck should you wear to a music festival? 

Let’s take a look… 

For starters, leave the swimsuit at home. Seventeen was good to me, but 30 is getting closer and sadly, that 17-year-old body is long gone. I will also not be caught dead in a crop top for personal reasons, but if you want to wear one, go for it. 

If it’s scorching outside, I wear something with a loose fit. There’s nothing more unattractive than a massive sweat-soaked article of clothing. 

Personally, I love to wear a basic T-shirt and dress it up with some accessories. 

I also love to sport an older concert T-shirt.

Luckily, I grew up with parents who loved music and saved a bunch of their old concert shirts. I’m still trying to convince my mom to let me borrow her vintage Guns-N-Roses concert tee, but she has yet to cave. 

There’s also nothing wrong with layering pieces, especially if it’s a festival during cooler months.

Rookie mistake moment – I’ll never forget attending Beale Street Music fest one year in a basic T-shirt and a pair of sandals and I nearly froze when it began to get dark outside. 

Thank goodness for clothing vendors, because the almost $40 flannel I bought saved me that night. It has since been put to good use, so I have zero problem looking back and paying that much for a shirt. I have since learned to pack something a little heavier in cooler months for when night falls. 

Next up, wear comfy shoes. 

You will not catch me in any sort of heel at any music festival, unless it’s a pair of booties with a smaller, thicker heel and I can later easily change out of them. 

I am a firm believer in Chacos, a comfy pair of flip-flops or sandals, Converse Chuck Taylors, or Birkenstocks for outside concerts. If I’m wearing flip-flops or sandals, I prefer something strappy over the top of my foot so I don’t lose them in the mud.

I’m a dancer. I hear music and I immediately need to move, so wearing shoes that are not easily danced out of is a plus. 

I’m not big on shorts. I don’t know what my deal is, but if I have to choose jeans or shorts, I am almost always going to choose jeans. 

If I’m attending a festival during the cooler months, I will opt for jeans. 

If I’m attending a festival during the Summer months, I will most likely reach for a dress as opposed to shorts. Maybe one day I will like shorts, but until then, it’s jeans or a dress. 

I’ve worn a dress to numerous festivals during the summer and I will totally do it again. It’s all about being comfortable and functional (and cute) in my book. 

Like I said above, I always like to pack something a little heavier just to be on the safe side. Even if it’s in the middle of August, I will pack a flannel in my bag or tie it around my waist. Call me crazy, but it has come in handy more times than I can count, and it doubles as the perfect blanket for when you need to stop and take a rest. 

I normally try not to carry a purse when attending a festival. I’m more of a backpack or fanny pack type-gal. 

Yes, I own a fanny pack, and yes, I will gladly wear it to a music festival with absolutely zero shame. 

It’s navy and has a pretty floral pattern on it, so it’s cute and girly and lets me dance without swinging a purse around. I store everything in it from my cell phone and festival map, to snacks, Bandaids and a roller bottle full of an essential oil potion I have concocted. And, if I’m being completely honest, I’m probably going to have to haul around my boyfriend’s car keys and wallet because it always seems like his pants magically don’t have pockets and I end up in charge of keeping track of these things. 

Which is fine by me, because I know exactly where they’re at – right under my belly button. 

And there you have it. 

I wish I could say I am one of those girls that has the perfect festival hair with glitter makeup and a Lady Gaga-type outfit, but I am not. 

I applaud those girls, though, because that takes dedication and lots of effort, and it does not go unnoticed! I’m an old person at heart and I dress for comfort, but still try to look cute while doing so.

Fanny pack and all. 


Carly Hazlip is the fashion columnist for Signature Magazine. She will proudly continue to wear her floral fanny pack to music festivals in the future.