Festival Clothing - A History Of Styles & Trends

Fashion and music festivals have gone hand in hand for more than 50 years. The festivals have marked the trends of their time paving the way for ideas, behaviours, and styles. Fashion has always been part of the musical experience.

Nowadays, festivals bring together a mix of styles. We live in a time of freedom where people choose to dress what they feel comfortable in. But where do all these styles come from?

Hippie, new wave, steampunk, among many others. When did it arise and what survives to this day?

The 60’s - Hippie Style

The hippie ideals are long gone in popular culture but their style survived decades of fashion.

In the 60’s hippie was a trend in festivals and in daily life. It wasn’t just a fashion but a way of living. Flower crowns, fringes, and maxi skirts were a sign of freedom and revolt. After the stiffness of the 50’s where the new look of Christian Dior had been king and lord, the hippies countered total freedom.


Shanti hippie clothing style with head peice at Woodstock, 1969

Woodstock, 1969 //

Photo Credit: deMilked

Their rebellious hair fluttered in the wind, and their clothing was no longer a cage for the body that now moved freely and unobtrusively into comfortable pieces and in a nudity that has both of innocence and defiance.

Confronted with the Vietnam War and the possibility of a nuclear conflict, hippies wanted to return to nature and chose the Indians as icons of style.

One festival stands out as a change in festival clothing: Woodstock in 1969. Woodstock was the last and greatest manifestation of the flower children before the cynicism of the following times. Check out just a few of the spectacular outfits spotted there...

Black and white festival goers with style at Woodstock Festival, 1969 Black and white landscape photo at Woodstock, 1969

Woodstock, 1969 // Photo Credit: deMilked

What about the 60’s today?

We all have at least one hippie piece of clothing or accessory in our wardrobe: mini-skirt, low waist trousers, vivid colors, floral prints and pop art, Jackie O glasses, hot pants! The list continues.

The revival of the hippie clothing style has also taken to the mainstream with the recent resurgence of boho clothing, which has all the hallmarks of hippie attire; floral patterns, free-flowing fabrics, loose-fitting shirts, and light dresses.

The 70’s - Punk, Glam Rock and Soul Music

The 70s were marked by the pursuit of freedom and taboo-breaking. We can say that the fashion of the 70's was one of the richest in history. So much so that today many stylists still seek inspiration from this time.

The Woodstock of 1969 profoundly influenced the hippie trend at the beginning of the decade. However, at this time a new trend appears that would mark the festivals of the decade: the Punk style.


In London in the early 1970s, students met the motto "No Future" in a boutique at the end of King's Road, where Vivienne Westwood and her husband Malcon McLaren owned a fetish boutique called "sex." The couple ended up adopting the movement and intellectualizing it. It was the beginning of the "Sex Pistols" and of the torn trousers, rivets, pins, leather jackets and haircuts with different colors.

 TheSex Pistols in the 1960s, showing off their cool punk clothing

Sex Pistols, 1977 // Photo Credit: mojo4music

Glam Rock and Soul

Linked with artists representing the Glam Rock, the androgynous aesthetics marked by glows and exaggerations started the breakdown of genres. David Bowie, appearing with platforms and makeup, conveyed the message that it does not matter if you are male or female, what matters is your individuality. One of the most representative images of this style is David Bowie in the Glastonbury Festival in 1971.

Ultimate festival clothing style by David Bowie at Glastonbury Festival, 1971

David Bowie, Glastonbury Festival, 1971 // Photo Credit: Mirror

Soul music also influenced the fashion of the 70's when the Black is Beautiful movement used the musical style to rescue the Afro roots.

What about the 70’s today?

Okay! Not many of us wear the bright and fancy clothes of the '70s or wear the outfits that the Rolling Stones wore at the time on a daily basis. But you can certainly find in your clothing a leather jacket with which you cannot live without.

Okay! Not many of us wear the bright and fancy clothes of the '70s or dress up like the Rolling Stones on a daily basis buuut, you’ve probably got a leather jacket (faux of course!), you love AND of course, when it’s doof time, well anything goes doesn’t it? The more bright and colorful the better!

And that’s not all. The 70's are characterized by a mix of styles that competed with each other at the biggest festivals of the time and you can still find a lot of influences in daily fashion and festival clothing today.

The 80’s - New Wave

Fashion in the 1980s began with a mix of situations, ideas, behaviors, and styles. Punk and Glam Rock that had raged in the 1970s made way for the New Wave. Musicians like Ian Dury, Nick Lowe, and the band Eddie and the Hot Rods and the Ramones have become symbols of this style. The 1980s were the decade of dance fashion and the beginnings of rave culture in the United Kingdom.

The new wave aesthetic was colorful and fluorescent sometimes all at once. The important thing was to play with the shades and the materials of the clothes and accessories.

Michael Jackson and Madonna are two of the biggest influences of this decade.

Michael Jackson in his fancy jackets, full of zippers and Madonna in her mini-skirts, leggings, half trawler, and heavy make.

Michael Jackson performing Thriller in the 1980 and influencing festival styles

Michael Jackson, Thriller video, 1982 // Photo Credit: The Guardian

Madonna showing off the 1980s new wave style at a concert

Madonna, 1980's // Photo Credit: godisinthetvzine

The 1980s were marked by exaggeration, ostentation, luxury, power, and status.

What about the 80’s today?

Fanny Packs, Slogan T-shirts, male ponytails and mini-skirts are some of the characteristics of the 80's that are still used today in festival clothing or daily clothing. Others like the shoulder pads and the spandex have happily disappeared.

The 90’s - Minimalist and Low Profile

After a decade of exaggeration, the 1990s came with a minimalist and low profile fashion.

In the late 80's electronic music made its way from the beautiful beaches in Ibiza to the cellars all over the world. The festival fashion began to change from designer dresses to something a little more industrial: boiler suits, overalls, and phat pants. Wide-ranging and functional with a hippie touch was the style.

The colorful look of the Spice Girls, as well as Gwen Stefani's short & sexy looks, turned into a reference for women in the 90’s.

Spice Girls posing for a photo in the 90s showing their festival style

Spice Girls, 1990's // Photo Credit: cosmopolitan

Gwen Stefani showing a minimalist 90s grunge style at a festival

Gwen Stefani, 1990's // Photo Credit: crfashionbook

The 90’s brought us a little grunge in the festival clothing. Slip dresses and florals were balanced with a masculine edge when paired with footwear such as combat boots, and sneakers. Flannel shirts, frayed denim, overalls, scrunchies, fitted tees and crops, chokers and neckties made the 90’s.

What about the 90’s today?

We can find a lot of 90’s clothing that are coming back in the last years: Adidas slides, animal backpacks, claw clips, bandanas, cargo pants, denim jackets. The list continues.

The 2000’s - Catwalk in the Mud

Glamor marked the 2000’s festival clothing.

The years 2000’s were influenced by the explosion of the Internet that changed the relations and the forms of consumption. Shopping on the internet has exploded, and fashion has become much more related to style.

The search for the perfect aesthetics also begun to influence the clothes, which become more sensual, highlighting the body shapes more. Fashion also revived "nostalgic" periods with re-readings of pieces from the past and appreciation of craft techniques.

Festivals were a trend again (as in the 60’s) and TV stars would attend these events adding a new page to festival clothing. One great example of this influence was Kate Moss in the Glastonbury Festival with boots and wellies with shimmering micro dresses, and expensive looking leathers and accessories.

One festival entered everyone’s mind during this decade: The Burning Man.

Burning Man has changed as its fashion did since its founding in 1986 when just 35 people attended. There is a lot to say about the fashion of this unique event. Some of the highlights in the 2000’s were the trend of the glow-in-the-dark gear and costumes tricked out with lights and the white dresses which would turn light brown from sand exposure by the end of the event.

Every year Burning Man’s festival fashion became wilder and more creative.

Fashion of Burning Man in Black Rock City in 2000, showing of LED lights and fire

Burning Man, Black Rock, 2000 // Photo Credit: businessinsider

People preying while dressed up at the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock City, 2003

Burning Man, Black Rock, 2003 // Photo Credit: businessinsider

Today - Whatever You Want!

Today, festival clothing can be whatever you want. Mixing patterns or wearing the same pattern from head to toe. The sets are still in fashion: from lightweight tops combined with hot pants to more conventional training suits. It’s a mixture of styles where anything goes.

From time to time some festivals like Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Tomorrowland create their own trends but the possibilities are limitless. Take a look at these past trends and inspire yourself for your next festival.

You’ll definitely rock it!

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