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22nd May 2024

The evolution of Coachella fashion: From glam to casual, has the fun faded?

Looking back at the biggest festival of the year and why it was such a disappointment for fashion fans
The evolution of Coachella fashion: From glam to casual, has the fun faded?
Credit: Marvin Meyer @ Unsplash

Coachella, the iconic music and arts festival held annually in California’s Coachella Valley, has long been synonymous with not just music, but also fashion. Audiences were always keen to review the weekend’s best and worst looks, rate them against each other, or see what their favourite celebrity was wearing. Vanessa Hudgens’ Coachella wardrobe (the queen of Coachella) had us all in a chokehold from 2012-2018 and dominated our Pinterest pages. Yet over the past decade, the festival’s aesthetic has undergone a noticeable transformation. What was once a showcase for extravagant, bohemian-inspired outfits has gradually evolved into a more relaxed and casual affair, with (to the disappointment of many) the model-off-duty look taking centre stage.

In the early 2010s, Coachella fashion was characterised by a blend of hippie-chic and high-end bohemian styles. Think feathers, tassels, bright eye makeup, and sequins. Attendees adorned themselves in fringe, floral crowns, and flowing maxi dresses, channelling the free-spirited vibe of the festival’s origins. Statement accessories, such as oversized sunglasses and elaborate headpieces, were ubiquitous, adding to the spectacle of the event. Each year, festival-goers eagerly anticipated the opportunity to express themselves through bold and imaginative outfits, which would later be dissected by eager eyes, their outfits plastered all over their own social media pages. Influencers and celebrities attending the festival became trendsetters, showcasing carefully curated outfits that blended high fashion with a bohemian flair. Yet with weekends one and two now far behind us, it’s fair to say the floral two pieces were nowhere in sight.

As the decade has progressed, a noticeable shift has occurred in Coachella fashion, epitomised in The Cut’s question, “are Coachella outfits becoming more … normal?” The rise of social media platforms like Instagram has contributed to a growing emphasis on curated, picture-perfect aesthetics, and more of an Influencer attendance list rather than the general public attending the festival.

While you would think these mean even more flamboyant outfits, it looks instead that we are leaning towards the clean girl, model of duty, simplistic outfits we know all too well. One look at Vogue’s celebrity Coachella outfit rundown, and we see a whole lot of denim and fitted tops. In fact, the best we’re getting is a little crochet or mesh. This shift towards more polished and stylized looks marks a stark departure, starting from last year’s casual outfits, from the festival’s roots in counterculture and individual expression. The bohemian flair has been replaced with clothing basics.

Evidently, Coachella fashion has taken on a decidedly more relaxed and laid-back vibe. Attendees increasingly opt for comfortable and practical attire, favouring denim shorts, graphic t-shirts, and sneakers over elaborate costumes. The rise of “festival fashion” as a commercial trend has also played a role, with many brands offering pre-packaged outfits specifically tailored for events like Coachella. As a result, the festival has become less about personal expression and more about adhering to a predetermined aesthetic, leaving fans often disappointed with comments like ‘Not Megan Fox legit just in jeans’ circulating social media platforms.

While the evolution of Coachella fashion may reflect changing societal attitudes towards self-expression and individuality, it has also sparked debate about the festival’s evolving identity. Some argue that the shift towards more casual attire has made Coachella feel less special and unique. Gone are the days of extravagant outfits and creative expression, replaced instead by a homogenized sea of denim and crop tops.

Moreover, the increasing commercialisation of Coachella has led to concerns about authenticity and inclusivity. As ticket prices rise and brands vie for the attention of attendees, the festival risks losing its sense of community and spontaneity. What was once a celebration of music, art, and individuality has become increasingly synonymous with corporate sponsorships and influencer culture, famously referred to as the ‘influencer Olympics’.

The past decade has seen significant changes in the way Coachella attendees approach fashion. What was once a playground for extravagant and imaginative outfits has evolved into a more casual and commercialized affair. While this shift may reflect broader trends in society, it has also raised questions about the festival’s identity and sense of fun. As Coachella continues to evolve, it remains to be seen whether it can recapture the magic and excitement of its early years.

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