Don’t let the homogenous mainstream “festival style” round ups scare you off. Before I went to Coachella, I honestly thought I’d be one of the few plus size people in attendance, as I almost never see any body diversity in the Coachella style galleries the major magazines put out. But as soon as we got there, I was so happy to see stylish women of all shapes and sizes. The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming, and we ended up stopping strangers to give (and receive) compliments all weekend! I got so much plus size festival fashion inspiration IRL, and I really hope the media coverage starts to reflect that diversity this year.
SPF like your life depends on it (because it actually does!) When you envision Coachella, you probably picture a sunny, cheerful desert scene. What you might not realize is that that sun is CONSTANT. Every day, you’ll be walking (and standing in endless lines) for a mile plus in the beating sun with no shade in sight, and that is just to get inside! Once you are in the festival, there are some areas where you can find shade, but for most of the day, you will be in direct sunlight, so it is imperative that you apply sunscreen before you get there, and diligently reapply throughout the day. Make sure you bring a small travel size that will fit in your belt bag too. I recommend Neutrogena Sheer Dry in a high SPF. (P.S. Amazon is having on-site Prime lockers for delivery at Coachella, so you can get your sunscreen and whatever else delivered directly there if you forget it).
Embrace the fanny pack. Speaking of belt bags (or fanny packs – a US-only nomenclature, as I recently discovered!), there is a reason they’ve come to be associated with festival fashion: They are both cute and so damn practical. Carrying a big purse with you is a surefire way to have sore arms and a heightened level of grump at the end of the day (not to mention spend more time getting your bag inspected on the way in). A good belt bag is more spacious than it may appear, and it guarantees you wont accidentally set your bag down and forget it at some point in the day. It is also so much easier to dance if you don’t have to worry about a purse.
Bring truly comfortable shoes (and at least TWO pairs!) I really can’t underestimate the importance of comfortable shoes. There’s the aforementioned walking, of course, but it is not just the distance. As a New Yorker who regularly walks 8-10 miles in a day, the amount of steps I took each day at Coachella wasn’t out of the norm for me, but something about the terrain and the temperature made that same distance SO much more exhausting on my feet. I wasn’t alone in this feeling either – everyone I was with agreed that our feet hurt way more than we would have expected (and we all wore pretty comfortable shoes – you should have seen the straight-up hobbling of people we saw there in heels!). It is also so essential to bring more than one comfortable pair with you on the trip! I ended up packing a pair of classic sneakers and a pair of moto boots. While both pairs were comfortable, by the end of each day they were rubbing or pinching in different spots, so being able to switch off between pairs was vital.
Designate your group’s meet up spot and time. Cell reception is damn near non-existent once you get inside, so make sure you set a meet up place at the start of the first day that you know to go to if you get separated. The large-scale art pieces are great for this – our go-to was the giant star sculpture. Also, if you are splitting up to go to two separate shows, allot everyone time for walking back to the meet up spot afterwards – the stages are all pretty spread out!
HYDRATE! I am a social drinker, and before I arrived, I definitely had visions of drinking rose or cute summer cocktails at the festival, but I ended up spending the whole weekend dry, literally and figuratively. All I drank was water, and so much (thank goodness for the HP Lounge with their sustainable and free water refills), but I still woke up feeling hungover each morning because it was just so dusty and dry in the desert. If you want to drink something harder than water, make sure you hydrate even more if you don’t want to feel like a husk of a person. Bring a reusable water bottle (now that I have a Simple Modern insulated bottle of my own, I finally understand what all the hype is about – they really keep everything ice cold!) and take advantage of brand activations to keep it refilled.
Keep it chafe-free. If your thighs ever touch, get chafe protection NOW. My tried and true favorites are Megababe Thigh Rescue anti-chafe stick for lighter walking days or things like pool parties where you’ll have your legs out, and Bandelettes for heavy duty chafe protection. If you aren’t familiar with Bandelettes, they are little thigh bands that sit at the top of your legs and keep your thighs from rubbing while you walk. I’ve been using them for years, and to answer the questions I get the most: Yes, they really stay up, and yes, they really work! They were also an absolute lifesaver at Coachella: Without the physical barrier of the Bandelettes, there is literally no way I would have been able to wear my Beychella sequin shorts look without those sequins shredding my thighs like a cheese grater! They also have really fast shipping, so it’s not too late to get a pair of your own.
Wide leg pants are your friend. Two of my three Coachella looks incorporated wide leg pants, and I was so much more comfortable on those days than when I was wearing sequin shorts. When you are at a festival, you do a lot of sitting on the ground, so being able to plop down without having to worry about exposing anything or having my bare skin in the dirt was so key. I particularly loved the wide leg polka dot pants – the slit in the front kept everything cool and airy.
When it comes to styling, more is more. Don’t be afraid to mix prints, go with a bold color statement or neon brights, and fun accessories like pom pom ears or over the top sunglasses. Just be sure to avoid items that are culturally appropriative – you never want your fashion to make someone else feel objectified or othered!
Pack a bandana. Whether you make it part of your look or not, you’ll definitely need a bandana to shield yourself from breathing in all the dust, ESPECIALLY at the end of the night when 10,000 people are pouring out of the festival and kicking it up with every step.
Shine on baby! Sequins, metallics, and sparkles galore are a surefire way to bond with fellow festival-goers about fun fashion, and also make finding each other in the crowd a little easier.