Austinites are naturals when it comes to bohemian festival style. As residents of the Live Music Capital of the World, we’re no strangers to the need for a curated wardrobe that goes from work to shows (and maybe back again, if the night gets weird), all while looking effortlessly cool in the Texas heat.
“We’re a bit of a renegade town – we tend to do things differently here,” says Kirsten Stoddard, PR and marketing gal for Austin-based Flash Tattoos. “You definitely won’t find many suit-and-tie types in this city; Austinites like to have fun. Our casual, creative culture translates into the street style you see, and hosting some of the biggest festivals like ACL and SXSW plays a big role and attracts attention from around the world.”
So with week one of ACL just a handful of days away, now is the time to curate a killer concert-going wardrobe to make Austin proud at Zilker Park (and on Instagram). Feeling the pressure? No worries. We polled over a dozen of Austin’s pro stylists, boutique owners, designers, and street style trendsetters to find the Top 10 festival style pieces every Austinite needs in order to dress like a local — both on-trend and with authenticity — including options for every budget (thrifted, mid-range, and investment) sourced from our experts’ local go-to (and mostly locally-owned) shops.
Here’s how to dress like a veteran VIP with an all-access pass in just 10 easy festival style pieces:
The old adage goes, “If you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a minute.” There’s no telling from one set to the next if ACL is going to be as dry as the Marfa desert or sopping wet in torrential flash-flood-stage downpours. Either way, thousands of fellow festival-goers will be traversing Zilker Park along with you, so play it safe with wellies or cowboy boots instead of sandals.
“Comfortable ankle boots go with practically every outfit, and protecting your feet is a must when you’re in a crowd of (inebriated) people,” says local style coach Laurel Kinney.
Absolute babe and fashion-and-music muse Jane Birkin made the “Texas Tuxedo” chic sometime back in the 1970s, and the denim-on-denim trend has recently made a comeback. But even if you just stick to one classic piece, like a pair of DIY distressed cutoffs, vintage overalls, designer jorts or a vintage jean jacket, denim is a festival wardrobe layering staple. Our experts all just had one caveat: absolutely NO rompers at festivals, because porta-potties.
“I usually stick with a distressed pair of DIY shorts from a thrifted pair of high-waisted jeans,” says Flash Tattoo’s Stoddard. “Whatever you do, I beg you babes not to rock the infamous ‘denim diaper’ — let’s keep it classy and go with a pair that actually covers our butt cheeks.”
Texan gals practically invented the “dresses and boots” look, so whether it’s a minimalist T-shirt dress, a feminine floral sundress, or a super flowy maxi, dresses that show some skin are a sexy and practical festival staple easily styled to fit your own personality.
“My one-stop shop for festival vintage is Pieceology, every single piece she curates is perfect for outdoor concerts,” says Catelyn Silapachai, owner of The Distillery Market. “Lots of flowy dresses, interesting prints, and international textiles.”
4. Blanket or Scarf
Between all that standing and all those stages spread out across the vast festival grounds, your legs will go spaghetti at some point and you’ll want something to sit on when you need a break — or nap on in between sets. A comfy, lightweight blanket that doubles as a scarf or poncho is a major pro tip on festival packing lists.
“Mexican blankets are a must,” says Tricia Roberts, owner of the boutique Adelante Austin. “They’re thick enough to protect you from mud or wet grass, but light enough to carry around the park.”
From trucker hats to embellished straw hats to Carly Simon-esque, wide-brimmed felt jobbies, a chapeau to protect your face, neck, and shoulders and keep your skin aglow (not lobstered) is a practical must-have all of our experts could agree on — though the style picks varied as widely as the genres of music found on an ACL lineup.
“I’ll usually grab the floppiest, wide-brimmed hat I own, but lately I’ve been wearing my blue baseball-style ‘Y’all Y’all Y’all’ cap from Austin-based Outdoor Voices instead,” says Marisa Tom, marketing director for local beauty empire milk + honey. “It’s the right amount of functional, irreverent, and Texas rolled into one.”
6. Sun Protection
It might be September, but every Texan knows that means it’ll still be blazing hot, so protecting yourself — and your drink — from the sun’s rays is a must, and also a great, subtle way to be quirky and irreverent and show off your personality without looking desperate for attention.
“Sunglasses to keep you safe from those UVs, absolutely,” says April Onebane, owner of Pieceology Vintage. “But koozies to keep your drink cold, too. If you want some really awesome locally made ones, check out the selection by local artist Will Bryant at Byron & Blue.”
7. Kimonos + Mandarin Jackets
Aside from being a trendy, lightweight layer that instantly elevates your tees and denim, kimonos are also a practical must-have, according to our experts. From full-length, vintage silk styles to more modern cropped styles, a kimono is light enough to keep the sun off your shoulders during daytime shows and the chill from your bones after the sun sets, all with a bohemian sensibility.
“Flow with your own creativity and layer accessories or embellishments,” says jewelry designer Tiva Rose of Anvil + Aura. “Allow your individual style to be expressed while standing out in the crowd. Anything handmade, created from a unique and honest vision, is always appreciated.”
Perhaps the number one must-have in any festival-going gal’s arsenal is the perfect bag in which to stash an entire day’s worth of stuff, from snacks and sunscreen to backup deodorant to spare camera batteries and other essentials. Whether it’s an embroidered leather bag with artisan flare or a vintage cross-body satchel, choosing a festival bag carefully is paramount — taking extra care to make sure it’s both comfortable to wear and not too heavy.
“The convertible day bags from Nena & Co are my jam because they’re super roomy, can switch from shoulder to backpack in seconds, are ethically produced, and the textiles and design are crazy beautiful,” says Stoddard of Flash Tattoos.
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9. Leather Jacket
Nothing quite says rock ‘n’ roll like a leather jacket, and no hip music-loving chick should be without one in her wardrobe. They can double as a lawn chair, protect you from the elements, and just all-around look pretty badass. Layer a style ranging from a sleek, minimalist-cut blazer to a fringed Western classic over a dress and boots to look and feel the part at any live show.
10. Statement Jewelery
Last, but certainly not least on our list, are your must-have accessories. From retro enamel pins and fine jewelry designed by local artists to big, vintage costume and collectible pieces, the right jewelry or layers of jewelry really makes the outfit — and Austin is a wonderland of authentic options at every price point, even locally made temporary tattoos designed as body jewelry.
“I love how a big boho necklace looks with a vintage band tee or flowy tank,” says April Onebane of Pieceology Vintage. “And bolo ties!”
Not into jewelry? Our experts recommend a standout camera strap.
Featured photo courtesy of Jack + Lola Austin