How to master festival dressing in midlife

how to, how to master festival dressing in midlife

Festival chic: Stella McCartney, Jo Wiley and Sienna Miller - Getty

Festival season is upon us, which is marvellous news for those who like festivals, and less marvellous news for those who like live music, al fresco drinking and fresh air, but whose stomach churns at the thought of the camping part. If only there was a way to experience the good bits without recourse to the bad. And there is – it’s called a day ticket – only those tend to involve exiting Gate D to catch the last train just as your favourite song comes on.

While for some festival-goers, the worst part is the camping, for others, it’s the packing that’s the hardest part. Even the most seasoned packer can struggle to condense a weekend’s worth of looks into a rucksack – but when the festival in question is Glastonbury, a five-day event spread over a 1,200 acre farm in Somerset, the stakes can feel even higher. And never more so than this year, when all weather reports point towards an outlook so unsettled that even the most optimistic person will be tempted to leave their shorts, bib tops and flower crowns at home.

how to, how to master festival dressing in midlife

Alexa Chung wears a vintage Barbour jacket at Glastonbury 2022 - Getty

Since packing light isn’t likely to be an option, packing judiciously is the next best bet. For the broadcaster Jo Whiley, who has been going to Glastonbury for 40 years and presenting the BBC’s coverage for 27 of those, mixed weather is an excuse to dig out favourite buys. A chronic overpacker herself, she suggests taking just enough to keep you warm and dry for all eventualities. “I’m looking forward to giving my vast assortment of macs and waterproofs an outing,” she says. “I’ve also got some lovely Marfa Stance parachute bomber jackets, which will be coming out. Maybe this will be the year to wear my Hunter x Elton John wellies that I didn’t get to wear last year because it was too hot and sunny.”

how to, how to master festival dressing in midlife

Jo Whiley at Glastonbury 2017 - Getty

The most seasoned festival-goers know that it pays to pack from the feet up. “Happy feet, happy festival,” is my own mantra, as someone who has hobbled across fields in a selection of ill-fitting sandals, riding boots and wellies over the past 20 years. While the current “cowgirl” trend is bound to result in a surfeit of cowboy boots this summer, wellies really are the best option where rain is forecast. Granted, they’re heavy, clammy and useless for dancing in, but it’s hard to overestimate the length and depth of mud generated by 200,000 people moshing in a field. According to data analysts MediaVision, searches for “wellies” have increased by 199 per cent recently. While knee-length wellies will keep you driest, ankle-length wellies are a lighter, comfier option, particularly for those who suffer from leg cramps.

Your sock choice is important, too: for maximum warmth, try Hunter’s cable-knit cuff boot liners (£35, hunterboots.co.uk – also useful for sleeping in), or borrow a style hack from the recent Dior Cruise show and wear with knee-length Argyle socks. Rydele’s olive green and red pair (£7.49, ryedale.com) nods to the look at a fraction of the price.

how to, how to master festival dressing in midlife

Cable-knit cuff boot liners by Hunter, Ladies Argyle Knee High Riding Socks by Rydele

Next up, your bottom half. If there’s one item synonymous with festivals, it’s surely a pair of sawn-off denim shorts, which are worn as enthusiastically by teens as midlifers. Don’t discount these just because the weather looks iffy: add a pair of leggings or tights, and you’ll be far warmer than you would be in jeans. Denim is a particularly unforgiving fabric in rainy conditions, so if you’re set on wearing trousers, choose a pair in cotton or needle-thin corduroy. Despite the current proliferation of wide-leg styles, they’re not the wisest choice for a festival. Be it a flared trouser or a maxi skirt, any surfeit of fabric can swiftly become a cause for regret in muddy conditions – and that’s before we even mention the unmentionable (aka the Portaloo floor).

On your top half, layering is key. Don’t leave home without a thermal: Uniqlo’s long-sleeved, scoop-necked Heattech top (£14.90, uniqlo.com) chimes well with the current 90s trend – but more importantly, it’s affordable and warm. Since you may equally find yourself in a sweaty dance tent as in the chilly outdoors, layer a camisole underneath. One stylist friend swears by packing an oversized shirt (£25, marksandspencer.com), whipping it out on Sunday because “it makes me feel presentable”. She avoids white in favour of stripy iterations that better hide dirt and stains. If it’s warm, she’ll wear it open over a vest top, and if it’s chilly, she’ll pop the collar over a navy sweater.

how to, how to master festival dressing in midlife

Heattech top by Uniqlo, Striped shirt by Marks & Spencer

Counterintuitive as it may seem, given the potential forecast, a dress is another wise inclusion. A floral-print dress worn with a long-sleeved Breton underneath will look very 90s grunge, especially when teamed with statement socks and wellies. While dungarees are only marginally more of a bad idea than jumpsuits (those toilets again), their sartorial relation, the pinafore dress, is a good call. Me+Em’s towelling version (£115, meandem.com) can be worn with a white T-shirt underneath. Or try that all-time festival classic, a satin slip dress – Zara has a selection that runs the gamut from plain black through to crochet and sequins (from £35.99, zara.com). Wear with an oversized cardigan: Navygrey’s cable-knit cardie (£285, navygrey.co) is warm but stowable.

how to, how to master festival dressing in midlife

Towelling Sleeveless Midi Dress by Me+Em, Cable cardigan by Navy Grey, Satin slip dress by Zara

Last but not least, a jacket. If you’re intent on paying lip service to this season’s oversized denim jacket/bomber jacket trend, at least pack a poncho that can be popped on top when the heavens open. Mac In A Sac’s waterproof cape (£39, macinasac.com) comes in camo or high-viz neon that will ensure you don’t get lost in a crowd. It’s also a good year to dig out your old Barbour, or, if you’ve a budget to blow, invest in a new one such as its waxed and hooded ‘Portmore’ parka (£329, barbour.com).

how to, how to master festival dressing in midlife

'Portmore' parka by Barbour, Waterproof cape by Mac In A Sac

Every UK festival has its own specific feel, but what they all have in common is an authenticity of which glitzier foreign affairs such as Coachella or Burning Man can only dream. There’s no need to treat a festival as a fashion parade if you don’t want to, especially this year when a backlash against self-conscious, trend-led “influencer fashion” has led to basics being coveted all the more. In 2024, “festival fashion” isn’t likely to look much different from “normcore”, “countrycore” or “quiet outdoors”.

Alternatively, you could simply forget all the so-called rules and have fun with your look.

Miquita Oliver, 40, has been going to Glastonbury since she was a child. “Dress like your eight-year-old self,” is the advice from the co-host of Miss Me, the chart-topping podcast she helms with Lily Allen. “Glastonbury is all about play. I wore an old pair of Pucci leggings and a T-shirt bought from my local market last year, and felt as though I was very much dressed in the sort of clothes I’d have worn as a kid. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had my best Glastonbury ever.” Words to pack by.

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