Coachella, the World’s Worst Fashion Show

Not-so-hot take: by and large, the outfits worn by Coachella festival-goers are uniquely terrible. It’s not even just the pervasive cultural appropriation (obviously that sucks, too) but just an overarching air of high-effort, low-stakes style.

It must first be said that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying Coachella. Go! Have a good time! Enjoy yourself! This isn’t a condemnation of anyone in particular and far be it for me to rain on anyone’s parade.

It’s just that, for an event that so many people and brands consider a major fashion event, there really aren’t any interesting clothes to ever write home about.

Being perhaps the most visible fashion barometers, celebrities ought to represent the cream of the Coachella crop, but even their Coachella looks are almost uniformly bad, unless glitter hair, crop-tops and jorts knock your socks off.

In 2022, when influencers like Hailey Bieber and Kylie Jenner wore normal clothes, we practically cheered.

Finally, a balm for the eyeache of excessive visual stimuli. And it was coming from people who typically try too hard at Coachella, at that.

In a perfect world, the curious weather at Coachella — extreme heat during the day, brisk breezes (with a side of dirt) at night — would prompt guests to dabble in clever day-to-night dressing.

Instead, you get a lot of sheer shirts and bikini tops. Yawn.

The weird thing is that many attendees (and would-be attendees) spend the lead-up to Coachella posting on platforms like TikTok and Twitter about potential looks, dream outfits, and planned slays. That the end result is typically so broadly boring is truly unfortunate.

It’s especially weird that general Coachella style stubbornly refuses to evolve past what my colleague Alex Pauly calls “2014 Tumblr-era UGLY” — like, c’mon, let’s move beyond the sleeveless denim jackets, lite grunge fishnets, twee flower headbands.

But perhaps the greater issue Coachella is little more than an influencer-off these days, compared to similarly large festivals like Rolling Loud and Lollapalooza.

Really, it’s only at Coachella that folks are that desperate to get more attention than the folks next to them, as if their bizarre outfit is any more interesting than the other bizarre outfit.

In Coachella’s loud, sweaty mass of people, no one notices your ever-so chunky sunglasses or statement shoulder bag.

The result of all everyone trying to do it big for Instagram is that Coachella outfits all end up being terribly costume-y, not taking it as far as the joyful weirdos at Burning Man or looking as intentional as the Gorp’d-up groups at Glastonbury.

It’s an unnatural evolution of Coachella’s boho inclinations, hastened by fast-fashion giants keen to sell every guest their dream look (that then gets tossed into the garbage after the festival).

At one point, Coachella might’ve been an organic melting pot of good vibes has been corporatized into a specific look: skinny, sexy, and vying to get noticed.

Oh yeah, and there’s music, too.

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