There is no more iconic figure of festival style in living memory than Kate Moss. The model singlehandedly raised the fortunes of Hunter wellies when she wore a black pair with a gold lame mini dress in the Glastonbury mud in 2005.
If there’s one thing that woman taught us, it’s that you go your own way at a festival. Dancing in fields is not a catwalk, though it’s often a caked-in mud walk. Whatever your age, festival dressing is about practicality and knowing who you are. Having said that, at 50 or so, the days of wearing a Tigger costume or a Coachella style flower crown and crocheted bikini, are thankfully behind us. But not the days of festivals. Oh no.
If you thought the mud and mosh pits of UK festivals were the preserve of cider swilling teenagers, think again. Recent data from Statista has as many over-41s as under-25s among festival goers, 31 per cent of each. The newest generation of grandparents grew up in the rave era and may very well – in what is known as Saffy Syndrome after the sensible daughter of Jennifer Saunders’ Edina in Absolutely Fabulous – be far more embarrassingly wild than their offspring. If Sir Paul can headline Glasto at 80, then there’s no excuse for any of us. My mother went to her first festival, Port Eliot in Cornwall, in her early 70s and loved it.
With ticket prices starting at £250, and VIP tickets at Glastonbury £700 this year, no one could describe festivals as a kids-only game. So, enough excuses. Forget age appropriate behaviour; start planning what to wear.
Of course, some of us have never given up on camping with attitude. And regular festival goers have an evolved understanding of how style is rather more important than fashion when you’re setting up home in a field for a few days.
For a start there’s the British weather. What’s the point of being gussied up like a Kardashian if you’ve got nowhere to stash the G&Ts. For me, a light, mannish, shell of a Barbour with a poachers pocket inside does the job perfectly.
Sara MacDonald, who refuses to speak to me if I mention the word ‘middle aged’, is on her 10th Glastonbury since she first started working at them as a hot publicist around the 2000s. “It’s all about a bomber jacket. You need proper pockets inside for your phone and pockets on your hips for lipstick, chewing gum and hands. It helps to be at least vaguely waterproof. You don’t want a designer bag weighing you down.”
I agree with that, bags are baggage. I once did a festival with what I thought was a very chic Chloe bag slung over my body, which meant the minute I started dancing I jangled like a jailer's keyring. It’s got to be pockets or a bumbag slung around your hips
Rosemary Ferguson, super cool model of the 1990s and now a mother of three, admits she’s slightly terrified of heading back to Glastonbury this weekend after a few years off. “I’m a healthcare practitioner now, so my first tip is to drink plenty of water, perhaps with added electrolytes,” she laughs. Ferguson has a stash of favourite clothes she pulls out at festival season. “For night-time what you need is something warm but also ‘major’ [as in stylish] because it can get cold out there. And for that you have got to love a cape. A good heavy one will keep the damp morning air out of your bones.“
A hat is an absolute must, hides you from the sun and, after a couple of late nights, your face from the world. Fedoras, bucket hats, panamas… anything goes, but make sure it fits, so that it stays on your head whether you jump up or get down.
Fifi Howden did her first Glastonbury in 1988. “I wore a tutu and DMs.” Today, aged 54, she is the chatelaine of Cornbury, which is the setting for Wilderness, a great favourite of the upper middle class festivalgoers. With a lake, high end wine bar from Noble Rot and a spa, there’s everything you need to recharge and get your mojo back together when everything starts to feel like it’s heading south.
Howden’s approach is to go large. “I always plan my outfits, it’s important to know what you are going to wear each day; it makes me feel secure.” Her look is “Mummy glam. Old flared jeans, comfy boots – you can’t beat DMs – flowing capes and feathered ones from Camilla. It’s a moment for feeling free, Even when it’s in our own back garden at Cornbury, the magic of it never fades.” But her go to, like Ferguson, is a jumpsuit.
It’s worth considering sequins and nobody beats Rosa Bloom, who has a pop-up shop at some of the summer’s biggest festivals. While you might arrive thinking you’d never go there, come Sunday, with a sore head and wonderfully smudgy three-day accumulation of eyeliner you might rather fancy it. Oh yes, and never say no to a mad hungover purchase. Festival shopping got me the finest pair of harem pants I own, for a tenner.
When it comes to dresses, pack something silky and long (but not so long it trails on the ground) because on day three when the drinks are starting to take a toll, getting up and throwing on a shivery silk kaftan, maxi or kimono-style dress is the clothing equivalent of a litre jug of delicious iced water. Style it out with a clumpy boot, wellies or trainers. And, it goes without saying, a really big pair of sunnies. The biggest you can find. I was given carte blanche by my podiatrist recently to wear cowboy boots at all times so they’re now my summer go-to. But there’s a huge range of flatform sneakers by brands like Superga and Converse that give you that extra inch at no loss of comfort.
Finally, although there are no true rules for festival dressing there is one. Never, ever, buy jester’s hats unless you want your kids to cancel you instantly and forever. Other than that, anything goes.