Austin City Limits: A fashion survival guide

Sad fact: I'm 3201834 years old (okay, 37), but until this past weekend I had never attended an outdoor music festival. It's been hard for me, as an old, to see the appeal of standing in a smoke-filled space crammed with twenty year-old hipsters and the pound pound pound of bass and the screaming screeching of a band and the sweet waft of something...herbaceous hanging in the air. I don't like crowds. And I am not such a fan of the outdoors. Which is why I've kept a healthy distance from Lollapalooza and Lilith Fair and Bonnaroo and Coachella and Ozzfest. Especially Ozzfest.

This weekend, though, I joined my husband and thousands of young, energetic music fans at Austin City Limits. I didn't quite know what to expect. I knew it'd be hot. I knew there'd be crowds. I knew to bring sunscreen and flat shoes and an open mind. So I took a deep breathe and jumped right in.

Forever 21 cropped tee; vintage lace skirt; ancient Gap sandals; Urban Outfitters sunglasses; Buffalo Exchange cowhide bag

This was my first day at ACL outfit. Two songs in, and it quickly became obvious that I was woefully overdressed. In all fairness, I was warned by friends that ACL lacked any sort of standards, resulting in ensembles that gave new meaning to the term 'casual.' Consider the following completely random photo of a group of fellow concert goers:

This is what 99% of the female population at ACL was wearing. So for the second day, I toned things down. Way down.

Forever 21 tanks; vintage Levis cutoffs; Gap sandals; Buffalo Exchange necklaces; TIKKR watch
Believe it or not, I still had not perfected my outfit. Because I was not prescribing to the super secret as-yet-unpublished Austin City Limits Fashion Guide for Men and Women. Lucky for you, I will now share the unspoken uniform for ACL attendees, which I recreated upon arriving home.

Based on my own astute observation, female attendees of ACL wore a minimum of nine of the following items:
  • Fraying denim cutoff shorts (bonus points if your shorts are so short that they show a glimpse of butt cheek.)
  • Lace top, or
  • plaid western shirt (bonus points for vintage.)
  • String or strapless bikini top.
  • Friendship bracelets.
  • Ray-Ban sunglasses.
  • Turquoise jewelry.
  • Cowboy boots (bonus points for vintage.)
  • Sneakers. 
  • Crossbody bag (extra bonus points if made from the hide of an identifiable animal.)
  • Fedora.
  • Absence of make-up.
Men had their own distinctive look:
  • Bared, unshaven chest.
  • Skinny jeans.
  • Cutoff jorts.
  • Lumberjack mustache (bonus points if paired with muttonchop sideburns.)
  • Beard.
  • Tee shirt with a mustache or beard. 
  • Super short, scruffy unwashed hair; or
  • thick uncombed hair accompanied by a ponytail.
  • Bandana.
  • Ironic political artifact. 
Case in point:

Unisex items include:

  • Clothing or accessories made from hemp.
  • Camelbak portable hydration pack.
  • Tattoos (bonus points for full sleeves and/or back piece.)
  • Toms.
  • Fanny pack.
  • Leather cuffs.
  • DSLR camera.
  • Cowboy hat.
  • Cigarettes.
  • Marijuana pipe.
Deodorant and soap are purely optional.

All in all, I had a fantastic time at ACL. Sure, it was so hot that my eyeballs were sweating. True, it also rained some of the day on Saturday (resulting in a collective stink reminiscent of body odor, decaying compost and cigarette smoke.) And there was a noticeable population enjoying recreational drugs and cigarettes, despite the somewhat laughable smoking ban at the festival. But the music was great; the atmosphere relaxed; and the attendees exceedingly polite and friendly. 

Have you been to an outdoor music festival?  Ever attended ACL? Have you noticed any trends at concerts?


  1. Hilarious and very astute. I've been to tons of music festivals. Oddly enough, never to ACL. Lately I've been saying it's the "earthier" festival... If you've ever been to ULTRA music festival in Miami, you'll know what I mean. There, it seems the outfit norm is virtually no outfit at all: silver string bikini paired to hot pink faux fur boots. Regardless, I love your assessment and think you accomplished what your blog sets out to do over the weekend, Dress with Courage. Your outfit reenactment photo is the best. One, I actually like the outfit and two, looks like you had fun with it.

  2. LOL...yes, I concur with your assessment of outdoor music festivals. I went to one in Madison WI this past summer. It was HOT, and people were wearing the bare minimum. There was even a booth that painted tattoos on women, who thereafter went sans shirt. Yes, nothing says Klassy like strutting around an outdoor rock festival with no shirt on, Ladies. Despite my husband telling me I could pull it off, I opted out of that fashion trend. ;)

  3. I have ACL on my life list. But I have yet to even get to Austin. I love concerts. And cutoff shorts even though I am 49 and really shouldn't wear them even with my fabulous legs.

  4. I love the humor and open-mindedness of your account. Sounds like you had a great time!
    xo, f
    The House in the Clouds

  5. That looks a lot like Bike Week! I've never been to bike week but apparently they share the same dress code as ACL from the pics I've saw. Personally, I think you looked the best out of all the photos (shocker huh LOL)! Glad you had a good time!

  6. I found this post hilarious even though I've never been to an outdoor music fest. I've had friends go and tell me about them though. I loved your outfit recreation and super-secret fashion guide.

  7. Thank you for reminding me that I should not go to outdoor concerts. I've been to quite a few in the past, but now I don't think I could put up with the heat and the smells... oh the smells. Haha. At least there was one attendee who had style! (That would be you.)

  8. Because of the European weather I pack all seasons. One time I did forget and ended freezing myself the whole festival. The last couple of years I've been dressing more up for festivals. Not like in heels but accessories and makeup. It's a fun way to experiment more than usual.

  9. This is too cute! I've been before but def didn't dress like those young ladies. My question is about the shoes? How well did your sandals hold up?

  10. This is too cute! I've been before but def didn't dress like those young ladies. My question is about the shoes? How well did your sandals hold up?


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