Look your best at Coachella with DIY festival wear
It’s festival season again, which means that I’ve signed up for every Coachella ticket giveaway that I can find, been rejected, and decided that I don’t want to go to Coachella anyway. If you did win that giveaway, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to wear. And if you didn’t, the next best thing to actually attending is planning what you would wear if you did go.
Although I’ve never been to Coachella, I did attend my first music festival last year. As soon as I bought the ticket, the first thing I did was start scrolling through festival wear. After more than a year of being stuck inside in sweatpants, I was excited to have an event to go all out for.
Brainstorm a creative direction
Festivals are the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself to wear something you wouldn’t normally. For me, that means bright colors or pastels. I also generally default to a skirt or dress for events, and I was hoping to break that pattern. Above all, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and do something different.
In addition to my own outfit, I was planning and creating my boyfriend’s as well. For the most part, he gave me full creative freedom, but we both found inspiration for his look and he gave his input when needed.
First, I went on Pinterest to see what other people had worn. I’m always inspired by the variety and creativity of looks on Pinterest. Seeing what’s out there always gets me excited about the possibilities, and ideas start flooding in.
I created a Pinterest board here to organize my ideas and inspiration. By the time I finished adding to the board, over the course of a couple days, I could see themes emerging.
Getting too attached to one idea is fatal to creativity (and to the likelihood of finding what you’re looking for in a thrift shop). So when I moved from inspiration to action, I had a general idea of what I was looking for, but I made sure to keep things open.
Even with only a loose idea of what I wanted, I visited around ten thrift stores in two days, looking for just the right combination of items. My final looks were inspired partly by the Pinterest board, partly by my initial wishlist, and partly by items I saw thrifting. (This includes items I didn’t purchase, like a purple workout set that I was too intimidated to cut into shorts).
At the end of the process, I had two pairs of shorts (the first turned out to be too small), three men’s button downs, a scrap of ribbed fabric, and a large T-shirt dress. I also picked up a zipper and four colors of fabric paint.
At this point, my plan was fairly concrete, but I sketched out a plan to solidify final details. Sketching also gives you an opportunity to plan out a loose pattern and make sure you’ll have all the pieces you need, even if you don’t make a large-scale pattern.
Making the matching set
Once I had everything in one place, most of the alterations were fairly simple. I tried on the T-shirt dress and decided where I wanted the top to fall on me, marked it, and then cut it straight across.
Finally, I marked the top half again and cut it straight up the front, turning it into an open cardigan. Because I’d chosen a thick cotton shirt, I didn’t need to do any hemming. I experimented with adding ties to close it, and even made some to sew in to change up my look for the second day of the festival, but I didn’t end up having time.
The shorts were a bit more complicated. The remaining fabric was barely enough, and I had to cut out the four pieces I needed very carefully. First, find a pair of shorts you like. Fold them in half and lay them out on the fabric to trace around the shape.
I really wanted a long pair for extra interest, so I added extra length at the bottom. If you’re able to, leave the bottom hem of the dress as the hem of the shorts. Leave some extra room at the top as well. You’ll want to fold over the waistband and add an elastic band or you’ll be pulling your shorts up all night (yep, I am speaking from experience.). I didn’t take pictures of this process, but this was essentially the same process I followed.
She leaves some extra width at the top so the pants can fit over her but without a zipper. Because my fabric was so thick, I cut the fabric closer to the actual curve of the shorts and added a zipper in the side for a more streamlined look.
Making the bra
The bra was by far the hardest part. If I were to do it again, I would find a bralette cup pattern like this one, sew the two pieces together to form a cup, and then cut out a long strip about an inch wide to turn into bias tape. I would iron that in half, and then in fourths, with the outer pieces turned inward. Next, I would sew that around the bottom edge of the bralette, leaving extra space in the center. Finally, I would thread the wire through, bend it into place, and then clip the wire and sew the openings closed.
Making the button down
In addition to my own outfit, I made an outfit for my boyfriend. I followed the same inspiration process for him, and ultimately ended up with a button down created from pieces of three other shirts (two of them bleach dyed), and a pair of shorts I painted with flowers. For the button downs, all I did was dye them in a bath of half bleach half water for about 30 minutes. Then, I took apart the shirts with a seam ripper and sewed the pieces I wanted back together.
Making the shorts
The shorts took a little more planning. First, I looked at the flower pants that inspired the look to get a sense of where the colors should go. I mixed my paints to get the exact shades I wanted, and layered the colors from lightest to darkest. Finally, I followed the instructions on the bottle to set the colors.
Here are the final looks.
I styled mine with layered rings, a high bun to keep my hair out of my face, and this dramatic reflective fanny pack, which gave the added benefit of keeping my pants up.
As a bonus, I altered the cardigan into a top after the festival, and continued to wear both.