Playing Dress Up

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by Leandra Medine
April 16, 2013
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And Coachella–where an adult can be a kid.

One of my favorite things about fashion is the ability it grants us to assume different identities. I have always appreciated that in a gesture as simple as changing my skirt, I could metamorphose from preppy book nerd with propensity towards fresh cut carrots to professional female ping pong player with Tom Hanks’ name tattooed to my ass. This, even if I am neither of the two.

Before leaving for Coachella this past weekend, I decided I would not to dress like a parody of myself (or, you know, the lovechild of a native American/hippie romance on acid). In looking back at previous festival photos, I had to ask myself why I thought a flower crown paired with an airy tent-shaped tank, shorts teetering on denim underwear and heavy black combat boots seemed so damn novel last year. This year, I was hyper-cognizant of what I did not want to look like and as the weekend went on, held that up against what many of the more adventurous show goers did look like.

My deduction: Coachella is a desert themed Halloween party that may or may not demarcate the inauguration of summer. (For those of us from the east coast, at least.) Some people hate this and there is no question that the media has had a field day mocking what the festival has become in a most enjoyably comical fashion but 200,000 people later, I have to wonder: is getting dressed up for Coachella precisely where the magic lies?

In spite of style’s ability to allow us interchangeable identities, there is an overarching sense of self-consciousness when considering everyday clothing. In fact, the paradoxical hunger to appear as an authentic projection of yourself while still adhering to what seems socially “normal” often clouds the idea that we are even capable of painting our own personae in various fabrics. You’re wearing what you’re wearing because you have it and not for any other reason, right? Wrong. You’re wearing it because you bought it because you loved it because in some distant Cosmo, it represented a piece of who you are. Or at the very least, who you want to be.

When dressing up, these intentions become more lucid. You’re hungry to try something different because you either admire it or need a vacation from yourself. When dressed up, you get to throw out your everyday sense of propriety. (Most people don’t wear flower crowns and various layers of fringe that cloak barely-there bikini tops and daisy dukes on the regular, right?) But when everyone agrees to ignore the typical “rules,” what you’re left with is pure fun.

I commend festival denizens taking the opportunity to dress the part. Here’s hoping the best bits of those assumed identities make it into their everyday lives. Frankly, I for one don’t even know how I lived before I met the above photographed white diaper (yes, the one laced with black linen inserts), which, unlike most other microshorts I know, was so over-zealously eager to celebrate and simultaneously cover my hoo-ha. That’s consideration.

What are your thoughts on playing parts, dressing up, breaking hearts? Talk to me.

Above photos via Harper’s Bazaar and Leslie Kirchhoff for Vogue

REPLIES
  • monkeyshines

    fabulous styling!

    monkeyshines
    http://monkeyshines-monkeyshines.blogspot.com/

  • N G

    I personally think Coachella has become a cult following of bopper groupies who dress nothing like they usually dress just for this event. I feel at this point it isn’t so much a vacation from yourself, or playing dress up, as much as I think it’s people craving to fit in. While I appreciate the fashion sense through some of the photos I’ve seen, I think the true purpose of the festival has been lost entirely.

    • Maria

      I totally agree… Specially with the “I think it’s people craving to fit in” part…

    • Gloria

      AMEN.

    • Sofia

      Couldn’t agree more.

    • http://www.EatStylePlay.com/ Eat.Style.Play

      I’m not being snarky but whats the true purpose of the festival? The music? Do you mean hat nobody is actually reporting on the music or that a lot of brands use it to their advantage? Again, I’m seriously asking because I’ve seen that artist that I like are there, and I’d love to go for that reason as well but I never hear much about the music there or the acts.

      • N G

        I don’t think you’re being snarky at all! Those are valid questions. And yes, the festival was founded on music and arts. I just feel like the focus should be on the real artists. If fashion bloggers reported on the actual music AND the fashion, it would seem more believable, imho.

        • http://www.EatStylePlay.com/ Eat.Style.Play

          Okay I got you. I do feel like the Fashion is part of the Festivle…or at least it has become part of it. But I agree, a little bit of Music coverage would be great especially since I dont know a lot of the bands there, just some artist that I’m a fan of which is mostly hip hop.

          • N G

            I agree with you; fashion and music go hand in hand…they’re both art. But more music coverage please. And I feel you on hip hop, last year when I read about the Tupac hologram (at work!) I nearly fell off my chair!

      • julie

        I live in LA and have not atteended coachella but over ten years have seen / heard / read the changes as an observer. It was not about $4,000 a night house rentals when it started and now people go for the scene and not to attend the actual music performances.

        • http://www.EatStylePlay.com/ Eat.Style.Play

          Which might explain the LACK of music post on blogs. I know they are fashion blogs but i feel like Fashion and Music can go hand in hand. I have yet to see anybody snap a photo near those stages…

    • Fashion For The College Girl

      I totally agree. Especially with it gaining more and more popularity with the celebrities. What makes me laugh is when I am going through reading articles from Vogue and see these celebrities trying to pull off the bohemian look only for Coachella as if they’ve always dressed that way. While I do love the fashion of it (<–Bohemian at heart), I just don't like how fake it's become.

      • The House of Fasti

        i agree….that is why i love kate moss…she is not a follower…she is a trend setter

        • heysoulsister

          ikr she is THE TREND SETTER!

          • kellyloveskatemoss

            ssssssssssssssssooooooooooooooooooooo true i SHIP kate moss

    • Kate Vanderberg

      Totally… Thats why many magazines or blogs do not really show the huge interest as before this year too

  • Unterhosen

    I don’t understand why you can’t devote your airspace and influence right now to Boston.

    • Jackie

      She did read her previous post…

    • Celeste

      Sending prayers and best wishes for Boston and posting a pile of sentimental waffle won’t do anything. Doing something real like donating and volunteering is the only way a society can win over any day when faced with a tragedy of any size. To do anything except help in a pragmatic way is to be indifferent.

    • Colleen Garrity

      Not every single thing on the news, the internet, tumblr, twitter, and instagram has to be devoted to the most recent tragedy all the time. I think that celebrating life and normalcy or man-repelling or whatever it is we do best is especially important in the wake of something like Boston. After all, you can’t beat death, but you can beat death in life, sometimes.

      • http://www.EatStylePlay.com/ Eat.Style.Play

        Seeing that every channel in America had been reporting on this I actually love that I can come to a blog and change the subject to put my mind at ease. When everyone is stressing it’s so sad to keep seeing that man with no legs, the young boy, and mothers crying. I feel for them but I think it’s good to have a different outlet when everything around you is sad news.

  • Sophie

    I wear flower crowns everyday. For the last 4 months…It’s a real conversation starter for weird men on the bus, unfortunately.

  • dandy

    i commend you for being one of the only fashion bloggers of the many i follow on instagram to have actually posted photos of bands playing. As much as it has become about the fashion its true purpose is the music.

    http://www.thewhatiwores.blogspot.com.au

  • http://www.EatStylePlay.com/ Eat.Style.Play

    Call me cray…but I love the idea of being able to go somewhere and maybe dress in a way you admire but might be able to pull off in the “real” world. I tend to dress for myself but living in DC sometimes that causes way more attention than I want, and by attention I mean Men cat calling, people thinking i’m 18 when I’m “almost” 10 years older -_- ….sometimes people stare so much that you start to get annoyed…and I know tons of people that like to take pictures of style they might not understand and people have become the butt of a lot of jokes. I know maybe I shouldn’t worry about this, but I do. Coachella and other festivals have a certain air about them…those people love going and having fun! I don’t care if every woman in there is wearing a floral crown…especially since i’m sitting here and I wish i was there :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/paula.mcclelland1984 Paula McClelland

      I can totally relate to this… I almost always overdress and then get funny looks (and wolf whistles??) I just hold my head high and die a little inside #wink.

      • http://www.EatStylePlay.com/ Eat.Style.Play

        Exactly here in DC the men are to agressive. I remember a girl was shot in the foot because she ignored a mans advances and what not. That’s scared me ever since from really standing out, unless I’m in my car to drive somewhere or to an event with friends. Most of the time that’s at night which is good for me.

  • La Flamingo.

    i love this commentary and totally agree with everything you’re saying. while i don’t wear anything wild or crazy by some (eh, man repeller) standards, for me, it is absolutely about playing dress up & channeling new looks. when reviewing outfit options with girlfriends, i always push to wear things that you “wouldn’t typically wear in real life.” it’s my baseline for decisions. maybe that’s just an extra 25 bracelets on your wrists, or mixing patterns, wearing something a little too short or a little too sheer, sporting an enormous flower crown and some white paint on your arms — it’s about escaping reality and being the flower child, grunge girl, 70’s rocker that you’ve always been intrigued by but aren’t inspired enough to channel for a sunday brunch.

    per a couple of the comments below, i’ve never at all felt like i’ve been trying to “fit in” at coachella. ever. if i wanted to do that, i wouldn’t fiercely avoid Urban Outfitters for the reason that it’s a sure bet that you’ll be sporting the exact same outfit as about 30% of the female population. (and i know i’m not alone in this). in fact, the reason i feel like i can push my “real life” style limits and channel other egos is because the polo grounds are one of the few places on earth that you won’t be judged for not conforming in fact, the more normal you look (ah hem, ladies in wedges & bridal shower dresses), the more you’ll stand out.

  • Dom

    love your deduction.. desert theme hallowen party!

    haha

    http://www.voguevandal.blogspot.com

    http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/5075789/voguevandal

  • brunetteletters

    I actually think it is fun to dress differently for such a cool event! It only happens once a year and it’s part of the show!

    http://www.brunettelettersblog.blogspot.com

  • http://www.ourwonderlust.com/ Tina@OurWonderLust

    This, to me, is fashion. It’s less about being fashionable perse and more about reinvention with a pinch of enlightenment or ah ha! Even when I’m wearing the obvious boyfriend jeans and graphic-T, I feel like I’m still playing a role or playing up a part of me that I needed to feel that day…in the case of BF jeans and T, it’s the “totally hip but doesn’t give a fuck” girl. Sometimes I want to conjure up the hippie or the glam or the biker or the street fighter. Sometimes I want leather and spikes and not because it’s on trend, but because I want to feel like I can cash some checks and break some necks that day…you know what I mean? I think you do…thanks for the article.

    Tina

  • Harling

    Yes to all of this. Coachella, in my opinion, is basically the people’s Met Ball (with sand). Like fashion’s most spectacular black tie event, Coachella offers attendees the chance to go all out, to shed everyday norms and strive to embody a thematic ethos. It’s pure, weird fantasy, and that’s what makes it so damn appealing.

    http://www.mytomayto.com

  • roseanneorim

    I think the whole focus on the festival has diverted now from the music to the fashion because every damn place i turn, you see bloggers polyvor-ing outfits for coachella and right now I am bored and sick of it. Its a fit in kind of thing but I would love to be there one day to witness the music not because i want to dress up and be noticed, simply because I want to have fun.

  • http://twitter.com/PrimpedandPrime Sharon Jiang

    To solve this problem of ‘dressing up’ or ‘looking normal’ and the whole fitting in aspect, the world really needs a ‘wear whatever you want’ day … a day where you literally wear whatever you feel like with no regards to other’s opinions or society’s norms.

    But that’s never going to happen to I guess these events are there to do just that.

    http://www.primpedandprimed.blogspot.com.au

    • http://www.EatStylePlay.com/ Eat.Style.Play

      Amen to this!! I just feel like this is the place to just do what you want, and dress how you really feel when going out to listen to music, and go to pool parties!

    • http://www.yourhairmaximizer.com/ Jonathon Dunrobin

      Isn’t that what you see at some fashion parades….only joking. But I agree peer pressure is alive and well and has extended down to the sub teens. The need to “fit in” has become a bit manic and statoose is blossoming! I try and wear what I like, but the pressure from three girls and even Mum (note the capital) to “fit in” is huge – but I manage to with stand the onslaught :-)

  • Carol Sa.

    I love your writing style. I want to take your opening sentence and plaster it on my wall. I just want to let you know that you are well appreciated and I’m not expecting a response from this, I’m just hoping you read it. Btw this whole coachella clothing things adds to my desire to attend coachella. It sounds so cool, so I guess one day hopefully ill end up there. With my own successful blog inspired by you. So Thank You Leandra, AKA the Man Repeller

  • Alyssa White

    If I both quote you, and link back to this post can I repost some of what you just said? That was magic.

  • http://www.ofstrangersensibilities.com/ Joy Of Stranger Sensibilities

    i like how you still dressed the part, but you didn’t lose yourself in the hippie flower child aesthetic which is nice

  • http://twitter.com/selenaaponte Selena Aponte

    There is truly something special about Coachella and the effortless beauty it brings out in people. Although I have never (nor would I ever) attend the festival (cleanliness issues), it seems to me that Cali has a relaxing and ethereal effect. My only issue is with the lack of exposure for the musicians. Neither IG nor FB & Twitter have filled me in on reviews of the performers. Tell me, how was the concert? Any music(ian) did you enjoy?

  • http://teacupsandbcups.com/ nicole | teacups + B cups

    Leandra. Paragraph 4. Genius. I am completely addicted to and jealous of your ability to articulate thoughts like that. But I am less verbose. So – amen. ditto. I agree. peace out.

  • Frances

    I think in this whole new media world, where fashion blog pop up everywhere, every 5 minutes and “personal style” has become such a recurrent topic, we have become less and less authentic. Yeah, we can play dress up and become someone else for one minute. But that character appeals to us in some way or another. On the other hand, when playing dress up these days, we are all dressing alike. Where is the personal style? I think we often forget to add the personal touch in personal style.

  • Sensitive to Beauty

    Love the Style!!

    Look with flower crown, recipe and restaurant here

    http://www.sensitivetobeauty.wordpress.com

    xx¡¡

  • claritt zighelboim

    i think everyday should be like coachella

  • Taryn

    I completely agree and must admit I fall victim to dress ups all the time despite the occasion. I dress one way to work, another at home, something else with friends and festivals are just the perfect time for self decorating.. PS: Love the outfits from Coachella!

  • Belén Cavas Hernández
  • http://www.facebook.com/paula.mcclelland1984 Paula McClelland

    I don’t mind all the hoopla surrounding what people are wearing to Coachella but it would be nice to hear a little something about the MUSIC… like anywhere, not necessarily on a fashion blog. Loving the diaper shorts BTW – nailing the manrepeller look like a rock star!

    ♥ Paula Shoe Fiend.
    http://shoe-fiend.blogspot.co.uk/

    • http://www.EatStylePlay.com/ Eat.Style.Play

      You’ve got a great point maam!

  • http://www.mycompletelackofboundaries.blogspot.ca/ Ellen Reid

    I think I like the getting ready and getting dressed up part more than the actual (any actual) event. I am of an age now where I do not stand in line to pee in a port-a-potty for anyone. But I fondly remember a time when I did, wearing fringed skirts and biker boots, and so, so wrongly thinking I was fat.

  • Ohkwari

    I love that Coachella provides an opportunity for many people to dress in ways they may not typically feel able comfortable to. The observation about dressing as one wants to be is a great one, the sticky part for me is where dressing up and costume overlap. The trend in recent years of white kids wearing knock off Native regalia (especially likenesses & parodies of war bonnets) to events like this is troubling. As a Native woman, I am upset to see my culture being disrespected as a source for costume (i’m not talking about patterns here, but regalia). Regalia has a place, and is still being made and worn for PowWow dancing, where we honor our culture, families, and Nations. I hope this trend dies out for good and we can all go on dressing our best. Also, anyone wanting to buy Native clothing/jewelry made by Native artists check out: shop.beyondbuckskin.com/

  • DD

    The idea of dressing up differently is fun, however with Coachella in particular, it’s become a bit of a farce because people have taken it too far. It’s now about fitting in, or getting attention, which isn’t a great catalyst for developing your personal style. It reminds me of fashion show go-ers, who dress themselves to get photographed outside of shows, and they look inauthentic.

  • Caroline

    When I see these pictures they just appear to be clouded with an air of elitism that is extremely off-putting and makes this think, “Really?”

  • Joelle

    I really like the cherry top! On dressing up, I have to admit I do do it at festivals. I just love the hippie look with the floral crown and slouchy tees. But being from England, it mainly rains during festivals so all my outfits have to be able be paired with wellinton boots!
    Joelle
    xx
    FebruaryGirl.

  • Rose Marie

    I think festivals, not just Coachella, but pretty much all of them attract people who are incredibly creative with their style. Sometimes this looks good, other times it doesn’t. But who cares? They certainly don’t. I’m in agreement with fellow commenters in saying I don’t like how people dress the way they do to fit in, but in all honesty, who doesn’t? Of course there are some people who really don’t give two shits about what they wear/what other people think. But in reality everyone is right now or has in the past worn something to fit in. A lot of it is to do with setting, you don’t see many people in New York city wearing flower crowns. Why not? They’d look completely out of place.

    What I am trying to say is, so maybe Coachella does attract the trend followers, the people who crave to fit in, but who cares? These people may not be wearing their usual ‘look’, but Coachella is their chance to try new styles, test new shapes, and not get judged for it.

    p.s. Leandra, I love your black and white shorts.

    http://theroseandherclothes.blogspot.co.uk/

  • http://twitter.com/iamgurbanova Nigar Gurbanova

    I for one appreciate any event, whether it’s Halloween/Coachella/Taco Tuesday, where you can dress up and feel accepted rather than mocked. For some people, it’s a way to experiment with their look and feel judged a little less harder, and who knows maybe find what really fits them.

    Also, I would love to see more people dressed as tacos, or even pinatas on daily basis.

    dresstoconfidence.blogspot.com

  • http://twitter.com/GiuliaGeroni giuliageroni

    I read a street style interview a couple of years ago from a girl from London who said that when picking her clothes she actually decided to dress up as two different characters at the same time, the example in case was “Mary Poppins meets David Bowie” I thought it was pretty inspirational. I think it’s a very nice way we have to show our cultural influences and pay homage to our idols. After I saw Annie Hall I completely fell in love with the character’s wardrobe and decided to emulate it. We think that by adopting -not stealing- someone’s style we also might get some of their characteristics. If I started getting dressed as Jessa from Girls, wouldn’t my life be far more bohemian? Don’t I dress as a grown up for exams in order to be taken more seriously? Once we have the costume, willing or not, we have to play the role.

  • http://www.fashionsnag.com/ Fashion Snag

    The style at Coachella is something I always look forward to!

    http://www.FashionSnag.com

  • andrea

    You are so right!!! I totally agree with your thoughts about choosing clothes!!!!! Go Leandra!

  • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

    Pic # 6 – Leandra all cool, relaxed, down to earth chick we’d like to hang with and then Rumi, next to her completely self absorbed, posing as if she’s at a photo shoot for a spread entitled: “Me…me…me…it’s all about…meeeeeee!”

    Not suprisingly, sums up the difference between their blogs as well.

  • Alexa Curtis

    Coachella is definitely a place for unique style. Somewhere different than NY or LA where people can feel open to where whatever they want, but still have an aspect of judgement no matter what they decide to wear. I still think Coachella is a place where people can completely be themselves, but I also would agree that it is a place where people will try and dress all “boho” or “country” to get snapped by street style or feel like one of the celebs they will see there…

    ENTER MY NEW GIVEAWAY!

    http://www.alifeinthefashionlane.com

    xo

  • gottnomes

    girl, rock the diaper. love it.

  • LMGherardini

    A wise women once said “you can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” So for me playing dress-up is simply deciding what I would like my outfit to do for me. Do I want it to transport me to another era? Be the envy of other style savants? Am I craving male attention? Looking for a press shot or do I simply want to embody the most confident version of myself. That said, my mood is really the only thing that dictates my aesthetic and for that I thank my stars.

    x
    Lisa Marie Gherardini
    Libra/Leo rising
    http://lmgherardini.tumblr.com/

  • Restless Blonde

    I envy you this festival :) ale the pics are so great! I love the first one especially!

    http://restlessblonde.blogspot.com/

  • The House of Fasti

    Please like my fashion page on facebook…….The House Of Fasti …….

  • http://www.absolutelymrsk.blogspot.com Absolutely Mrs. K

    well, actually we have the best festival of the world, rock werchter, literally in my back yard. and i must say, in Belgium this festival is more about music and less about fashion. I associate coachella with fashion and not with music. everybody wants to be there because it is so hot and trendy. As you said, is that your true fashion identity? there is a certain uniform and a dress code when you look at the coachella street style. In belgium that is not the case, a reason; the weather! we have no idea what the weather will be like at rock werchter because our summers are pretty wet and unpredictable. another reason: werchter is all about the music and less about fashion as i said before. I do adapt too, I do wear my ‘festival outfit’ too, and i do that for more then 20 years now and i must say, it has changed over the years. I went as a new waver, a hippie and now as a very very fashionable blogger who knows it all! but still, it has to be practical! I look like a more festival version of me, something i would not wear in my daily life, only for festivals. Maybe the fact that nostalgia is involved too, has an influence on my outfit!

  • Ashely

    more importantly, does this outfit allow me to easily pee in a porta-potty?

  • Alessandra

    Is that a belt around your neck? Props to really doing that.

  • http://newbornfanatic.wordpress.com/ Newborn Fanatic

    Love the shorts from the 2nd picture! Love the loose oversized look with the belt! :)

    http://newbornfanatic.wordpress.com/

  • Muddz

    I take on a new identity style wise every day, sounds kind of like I have a problem but its fun, it’s me being experimental, expressive and whether it suits me or not, I don’t really give a rats cause I’ve always been this way! Here’s to he power of fashion and the joy it brings to those who choose to be creative, fun and a little bit craycray…

  • julie

    I think it’s sad that a music festival has become a fashion show for hungry, wealthy white kids (and adults ? ) that spend more time thinking about outfits than the music. There is not one single woman in all these Coachella blog posts (across the blogosphere) that show a woman that is bigger than a size zero, has anything resembling an ass or breasts. It just shows that no matter how original all these people think they are, they all lack originality by dressing in a “festival wear” uniform.

  • pinrip

    are you pregnant?

  • http://ravenmaidenmaven.blogspot.com/ Lydia Teo

    Although Coachella is a great place to flaunt our styles, lets not forget its a festival for music! Yes, go because you genuinely want to enjoy some fantastic music and not just to get photographed…people, don’t turn this to fashion week!

    ravenmaidenmaven.blogspot.com

  • http://twitter.com/__MissJess__ Jess Taylor

    That’s consideration indeed. :)

  • http://blackstripesandnosugar.blogspot.com/ Elisabetta Silvestro

    After going to coachella, if I see another floral wreath I might throw up!

  • Nisa

    Whenever I am thinking something, next day its on your blog, phrazed in a perfect way. You’re the best Leandra! XXX from Belgium (you seem like a European to me!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/moni.araoz Moni Araoz

    you have great legs Leandra!!!

  • http://thekacar.com/ Mustafa Kacar

    Whether it’s become commercial or not, nice photos nevertheless!

    http://www.thekacar.com

  • Raquel666

    Yay I lovee the pic of you and Rumi together you guys are my favs. :)
    Oh and yeah i agree I wish I couldve been there, I feel like it’s a themed party and theres nothing wrong with that.
    Also, i feel like dressing normal is so difficult to master. I always look like a fucking freak no matter how hard it try.

  • anna

    In scandinavia people think jews have a very strange face, especially the nose is very bad-looking,kinda scythe-like they say, . They call it ” Ful nasa”. the word “ful” is pronounced like the english word “fuel”. i kind of feel sorry for them, but maybe its the testosterone.. i´ve heard it increases the tissues inside the nose, especially bone mass.

    It´s intresting to note that the hebrew work “nasa” can mean both “to marry” and “to lift” and “to desire” among many other verbs..

    In scandinavia people think jews have a very strange face, especially the nose is very bad-looking,kinda scythe-like they say, . They call it ” Ful nasa”. the word “ful” is pronounced like the english word “fuel”. i kind of feel sorry for them, but maybe its the testosterone.. i´ve heard it increases the tissues inside the nose, especially bone mass.

    It´s intresting to note that the hebrew work “nasa” can mean both “to marry” and “to lift” and “to desire” among many other verbs..