Is Coachella as basic as it seems?

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Billie Bhatia
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Stylist’s fashion writer, Billie Bhatia, headed out to the Californian desert to find out whether Coachella is the most basic festival, or if there is more to it than insta-worthy content. 

When I think of festival fashion, I think of Sienna Miller and Kate Moss at Glastonbury. Turned down Ugg boots, circular disc belts, vintage Levi’s shorts, black cotton sundresses, Hunter wellies, the occasional trilby and a pint of warm beer/cider in your hand. 2003 is still chic, no? 

Before I ventured on a 30-hour trip to Palm Springs for the most Instagrammed music festival of the year, I had conjured up an idea of what Coachella would be like. I figured it would be like the above Glastonbury scenario but the basic American version, right?

As much as I was excited to experience #coachella (I mean, did you see Beyoncé?!), there was a layer of apprehension. Would I fit in? Would I stick out like a sore thumb? Was this going to be like Fashion Week-level outfits but in the heat and with more nudity? Do they even have plus-size festival goers in Indio, California? From what I had seen it was all tanned blondes in variants of the following garms: denim cut-offs, crochet, fringing, suede ankle boots, sequins, flower crowns, glitter and braids. The key ingredients for a basic b*tch starter pack. But was it that basic in real life? 

For the most part, yes. It is 100% as basic I, and probably you, imagined – the flower crowns and excess fringing are all REAL. Everyone is beautiful, tanned, toned and weirdly tall with a huge amount of skin on show (though can you blame them in that heat?).

Almost every festival-goer is so acutely self-aware, they know exactly which angle is going to make the picture a post not a story, how to dance to Cardi B as opposed to Vince Staples, how to do that run/dance/shuffle that makes you look cool as you walk through a crowd full of equally good-looking people, how to nail a fake laugh so it looks as though you are having as good a time as your social media is making out, how to make people wish they were in the desert with you.

The order of priorities is content first, music second and as I walked over to the famous Coachella ferris wheel, it was like entering basic Instagram universe. A place so full of peace signs, space buns and professional cameras – yes, really. It was both fascinating and cringeworthy in exactly equal measure. 

The most surprising part of the festival, however, wasn’t the plus-size women in thongs and fishnet bodies (I have never felt more conservative in my life) but the sense of confidence that you just wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. There was a feeling that no one cared what the next person thought of them, they were there to live their best life (get the content) and bow down to Beyoncé. Mic drop, they out.

The more curvy women I saw in ass-skimming shorts the more I realised I was entirely over-thinking the whole ‘can I be plus-size at Coachella?’ idea. Of course I could! There I was stressing as to whether I could wear black in the desert, if gold hoops were too boring, to glitter or not to glitter, and absolutely none of it mattered because whatever you wore no one batted an eyelid. Their primary concern was themselves, their look, their content and anyone outside their group of friends – not interested. To an extent even the men weren’t interested. 

Then came the music and it was the furthest thing from basic, it is bigger and better than any other festival I have ever been to. Almost every act brings out a guest, Pultizer-prize winning Kendrick Lamar was the guest of choice for many and in case you have been living an internet-free life, Bear Grylls-style, Destiny’s Child reformed and it was everything. Beyoncé gave her most female-empowering performance to date, fitting for the first black female headliner at the festival. Eminem made you re-live every teen angst emotion you have had locked up for the past 10 years and then killed it when he brought 50 Cent and Dr Dre out – never have I seen a crowd lose it harder. 

In short, yes Coachella is basic, but if you look beyond the glitter, the sequins and the shorter-than-short shorts, it’s actually pretty damn cool. You leave with a changed attitude, or at least I did: festival fashion isn’t something to be feared – you are there to have a good time, listen to your favourite acts and go home happy that your life-long dream of singing Say My Name with Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle has been achieved. Because really, does anything else matter? 

Images: Getty / Rex Features