What to Wear to Burning Man
To Burning Man, you may basically wear anything – or nothing at all. Which is probably why deciding what to wear to the Burn may be difficult. Especially if you’ve searched “Burning Man Fashion” and seen hundreds of photographs of models dressed in extravagant costumes or wearing outfits that are too exposing to feel comfortable with. In actuality, many of those models were dressed for the picture shoot, not for spending the day and night in this wonderful playground.
This will be my eleventh burn, and I’m continually fine-tuning what I wear and where I get it, constantly looking for methods to decrease the environmental effect of an undoubtedly carbon-intensive event. Here are some tips on how to dress for a transformational week that I learned:
1. Dress for Movement
Choose clothing that will allow you to move freely since there are sculptures to climb, trampolines to bounce on, swings, and even a roller disco. Onesies are cute, but they make using the restrooms more difficult.
Another thing to keep in mind with long skirts, scarves, and dresses is to fasten them when riding bikes so that the excess fabric does not get stuck in your bike wheel. I’ve assisted several burners in untangling skirts, scarves, and kimonos from their gear trains.
2. Dress for the Elements
Black Rock City, like any desert, can turn quite hot during the day and very chilly at night on the playa. Clothing that keeps you cool and/or shields you from the sun throughout the day is beneficial, as is a warm coat/clothing for the chilly evenings.
The dust, on the other hand, is exceedingly alkaline and will dry up your skin, nose, and cuticles. Boots or high-tops will protect your ankles and prevent dust out of your shoes and socks. To keep the dust out of your nose and mouth, you’ll need masks, scarves, keffiyehs, or bandanas. To see in dust storms, you’ll need goggles for both day and night (tinted and clear). Sunglasses and gloves to protect your hands when setting up or breaking down camp.
On a windy bike ride, I usually pack a couple hats (snug fitting or with a chinstrap/ties to protect them from flying off). And hoods to keep dust out of your hair.
3. Dress on Principle
Burning Man has ten principles that everyone attending the event is supposed to follow. Three of these are relevant to what and how you dress:
Leave No Trace
A crew of volunteers collects the small feathers, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, and face jewels that wind up in the dust BY HAND after the event. My first burn, I wore a stunning antique sequin gown that looked stunning in the sunshine but looked like a clean-up crew’s nightmare after an hour of dancing: hundreds of sequins had come off. Ugh. So I now wear garments that will not sweat and become MOOP (“matter out of place,” meaning trash). Check to determine whether the materials are secure and will withstand wear and tear.
Another Burning Man philosophy is decommodification, which includes not wearing clothing with brand labels on it. On a more conscious level, it implies avoiding commodified festival culture and quick fashion. (I.E. buying everything at Dolls Kill or iHEARTRAVE).
This is an invitation to you to make something. Make a headpiece, embellish your eyeglasses, construct a costume, or repurpose your clothing.
4. Get Lit
At night, there are tens of thousands of people on bikes and in art vehicles, many of them are inebriated. So staying illuminated at night is critical (literally). LED lighting will keep you visible. Though these battery-powered lights are all created in China from plastics, they are a necessary evil for keeping safe, but if anybody knows of a more eco-friendly model, please let us know.
5. Appreciate, don’t appropriate
Be inspired by and combine aspects from cultures throughout the globe, but do so respectfully. For example, please do not wear feather headdresses (for more information, go here), but feel free to sport those Indigenous-made earrings.
Many braid styles might be deemed cultural appropriation outside the playa, but owing to the nature of the alkaline dust, braids are helpful in preventing your hair from getting matted and tangled, particularly if you don’t have access to showers. If you wear braids, choose styles that are customary to your ancestors.
Where to Shop (And not Shop)
1. Vintage & Thrift stores
Not only are they more environmentally friendly than purchasing new, but you may also discover some great and odd goods in thrift shops to express your inner crazy.
Classics to look out for:
- Military Jumpsuits
- ski goggles
- furry jackets
- marching band suits
- beach coverups
- figure skating costumes
2. Support artisans
There is a whole business of artists that create clothing for burners. Harmonia, Nathalia Gaviria, Elvin Forest, and Boho Coats are among my favorites.
3. Clothes Swap
In a nearby camp? Plan a playa clothing exchange. If your campsite isn’t close by, encourage your festival pals to exchange before the blaze.
4. Upcyle your clothes
I sewed el wire onto an old Christmas party dress to create an illuminated costume that I wore to a wedding reception after the fire. What do you have in your closet that you’re willing to alter and dust? A huge patch may transform an old robe into something extraordinary. Be inventive.
5. At the Burn
Kostume Kult, for example, brings loads of burner clothing to the playa. You’ll have to walk their runway in anything you can get your hands on, but that’s half of the fun.