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What are people wearing to ACL Fest 2021? How to be both stylish and practical

Valerie June, an American singer-songwriter from Memphis, Tennessee, poses for a portrait during Weekend 2 of the 2017 Austin City Limits Music Festival. Wanna look this good? We have tips.

Just because Doja Cat debuted a makeup collection this week doesn’t mean she has to be the most stylish person at Zilker Park this weekend. Okay, maybe it does, but you can still look pretty good. 

Austin City Limits Music Festival kicks off Friday, and you may be standing in a pile of your own clothes, wondering how it’s possible that you’ve gone through everything in your closet and still come up empty-handed. Fear not! Austin360 is here with pointers to help you put together an outfit that’s both practical and fashion forward.

RELATED: 13 ACL Fest artists you definitely know from TikTok

The floor is lava. JK, it’s dirt.

So keep that in mind when picking out your shoes. Beat-up sneakers may be your safest bet (this writer is of the opinion that Reebok Club C 85s actually get cuter as they get dirtier), or you could opt for something dark and sturdy like Doc Martens. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing your shoes is that not a whole lot of sitting happens at ACL (unless you bring your own chair), so opting for something comfortable with save you a lot of foot pain. You should also take into account the kind of concert-goer you are. If you want to stand in the back at the Phoebe Bridgers show, sandals will be more than fine, but if you plan on being in the mosh pit at Tyler, the Creator, maybe reconsider.

Flowers mark the spot where shoes were left in the mud at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Oct. 12, 2014. The right footwear is crucial.

October still means hot and sunny in Austin...

Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s “fall.” It’s still hot in Austin, and highs are projected to be in the 80s during ACL. Dress accordingly: cotton, linen and rayon are the ideal fabrics for staying cool in a sweaty crowd. Your shortest shorts and crop-est tops will be more than welcome among fest-goers. If those aren’t your thing, mesh clothes, bandanas-as-shirts, wide-legged linen pants and buttoned tops (which you can make breathable by only doing one button, or none) are all cute options that will keep you cool. 

Hot and sunny also means sun protection is essential. Make sure to pile on the sunscreen, but you can also protect yourself and add a fashionable touch to your outfit. Hats (bucket hats, cowboy hats of course) and sunglasses are often spotted at the festival. For anyone who wants to do the absolute most, folding fans seem to be having a moment at the clubs.

Lauren Snider models chic sunglasses at Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2013.

It’ll be breezier by the later sets, and some people might suggest bringing a layer, but it really comes down to the following question: Would you rather lug around a jean jacket all day to potentially wear it for an hour, or carry less things and risk feeling a little chilly for an hour?

... but it also might mean rainy.

Rain is a possibility for the first weekend of the festival. Friday and Saturday have somewhere between a 50-70% chance of rain, with chances of rainfall dropping by Sunday, so don’t wear anything you’d be devastated getting wet, and consider packing a poncho if you don’t want to risk being ripped off by festival prices. Alternatively, forgo them entirely and just embrace the bad weather — sloshing around in the pouring rain to Miley Cyrus in her rock era sounds pretty sick.

Make sure you triple-read that new bag policy. 

There’s a new bag policy in town at ACL. This year, only two types of bags are allowed: small and/or clear.

Small clutch purses and fanny packs that are 4.5” x 5.5” or smaller, which do not need to be clear, but can have no more than one pocket.

Any bag that’s bigger must be made up of clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC, and can be no larger than 12” x 12” x 6”. Backpacks and bags with multiple pockets are prohibited, so think tote bags, drawstring backpacks, purses and the like.

Don’t have a PVC tote bag lying around? What’s wrong with you! Just kidding. These bag demands are very specific, so we’ve rounded up some options for you.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about ACL Fest, including COVID rules

Small bags: Trusted backpack brands Jansport and Herschel both sell fanny packs for around $30. Everlane, Lululemon and Zara all have fashionable options, and FILA sells a trendy one for $25. If fanny packs aren’t your thing, Urban Outfitters has a faux-croc clutch on sale for $20.

Clear bags: If you’re willing to spend money on a durable, eco-friendly clear bag, the brand Truffle has plenty of options, including a plastic crossbody bag for $98. More affordable options include a blue clear tote from ASOS for $32 and a basic stadium bag from Dick’s Sporting Goods for $13.

Or, save yourself the overnight shipping cost and go bagless. In that case, you may want to wear something with a few pockets, like cargo shorts or a dress with pockets. Even if you pack lightly, it’s still nice to have somewhere to put your wallet.

And make sure that you bring a mask. 

In addition to needing either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend the festival, you should also mask-up — at least in crowds. That’s in accordance with new special events guidelines announced by the city on Aug. 27, which require masks in areas where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. That means you should be prepared to mask up on festival shuttle buses, in entrance lines and in the crowds that gather near stages. Please don’t pull a Lana del Rey and sacrifice safety for fashion, but as long as your mask is compliant with health guidelines, there’s nothing stopping you from coordinating your mask with your outfit.

Okay mom, we get it. Face mask and fanny pack. But what’ll make us look cool?

I briefly scanned a Vogue article titled “The Ultimate Guide to the Fall 2021 Fashion Trends” for help with this section, until I saw they were recommending stripes, laughed, and remembered that 15-year-olds on TikTok are in charge of everything now. 

So what are they wearing? Here are some ideas, courtesy of my For You Page.

Grab the cowboy hat, pardner: Yee-haw fashion is all the rage for the festival circuit.

Yee-haw culture has gone mainstream, which works out well for us in Austin: think cow prints and cowboy boots. The '70s are also in, which means lots of jewel tones and warm colors, flare jeans and headscarves — which can also be tied around your back and double as a top. Slip dresses are a cute option, and the less-cute, more-practical version, the exercise dress, was absolutely inescapable this summer. And you can’t go wrong with corsets, checkered patterns, or the colors chartreuse and brown.