As the first festival of the summer circuit, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival produced by Goldenvoice, which took place last weekend April 25-27 in the blazing sun on the polo fields of Indio near Palm Desert, has become the unofficial kick-off point to summer season fashion. Why? Because while the rest of the world is still unburying itself from winter chill and pulling out spring jackets, we’re already down to our Speedos and bikinis, partying to top bands in the hot hot heat (as in 100 temps), testing new sunscreens, and running from stage to tent to stage and back again to see an amazing line-up of bands: Where else can one see Prince, Portishead, The Verve, Racontuers, Kraftwerk, Love and Rockets, Metric, Justice, MIA, Gogol Bordello, Chromeo, Enter Shikari, Kate Nash, Cut Copy, Hot Chip, Roger Waters, and oh, so many others, then dance in a field of massive acorn pods, play in a sonic chime forest, get lost in a 200-foot long bamboo mesh ripple wave, watch solar-powered light shows, rest under a neo-Victorian industrial “tree house,” or a copper canopy, or an 18-wheeler decommissioned big rig installation all in 3 days?

For more on a wrap-up of the event and music, read this week’s story “Coachella Music Arts Festival Mixes Pioneering Performers from Prince to Portishead with Burgeoning New Artists Like Metric and Hot Chips, Resulting in a Ripple-Effect that Will Impact Music Culture”. In this story however, we’re talking about the Fashion of Summer in America (Part 1) as seen from the thousands of festival attendees who often test the waters for summer wardrobes by breaking out their best for what’s predicted to be a blazing hot summer, wavering on the side apocalyptic.

Last year, while key themes included boho chic, this year, rave and neon influences are in absolutely everything. Either it’s going to get bigger, or the cool cats are going to feel their style has been copped and look for alternatives. So for example, cowboy boots with pulled up rainbow stripped socks are the norm as rave moves mainstream. Flowery dresses, braided hair with peace symbols -leaning ant-war with ’60’s styles face make-up–is part of the love, peace, harmony movement, but then when neon bits in the form of Alice bands, old-school Ray Bans, socks, belt buckles like Rubik’s’ cubes come into play, we’re talking about a whole new level of retro new-school cool.

Part 1: Key Summer Fashion Themes to Watch for: The Rave Hippy

  • Thrift vibe and retro style borrowing remains as a result of the economy, but young people are changing up their style for summers with upgraded bits of neon, colorful tube socks, belts, bracelets, headbands
  • Love movement is in with an anti-war aesthetic in the form of flowy dresses and hippy looks, but more rave hippy than full-on flower children of the ’60’s
  • Guys in short shorts either the old-school basketball athletic shorts of the ’70’s or cut-off jeans, tennis shorts look. Short is in with girl’s skirts, dresses, and now guys shorts as well.
  • Tennis/gym class hero is still here for the summer but now with bits of metallics in materials
  • Denim shorts -cut-offs, short shorts, high-waisted shorts
  • Sheer one-piece dresses or coveralls with bikinis or thongs underneath that you can glimpse in the daylight, but becomes opaque at night
  • Gold metallic short shorts (often over tights)
  • Peace signs
  • The return of the eclectic gay clubber scene with for example, more risqu? shorts, guys sporting Day-Glo Speedos with fanny packs (and wearing Alice bands)
  • One-piece bathing suits worn like a leotard over bikini tops, with shorts -metallic one-pieces preferred
  • Studio 54 look with leotards, unitards, one-pieces
  • Which leads into jumpers, onesies, and often in shorts and terry cloth