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Burning Man Fashion Survival Guide: Six Styles to Wear Next Week in Black Rock, Nevada

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Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge JENA ARDELL
  • Jena Ardell

If there's any sign that festival fashion trends are going mass-market, it's that Burning Man, the ultimate outlier festival, has now provided inspiration for this summer's TopShop makeup line. Burning Man is merely the next event in a series of festivals to undergo large-store treatment -- think of LF stores' guide to Coachella, or endless fashion blog posts about "that perfect festival dress from Urban Outfitters."

But unlike most summer festivals, Burning Man is less about watching beautiful people and more about turning yourself into one by means of "radical self-expression," one of the ten official principles of the festival. That translates to kitting yourself out -- the crazier, the better. An additional challenge is dressing to survive the desert conditions of Black Rock, Nevada, in which 100+ degree weather, sandstorms, winds, rain and even ice are all fair game.

In that case, what do you wear? LA Weekly spoke to longtime Burner and self-styled playa expert Dusty Bacon (his Burning Man pseudonym), who runs Dustycouture.com, a blog dedicated to fashion at Burning Man.

Fashion in the desert has come a long way since the festival's inception in 1986. On one level, it's a microcosmic evolution that has seen all the cultural trends of the past three decades pass through it.

Bacon explains, "To start with, it was a free-for-all. The people that founded Burning Man were part of San Francisco's The Cacophony Society [an anarchic, free-thinking cultural collective]. What they brought was this sense of using fashion and costumes to provoke radical thoughts or reactions." Burning Man has meant everything from coming in rugged, homemade digs to donning Western gothic costumes or reviving a Mad Max-inspired aesthetic.

Above all, fashion out on the playa is supposed to be about fantasies and creating new identities, says Bacon. But, funnily enough, many of those identities seem to come ready-made in recognizable trends and themes. Here's our guide to 2011's trending playa styles:

click to enlarge JENA ARDELL
  • Jena Ardell
6. Spirit animal

Alright, fur at Burning Man has become a cliché. But that doesn't mean you'll see fewer people doing it. After all, faux fur does fulfill a real need. "One of the reasons people have chosen to wear the faux fur is because it keeps you warm and snuggly at night without having to wear a lot of fabric," says Bacon. Spirit ravers, take note: you can also glow while furry, thanks to lighted hoods and more wacky paraphernalia.

click to enlarge JENA ARDELL
  • Jena Ardell
5. Ravers

What would life in the desert be without some nineties throwback day-glo? Incomplete, obviously. Bacon explains that raver fashion has historically been part of the Burning Man scene. "With the large sound systems that came in, you got an infusion of raver fashion, eventually neon wires and colors," he explains. But forget about glowsticks if you want to impress anyone, and go for a giant light-up daisy chain headband instead.

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