Last year, more than 48,000 people journeyed to the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man. 2011 marks the first year Burning Man tickets have sold out — a full month before the event no less — so it’s sure to be more massive than years past. Aside from checking off the necessary gear, supplies and equipment, if you haven’t gotten your wardrobe together yet, now’s a good time to start.
Costumes are an important aspect of the “radical self-expression” promoted at the festival. It’s easy to default to the trashy/slutty look; artful costuming requires a bit more imagination and creativity.
Extreme heat during the day, freezing temperatures at night and relentless dust are practical considerations when planning what to bring. Bare skin during the day, cover up at night. Boots are a popular choice of footwear, but make sure they’re comfortable and can withstand the Playa (in other words, you won’t cry over some dust clogging).
Parasols are a stylish way to get a little shade, and goggles are often worn as much for style as to protect peepers from dust storms. At night, reflective or glowy accents and accessories are not only attractive but functional: they might save you from getting run over by a bicycle or mutant vehicle. Jazz up your Playa bike with fiber optic streamers.
Utility belts are one way to keep crucial items at hand: your own cup if you come to a camp that offers beverages, flasks, gifts, tools and other things. Tutus, utilikilts, wings, fishnets, monster fur, body paint and dreads are commonplace.
If you’re planning to make your own costumes, start early and make sure to visit Mendels on Haight Street. It has an impressive array of faux furs in almost any color imaginable and different lengths and textures with which to make hats, pants, bikinis or whatever you dream up. I was able to find everything here to make my own flared monster fur leg warmers from scratch. You can also go crazy with all sorts of fabrics, elastics sequins and other trims here.
For readymade, the official Burning Man website has a comprehensive list of designers and shops that carry incredibly creative, beautiful and utilitarian “Playa Wear.” Acme Playa Supply is a Burner-owned shop that carries self-adhesive, perspiration-resistant eye makeup and body art that can be worn for days at a time in colorful glittery designs.
BeastWares, self-proclaimed “Purveyors of Furry Finery,” offers furry ear hats (foxes, bears, cats, wolves) and plush foxy tails. Oakland-based designer Katherine Becvar specializes in utility accessories that don’t look it (pocket belts in stylish cuts and fabrics, not your typical fanny pack) and illuminated clothing and accessories through her imprint Blue Moon Designs.
Ego Assassin Latex Designs’ sexy latex shoulder armor pieces, collars, skirts and bikinis combine fetish and cyber sensibilities (). If you want fur that glows you’ll have to check out ElectroFur. Marc G and Audra Jean’s exquisite leather harnesses, belts and spats are not cheap but finely made (www.etsy.com/shop/AudraJean).
Also, mark your calendar for Prepare For the Playa at Cafe Cocomo on August 14 and Beyond the Fence Playa Trunk Show at Might on August 21. The fifth annual Prepare for the Playa will features multiple fashion shows, a Playa art preview and a day-long “Playa University.” Indiana Street will be closed for the festivities. Beyond the Fence features more than thirty local designers.
What are you planning to wear? Email pics of your previous Burning Man outfits and fashion/survival tips to blogs [at] sfstation [dot] com and we will pick a few to share here.