Fashion vs Style at Burning Man

As one travels into the desert toward Black Rock City, the last bit of civilization occurs as a group of road side pop up shops hawking “Burner gear”:
Cheetah print vests with fuzzy purple trim and blinking LED’s, cowboy hats inspired by Vegas showgirls, and all manner of goggles that try too hard to be Mad Max – all made in the cheapest Chinese factories, being retailed for ungodly, embarrassingly high prices.
… you know, so that you can look like a “Burner” as you roll up into Black Rock City.
Burning Man is built on Ten Principles that create a template for the experience. One of them is “Radical Self Expression” – you can be, dress, or act like anything you want.
I love the creativity and whimsy of my fellow Burners. It’s a joyful thing to see someone dressed in such a way that leaves you saying, “What the fuck did I just see?” but with a huge smile on your face.
…like the troupe of dancing bananas. Or the person who glued little pieces of mirror to a body suit and was a walking disco ball. Or the sexy nun. Not terribly innovative, but if that’s who you truly are, sister, I’m sure it pleaseth The Lord.
Part of the joy is wondering where they got the inspiration for the crazy costume.
I have only been burning since 2013, but even in that short time, I’ve noticed a definite shift toward Burning Man becoming a fashion show. I unfollowed a lot of Burning Man related accounts on Instagram this year because it was a constant feed of fashion fodder that failed to invoke the fascination question – “Where did you get that idea?”
It’s obvious where they are getting the ideas from – photo shoots, instagram models, and articles like this one. It’s hard to tell if the people in them are dressing like Paris Hilton dressing like a “burner” at Burning Man, or dressing like lemmings.

Today, Harper’s Bazaar published

The Most Insane Fashion Looks from Burning Man 2019

The difference between fashion and style is a beautiful thing:
“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself.”  — Oscar de la Renta
“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live.”  — Gianni Versace
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”  — Gore Vidal
Fashion is about obeying the status quo. Style is unconcerned with it. The dismissal of the status quo is one of the things that makes Burning Man special.
Let’s be clear. There are some really cool looks being shown in this article. (Marina Zarina’s Trash Fence inspired look – omg, yes).
I’m not even criticizing those in the article, as much as I’m mourning the existence of the article in the first place. It’s one step away from the late Joan Rivers and her daughter showing up to do fashion commentary: The Dusty Red Carpet on the night of the Man Burn, Live from Black Rock City.
It’s inevitable, I suppose.
This is how bizarre religions get started and it’s also why we can’t have nice things.
I just wish Burning Man would stay weird long enough to bring a few of my loved ones out there to experience it, especially my youngest daughter. I want her to see radical self expression, not a fashion show. Fashion shows are common in the default world.
I love the principle of Radical Self Expression, not just at Burning Man, but at home as well. I love people with style, people who know who they are and wear it on the outside. In a sense, the least “Burner” thing you can do is try to dress like one….
…except for TutuTuesday. Definitely go with the tutu.
The Man burns in 346 days.

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