Jazz Fest Fashion: Embrace and Escape the Tyranny of Tropical Print | Louisiana Festivals
Where else on Earth but at Jazz Fest do guys wearing tropical patterned shirts, straw hats and cargo shorts set the tone for elegance?
This tribe of Tom Sellecks has arrived at the benchmark for festival comfort: efficiency, relevance and an undeniable hint of sex appeal.
With hundreds of variations on the theme, this collective fashion statement can be found everywhere, at every stage, in every food stall and in every beer line. Especially every line of beer. In the air of the grassy and Gentilly times, it’s perfection, the Jazz Fest equivalent of Audrey Hepburn sneaking in a little black dress and pearls.
But this paragon outfit — which, it must be said, isn’t just for men — isn’t all Jazz Fest couture has to offer. On Thursday, we took a walk around the grounds looking for those who contributed to the sunny spring fashion all together in their own way. Epicurean eclecticism was the rule.
Fly the flag
Erica Dumas of the Lower 9th Ward cut a fine figure as she patiently waited for the Playing for Change concert to begin on the Congo Square stage on Thursday. Dumas’ bold sunglasses, straw fedora and perforated knit blouse were sparked by her cascading wire earrings in red, black and green.
Her look, Dumas said, was all about being “festive, fluid, airy” and showing off African colors.
Approved by Nancy Sinatra
Luke Combs didn’t receive a particularly enthusiastic review from the august Times-Picayune music critic after his performance on Thursday. But the contemporary country star’s appearance at the festival may have influenced fashion nonetheless, as there seemed to be a preponderance of young women wearing cowboy boots.
Tulane students Elizabeth Morota, Kylie Cragun and Sydney Miller — who may or may not be Combs fans — coordinated their shoes for the occasion. When asked why they chose white boots, one of the young women replied: “because they are made for walking”.
Kudos to Bob Seal, a 23-Jazz Fest veteran from Falls Church, Va., who lined his sleek silver goatee by staining it in DayGlo orange and green. He added to the psychedelic effect by donning a top hat that was supposed to look like a snare drum (complete with sticks) and hologram sunglasses that reflected protruding Big Daddy Roth-style eyeballs.
“I like to make people smile,” Seal said. “If I can give a little happiness, life is good.”
Christen Mestre of Portland, Oregon, planned to stand out in the sea of humanity at the festival by dyeing her hair a bold, lemon-yellow, neon shade that matched her fluorescent tank top.
Her surprising dress style was based on comfort, she said “And I want my friends to be able to find me.”
Forget the solstice. Everyone knows that the Jazz Fest always marks the change of season. The first weekend is spring, the second is summer. And no one rocked summer fashion better than New Orleans-born Vaughn Randolph Fauria and her daughter Christian Fauria Robinson, whose flowing taupe dresses were the height of Congo Square elegance.
Fauria said she picked up her dress around Hurricane Katrina and wore it at least once to every jazz festival. “Key is cool,” she said, and indeed, the mother-daughter team couldn’t have been cooler.
New Orleans’ Grace Donovan and Chaz Simms had already arrived at the Jazz Fest fashion paradigm with their identical Hawaiian-style shirts. But the couple were quick to point out that their double together was even more intentional. Their whitish shoes, black ankle-length socks, and denim shorts also matched… more or less.
It’s a “head-to-toe look,” Simms said with a laugh, as he and Donovan struck a deliberately generic couple pose.
With the faded denim vest, buttons, dreads and tattoos, Bywater’s Mike Licardi had optimized the neo-punk aesthetic. The finishing touch was the countless silver tips that Licardi had applied by hand to her ensemble.
“I nailed myself,” he said.
Robin and Scott Venturelli of Santa Monica, Calif., were in perfect harmony with their fabulous, yet high fashion yet functional, western-oriented outfits. She carried twin blond leather satchel-inspired handbags. He wore a gorgeous Crayola blue Billy Jack hat and a deep-pocketed khaki kilt.
Scott said all of the jewelry that accentuated her outfit was purchased at the festival in the 34 years the couple have attended. He said that Jazz Fest is a time of fashion freedom and he would “never wear this at home.”
Come together and feel good
As Ziggy Marley’s voice echoed in the background, friends Britney Chauntae, Morgan Legal and Nomalizwe Bydon demonstrated a sunny, laid-back, chic Jazz Fest on the sandstrip.
As Andy Warhol would surely agree, no fashion accessory is more captivating than a camera.
This ineffable New Orleans look
With wavy platinum hair adorned with purple flowers, glasses with round exclamation lenses and scarlet lipstick, Nicole Jones of Syracuse, New York, projected a certain restless elegance, made even more magical by her pastel orange paper parasol.
Her hope, she said, was to achieve a “New Orleans” look. She did just that, in that we want you to look the way you want. You are our mirror. That’s how we roll.
And then there was this: In New Orleans, the line between fashion and costume is usually blurred.
We spotted the man emoji on the first Sunday of the Fest and found that his fashion goal was to make people laugh. Which we did, although we neglected to get his name.