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— theguardian.com

The Problem with Festival Fashion

So Spring is here, which means sunny days, warmer temperatures, flowers blooming everywhere… and music festivals.

Coachella starts this week, and certainly is one of the most famous American festivals, alongside Glastonbury in the UK. But what’s the deal with music festivals and why are they so popular? Maybe because you get the chance to experience the ‘outdoor festival atmosphere’ with your friends, meet new faces, see your favourite artists live, discover new talents, and, of course, show off your outfits.

Festival fashion has already took over our Instagram and Pinterest’s feeds, with outfit ideas and new trends ready for the festival season. However, this has highlighted one of the biggest and most talked issue of our days: cultural appropriation.

According to Wikipedia, ‘cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture. Cultural appropriation is seen by some as controversial, notably when elements of a minority culture are used by members of the cultural majority; this is seen as wrongfully oppressing the minority culture or stripping it of its group identity and intellectual property rights’.

Now you may think ok, but I do this or wear that because I like and appreciate that culture; however there’s a big difference between ‘appreciating’ and ‘appropriating’. It’s true though that living in a multicultural world can make it more difficult to understand the difference; let’s say that unless you’re just learning with respect or you’ve been invited to a cultural event and to wear something specific of that culture, then you are ‘appropriating’.

How does all this apply to festival fashion? Well, most of the outfits actually include elements that belong to other cultures, and are inappropriately used as ‘trends’.

Let’s take a look at some examples to understand this better.

Bindis are colourful dots placed on the centre of the forehead, between the eyebrows, typical of South/Southeast Asia, usually worn by Hindu women. They have different cultural and spiritual meanings; for example, a red Bindi is a symbol of love and prosperity and it's worn by married women. Bindis also remind of the morning prayer and of the search for 'absolute truth' during the day.

Bindis are colourful dots placed on the centre of the forehead, between the eyebrows, typical of South/Southeast Asia, usually worn by Hindu women. They have different cultural and spiritual meanings, and designs; for example, ‘a red Bindi is a symbol of love and prosperity’ and it’s worn by married women.

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It’s easy now to spot Bindis at music festivals, as they’ve become a ‘trendy’ accessory, usually used to achieve a bohemian look.

Credit: Pinterest Here is pictured actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens sporting a boho-chic outfit completed with Bindi at Coachella 2014.

Credit: Pinterest
Celebrities also love to wear Bindis as a fashion item. Here American actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens is shown sporting a boho-chic outfit completed with Bindi at Coachella 2014.

Singer and actress Selena Gomez was criticised as insensitive for her India-inspired performance and attire at the MTV Movie Awards 2013.

American Singer and actress Selena Gomez was criticised as ‘insensitive’ for her India-inspired performance and attire at the MTV Movie Awards 2013.

Credit: huffingtonpost.co.uk Last year online retailer ASOS sold a collection of Bindis under the 'Halloween Costumes' sections, but after the backlash received on Twitter, they've been completely removed from the site.

Credit: huffingtonpost.co.uk
Last year online retailer ASOS sold a collection of Bindis under the ‘Halloween Costumes’ sections, but after the backlash received on Twitter, they’ve been completely removed from the site.

Credit: gossipcop.com Not only Bindis, but also Indian bridal jewellery have become trends. Here model and reality star Kendall Jenner is wearing a Nath (nose ring).

Credit: gossipcop.com
Not only Bindis, but also Indian bridal jewellery have become trends. Here model and reality star Kendall Jenner is wearing a Nath (nose ring), typically worn by brides and married women.

https://twitter.com/freexdharma/status/709931718501801984?lang=en-gb

https://twitter.com/anjanaaanair/status/708833892732514304?lang=en-gb

People are using social media to express their feelings with the #ReclaimTheBindi movement.

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The war bonnet is a sacred symbol to Native Americans. It has both political and spiritual importance, as each eagle feather was earned through ‘selfless acts of courage and honour’, and it is worn by the male elders who earned their right and respect. Unfortunately, it has become a ‘fashion headdress’ and a costume.

In 2012, model Karlie Kloss wore a Native American headdress while walking for Victoria's Secret. After the criticism received, they later apologised and decided to not show it during the broadcast.

In 2012, model Karlie Kloss wore a Native American headdress while walking for Victoria’s Secret. After the criticism received, they later apologised and decided not to show it during the broadcast.

Credit: theguardian.com American artist Pharrell Williams apologised for posing with a war bonnet on the cover of Elle.

Credit: theguardian.com
American artist Pharrell Williams apologised for posing with a war bonnet on the cover of Elle.

Credit: theguardian.com War bonnets are worn by many at music festivals.

Credit: theguardian.com
War bonnets are now worn by many at music festivals.

Credit: Pinterest Native American 'fashion' has been around since a long time. Let's just think about those 'sexy Indian' Halloween/fancy costumes, that contributes to the problem of sexualisation of Native women.

Credit: Pinterest
Native American ‘fashion’ has actually been around since a long time. Let’s just think about those ‘sexy Indian’ Halloween/fancy costumes; not only are offensive, but contribute slso to the problem of the sexualisation of Native women.

Credit: theimproper.com Gwen Stefani dressed as Native American for No Doubt's video 'Looking hot'. It has been pulled down after it sparked controversy for cultural appropriation and for showing stereotypes.

Credit: theimproper.com
Gwen Stefani dressed as Native American for No Doubt’s video ‘Looking hot’. It has been pulled down after it sparked controversy for cultural appropriation and for showing stereotypes.

American singer Keri Hilson wearing cornrows. More recently, 'boxer braids' and Dashikis, which are traditional West African garments, have become popular amongst non-Black cultures.

American singer Keri Hilson wearing cornrows (or ‘boxer braids’?).
More recently, ‘boxer braids’ and Dashikis, which are traditional West African garments for both men and women, have become popular amongst non-Black cultures.

Credit: fr.trace.tv American singer Jhené Aiko wearing an African Dashiki. Elle Canada suffered backlash after calling Dashiki the new 'It' item.

Credit: fr.trace.tv
American singer Jhené Aiko wearing an African Dashiki.
Elle Canada suffered backlash after referring to Dashiki as the new ‘It’ item.

Credit: Pinterest Man wearing a Dashiki at Coachella.

Credit: Pinterest
Man wearing a Dashiki at Coachella. This type of clothing has become increasingly popular, especially for retro-hippie inspired looks.

Credit: yahoo Last year, Kylie Jenner was accused of cultural appropriation after posting a picture wearing cornrows on Instagram.

Credit: Yahoo
Reality star and model Kylie Jenner was accused of cultural appropriation after posting a picture of herself wearing cornrows on Instagram.

Credit: hngn.com While last February, MTV UK received lots of criticism after posting about how the 'A-listers' like Kim Kardashian-West are loving 'boxer braids' and including a tutorial.

Credit: hngn.com
While last February, MTV UK received lots of criticism after posting about how the ‘A-listers’ like Kim Kardashian-West are loving ‘boxer braids’ and including a tutorial. This has been seen as a way to credit this hairstyle to Kim K.

Credit: Getty Images American actress, singer and model Zendaya addressed the matter of cultural appropriation and 'boxer braids' during an interview with PopSugar: 'Well, first of all, braids are not new. Black women have been wearing braids for a very long time, and that's another part of the frustration. We've been using that as a protective style, as a hairstyle. That's been in our culture and our community for a very long time. So it's not this new, fresh, fun thing. Another problem is it became new and fresh and fun, because it was on someone else other than a black woman... So that is the frustration. That's where the culture appropriation element comes into play.'

Credit: Getty Images
American actress, singer and model Zendaya addressed the matter of cultural appropriation and the ‘boxer braids’ trend during an interview with PopSugar: ‘Well, first of all, braids are not new. Black women have been wearing braids for a very long time, and that’s another part of the frustration. We’ve been using that as a protective style, as a hairstyle. That’s been in our culture and our community for a very long time. So it’s not this new, fresh, fun thing. Another problem is it became new and fresh and fun, because it was on someone else other than a black woman… So that is the frustration. That’s where the culture appropriation element comes into play.’

So, these are just some examples of what is considered as ‘cultural appropriation’. Many others can be easily found, and most of them are related to festival clothing.

The intention of this article is not to bore/annoy anyone, or to tell what is right and wrong. But next time you are picking an outfit for a party, a dinner or a music festival, please do it carefully and be conscious; it’s not ‘cool’ to turn somebody else’s culture into a ‘fashion trend’ .

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