Learning to love my body at Coachella
The moment I clicked “Confirm Purchase” on my Coachella tickets, I was overwhelmed with excitement and anxiety. Excitement because I was going to experience my very first Coachella weekend. Anxiety because I was dreading having to shop for outfits to wear to the festival.
It’s not that I didn’t actually have anything to wear, but we all know what “festival fashion” is supposed to look like. Who finds outfits for Coachella in their closet? So one week pre-festival, I went to my favorite L.A. thrift stores like Wasteland and Buffalo Exchange — but this was not a Sex and the City 2 wardrobe fashion party with champagne and my best girlfriends. This was me, standing alone in a dressing room, obsessing over finding “perfect” Coachella outfits and idealizing the “perfect” body for those outfits. At times, it felt awful.
Earlier that year, I’d applied to graduate school and had the most stressful semester of my academic career. This caused me to gain weight, and by the time Coachella came around, I didn’t have the “summer bod” I’d wanted.
Accessories like metal necklaces and cowboy hats were a little more fun to shop for since at least I didn’t have my low-self-esteem reminding me that nothing fit right on my body. But when I tried on floral prints and cowboy boots, and outfit after outfit, I couldn’t shake that uncomfortable feeling. I’d spent days and nights on social media leading up to this shopping trip, hoping inspiration from Coachella veterans would help me obtain the perfect festival wardrobe with a broke college student’s budget. Eventually, despite my trials and tribulations in the dressing room, I put three outfits together from my thrift store finds.
With my “festival fashion” anxiety somewhat handled, I was pretty excited to head to the desert with my boyfriend.
Even with my uneasiness, arriving to the festival felt like floating into a kind of nirvana as loud music echoed into the desert mountains. I indulged in food, drank my weight in cocktails, danced the night away, and slept under the desert stars. It was magical.
Still though, I was comparing myself to the women around me — which, naturally, wasn’t good for my self-esteem. I felt so inspired by the boldness, creativity, and artistic style of the women at Coachella — but I wished I too could walk around in those outfits with their confidence. This need to have the perfect outfit accompanied by the “right” body came from societal expectations of what a Coachella-goer should look like.
When I envision a woman at Coachella, I don’t think about a thick, brown, Latinx woman like me — I think about a tall, thin, white, blonde woman wearing fringe, cowboy boots, and oversized sunglasses.
However, actually being at Coachella that weekend showed me something beautiful: This space had brought women of all backgrounds, skin colors, and sizes together — and I belonged in that space (I even met my best friend, Megan!). It was thrilling — and reassuring — to see so many women of color with diverse body types on the festival grounds. I soon befriended the group of women in the campsite next to ours, and they made me feel like part of an inclusive community as we celebrated the festival’s intersection of fashion, music, pleasure, and art.
My new girlfriends and I glammed up together each morning, and they empowered me to feel strong and beautiful — whether or not I fit the image of the “perfect” Coachella-attendee.