Ins and Outs of Rave Fashion


As someone whose day to day fashion choices are based largely upon blindly selecting a semi-clean top from my floordrobe and coordinating it with one of my 3 pairs of jeans or myriad pairs of black leggings, I usually fall into a state of panic when it comes to finding socially acceptable outfits for nights out. This panic descended into full scale hyperventilation when I found myself with tickets to a techno night and no idea as to the social mores of rave culture. With friends who are heavily involved in the LUEDMS scene, I have been (forcibly) exposed to Electronic Dance Music, and so could pretend to know what was going on music-wise; what concerned me was what to wear so as not to stand out like a Cartmel student in County College.

Rave culture emerged in Britain in the 1980s, and the clothes worn by ravers have changed in accordance with popular fashion over time. Generic accessories associated with raves (and Claire’s Accessories) such as glow sticks, kandi jewellery and fluorescent paint gained popularity as they were found to boost the psychedelic effects of MDMA. Raving attire was bright, casual, and loose fitting in order to facilitate exhausting, sweaty, ecstasy fuelled all-night dancing. In the early 90s, rave culture was adopted by the middle class adolescents and young adults of the Home Counties, spreading around the country when illegal underground raves gained increasing popularity. Photographs and film footage of these events suggest that the clothes worn to raves largely reflected fashion trends of the time, and thus the baggy jeans, dungarees, denim shirts, and NHS prescription specs that defined the 90s also formed the basis of their night time attire. It seems that the current trend of oversized vintage shirts, big glasses, and hair scrunchies directly emulate the fashion choices of the 90s, and with the growing popularity of Polaroid film and instagram filters, some people nowadays are virtually impossible to differentiate from our 90s counterparts who paved the way for today’s raves. In 2014, however, what look should I attempt to pull off in order to try and mask the fact that a normal Saturday night for me is spent either asleep in Sugar House, or drinking Earl Grey and reshuffling letters from the Bailiffs?

A friend told me that, if I didn’t want to just wear standard going out clothes, I should try and look ‘edgy’. The last time I had attempted edginess was in 2008 when I put some badges on my school blazer, and this wild rebellion had been quashed after 5 hours when I was instructed to remove them in afternoon registration. Edginess, then, was going to be difficult for someone whose fashion knowledge is so minimal that they don’t know how to follow trends, let alone consciously defy them. After 3 hours of scrupulous charity shop hunting, I found myself in TK Maxx, battling with pushchairs and pensioners to try and secure the edgiest outfit possible. Two trips to the changing rooms, and trying 11 items of clothing confirmed that there is a fine line between edgy and hideous. One pair of trousers, which wouldn’t have looked out of place on an 18 year old Avril Lavigne, were so luridly coloured that I thought someone may actually have vomited on them. I was failing at edginess, and the outfit I attempted to construct left me looking like the love child of Will Smith circa 1992 and a middle aged Zumba instructor. Eventually I narrowed the selection down to two T shirts. I figured cross dressing was probably quite edgy, but rejected the dangerously tight, pretentiously outlandish multi coloured man’s T shirt in favour of the cheapest, wankiest T shirt I could find. My choice was a £4 crop top in a horrific pink and purple asteroid pattern, emblazoned with the inspirational message “I’m a Believer” superimposed over a unicorn. As a militant cynic who believes in very little, my inner atheist wept as I tried on the T shirt. The questionable choice of brand name ‘Dead Lovers’ was plastered underneath and I figured, Hey, there’s nothing more edgy than a brand name promoting necrophilia, so I bought it.

With the help of a pair of frilled Primark socks poking tentatively over my ankle boots, I had successfully turned myself into everything I loathe about our generation. On showing my housemate I was encouraged when she told me that she literally wanted to punch me in the throat. Perhaps, then, I could be edgy after all? I’ll never know for sure because half the ravers were in Hallowe’en fancy dress, and everyone else was too busy enjoying themselves to care what other people were wearing. Essentially, I should have saved my money for alcohol instead of crafting myself into a pretentious idiot, because in fashion, as with everything else in life, those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.

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