Jazz Fest fashion: Embracing and escaping the tyranny of the tropical print | Louisiana Festivals

ByMelissa J. Akers

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Where else on Earth but Jazz Fest do dudes in tropical-patterned shirts, straw hats and cargo shorts set the tone for stylishness?

This tribe of Tom Sellecks has arrived at the gold standard in festival comfort: efficiency, appropriateness and an undeniable smidge of sexiness.

With hundreds of variations on the theme, this collective fashion statement can be found everywhere, at every stage, every food booth and in every beer line. Especially every beer line. In the grassy, Gentilly zeitgeist it is perfection, the Jazz Fest equivalent of Audrey Hepburn slinking into a little black dress and pearls.

But this paragon outfit — which is not, it should be said, confined to guys — is not all that Jazz Fest couture has to offer. On Thursday, we wandered the infield searching for those who contributed to the springy, sun-soaked fashion tout ensemble in their own ways. Epicurean eclecticism was the rule.

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Flying the Flag, Erica Dumas

Flying the flag

Erica Dumas, of the Lower 9th Ward, cut a striking figure as she waited patiently for the start of the Playing for Change concert at the Congo Square stage Thursday. Dumas’ bold sunglasses, straw fedora and perforated knit blouse were sparked by her cascading thread earrings in red, black and green.

Her look, Dumas said, was all about being “festive, flowing, breezy” and showing the African colors.

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Nancy Sinatra Approved, Tulane students Elizabeth Morota, Kylie Cragun, and Sydney Miller

Nancy Sinatra-approved

Luke Combs did not receive an especially enthusiastic review from The Times-Picayune’s august music critic after his performance on Thursday. But the appearance of the contemporary country star at the fest may have nonetheless influenced fashion, as there seemed to be a preponderance of young women sporting cowboy boots.

Tulane students Elizabeth Morota, Kylie Cragun and Sydney Miller – who may or may not be Combs fans – coordinated their footwear for the occasion. Asked why they chose white boots, one of the young women said, “because they’re made for walkin.’”

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Groovy Doovy, Bob Seal

Groovy getup

Bravo to Bob Seal, a 23-Jazz Fest veteran from Falls Church, Virginia, who doubled down on his stylish silver goatee by staining it in DayGlo orange and green. He added to the psychedelic effect by donning a top hat meant to resemble a snare drum (complete with sticks) and hologram sunglasses that reflected veiny, Big Daddy Roth-style protruding eyeballs.

“I like to make people smile,” Seal said. “If I can impart a little happiness, life is good.”

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Sherbet Beacon, Christen Mestre

Sherbet beacon

Christen Mestre of Portland, Oregon, planned to stand out in the sea of humanity at the fest by dying her hair an audacious, citrus-yellow, neon hue that harmonized with her fluorescent tank top.

Her startling sartorial style was based on comfort, she said “And I want my friends to be able to find me.”

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Summer Shift, Vaughn Randolph Fauria and her daughter Christian Fauria Robinson

Summer shift

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 nobody rocked breezy summer fashion better than New Orleanian Vaughn Randolph Fauria and her daughter Christian Fauria Robinson, whose flowing taupe-toned dresses were the height of Congo Square elegance.

Fauria said she picked up her dress sometime around Hurricane Katrina and she wears it at least once each Jazz Fest. “The key is cool,” she said, and indeed, the mother-daughter team couldn’t have been cooler.

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Couple Consciousness, Grace Donovan and Chaz Simms

Couple consciousness

New Orleanians Grace Donovan and Chaz Simms had already arrived at a Jazz Fest fashion paradigm with their identical Hawaiian-style shirts. But the couple was quick to point out that their dual ensemble was even more intentional. Their white-ish shoes, black ankle-length socks, and denim shorts also matched … more or less.

It’s a “head-to-toe look” Simms said, laughing, as he and Donovan adopted a deliberately generic couple’s pose.

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Bywater Classic, Mike Licardi

Bywater classic

With the faded denim vest, buttons, dreads and tats, Mike Licardi of the Bywater had optimized the neo-punk aesthetic. The crowning touch was the uncountable silver spikes that Licardi had hand-applied to his ensemble.

“I studded up myself,” he said.

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Utilikilt, Robin and Scott Venturelli


Robin and Scott Venturelli of Santa Monica, California, were in perfect harmony with their fabulous, high-fashion yet functional, westward-leaning outfits. She wore blond-leather, saddle-bag-inspired twin purses. He wore a marvelous Crayola-blue Billy Jack hat and a deep-pocketed khaki kilt.

Scott said that all of the jewelry that accented his outfit had been purchased at the fest during the 34 years the couple has attended. He said that Jazz Fest is a time for fashion liberty and that he would not be “wearing this at home, ever.’

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Getting Together and Feeling Alright, friends Britney Chauntae, Morgan Legaux and Nomalizwe Bydon

Getting together and feeling all right

As Ziggy Marley’s voice boomed in the background, friends Britney Chauntae, Morgan Legaux and Nomalizwe Bydon, demonstrated sunny, casual, Jazz Fest chic out on the sand track.

As Andy Warhol would surely agree, no single fashion accessory is more captivating than a camera.

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That Ineffable New Orleans Look, Nicole Jones of Syracuse New York

That ineffable New Orleans look

With wavy platinum hair adorned with violet flower blossoms, exclamatory round-lensed glasses, and scarlet lipstick, Nicole Jones of Syracuse, New York, projected a certain restless elegance, made all the more magical by her pastel orange paper sun umbrella.

Her hope, she said, was to achieve a “New Orleans” look. Which is exactly what she did, in that we want you to look however you want to look. You are our mirror. That’s how we roll.

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Emoji man, We forgot to ask his name

Emoji man

And then there was this: In New Orleans, the line between fashion and costuming is customarily blurred.

We spotted the emoji man on the first Sunday of the Fest, and ascertained that his fashion goal was to cause people to laugh. Which we did, though we neglected to get his name.

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