When we talk about summer festival fashion, we generally talk about a lithe Brandy Melville model whose barely-pubescent hips sway to the beat of The National, an inch of tasteful under-butt peaking out through her high-waisted jeans, her flower crown squeezing out every last brain cell. Maybe she is even flat-chested enough to afford to go bra-less—after all, she likely won't be doing any head banging or moshing.
At this weekend's Heavy Montreal metal festival, I survived the Alexisonfire mosh pit thanks to three bras layered over one another like a jockstrap for my chest, and my hair fastened in a Jew bun to prevent grabby men from pulling out chunks of it. (Though that didn't stop them from grabbing other things. Nothing adds to an outfit quite like a sultry bold red lip mouthing the words "touch me again and die a slow painful death.")
That day was an all-black-errthang type of day, not because it necessarily matched the color of my soul, but because this way, my armpit sweat stains wouldn't advertise to the world I am a hot mess. My canvas black Vans didn't do much in the way of bruise prevention, but my newly painted toenails made it out unscathed—which, when you're trying to maintain some semblance of femininity in the vicinity of a wall of death, is of utmost importance. I'll fuck you up if you step on my pedicure. Female metal heads can be femme too, you know.
I spoke to 11 other festival-goers who've made the proverbial mosh pit their catwalk.
1. Emily Strigl
Maplewood, New Jersey
It's hard enough for the average human to look perfect on an average day, but to look perfect at a freaking metal festival? There had to be witchcraft involved. Not only was she rocking six-inch heels while walking around on the stone-and beer can-laden grounds, but her charm was
"I'm definitely a metalhead, and I admire the hippy look, but it's just not my thing," she said. "When I get dressed, I try to be cool (not like, cool cool), because it's always so hot at these festivals. I'm a huge fan of gussets, black on black, and the more I look like Gene Simmons, the better. I'm getting a little old for the mosh pit, so these here are my festival boots. If I'm going to a regular concert, I wear stilettos, but my husband told me I have to be comfortable today. I grew up in the 70s listening to 80s metal, so I don't feel old here."
2. Catharine Sheppard
St. John's, Newfoundland
Ever look at someone and feel this instant wave of calm and relief? That's what I felt about this bite-sized beauty transfixed by Glassjaw on stage.
"I love to be comfortable. Here, I went for the fake thigh highs (they're actually tights) so I don't have to think about them falling down," she said. "I made this dress especially for the festival since I found one online for $140 but used only $30 worth of material. I love that the back is open and shows off my tattoo. My hair has been green for two months but I re-dyed it for this. And the Mary Janes? Sure, they're comfortable, but they are just so cute."
3. Amélie Ménard
Had an army of men not been beating the living shit out of each other a mere foot-and-a-half in front of us, her outfit would have suggested we were at Coachella. What separated her from the standard festival basic bitch aesthetic, however, was the insane detail, like chandelier earrings hanging from gauges and elaborate tattoos, which she says are inspired by the European teknival scene.
"Everything needs to be as light as possible. I got this crocheted dress from Camden Market in London, and while I need to keep it simple, I love lots of jewelry. I love layering and mixing textures like lace and leather, which can be an issue because it's so hot out," she said. "My look is definitely Tank-Girl-meets-Carrie-Bradshaw, metal-meets-high-fashion, where you'll see lots of one-of-a-kind designer pieces and skulls."
4. Imane Imane
She was out of an haute couture ad creatively directed by a guy with an addiction to breakdowns (the metal kind, not downward spirals). I almost wanted to ask what someone so put together was doing at a shitshow like this. But alas, her bad-bitch aura explained it all.
"I dress however the fuck I want, like this guy (points at a man in a full-body Spiderman costume). I have to make sure my bra cup is tight enough. I love leather—it's just so hot," she said. "The blazer is the sweet part of the outfit, because I find the sweat is part of the look. I mix black and white because if you get lost in the crowd, your friends can find you better, and it looks far better than wearing a bright orange cone."
5. Stéphanie Huot
There's something incredibly nostalgic about the emo look circa 2004. The ability to reinvent that in a mature, effortless way is applause- (or head-bang-) worthy.
"I don't want to dress like everyone else with the fluff and frills at Osheaga," she said. "I've been coming here for five years, and since I don't mosh anymore, I'm wearing a loose bralette [a thin bra without underwire]. These UNIF boots are my all-day-everyday boots. I usually wear them with a long skirt, but at Heavy, I don't mind being almost naked."
6. Christa Carr
I was enchanted by her blue lip liner, which totally worked within the context of her quirky look. Bonus: it was a big fuck you to Kylie Jenner's tired nude lip. Not to mention, her eyebrows were dyed, too. Talk about attention to detail.
"I get to wear what I want to wear and express myself here, even with the blue lip liner. I wear this vest because it's fashion-meets-function and I put all my stuff in there without having to carry it around," she said. "I was worried I'd be too cold today so I figured these socks would cover half my leg. As for the glasses, I'm like the emoji with hearts for eyes. I got my hair and eyebrows redone for this, and these boots are so I don't get stepped on in the pit."
7. Jordan Isobel
I first saw her lingering by the hot tub, and sure enough, her minimal outfit reflected an effort to act as a source of eye candy for band members she hopes to chat up. Side note: if you have beef with a scantily clad woman, you're just jealous her body is better than yours.
"Everything's more fun in the 80s. I'm really into old-school speed metal, which is more hoochie with the big hair and pink nails, but it makes me feel empowered," she said. "Honestly, if a tit falls out, that's okay. If I reach for something, there will be tasteful underboob. These cowboy boots give me a little heel without looking stupid, and the high shorts show off my waist and tuck in my tummy when I sit. I'm big on femininity and most comfortable in this type of flashy outfit."
8. Kristen Nugent
In a sea of 50 shades of black, a white dress is a breath of fresh air. This chick must be a badass for risking not only a stain, but a Marilyn moment.
"The white dress does make me stand out, not that I need to, having bright red hair and standing at six feet tall," she said. "I do like that I'm going for a more feminine look. The red lips are consistent day to day, but for work as a lawyer I need to cover up my tattoos. Yesterday, I rocked a similar look with a spiked leather jacket and dress. This outfit works for me now since I've had my share of moshing days as a former pit kid."
9. Andreja Schrump
Kimberley, British Columbia
I saw her dashing through the crowd like a character in a video game. Sure enough, her berry-printed skirt evoked psychedelic images of Strawberry Fields Forever.
"My wardrobe is based around rockabilly-pinup stuff, and completely the opposite of how people usually dress. They're shocked when they see me. The breeze is definitely helpful, though," she said while curtsying. "The bright pattern and color is important to me. I literally walked into Hot Topic and picked up these neon tights on sale and I chose the fake purple eyelashes because they're just the coolest."
10. Liz Imperiale
It's tough to maintain an air of timeless beauty when the sun is turning us all into a Puddle of Mudd (haha, remember them?). Alas, her pure-as-snow skin was a matte canvas—the perfect backdrop for fun pops of red and a crimson kisser-of-death.
"I don't even know how put foundation on. All I wear is eyeliner and lipstick—if that," she said, adding that she hadn't applied any sunscreen that day (which has the tendency to contribute to a greasy complexion). "My bosses at work are pretty cool, and they let me show off my tattoos, so the way I dress for Heavy isn't much different than my day-to-day. I'm most comfortable wearing jeans, boots, and a T to shows, but I still channel the classic pinup Bettie Page look with my hair and glasses."
11. Vickey Smookie
As I held my recorder up to her dainty features with Pig Destroyer blaring in the background, a shirtless sweaty man exclaimed, "You two are the hottest things I have ever seen in my life." Certainly, though, he was referring to the fact that a human manifestation of his warrior princess fantasies had materialized before his eyes. The velvet and sequin-studded bow in her hair precluded her from being full-blown intimidating, so I had to know her deal.
"Have you heard of the Harajuku Girls? Because they are my inspiration," she said, balancing on heels taller than her. "I perform with a group called The Royals so I wear these types of outfits all the time. I love leather, fishnets, everything sexy. No matter where I am, I'm dressing up."
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