Updated 7/29 with new fashion!

Burners have a reputation for being environmentally conscious. It’s the whole “Leave No Trace” ethos of the desert festival, in which you have to pack out all your own trash. MOOP, an acronym for Matter Out of Place (a.k.a. anything that was not in the desert) is strongly discouraged. That includes everything from beer cans and cigarette butts to grey water, and even biological material like feathers or food. In short, if it’s not playa dust, it is MOOP.

For the most part, Burners are pretty good about this. Smokers carry tins around with them for their butts, and everyone carries a little bag for putting beer cans and other waste in. But there are certain burner outfits that MOOP all over the place: cheap belly dancing chains, feathers, glitter, and fake eyelashes come to mind. Plus, then there’s the trace that’s left everywhere off the playa in as Burners shop and prepare, like dyes and toxins dumped into Asian rivers, plastic packaging, and worker exploitation. We should be thinking about how we affect not just the Playa, but the rest of the world, too.

Here are things to look for, in order of importance when it comes to Leave No Trace fashion:

  • Secondhand
  • Well made and not MOOP-y
  • Handmade in the U.S. or other countries with strong environmental regulations
  • Made by fairly paid artisans (instead of appropriative of other cultures. I’m looking at you, warrior bonnets and “tribal” print items by Urban Outfitters.)
  • Made in a way that reduces or eliminates waste byproduct
  • Made of natural and organic materials
  • Made of or with non-toxic processes or dying
  • Made of upcycled or vintage materials

And if the idea of bringing more stuff into your home that you will never wear again annoys you? Then rent! StyleLend rents out Burning Man outfits from its NYC members. Or get creative with costume rental places. Onesies are something that people wear at night (the standard for high fashion plummets when the sun goes down – it’s all about being warm, comfortable, and having fun) so rent a fluffy animal costume. This butterfly costume also looks so fun (just wear a bikini under it so you can strip down if you’re out until the sun comes up and it starts getting warm). Gogo boots are also a thing – how about these star platform ones? Rent a wig to wear over your hair so it doesn’t get wrecked. You can also deconstruct costumes for their helpful elements: fairy wings and a headpiecea tutu for Tutu Tuesday; pair a jacket and boots with a your bikini; a white tunic, pants, and robe; or a cape and hip pack.

There’s also a lot of amazing stuff on eBay if you search for “burning man,” and tick the “clothing, shoes, and accessories” and “pre-owned” boxes: embellished captains hats, sparkly jumpsuits, moroccan belts…Once you get inspired, you can search for similar items outside of what’s just labeled for Burning Man and come up with some more cool items.

This is a list of things that inspired me. Burning Man is inclusive of all styles, and I don’t think any one list could ever properly represent the breadth designers and makers out there being sustainable, ethical, and creative. It’s just a starting point and proof you can make several entire outfits from low-impact items.

But what proof it is. I hope you find something you love in here that you can wear to many Burning Mans and beyond!

Necessities

Even if you go naked at Burning Man, you’ll still need these things to survive:

A hands-free bag or vessel. With a theme of radical self reliance, you’ll need to be ultra prepared for spending eight hours in deep playa without access to any place to buy necessities. Nope, there’s no CVS in the desert. Think of what you would bring to a normal festival, and make it more intense: hand lotion, sunscreen, chapstick, ear plugs, etc.

Closed-toe boots. The playa dust is so alkaline it’s like tromping around in baking soda all day – it will really mess up your feet. Look for motorcycle boots with a flat heel so you can dance for 8 hours straight. And if they’re broken in, even better.

These ethical Fortress of Inca boots have served me well through two Burning Mans. They’re massively comfortable!

I actually love the beat up look of these secondhand boots. They’ll give you credibility on the playa.

Cotton or wool socks. If you’re wearing closed-toe boots, you’ll need something that creates a healthy environment for your foot. Merino wool is the best, cotton is good too. Stay away from synthetics!

Goggles. For dust storms. I put the ones I have from a French heritage company, but there are so many amazing vintage ones available on Etsy, you should honestly pick one of those! If you already own skiing goggles, those can definitely work, too.

A bandanna or something to cover your mouth. Also for dust storms. You can buy this new, especially if you want a performance cowl, but if you’re not picky about the style, this is the kind of thing you can easily find in the kind of secondhand shop that sells band t-shirts.

Sunglasses. It’s bright out there! It might be tempting to get cheap sunglasses, but you’ll really want to protect your eyes with real sunglasses.

An insulated water bottle and a sling if it doesn’t have a clip. It’s the desert. You will not drink enough water.

These come in natural and neutral colors, too. I have a crochet sling and love it.

Or if you want to be cute, this sling comes with the glass bottle.

The Bare Minimum

Because it’s federal land with no local jurisdictions, you’re totally allowed to walk around in the nude. It’s makes bike riding uncomfortable, though. Here are some very basic items that cover up just enough during the day.

Layer Up

For when you need protection from the sun during the day, and the cold at night. I put some interesting coats in here, but it’s perfectly acceptable – nay, preferred – to go to a thrift shop and get something fluffy and cheap.​

Made from recycled military parachute fabric.

Accessorize

The final touches that will make you stand out! For burning man, leave all your delicate, minimal, subtle jewelry at home. Go big and bold.

Titiania Inglis paired up with a local ceramic designer for this gorgeous arm piece.

Titiania Inglis paired up with a local ceramic designer for this gorgeous arm piece.