How to Dress for Burning Man

How to Dress for Burning Man on northtosouth.us

The man burns in 11 days. With a planned arrival in Black Rock City one week from today, we’re finishing up our costumes for this year’s burn. Since costume planning is my favorite part of preparation for Burning Man, I figured I’d share it here to go along with my recent post How to Prepare for Burning Man.

Burning Man 2014 women's costume sunset playa portrait Burning Man 2014 sunset male portraits on the playa on northtosouth.us

1. Know The Don’ts

Anything that has the potential for creating MOOP (matter out of place) is bad news. Stay away from feather boas, sequins, loose glitter, and the like. Essentially anything that you can’t be sure won’t break off into the natural environment. (Read Burning Man’s latest stance on feathers in general on the playa here.)

Also, don’t wear anything branded. That would kind of go against the whole spirit of  Burning Man.

2. Keep the Weather in Mind

Prepare yourself for hot days and cold nights. And while you’re at it, take a few simple precautions for unpredictable weather, too. Lately, there’s been bouts of rain in Black Rock Desert, and if a storm rolls in while BRC exists, you’ll want to be ready. So do yourself a favor and spend a buck on an emergency poncho and pack some shoes that will fair well in mucky playa.

Burning Man 2014 sunset portraits on the playa on northtosouth.us

3. Gather Ideas

Here are a few ways I like to gather ideas for my Burning Man attire:

  • Google image search
  • View the people category in the Burning Man gallery
  • Peruse the sites from Playa Wear resources on the Burning Man website
  • Visit thrift stores or garage sales and see what outfits you can create with what you find
  • Dig through old clothes and search for DIYs incorporating your finds
Simple bra top for Burning Man on northtosouth.us

I made this top by sewing some sheer fabric to an old bra. Cheap and simple!

Costume trends seen on the playa each year (all apply to both men and women):

  • fur coats
  • steam punk
  • tasteful nudity
  • fur boots
  • goggles
  • EL wire
  • stilts
  • body paint
  • body makeup
  • wigs
  • fur vests
  • tasteless nudity
  • bandanas
  • Flashy, blinky light-up things
  • headdresses
  • decorative bra tops
  • long flowy skirts
  • tutus
  • kilts
  • fur accessories
  • spandex
  • dreadlocks
  • mohawks
  • black-tie
  • full body spandex suits
  • shirtcocking
  • full body character costumes
  • capes
  • corsets
  • top hats
  • wings
  • masks
  • headbands
  • vests
  • scarves
  • pasties
  • chaps
  • bare skin

4. Pack the Essentials

A week in the desert is a long time, and you’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable. No matter your costume choices, don’t forget these essentials.

Burning Man 2014 sunset portraits on the playa on northtosouth.us

Learn how to sew this skirt in my maxi skirt sewing tutorial on Stylish Travel Girl

Dust Protection – If you’re generally an allergy ridden person, sensitive to dust, or if you wear contacts, invest in covering your face. A pair of well-sealing goggles and a dust mask will do wonders for getting you through dust storms unscathed. To prepare this year, I ordered disposable contacts, invested in a pair of motocross goggles, and I also opted for a washable cloth mask, though the less expensive disposable masks work just as well. For both mask and goggles: Find one that will fit well and conforms to your face.

Oakley goggles modified for Burning Man on northtosouth.us

Our modified motocross goggles

Sun Protection – Slather on the sunscreen. I like fresh smelling, non-slimy sunscreen, and I like to have one specifically for my face, too (one that won’t run into my eyes when I sweat). Neutrogena always seems to have the best good smelling, grease free options. And I’m liking the facial lotion I recently found at Trader Joe’s, so I think I’ll bring that along. Though it’s only SPF 15, I’ll have either a hat or my new parasol with me during the sunniest times of day.

Burning Man 2014 sunset portraits on the playa on northtosouth.us

Me with my parasol at Burning Man 2014

5. Wear Whatever You Want

Ultimately, what you wear at Burning Man should be all about self expression. To put it simply: wear what you want.

It’s a week-long break from the default world. Rather than judging, people will applaud any “out-of-the-ordinary” attire you choose. On a similar note, if you don’t want to wear an attention-grabbing, elaborate, this-took-me-six-months-to-make type of costume, you certainly do NOT have to. Plenty of people at Burning Man keep it simple. I’m keeping my BM attire simple, functional and comfortable this year (see photos below). Don’t feel pressured to spend a bunch of time, energy or money on what you wear. But if it suits you, go for it!

A couple of daytime outfits I planned for the burn:

Women's Burning Man outfit on northtosouth.us  Women's Burning Man outfit on northtosouth.us

Burning Man 2014: Portraits of a Camp on northtosouth.us

Sunset couples portrait at Burning Man 2014

Burning Man 2014: Portraits of a Camp

View photos of us and our campmates in costume at our 2014 burn here!

Burning Man 2014: Portraits of a Camp on northtosouth.us

Did I miss anything?

If you’ve got any great idea gathering tools to share, or if I missed any frequently seen costume items in my list above, post a comment below.

I hope you enjoyed this post.For more Burning Man inspiration here on North to South, check out How to Prepare for Burning Man.

About the Author

Diana Southern
In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.

4 Responses

  1. thindyrocks August 22, 2014 / 1:23 pm

    Is this said skirt you made? If so, it looks awesome dude!

    • Diana Southern August 22, 2014 / 1:45 pm

      It is, indeed. Thanks! I’m really happy with how it turned out.

  2. Amanda August 19, 2015 / 4:22 pm

    I really love that belt, but I found the same one on amazon and the reviews were not good! Is yours good quality? I’d love to buy one like it.

    • Diana Southern August 20, 2015 / 8:53 pm

      I got mine from an army surplus store, so it was made out of durable material AND it was affordable. It made it through one Burning Man and is still in great condition for the next one.

      I’d recommend seeing if you’ve got one near you, since that way you can see it before you’re buying it.

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