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Vanessa Hudgens, Alix Earle, And The Evolution Of Coachella Style

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

If Met Gala is fashion’s biggest night, Coachella is its younger, wilder sister. I’ve personally never been to Coachella (and am currently nursing major FOMO after seeing clips of Lana Del Rey’s set). With that said, I still love (and sometimes hate) seeing all of the festival looks from A-listers to those all the way down the alphabet.

As I was scrolling through my feed this year, I couldn’t help but wonder (you’ll realize that I slip one of these into every article if you read my SATC story from last week) one thing: what would Vanessa Hudgens have to say about all of this? If you weren’t already aware, Vanessa Hudgens was the unofficial queen of Coachella for the entirety of the 2010s. Miss Gabriella Montez reigned over the California desert with her flower crown and statement jewelry– but she took to social media to announce her absence from the festival this year.

With Vanessa Hudgens abdicating her throne and this year’s festival coming to a close, I found myself noticing just how much the fashion at Coachella has changed over the years. Grab your best Coachella sunnies; we’re breaking down some of the most iconic looks and tracking the evolution of Coachella Style.

Early 2010s: Vanessa Hudgens

For the earlier part of the 2010s, Coachella style was pretty laidback. This look from Vanessa Hudgens was the norm for many festival-goers in this era, with many just throwing on a pair of denim cutoffs, sandals, and a crochet-knit top of some sort.

The “casual Coachella” vibe of the early 2010s has been a hot topic recently, with many people reminiscing on what the festival was like before it became an influencer-centric event. However, I think a lot of Coachella-goers still embody this “just here for the music” vibe. Because they’re not posting on social media, we just don’t realize it… so casual Coachella is still alive and well.

Mid-2010s: Kendall and Kylie Jenner

Halfway through the 2010s, Instagram started to gain more traction (think the King Kylie era). At the same time, Coachella started to gain a reputation as an influencer hotspot. As influencing became a serious money-making venture, everyone wanted to cash in on the opportunity to rack in some likes while jamming in the desert.

As seen in Kylie and Kendall’s outfits from 2015, Coachella looks started to reflect this rise in influencer culture and felt more photo-ready. Matching sets and chunky jewelry gave the festival fashion a fresh feel from just a few years before. The mid-2010s was an interesting midpoint: some looks feel like they were bought specifically for the occasion, while others still give that “rummaged through my closet” feel of the early 2010s.

Late 2010s: Emma Chamberlain

Move over, Insta Baddies. There’s a new influencing HBIC in the late 2010s: the VSCO girl. While influencers like Emma Chamberlain presented themselves as more “candid,” I would argue that this performance of effortless was anything but casual.

Take this look from Emma Chamberlain in 2019: those graphic pants and hair clips scream micro-trend. As online fast fashion brands like Shein exploded in popularity, festival-goers began buying clothes specifically for Coachella. Because of this “wear-it-once” mindset, a lot of the style from this era can feel a bit dated.

Early 2020s: Alix Earle

The Coachella of today feels like a blend of the past with a hint of the future. Because many are nostalgic for the casual Coachella of the early 2010s while others are steadfast in their festival-specific looks, 2020s Coachella style can feel somewhat eclectic.

I personally feel that this look from Alix Earle encapsulates this hybrid style: the campy graphic tee and funky sunnies feel very on-trend, whereas the leather jacket and denim shorts are classic staple pieces. But who knows… maybe I’ll look back at this outfit in five years and feel like it’s anything but timeless.

Even if you feel like Coachella should stray away from being a fashion show and stick to just being a music festival, there’s no denying its role as a style time capsule. Just like we associate happy times with our favorite songs, the clothes we wear hold memories. Trends come and trends go, but the experiences we have while rocking our festival fits will stick with us forever.

Mallory is a second year English major from Los Angeles, California. She loves thrifting, traveling, and listening to Taylor Swift.