Style isle

Festive fashion do: Breezy sundresses and comfortable footwear. Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen! Need an outfit? Downtown merchants and Bele Chere vendors have you covered.

There's more to dressing for a festival than just slapping on whatever shorts and T-shirt are lying on the floor from the night before. This is your chance to express yourself and let you inner music-loving, hippie-dancing, easy-breezy, bo-ho alter ego come out to play.

Wondering what to wear? Gigi Fasano, owner of Vintage Moon (82 N. Lexington Ave. open during Bele Chere) has "hand-dyed slip dresses that are summery and feminine along with sun hats or parasols." 

Franzi Charen, co-owner of Hip Replacements, has noticed this trend: "High-waisted shorts are a must-have for the women. Vintage scarves are a great inexpensive option to keep your hair back. You can often find beautiful silk or cotton prints that pair perfectly with a flirty sundress or jumper." For the guys, she adds, "We're liking the cutoff shorts and button-up Western shirts." Hip Replacements, open during Bele Chere, will also have a booth near the corner of College Street and Lexington Avenue, featuring a suave selection of sunglasses and hats, locally made leather belts, T-shirts and jewelry.

Bethany Adams, local designer with Rhetorical Factory, will be on hand showcasing her latest goodies, including skirts, blouses, cuffs and bags; Hip Replacements co-owner Kip Veno will be managing the store (72 N. Lexington Ave.). "You can cool off on the couch, listen to his latest selection of surf, garage rock or blues,” Charen says. “He may even put on an impromptu show with his latest band, Pleasure Chest."

Union (18 Haywood St.) has a fashion don't: "Avoid other fabrics such as polyester or silk as they don't breathe as well as cotton," says shop co-owner Tiffany Hernandez. "We recommend lightweight cotton short-sleeve wovens for him and sundresses for her." Union, open during the festival, has men's and women's wear.

Hats are a definite do. Says Hernandez, "We plan on having an assortment of straw fedoras, caps, and other styles of hats for men, women and kids."

Find even more hats and sunglasses at the Costume Shoppe (32 N. Lexington Ave.). "The Shoppe is air-conditioned this summer, so checking out our summer-long sale for vintage or pieces for up-cycled costumes and fashion is a great way to take a break from the Bele Chere heat," says proprietress Susan Sertain. Stop by for paper parasols and steampunk goggles ("UV protected so they make very cool sunglasses"). Also, says Sertain, "I think butterfly wings, animal noses, ears and tails are a must for kids fashion … and how can Bele Chere be the festival it is without glitter? I have spray on glitter and glitter gel."

Bryan Hudson, the mastermind behind Feathers Gallery, suggests “feather earrings and faux-stretch earrings, oggpoi,  camel packs for water, a sarong to wear or use as ground cover and glow stickers on your key items.” The shop (22 Battery Park Ave.) will have “the motherlode of festival gear and feathers” in time for Bele Chere shopping.

And, for toting all your necessities and festival loot, Daniella Miller, who owns Royal Peasantry (80 Lexington Ave.)  carries handy holster bags, utility belts, garter pouches, wrist wallets and other mini-belt pouches.“Trust me, you don’t want to carry stuff when it’s hot,” she advises. “Look tough-girl, simple and smart — a different kind of easy.” Stop by, the shop will be open.

Need more Bele Chere fashion tips? Follow streetstyle looks from the festival throughout the weekend at And check out out most practical, festival fashion-forward dos and don'ts, below.

• Wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat. Skip the ball cap (you'll sunburn your ears) and try a wide-brimmed straw hat, a breezy fedora or a canvas bucket hat (think: Gilligan — after all, you're on Bele Chere Island).
• Wear light colors and loose, airy fabrics. This might be your one legitimate opportunity to rock that India-print sundress. We're not saying dress like you're going to the original Woodstock, but if ever there was a time and a place for paisley and gauze, this is it.
• A backpack, tote bag or cross-body satchel are essential for carrying water, a schedule, water, souvenirs, water and sunscreen. (And pack an umbrella, too. There's almost always one good storm.)
• Make a statement with sunglasses. You're going to want them anyway — Bele Chere tends to be sunny. Often relentlessly sunny. Except for that one good storm.
• Carefully consider your footwear before embarking. Cute but comfy flats are a must. Flip-flops are a favorite, but gladiator sandals look dressy and you don't have to risk twisting an ankle when you go to bust a move at the Railroad Earth show.
• Jorts (jeans shorts) are forever festival-fashionable. Just no short-shorts, people. Save a little something for the honeymoon.
• Support a local business by buying a bag, hat, accessory, sundress or fun T-shirt to commemorate the occasion. Keep a little festival spirit in your wardrobe all year long.

• Go shirtless. Seriously, guys, if you're not happy with your choice of shirt then splurge on a new one. There are plenty of purchasing opps around the festival; keep your cardio lapses and unfortunate tattoo choices a well-guarded secret.
• Break out the leather. Yeah, you're a rock star. But it's pushing 90 degrees. How cool will you look when you collapse from heat stroke halfway through Jessica Lea Mayfield's set?
• Wear your highest heels/pointiest boots/bare feet. The festival spans nearly all of downtown Asheville. You're not going to park anyplace close by, and you're not going to get out of this without a whole lot of walking. Plus, hundreds of thousands of people means all kinds of weirdness being dropped on the street. Even if "free spirit" is your thing, "shoe free" is a bad idea.
• Accessorize with a pet. Yes, Mr. Chips in his doggie bandana completes your ensemble, but pets are not allowed in the festival and Mr. Chips will have to spend the day in doggie jail where all the other dogs will laugh at his neckware.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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2 thoughts on “Style isle

  1. Doug Sahm

    “Jorts (jeans shorts) are forever festival-fashionable.”
    Wow. The writer must be a Florida Gator fan.

  2. Kriss

    “[Don’t] • Wear your highest heels/pointiest boots/bare feet… Plus, hundreds of thousands of people means all kinds of weirdness being dropped on the street. Even if “free spirit” is your thing, “shoe free” is a bad idea.”

    Yes, high heels are hazardous and pointy toed shoes will eventually deform the feet if worn regularly. But why group these obvious dangerous and uncomfortable types of footwear with bare feet? As to “shoe free” being a “bad idea,” you really have no clue as to what you’re talking about. Your allusion to “all kinds of weirdness being dropped on the street” as some kind of reason to not go barefoot is simply based on ignorance. If you can point to some kind of hard evidence, medical or scientific studies, or actual documented cases of ANYONE ever actually being harmed in any way by walking barefoot on the streets of Asheville, or anywhere else for that matter, then I’ll believe you have some backup and basis for this so-called “advice.” Otherwise, it might be best if you stick to writing about topics about which you have actual knowledge or personal experience. And being barefoot is obviously not one of them.

    Beside, telling people what they should or should not wear – regardless of what it might be – at an event like Bele Chere is pretty ridiculous anyway. People go there not only to have fun and be comfortable, but to express themselves through their attire or appearance. You even wrote, “This is your chance to express yourself…” So, let people do it – they don’t need your misplaced and highly biased “Fashion Tips” in order to enjoy themselves at Bele Chere.

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