Lit-fest fashion is a thing - and these photos from Jaipur Literature Festival prove it

kaushik ramaswamy

Lit-fest fashion is a thing - and these photos from Jaipur Literature Festival prove it

Catch Team @catchnews

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that festival dressing is a thing. And no, we don't mean Diwali.

Festivals, as in of the music or theatre or literary kind, have their own style vibe. So defined is the look, there's even fashion lines specific to a particular festival - think H&M for Coachella, the California desert festival that has, ironically, institutionalised Bohemian style.

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But while we've seen the rise of music festival dressing in India, too, over the past few years, even more defined has been the literary festival dressing scene.

You can't throw a rock without hitting an author or a lit-fest organizer today but where the genre really comes into its own is the big-daddy of them all, Jaipur Literature Festival.

Author and historian Simon Schama has called it 'the most fabulous literary love-fest on the planet'.

It sure is. Think almost 200,000 visitors of every age, the most celebrated literary names on the planet, live music performances, achingly beautiful havelis, glamorous dinners, and every intellectual worth their salt-and-pepper hair within a 200-mile radius.

What you wear, naturally, becomes something to think about. Not too visibly, mind you, since that goes against the principal of any festival dressing. But go often enough and an unofficial uniform starts to emerge that separates insiders from first-timers.

Here's what it looks like, from this year's just concluded JLF:

Badass hair

If you've got it, flaunt it - the more dramatic the better. Whether it's your cut, colour or style; whether you're a natural redhead or an unnatural two-tone, this is the most personal kind of statement because it's all you - and even in a crowd of a few hundred thousand, you'll still stand out. Just ask these three ladies.

JLF fashion photo story. Kaushik Ramaswamy. HAIR

Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy

Statement sunglasses

They're one part necessity, three parts style statement. The winter sun at Diggi Palace on a cold January afternoon may provide welcome warmth, but you've got to distance yourself from the milling masses by shielding yourself from prying gazes. Naturally, the funkier the better.

JLF fashion photo story. Kaushik Ramaswamy. Sunglasses

Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy

Man bags

The list fest circuit is gender neutral, and so is its fashion. Which means manbags are most definitely a thing: it's what gives you an indispensable nerd-meets-normcore vibe, and next to a published book, it's the best literary accessory you can ask for.

JLF fashion photo story. Kaushik Ramaswamy. Manbags

Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy

Local colour

When in Rajasthan. go pink or go home. For every woman dressed in winter black is one sporting Rajasthan's trademark prints, colours and boho-chic silhouette. Even those who don't go all out often throw in local details: a bandhini or block print scarf, a multi-coloured embroidered backpack, a Rajasthani leather belt - to give their outfit location-appropriate vibe. Think of it as the lit-fest equivalent of designer protocol: insiders wear Chanel to a Chanel show, after all.

JLF fashion photo story. Kaushik Ramaswamy. Ranjasthani wear

Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy


The next best thing to statement hair? The far-easier-to-pull off statement headgear. It's as distinctive but easier to undo - just sweep the hat off your head when done - and gives you a certain je ne sais quoi, an impression of careless style that's as cultivated as a hair-colour job, but with more of an air of spontaneity.

JLF fashion photo story. Kaushik Ramaswamy. Hats

Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy

Oversized bags

You don't go to a literary festival with a tiny crossbody or a structured satchel - the 'it' bag of the lit circuit is the tote, and let no-one tell you differently. A lit-fest bag has to look cavernous, because naturally, you're going to stash books that you just couldn't help yourself from buying at the on-site bookstore despite the fact that your library is bursting at the seams. And you're naturally carrying a notebook to make notes during sessions, and bottled water, and a powerbank for your phone because god knows you'd have to kill yourself if your phone died just when you slid into the same frame as Marlon James.

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And while it's ideal to carry a luxe label, don't make it a Birkin - that's for fashion week. Instead, do as the lady below who brought the stunning-but-subtle Valentino Rockstud Double Reversible Tote to the party. That's US $3,500 of understated.

JLF fashion photo story. Kaushik Ramaswamy. Oversized bags

Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy

Colour courage

While most men on the lit-fest circuit rely on tiny touches - a carelessly wrapped scarf, a vivid manbag, statement shoes - to give their outfit some personal style, others go big. If you have the chutzpah to carry it off, wear it bright. We may be undecided about the red-socks-and-suspenders combo - it's 2016, sir - but you've got to give the gentleman props for trying.

men trying

Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy

And finally, a sympathetic nod to those that try - and fail

Fitting in is no fun. But sometimes standing out isn't, either.

JLF fashion photo story. Kaushik Ramaswamy. in need of a stylist

Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy

Photographs: Kaushik Ramaswamy

Text: Payal Puri

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Catch Team

Catch Team @catchnews