Clothing can range from ho hum to the most outre designs you could never imagine in your wildest dreams - and everything in between. In my opinion comfort is at least as important as appearance, but judging by many of the severely uncomfortable looking outfits you see - not everyone agrees with that.
Don't Call Me A Costume
I'm not 100% sure why, but your costume must be called an outfit. I think this is based on the thinking that a costume is for playing dress up, but an outfit is the real you. I don't quite agree with this logic as somehow clothing illuminated with 10,000 LEDs (for example) seems to not fall into the same class as a muumuu, pajamas, or cargo shorts.
Regardless, if you call your costume an outfit no one will give you any shit about it.
What To Wear
The burn is the chance to be or dress however you want, but probably can't in the default world. It is a non judgmental environment and the most bizarre outfit will elicit nothing but positive comments. If your alter ego (or as I like to call it - your playa persona) is a super hero, monster, sexy, slutty, steam punk, post apocalyptic, rock star, story character, robot, the opposite sex, alien, or whatever - dress that way.
Let your inner self shine through, if you can't cut through all the bullshit and trappings of society at the burn then all hope is lost. Push your boundaries a little - you will be more comfortable than you thought possible in no time at all.
What Not To Wear
- Anything Made With Feathers
- Anything That Is Likely To Shed Parts - Including but not limited to glitter, sequins, beads, faux coins, trinkets, threads, rhinestones, etc...
It's a short list and as long as it doesn't cause Moop, pretty much anything goes as far as dress or undress at Burning Man. If in doubt perform the moop test - slam it into something a few dozen times and if nothing comes off it is not likely to leave any moop.
Note: As of 2014 feathers are no longer banned as long as they are not moopy like ostrich feathers or feather boas. I still don't like them because all feathers cause moop and it's a real pain in the ass to pick up feather particles - this sentiment is shared by many veteran burners.
There is one area where some real thought needs to be given - warm clothes. Preferably warm clothes that match your playa persona and look good. Although it is a desert and daytime temperatures commonly go over 100 degrees F. - night time temperatures commonly get well below 40 degrees F. This feels even colder after being so hot all day.
Being from New York 40 degrees is barely sweatshirt weather for me, but if you are from a warm climate it may hit you particularly bad. Hence the strong suggestion to bring some warm clothes. Those on certain meds such as blood thinners may also react poorly to the cold.
- A coat - playa coats are generally custom made of shaggy faux fur or other vibrant fabrics in 3/4 or full length, but if you don't have, can't make one, or can't afford one just bring something warm to wear.
- Long Johns - The simplest solution as these can be worn under your outfit providing warmth without packing special clothes just for night time. Polypropylene is superior to cotton as it will wick the moisture way from your skin if you manage to work up a sweat.
- Hat - Most burners bring several hats and having a warm one at night may increase your comfort level.
- Gloves - Nothing I would bring, but if cold affects you severely a pair of light winter gloves might be a good idea.
- Scarf - I wouldn't normally consider one except possibly as a fashion accessory, but I was gifted a super soft crocheted chenille scarf with pockets at the 2014 burn so it will attend from now on. If you are affected by cold consider bringing one.
Night time weather is really variable. In 2012 we had a really cold night - probably around 30 degrees. But then it got really windy and the wind chill made it feel like it was closer to 0 degrees. In 2013, I never even needed my coat. There is no way to predict so come prepared.
A Few In Every Bunch
Even in the least judgmental place on earth, if you don't feel the need to dress up then the occasional burnier than thou asshole will give you some shit about it. If your playa persona involves more subdued clothing such as cargo shorts, dockers, jeans, etc... so be it. Don't take any crap about it either - ask them where they come off with the nerve to tell you how to burn.
Where To Get Burner Outfits
This is a common, yet rather loaded question - what exactly is a burner outfit? Over the years certain common styles have evolved - such as faux fur coats, boot covers, vests, and so forth. Faux fur (sometimes called monster fur) is fun, looks good, and is warm so has become about as close to "the burn uniform" as it gets. But your taste may differ and anything you feel like wearing is a burner outfit. Although I personally like faux fur, I don't like the idea of wearing "the uniform" so on my clothes any fur is mainly used for highlights and trim.
- Thrift Stores - Many burners like to haunt the thrift shops and re purpose the clothing they find there, or just wear it as is.
- Garage / Yard Sales
- Vintage Stores - Vintage stores may provide some interesting fashions.
- Sewing - Sewing your own or modifying existing clothes is a popular pastime for many burners in the off season. Being 6'2" and 240 pounds it was the only way I could get clothes I liked that fit me. If you have no interest in sewing, the alternative is to pay someone to make stuff for you.
- Etsy.com - Etsy is a venue for crafty people to sell their stuff. Many burners sell their stuff on Etsy so it is a great way to get some really nice and unique clothing if your budget permits. Most burners on Etsy are members of the EtsyBRC group.
- Club Wear Stores - If you live near a big city you may have stores that specialize in club wear to shop in.
Clothing Faux Pas
In a place where pretty much all forms of dress or undress are welcomed and applauded - there is a dark underbelly called Shirt Cocking. Basically a man wearing a tee shirt and no pants. For no overtly apparent reason, this mode of dress is detested by most burners. However there is also a contingent that embraces it, so do as you wish - just be prepared for the hecklers (or possibly getting shot by a pants cannon). The female version is called Daisy Ducking and there is no negativity attached to it.
Valuable or irreplaceable clothing is a very risky proposition on the playa. At least half of all the clothing I have worn at Burning Man has become irreversibly stained or otherwise ruined for use in the default world.