Festival Style: Trend-Spotting in New Orleans

For the past three years, I’ve celebrated the highpoint of spring with a trip to the Coachella music festival in the desert valley east of Palm Springs, Calif. It’s a great place to indulge my love of live music—and simultaneously get a read on the latest accessory trends. As any style blog will tell you, festivalgoers are a trendy, fashion-obsessed bunch.

This year, however, another music festival in another city lured me away.

The French Quarter Festival in New Orleans isn’t as well known as the Crescent City’s legendary Jazz Fest, but don’t underestimate its charm. The quality of the music and the all-inclusive nature of its performances, which are free and located on stages set up around the quarter, are intoxicating. (Of course, the ubiquitous cocktails don’t hurt!)

The annual French Quarter Festival isn’t as well known as Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, but its music is phenomenal.

While the NOLA scene lacked Coachella’s edgy hipster vibe, the crowd was amply bejeweled. Here are a few of the trends I noted:

  1. Color is the new black.

I made the mistake of wearing all black to the second day of the festival. I might as well have affixed a giant sign to my head that called me out as a recovering New Yorker. The thousands of people shaking their hips to the infectious sound of the city’s finest brass bands had all, apparently, received the memo: Clothing in DayGlo colors is de rigueur.

This little girl and her mom clearly got the DayGlo color memo.

Even the men embraced the kaleidoscopic look, judging by the plethora of tacky-awesome Hawaiian shirts on parade.

Men wore brightly colored shirts as if they were uniforms.

2. All hail the year of the necklace.

As my friends and I walked up Bourbon Street, I was struck by the sight of four women in pretty, preppy dresses, each one accessorized with a bib-style fashion necklace featuring a different color scheme and the same crescent-shaped silhouette. From a distance, they looked like something you could buy at Banana Republic, or your favorite fashion boutique. It’s not easy to replicate the volume of these pieces in fine jewelry, which is why I would encourage fine jewelers to consider stocking a few fashion necklaces that fall in the under-$500 range. (We covered some of the finest contemporary makers of costume jewelry in the June 2012 issue.)

3. The arm party is in full swing.

Yesterday, after another gut-busting New Orleans meal, my friends and I cruised the shops on Royal Street, home to the quarter’s biggest concentration of jewelry and antique stores. We wandered into Vintage 329, an emporium of classic costume jewelry, from Czech glass to vintage Chanel links, and one of my friends made a beeline for the showcase of Bakelite bangles. She emerged from the store with an armful of bracelets in a groovy 1970s color palette of orange, brown, and green, and the conviction that she was fashionably on-trend.

My friend fell for the colorful Bakelite bangles at Vintage 329 on Royal Street.

Meanwhile, I had my eye on a $600 pair of 19th-century paste earrings in a triple-drop blackened sterling silver setting. They sparkled seductively, but after taking inventory of the massive amounts of money I’d spent on food and drink in a city where indulgence is a civic sport, I decided to pass on the paste, and save my money for the real thing in Las Vegas.

I fell for these sparkly paste earrings—but then decided to save my pennies for the real thing.