Pretty in PLUR: An Electric History of Rave Clothing

| November 19, 2019

Rave outfits have evolved as much as the music itself over the years. From the original underground parties of the early ‘90s to becoming a global phenomenon, part of the EDM scene has always been about expressing yourself vibrantly. It wasn’t always daisies and light up tees, but there’s really no separating a lively personal style from electronic music. So, in honor of the raver before us, here’s a breakdown of how they dressed to impress.

Late ‘80s/Early ‘90s:

It’s the final years of the ‘80s and electronic dance music has made its way from the sunny shores of Ibiza to grimy undergrounds worldwide. Fittingly, the general rave wear began to shift from designer dresses to something a bit more industrial: boiler suits, overalls, and phat pants. Over-sized and functional with a hippie twist was the style; something you could rock in a sweaty warehouse without losing your keys and chapstick. The fit of the clothing may have been much different from today’s style, but a few bright accents like whistles and beads were just as important in spicing up a fit. A quintessential piece of clothing from these days was the yellow smiley-face tee, which became an iconic symbol for this generation of electronic music lovers.

The Music: Acid house was the soundtrack behind this trend. This was the predominant electronic genre at raves, but it even began to seep into popular culture and influence mainstream records. Eventually acid house fashion began popping up on the runway and even influenced street style. Established underground brands like Stussy and Freshjive also traded influences with the scene and became unofficial rave wear companies.

Essential Rave Outfit: A smiley face tee-shirt was essential, along with oversized pants (with a lot of pockets), whistle on a necklace, colorful bucket hat, and sneakers.

Mid/Late ‘90s:

As the internet-age approached rave wear began to reflect that with a big push in the cyber direction. The style became more vibrant and fun loving with Mickey Mouse and Elmo plushes being an essential late night accessory. Think the Spice Girls or Guy Fieri plugged into a dial-up modem; it was an exaggerated version of ‘90s culture. The outfits started to become more vibrant, but were also influenced by mainstream brands like Adidas as the millennium approached. Visors, spiked-colored hair, and general sports wear became the norm. This was the blending age between vibrancy and loose fitting functional. This era in rave fashion was about channeling child hood and embracing the growing scene as more eyes and ears began to take note of this homegrown style.

It’s important to note that in the UK they were experiencing their own major fashion shift during this time. In 1994, underground raves and parties were made illegal and nightlife was forced back into clubs with dress codes. As a result, cocktail dresses came back as the wild style of the warehouse days was getting pushed out.

The Music: Although still relatively early in its forms, electronic music was starting to take on a more anthem oriented style and the ears of major outlets perked up. Names like The Crystal Method, Fatboy Slim, and The Prodigy began to up the bar as to what heights these tunes could reach. Raves were getting bigger, the music was becoming more aggressive and more diverse, and everything related to that - including rave fashion - followed suit.

Essential Rave Outfit: Hair spiked with colored gel, visor, glow stick, Mickey Mouse keychain plushes, furry backpack, shell toe Adidas. Unless, of course, you were across the pond; then it was back to short dresses and after office attire.

Millennium Years:

The more casual style of year of rave-outfits began to fade away as massive came into the commercial scene .With more commercial festivals popping through the party circuit in big cities in Southern California, the appeals geared towards that end as well. With huge amounts of festival goers within these big festivals, fashion was definitely friends appeals upon eachother in the scene.

This was the era of Kandi kids who wore custom facemasks  armbands, bracelets; overall anything they can wear their bright beads on. This was also the time for self-expression through short messages and symbols that electronics music fans can send around to eachother.  This trend still continues today as the clearest fashion statement in the circuit . LED wear and gloves activity also continue to be used today.

The Music: During the 2010 - 2014 time big room and electro were the most commonly known genres within the electronic dance music scene. Acts like Benny Bennasi’s “Satisfaction”  and  "Animals" by Martin Garrix were songs most electronic fans were familiar with. Toward the end of this era we, French electro, blog house, and dubstep all explode onto a global scale in a short amount of time.  Flux Pavilion’s “I Can’t Stop” and Skrillex's Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" took the electronic scene by storm! 

Essential Rave Outfit: Lots of Kandi, Splatter Alien Bandana, Light Up Fur Hood, Furry Party Animal Goggles




Nowadays, rave outfits have become a big part of the festival experience. Today fashion and rave wear varies with different fan based of sub-genre and or particular festival branding to some attendes. Wearing what make you feel you can express yourself is always a great idea to make those few items as unqiue as you can. Whether you're a dubstep warrior with the dark tones or a fairy queen with your fluffier or LED top, there is always something for everyone to feel their best at a festival!  There’s no better way to do that than with clothing that’s reflects you!

The Music: In an age with so many new acts and genres, multi-stage festivals around the world, and endless outlets of music discovery online, we are in a golden age of options when it comes to choosing what we listen to and wear. From trap to dubstep to riddim to tech house. Electronic music has returned to the start of its cycle and home base- house music. Now with trap acts bringing huge productions, is it safe to say trap era will be here soon?

Essential Rave Outfit: Extraterrestrial Light Up Hoodie, Colorful Onesie, Man Trip Joggers, Divinity Mask. Embroidered Top and High Waist Shorts Combo


Are you a trance fan headed to Dreamstate SoCal this year? Check out the special surprise they have in store for fans this year HERE!


Check out iEDM's best TRACKS and REMIXES of spooky season!

Holiday shopping for your special raver? Check out our exclusive iEDM gift guide you can find HERE!


about the writer

Ashley Lopez

Ashley Lopez

Read More...Ashley Lopez is a SoCal based writer who is proactive in the music industry. While she is a festival goer herself, she's also been a taste-maker for artist owned labels for Diplo and Steve Aoki. During her college career, Ash constructed a course at UC Riverside for electronic dance music culture, history, and industry studies that gained significant coverage on social media.

You may catch her behind the decks as she's also a music producer in the making crafting her sound at Icon Collective. Outside of the EDM life, Ash has other specialties that keep her going. You may run into her skating on the beach, kickboxing at the gym, or reading books on how to improve your life. Some of her favorite acts in dance music are Seven Lions, Kompany, i_o, Wax Motif, and Drezo.

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