What To Wear To SXSW

South by Southwest Conference and Festival is just around the corner, and in addition to packing stuff and updating your business cards and creating the perfect schedule of panels to attend and booking hotels and finding ways to do SXSW for free, you’re probably always wondering…what does one wear to this festival? After all, it’s in weird Austin Texas, the sunny capital of the Lonestar state. It’s also the biggest music festival in the country. Soooo…boots? Glitter and feathers? Business casual? Let's get straight to it. Here’s what to wear to SXSW.

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What To Wear To SXSW

A few general rules: 

DON’T wear uncomfortable shoes to SXSW. No heels, stilettos, high-heeled boots (unless they’re reeeaally comfortable ones), shoes that pinch your feet, flats with no support, etc. Just don’t do it. You’ll immediately regret wearing those heels. SXSW involves a lot of standing (in lines, at concerts, while talking to people), and even if those heels are super cute, just don’t wear them. 

Instead, go for the world’s most comfortable and supportive shoes that you can find (that don’t make you look like a dweeb…unless you’re going to the tech portion of SXSW, and then #geekout.)

But seriously: wear comfortable shoes to SXSW. If you can find a fashionable pair of street shoes or sneakers that offer good foot support, go for those.

DO wear layers. Whether you’re going for a funky music/festival look, a professional business casual/networking look, or something in between, you’ll want to have layers. 

March weather in Austin can actually get pretty warm in the afternoon. But there’s always a chance it will get cold by night. The weather in Texas is crazy. 

If you’re planning on attending any outdoor shows, bring a light jacket for the PM hours. And even if you’re going to be inside all day, it doesn’t hurt to throw in a graphic sweatshirt or jacket in case the convention center air conditioner is running a bit cold. 

Dressing for SXSW Music Festival

Truth be told, this is the main portion of the conference and festival that has people wondering what to wear to SXSW. After all, if you’re just attending some discussion panels and conferences, odds are, you’re just going to wear whatever you typically wear on a day-to-day basis. 

But if you’re coming to Austin for SXSW music festival, it might be fun to dress the part a bit! Here are a few ideas of what people wear to SXSW music festival: 

  • Denim + top + sneakers + layer piece. Simple, practical, and what 90% of the people out there are wearing. Jeans can be any style you prefer (duh), and you can show off some personality with an interesting graphic tee or a strappy top of a warmer top if the weather is cold. Sneakers are a solid option for shoes (because comfortable..), and a layering piece can be anything from a sweatshirt to a moto jacket to a cardigan. You do you. 
  • Interesting jewelry/accessories. Since you’ll want to make sure you’re pretty comfortable in the clothing department, a fun way to add some personality to your outfit is with bold jewelry or accessory choice. Think unique sunglasses, a pair of earrings that catch the eye, a new hat (<- also practical if you’re outside all day), or a fun bag. 
  • Don’t go too formal. SXSW is in the heart of Austin Texas, so it is SUPER CASUAL. No need to dress up. People in Austin don’t dress up in the same way that Dallas residents do (there are very few restaurants here that have a sport coat requirement), so you don’t need to feel pressured to wear anything other than denim + tees. Unless you want to dress up! 
  • Bright colors always look good in pictures. Since you’ll probably be shooting plenty of content to share on social media, keep in mind that bright colors look great in pics. If you’re posing on SOCO in front of a famous mural or snapping a selfie at a concert, the bright pink dress you were thinking about might just be a perfect choice. 

Dressing for SXSW Interactive Track

When the tech portion of SXSW begins, local residents can always tell because there will be a bunch of people who look like they belong in tech wandering around the city with big badges hanging from their necks. It’s adorable. 

If you’re here in Austin for the interactive portion…you do you. Dress in your khakis and button-up and tube socks or flannel shirts or whatever it is that floats your boat. 

And similar to the rules for what to wear to SXSW in general: there are no rules! Austin is very casual and welcoming and any wardrobe choice is fine. 

Dressing for SXSW Film and TV

If you’re coming to Austin for the SXSW film and tv track, something to keep in mind is that the majority of your experience will be indoors, unlike folks who are trying to go to the SXSW music festival for free

Meaning: you don’t have to pay quite as much attention to things like layering pieces, comfy shoes, etc. 

And there you have it! Pretty simple, if you’re wondering what to wear to SXSW, just wear whatever you want (Austin is super casual) and keep in mind that 1) your feet will thank you if you have comfortable shoes on, 2) your photos will look a lot cooler if you wear something interesting, even if it’s just a small accessory like some fun sunglasses or a bright jacket, and 3) bring some layering pieces along because Texas weather changes drastically within 24 hours. 

For all the details on this festival and conference, see the official SXSW website

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