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Jazzfest attire: Who wore it better?

Editor’s Note:  The following series “All about Jazz” is a week-long series curated by Rena Repenning as part of the Digital Research Internship Program in partnership with ViaNolaVie. The DRI Program is a Newcomb Institute technology initiative for undergraduate students combining technology skillsets, feminist leadership, and the digital humanities.

Yes, this is the time when we’d be swarmed with floral shirts, drinking mango freezes, and sweating to our favorite beats in the sun, but due to  COVID-19, the annual New Orleans Heritage & Jazz fest is postponed until Fall 2020. However, that doesn’t mean we all won’t be getting down and dancing in our living spaces. WWOZ will broadcast for 8 days-8 hours each (11am-7pm), the same days and hours as the originally-scheduled Jazz Fest (April 23-26 and April 30-May 3). So turn up the volume and get down to our Nola sounds! To also get you in the mood, we are bringing you a virtual Jazz Fest from the fests of the past. Originally starting in 1970, Jazz Fest is a staple in New Orleans culture and showcases musicians and talent, new and old. Happy Jazz, everyone, and we can’t wait to dance with you again in the hot hot sunshine (and pouring down rain, of course!)

This article was originally published on 5/2/17.

The red beans? The beignets and coffee? Or the umbrella one?

Every year I comb my closet for Jazz Fest shirts to fest in. I’ve bought them sporadically over the decades, shelling out for a new one whenever the pattern of that particular year spoke to me. The BayouWear duds debuted in 1991 as a “HowAhYa” riff on their Hawaiian counterparts and were based on that year’s poster. In 1998, textile designer Kathy Schorr took over. Her debut came with the Red Beans and Rice shirt, which I have, and which I love best for the red bean-shaped buttons. That’s a quirk that Schorr has used in many of her Jazz Fest fabrics — unique closers like the redfish buttons on her 2011 Birds of Paradise pieces, or the pick-shaped button on her 2006 Hot Licks apparel.

Choices have broadened in the past few decades, with the patterns adorning everything from skirts and sheaths to umbrellas and aprons. For a short time, they were printed on decorative tiles.

In my younger years, I’d pull out a Jazz Fest shirt for a summer jaunt or vacation, but nowadays they seem a little flamboyant for everyday wear. My official Jazz Fest attire is now relegated to that annual outing at the Fairgrounds.

And perhaps most other BayouWear collectors swim in my generational pool. Because when, last Friday, I decided to photograph Jazz Fest attendees in their official fest apparel, so many seemed … um, a bit on the older and more corpulent side. And when I asked a young friend to snap pictures of people wearing Jazz Fest shirts, she asked if I meant any Hawaiian shirt, or a special one?

Is Jazzfest’s fashion finery only for the AARP crowd?

Nah. As I circled the grounds I spotted fashionistas of all ages, sizes and both genders sporting the official wear. Which prompted this tongue-in-cheek feature purloined from the pages of that celebrity gossip magazine that sometimes falls into my shopping cart:

Who Wore It Better?



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