I have an important journalistic question: What do you wear to the fair?
Each year as I’m prepping to make the half-hour trek up to Paso Robles to see a concert (or maybe take a spin on some nausea-inducing rides) this is my first thought and my biggest worry: What should I wear?
It doesn’t seem like an important question, but fashion is as much a part of the fair culture as the livestock showing (and probably judged just as fiercely). Just a quick perusal on any of the days will reveal attendees wearing a mix of blinged-out jeans, dresses, short-shorts and crop tops, baseball caps, cowboy hats and every type of cowboy boot imaginable. Oh, and flannel. So much flannel.
Because there are so many options, let’s take a quick look at some of the cardinal rules of dressing for the California Mid-State Fair, as shared by a few of its more fashionable attendees.
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1. You can’t go wrong with boots and plaid
Just ask the Tejeda family, who strolled into the fair July 21 sporting cowboy boots, hats, plaid and a whole lot of confidence, especially among their four children.
“We just decided it was going to be a cowboy day, I guess, and it was,” said father Ruben Tejeda, who was wearing an all-black cowboy boot and hat outfit.
Of the kids, only one wasn’t wearing cowboy boots, and that was because he had decided in the car ride that he “didn’t like them,” Tejeda said with a laugh.
One of the young girls, Melanie Tejeda, was wearing a sparkly teal plaid shirt that she proudly said was her favorite before hopping onto the carnival carousel with a big grin.
The Tejedas grabbed notice from other fairgoers as well, with one visitor even pointing them out when asked about what a classic fair outfit was.
“A lot of the adults are just naturally wearing cowboy boots,” said Cal Poly student Felicia Krieter, pointing to Tejeda. “I don’t even know if they are going to the concert or anything.”
2. Jeans or shorts always work (especially if they’ve got bling)
“I just love jean shorts,” said Lacey Califano of Los Angeles, who was at the Mid-State Fair for the first time Thursday to visit her sister, Lilly Califano, and go to the Justin Moore concert. “You can’t go wrong with jean shorts.”
Anna Rodriguez of Modesto was selling clothes with Forever Cowgirl, a vendor that routinely appears at fairs across the state. The booth always features brightly colored and sparkly tank tops, plus hundreds of jeans and shorts for sale.
Everything that has the bling does well.
Anna Rodriguez of Modesto
“We bring lots of jeans,” said Rodriguez, motioning to the foot-tall pile of Miss Me and Rock Revival jeans next to her. “On the jeans, everything that has the bling does well. The western (style) is very different; it’s a lot of bling. This isn’t something you would wear on a daily basis, unless this is your lifestyle.”
3. Make sure to accessorize
This was the case with Sharon Smith of Ojai. She caught my eye while she was walking past because of the great little fringy leather shoulder bag she had, paired with a big turquoise necklace and bracelet.
Classic fair wear.
“This is my flea market jewelry and a dress I bought ages ago,” she said laughing after being stopped. “Plus my brand new Stetsons (boots).”
Smith said the first thing she thinks of when she thinks of a fair outfit are the boots, followed by accessories.
“You’ve got to have a great bag,” she said.
Belts are another important — although sometimes overlooked — fair accessory, for both men and women.
“I guess I wanted to base everything around the belt, and then just make everything match,” said Laura Palosaari of Los Angeles, motioning to her black rhinestone-studded belt, high-waisted shorts, off-the-shoulder top and matching black boots.
“Black on black on black,” she said with a laugh.
4. Have fun!
Cal Poly student Lilly Califano, like the rest of her crew, was wearing the uniform of a tank top, high-waist shorts, boots and aviator sunglasses. She put it best: “I wanted to get a little bit countrified, but still do me, you know?”