Brrrrrrrr: The Evolution Of Fake Fur

When we think of the Black Rock City we tend to think of the insufferable heat and unbearable sun. It can be hotter than Hades up on that playa and refuge is fleeting — perhaps some shade and a cold drink, or a sprint behind the water truck, will cool you off. But like everything at Burning Man it lasts only for the moment.

The first year I went to Burning Man it was scorching during the day and balmy at night. I made due with a tiny sweatshirt that I donned late in the evening. The next year I headed to BRC loaded down with hot pants, an electric fan and a secret stash of Cherry Garcia on dry ice. And I froze my ass off.

I was not prepared for the wind and cold of Burning Man 1999. At night I wore every article of clothing I’d packed, topped with an ugly grey hoodie. The 2000 event was downright blustery, even colder and wetter. But in 2000 I was prepared! That was the year the fashion tide turned to fur, when our collective unconscious zeroed in on form and function.

Fun fur was already a part of the rave and club cultures but it was the arctic 1999 event that gave faux fur its place in the Burning Man fashion canon. The full-length day-glo leopard fur jacket that is de rigeur for late nights was seldom seen in the ’90s. But after a year of shivering, with bits of sparkle sticking out from beneath boring layers, we combined costumery with personal safety.

The Black Rock Desert is at high elevation: 3,848 ft. to be exact. Expect harsh weather in the high and low ranges. Before hitting the road, check Weather Underground’s forecast page for Black Rock City, Nev. Beware fast-spreading email  rumors regarding the playa weather. If something major is going down, check with your official Burning Man website.
And now a bit about staying warm and staying in style.

  • Tights or leggings are good foundations.
  • Scarves can be made of anything. When you’re done sewing that costume, consider using scraps to make a long scarf. This way if you have to cover-up that cute thing you spent so much energy sewing, you can top that parka with a bit of glam.
  • Personal prejudices against the pimp hat aside, a topper will keep you warm.
  • Wigs are insulating.
  • Gloves are key. Opera-length gloves can take the place of a light layer.
  • Arm warmers can be made from old tights, socks or sweaters to match any costume.
  • It’s easy to add trim to that boring fleece pullover
  • Thrift stores are packed with vintage coats, robes and furs.
  • Capes are easy to sew and can be made from fur, fleece or quilted fabric. All you have to do is make a big circle out of fabric. Cut a hole a smidge bigger than your neck measurement at the center, and cut a line top to bottom for the front opening. Fasten with ribbon ties, a brooch, anything.

About the author: Molly Ditmore

Molly Ditmore

The night Molly Ditmore arrived at Burning Man 1998, she told everyone that she had come home. She didn't pack a flashlight or get any sleep. She volunteered at Media Mecca for six years, where she handled press inquiries from the music community and hosted an art tour. Costuming for Burning Man inspired her to sew again, a skill she learned in middle school home economics class. She is now a couture pattern-maker, custom clothier and rain hat maker. Molly got dusty from 1998-2009 and 2012-2015. She reads the comments.

4 Comments on “Brrrrrrrr: The Evolution Of Fake Fur

  • Cowboy Karl says:

    -I like silk 2 piece long underware for cold Playa nights. Silk is super light, breaths, very warm and doesn’t take up much room, -so you’re hip, cool, costume will still fit you right.
    -Also, I found that ’99 was the coldest year I attended, but was WAY fun and tollerable. In 2000, it was cold, but w/the rain, the high winds, the dust turning to mud everywhere, I was seriously challenged to have a good time.

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  • Cowboy Karl, you’re right that real actual under-things will fight the chill. Total oversight on my part! And I had forgotten about the horrible winds in 2000. Suddenly I was transported to a night spent sitting in a van that was shaking in the wind.

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  • Cub Bear says:

    Thanks for the advice! Tights, long underwear, wigs & toppers are packed. Busy making some scarves now for those chilly playa nights!

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  • Health much like the info shared is valuable so flex those muscles.

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