Getting dressed up for a country-chic event can present a bit of a challenge. To wear a cowboy hat or not to wear a cowboy hat: that is the question.

But all joking aside, if you want to avoid looking like a cliché at an upcoming country event such as the Rocking River Fest in Merritt, there are a few things to keep in mind. Vancouver stylist Crystal Carson, who is the mastermind behind the fashion styling of B.C.’s own country star Madeline Merlo, dishes on what to wear to your country affair.

Q. You’ve had a very unique array of clients during your career — including B.C. country music star Madeline Merlo. How did this partnership come about?

A. Madeline and I started working together in July 2014 (to shoot) the music video Alive in Las Vegas. Denny Carr of RGK Entertainment was onset, which led to our discussions to align Madeline with a consistent look. It’s more important than ever to have a distinct fashion style that sets an artist apart from the rest, especially female artists as they are building their career. … Madeline and I had an awesome connection immediately, and she now feels like my little sister. The rest is history.

Q. How does styling a country star differ from less niche styling?

A. The overall vibe is down to earth, approachable and fun. It’s a relaxed genre that really is about the artists personality and the music. The timeless loyalty for a country artist is unmatched when compared to other genres of music. It really comes back to the industry and fans, so consistency is key. From music videos to stage, I am never going to be creating costumes or audacious looks that mask the artist from their true, authentic self.

Q. How would you describe Merlo’s onstage style?

A. Madeline is a true performer on stage so clothing she can move in is mandatory. But there’s more to it than just movement. I have developed a holistic approach to Madeline’s style with the release of her new album Free Soul. Her look is a boho-babe meets country chic, with an overall inspiration of West Coast beach life.

Q. How did you come up with that look with her?

A. Madeline, her label and I worked together to make sure her style was authentic to her character but we had that “thing” that set her apart. My first question was “What’s your spirit animal?” I know it sounds crazy but every girl has something they have loved or aspired to since they were little. Mermaids was her answer. Her love of boho style, with inspiration details from the beaches of British Columbia such as shells and shades of blue, ties it all together.

Q. Are there a few benchmarks of country music fashion you always aim to hit — that are timeless?

A. Of course. Suede or leather will always be staples, including fringe. Boots and denim pieces are never going out of style when I comes to country music fashion.

Q. Country chic style has really become a lot more refined than plaid T-shirts, cutoff jeans and cowboy hats. What are some of the new elements you’ve seen in this genre of style?

A. There is definitely an urban influence that gives country an edge that we didn’t see before. Country music no longer equals cowboys from the country. It’s a genre of music that has evolved with an underlying rock or pop influence in most artists’ styles.

Q. Rocking River Fest is coming up. Are there any tips you can offer for those who are looking to be stylish while attending the multi-day country music affair?

A. Layers, layers, layers! Tell your story with your look and don’t take fashion too seriously. Festivals are about community and sharing creative energy with music. Be playful, mix texture and fabric, vintage and trend, or do a group theme with friends.

Q. Anything you would advise people not wear?

A. Anything uncomfortable or too long that it drags or trips people. Don’t wear fabrics that don’t breathe as even cooler evenings can be hot in the middle of a crowd. Festivals are a place where anything goes — so go for it. (But) avoid traditional takes on country style, like clichés outfits you will often see at the stampede.

Q. Is bling still a thing in country music style?

A. I think bling went out with Christian Audigier. Don’t be “that guy” (laughs). Patches are the new bedazzle if you want to add something attention-grabbing to your outfit.

Q. Lastly, on the topic of cowboy boots. Are they a good idea? Or should city folk pass?

A. I love them with a beautiful dress but that’s more of a boho vibe than country. I have three pairs right now. I consider them a staple. Just don’t rock them in a cliché way, avoid pairing with big belt buckles and cowboy hats.

Vancouver stylist Crystal Carson works on client Madeline Merlo. LIZ ROSA / SPECIAL TO PNG