Fashion comes in many forms – from functional to high street to couture, and everything in between. Over the decades, certain destinations have come to be associated with particular styles, with chic stripes and clean-cut lines linked to Paris, and branded band tees and ripped jeans thought of as Californian staples.
You would be forgiven for thinking that fashion in Canada leans more towards the principle of practicality than style. When we imagine Canadian fashion, the first images to spring to mind might be lumberjack shirts, big coats and snow boots. This is definitely a feature of every Canadian’s wardrobe, but there is much more to the country’s look book. After all, they do have summers, too!
So, to help you decide what to wear on holiday to Canada – wherever you are headed and in whatever season – we teamed up with some of the country’s top style bloggers to find out more about Canadian fashion.
Fashion in transit
When you’re heading on a long-haul flight, whether to Canada or anywhere else in the world, fashion must make a compromise for comfort. No one wants to spend several hours inside a plane cabin wearing jeans that are too tight, or a top that is too cold for the in-flight air conditioning. Luckily, there are plenty of versatile style items that can be both chic and comfortable.
Alicia Haque, travel and lifestyle blogger from Go, Live, Explore says:
“Comfort is my top priority especially if I’m travelling long-haul, so I’ll usually opt for simple pieces and knitwear (either light or heavy, depending on the season). My go-to travel outfit is normally a pair of jeans or black leggings, an oversized jumper or cardigan, a cute cami and a pair of espadrilles or Converse.”
Hayleigh McCullough, fashion and travel blogger, agrees, saying that whilst “the main aim of style when you travel is to nail that ‘effortlessly stylish’ look”, long-haul journeys are all about being comfortable. Hayleigh also goes for the oversized jumper, jeans or leggings and boots when flying, but she says, “If you’re more style conscious, I always say it’s about the accessories, go for style with your hand luggage choice – it makes more wiggle room for comfy jumpers and leggings…”
Kelvin Barron, stylist to the stars, says, “Depending on the climate, for my clients my favourite travel look would be a denim dress for comfort and style. It keeps your look fresh while the loose fit means maximum comfort.” He goes on to suggest, “If it’s colder in the UK you can add a t-shirt or roll neck underneath, and then whip it off quickly when you reach a sunnier climate!”
Of course, if you’re really looking to chill out, there’s no reason why you can’t forget fashion all together for a moment. Get cosy like TV presenter and blogger, Olivia Cox does. She says, “I have a cashmere onesie that I’m obsessed with.” The perfect in-flight loungewear!
Styles for all seasons
Picture Canada and you’re probably imagining snow-capped mountains. Style blogger Kassy Davis observes, “One could assume that the Canadian wardrobe consists solely of fur lined parkas, snow boots and plaid flannel long johns to keep us warm. In reality, however, the Canadian landscape offers a diverse range of climates throughout the year, letting us experience each season as it shifts from warm, to hot, to cool, to cold.”
There certainly is a lot to consider when it comes to dressing for the Canadian climate – where are you visiting, what time of year are you travelling, and what will you be doing? All are legitimate practical considerations. As Cee Fardoe, Editor of online style magazine Coco and Vera, says, Canadian style is usually practical. She comments, “We have a lot of wild weather in this country and, in the last 150 years, we’ve learned how to dress for it. We tend to dress casually, and keep a close eye on the forecast…!”
Winter wear in Canada
Although Canada’s weather and temperatures are variable, Raiza from the blog La Petite Garconne admits, “Some stereotypes hold to be true; most of us probably have plaid in our closets and we’re well equipped with cosy cardigans and thick jackets, essentials to battle through rigorous winters.”
So, if you’re heading on holiday to Canada in the winter, how can you stay warm whilst looking your best? Carolina advises taking heed from the locals. She say, “Canadians are experts at layering, with the dropping temperatures in the winter it’s hard to keep yourself looking “fashionable” and warm at the same time. So we turn to layering, which keeps us warm while we walk around outside in the snow and a bit cooler while sitting inside a restaurant with the heater on… all while looking fashionable.”
There are countless ways of layering for comfort in the Canadian winter – it doesn’t just have to be jeans and jumpers. For example, some fashion staples that Kassy sports on cooler days include casual items such as leggings, chunky knit sweaters, ankle boots and a brim hat or ‘toque’, as it’s called in Canada.
Dressing for activities
When you’re exploring Canada, chances are that you won’t be spending every day wandering around the city streets. Whether you’re planning to go kayaking, hiking or skiing, Canada is full of exciting experiences to try out, and many of these may require consideration when you’re packing your travel wardrobe.
Prepare for outdoor activities by packing swimwear (both your favourite pieces and a practical swimset), warm jackets, sensible shoes and thermals for colder climes. Hayleigh knows this to be a key part of packing for a holiday to Canada. She says:
“My trip to Canada is actually for a road trip, I am normally out skiing, last time I was in Canada it got to -27. So this time, my packing is going to be very different! Creating what you deem as your ‘capsule wardrobe’ is really the easiest way of battling the dilemma of what to bring along with you when your travel. I’ll be bringing along items that I can mix and match and switch between as I please with them still looking put together. We will be going on some hikes and trekking however so I will definitely be bringing some sturdy walking shoes, and lots of layers for when the weather turns! In a nutshell, a capsule wardrobe of a little bit of everything.”
Canada’s summer style
In Canada, summers are heralded by fashion lovers as a chance to shed the layers and try something new. Raiza says, “When summer rolls around, we are quick to escape hibernation and make sure to savour every second of it out in the outdoors. Colourful dresses and denim short shorts, to name a few, are staples for the warmer seasons.”
Carolina warns, “Don’t be fooled – Canadian summers can be extremely hot so if you are visiting Canada in the summer months I definitely recommend your summer best and tons of sunscreen. Shorts, dresses, sleeveless shirts are all great options for a summer’s day but don’t forget to pack a sweater because the temperature cools down at nightfall.”
Meanwhile, on hot summer days, Kassy’s wardrobe shifts to a more bohemian feel with printed maxi-skirts, crochet tops and breezy kimonos.
Street style around Canada
As Raiza explains, “Canada is unique and well known for its multicultural identity and this goes beyond politics and its population. Fashion is just as diverse, with each region or province having its own, distinct style.” Here are a few highlights of Canada’s fashion hotspots.
Vancouver: the creative’s muse
Raiza comments that, for more adventurous fashion lovers, Vancouver is the perfect city to visit. She says:
“As a hub of imported goods and a city of choice for international visitors and students, Vancouver is undoubtedly home to one of Canada’s most diverse styles. Young Canadian artists heavily influence the culture of Vancouver fashion, pushing the limits to create a range of unique styles. This is the city where I personally experiment with different styles, and it feels comfortable to even welcome the most risqué outfits. This is easy to do when thrift and consignment stores populate just about every corner of the city where one-of-a-kind pieces are easy to find.”
Another great thing about Vancouver is that its less extreme climate lends even more flexibility with fashion. Kassy says, “Being from Vancouver, my style is influenced by the mild temperature and relaxed vibe we get here on the West Coast.” This means you don’t have to be wrapped up in woollens all of the time, and in the summer you can experiment with cooler styles.
Still, remember to prepare for all eventualities. As Kassy notes, “Despite the variety of outfit options we have on the West Coast though, there is one outfit that is the most important of all when living in or visiting Vancouver; a good pair of rain boots, a rain coat and an umbrella. If there is one thing that Vancouver likes to do, it’s rain!”
Calgary: Practical chic
Whilst some people assume that the colder cities such as Calgary, Alberta mean being swaddled in ski jackets every day, the extreme weather doesn’t necessarily mean restricted choices in expressing your personal style.
Raiza explains, “Calgary is more conservative but the connotation of ‘boring’ is far from suggested. Known for its constantly changing weather, where four seasons could occur in one day, practicality is a Calgarian’s best friend. Masters of layering, accessories such as scarves, toques and cardigans during wintertime are necessities.”
These days there are countless styles of winter clothing, from down jackets to lumber jackets, to tailored insulated coats. Then there are the snow boots – will you go for a traditional leather upper, a more edgy Doc Marten style, or something colourful and modern? The options are endless.
Come summer, Calgary’s fashion props are truly exercised, as Stampede season brings out locals in their cowboy best, celebrating the province’s prairies history. If you’re visiting Calgary during the summer, why not get into the spirit with some aged leather cowboy boots, a denim shirt or some tassels? There is even a famous White Hat Ceremony held each year as a symbol of the western hospitality in welcoming guests. The famous white Smithbilt had has been bestowed upon countless famous figures since Calgary’s former mayor, Don MacKay, started the tradition in the 1950s.
Toronto: the style ‘melting pot’
Toronto is known for being a bustling urban metropolis, and the most multicultural city in the world. This makes for countless looks to be inspired by as you walk down the street. Canadian fashion blogger, Rebecca Jacobs, who aims to share purposeful style for powerful women, loves being able to call Toronto her stomping ground. She says:
“As a Torontonian, I am lucky to live in one of our world’s most diverse cities. That diversity has played a part in shaping Toronto be a city with less established cultural norms than a lot of other places—which is good news for you to rock whatever your fashion style while you visit!
“Whether you are walking down Queen Street West in Toronto’s fashion district or going to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, you will see everything from denim to dresses.
“Toronto is big on style. We make an effort and care about expressing our own unique vibe—but, we don’t let it get in the way of what we’re doing. Leather jackets, loose silhouettes, sneakers and flat shoes are common here to strike that balance between fashion and practicality.”
Bloggers’ favourite Canada travel looks
So you’ve accounted for the climate, the destination and which activities you’ll be doing. All that’s left now is to get inspired by the amazing taste of some of Canada’s best style bloggers!
There’s no denying that Canadians do winter fashion with panache. With icy temperatures and snow for at least half of the year in some places, living in Canada requires plenty of warm-weather clothing. Add deep snow, slippery ice and wind, and you have a climate worth preparing for, even if you’re just visiting for the week. Luckily, Canadian fashionistas have got it nailed, styling everything from snow boots to big warm coats with flair. The ability to be flexible with your style according to the weather is, as Alexa from the fashion and lifestyle blog, Alexa Jade Warren, says, a fundamental part of Canadian fashion:
“I would describe fashion in Canada to be so ever-changing because of how drastic our seasons are! Although I am a summer girl through and through, living in Canada, I would say that the fall would definitely be the most fashionable season to me because there are so many different layering options. There is this perfect mix of the sea, mountains and prairies and that comes through in people’s fashion sense as you move across the country, which is what I love so much about Canadian fashion!”
Alexa says that, for the chillier months, “I just don’t think you can beat wearing the perfect wool coat.” Far from the standard fare our parents would persuade us to wear in the rain, a good wool coat can be one of the single most chic items in any wardrobe. Either choose something tailored to perfection or oversized and effortless. Both can be combined with anything, from just jeans and a jumper to skirts, shorts, smart trousers and more, making any weather cosy.
Minimal and preppy
When it comes to spring – or even simply the milder areas like Vancouver, you don’t always need to wrap up from head to toe, and you can actually be very streamlined in your packing. For those aiming to pack light and still look stylish, Cee recommends:
“When you visit Canada, travelling with carry-on only is totally possible. A uniform of jeans with coordinated t-shirts and sweaters, a leather jacket and/or crisp blazer, complimented by a few pairs of shoes and some elegant accessories should be all you really need to fit in wherever you visit. Oh, and a scarf. If it’s any time other than July, bring a scarf.”
Often the easiest way to mix and match your clothes for various different looks is to bring along a series of staples – these often work really well in creating minimalistic, preppy looks. Then, you can simply add a statement piece – whether it’s something like Cee’s unique cut-out blazer or your favourite watch.
Simple and sophisticated
If you’re going to be out and about exploring a new city, you’ll want to plan an outfit that will cover all bases. Make sure you’ve got a warm jacket for any chilly evenings, comfortable yet stylish shoes and a bag to carry the essentials including a phone, camera, maps and spending money.
Alicia’s favourite style for visiting Canada varies depending on the season, but one thing that remains consistent is that accessories are key. She says:
“My style is fairly simple so I’ll usually go for a pair of skinny jeans, a blazer/jacket, a cute top, and either boots or sandals, as well as a small little handbag. In the summertime I love wearing floaty dresses, and in the winter I always gravitate towards big scarves and oversized coats as I can’t stand being cold!”
One of the easiest ways to customise your outfit to give it a completely different feel is by getting creative with accessories like shoes. Alicia admits, “I’m a sucker for shoes and I usually pack too many, but I do think that shoes can instantly transform and transition any outfit, so it’s well worth the extra kilos!” She adds, “Pay attention to accessories, too, as you can easily make simple outfits look polished and pulled together with statement jewellery, sunglasses, and a nice handbag.”
Hayleigh agrees, saying, “I think it’s best to go simple, you’ve got to be comfortable enough to walk around and explore but also it’s great to feel good in what you’re wearing. You can never go wrong with jeans, a plain or detailed tee and a leather jacket. I usually try and give my outfits that special something with a pop of colour usually with my handbag of choice – that’s definitely a standout feature of my personal style.”
As you might expect from Canada, the mythology of the ‘Wild West’ does play a role in the classic styles the country is associated with. As lifestyle and fashion blogger Jonathan from Mr Cavaliere points out, “Canadian fashion is as vast as our country itself” and “with so many different nationalities all living in harmony, it’s hard to depict what to wear when visiting our great nation.” However, the history of the plains states is evident nearer the Canada-America border, as well as among urban dwellers taking this past as inspiration. Jonathan says:
“One thing that Canada is famous for is the Canadian Tuxedo, which is a combination of a denim shirt or jacket and a pair of jeans. Though this doesn’t depict the overall style of Canadians, you wouldn’t look out of place in this outfit while visiting the prairies.”
The ‘Canadian Tuxedo’ is often referred to as an affectionate joke, but the denim-on-denim look holds a special place in the hearts of many Canadians, and, as Jonathan shows, can be made very on-trend. Simply mix up the shades of denim and aim for a mixture of crisp and distressed styles, and you’ll have a style that is suave and classic at once.
Diverse and dynamic
However, the Western-esque style is met by many other influences across the country. Carolina from the blog, Carolina Pinglo, says, “We are more than just the “Canadian tuxedo” (Although the denim on denim trend is having a hot minute right now!) Canadian Fashion is so diverse, which I think reflects on our multicultural society.
“You interact and become friends with so many people from around the world that you end up picking up different trends that might be popular in other countries. I think that is something that makes Canadian fashion so unique!”
On her blog, Carolina experiments with looks inspired by countless eras and countries, from ‘70s bohemian to British modish looks with a glamorous twist, like the one pictured above. These European-inflected styles are especially fitting when visiting areas such Quebec City, rich in French history, or Ottawa with its replica of Westminster. Perfect for a spring or summer stroll in the city, a pop of colour in a roll-neck sweater paired with either an A-line houndstooth skirt or smart chinos and dress shoes will take you from lunching down a side-street to sipping cocktails in a sky bar.
Dressed to impress
Kelvin Barron says, “I always advise my clients to pack practically, with lots of easy-to-wear pieces that can be dressed up and down. Think maxis, denim cut offs into camis, blouses and shirts, and playsuits.” He’s also got some great tips for how to pack for daytime, evening-wear and different activities, without going over your luggage allowance: “You never wear everything you pack for a holiday, so always focus on statement accessories to dress up more casual looks such as chic wedges, statement clutches and opulent costume jewellery.”
When it comes to making your suitcase wardrobe work harder, he advises, “For shoes, don’t over-pack and stick to a palette of black, gold, silver and either a nude or brown. Then you’re covered for every opportunity, as generally these colours go with everything.”
One of Kelvin’s favourite looks that he styled was for TOWIE’s Lucy Mecklenburgh, when she dressed to impress for Paris Fashion Week. These looks might have been created for France, but you wouldn’t look out of place wearing one of these styles in Canada’s romantic, French-speaking East Coast cities!
West Coast cool
One of the best things about Canadian fashion is that you can put as much or as little effort into your look as you like, and still look really sophisticated. As fashion-forward blogger Jenaly from In My Dreams says, “Canadian style is pretty laid-back, no matter where you visit. Although we are pretty minimal for the most part, we are accepting and enjoy creativity of personal style and are seeing it more and more.”
“When visiting the west-coast of Canada, you are good to dress laid-back. The style here is wearing a good pair of loose denim, basic tee and a lightweight-style jacket. Also don’t forget to pack an umbrella! Denim is a key contributor to the Canadian style, also easy for travelling. My favourite summer travel style is a pair of denim shorts and a basic top. Like this look I wore in Tofino, BC.”
Olivia also wears a similar style when enjoying a city break. She recommends off-duty denim and sneakers, plus a good pair of sunglasses. “I’m really into round mirrored sunglasses”, she says. Ultimately, Canada is all about the outdoor lifestyle, so all you need to make a great look is some distressed shorts or jeans and a baggy top, and some shoes good enough for a bit of hiking!
In Canada, style and comfort go hand in hand. Rebecca advises that from the moment you land, whatever your style, whether you have arrived via luxury or a cheap flight to Canada, “Don’t be afraid to express your own style AND to make it comfortable for walking around, whether that looks like all black with big sunnies, or a sundress and sneakers.”
Hayleigh’s number one tip for travel fashion – and style in general – is to find what you love. “I cannot stress this enough,” she says. “I have been through a lot of changes in style, mostly ones I thought I should be wearing. Once you find your style, and what feels comfortable and is something you love, it just makes everything so much easier. Have a little play around, you’ll be surprised what you may end up liking.”
Raiza agrees, aptly concluding on the sheer variety and opportunity for expression in Canadian fashion, saying, “Canada is a vast country and its multicultural identity even translates through to fashion. Just as everyone comes from different, unique backgrounds, this is visually obvious in the wide range of styles across the country. When visiting, I recommend to dress as you feel comfortable because we Canadians welcome your uniqueness.”
We couldn’t agree more!
Image credits: Alexa Jade Warren / Coco and Vera / In My Dreams / La Petite Garconne / Carolina Pinglo / Mr Cavaliere / Go, Live, Explore / Olivia Cox / Hayleigh McCullough