Dressing for Calgary’s four seasons can be challenging. Sunny and warm one minute, cold and wet the next. And let us not forget the harsh Prairie winters that can linger for months. Welcome to YYC.
So how does one dress “fashionably” in a city that has four seasons and unpredictable weather? Turns out that with a little practice, and maybe a little help from a personal stylist or Pinterest, you can learn to repurpose your wardrobe while showcasing different looks for all four seasons.
Lisa Tant, styling sales director at Nordstrom Canada, says, “The key to creating a wardrobe that is functional year-round is layering. Begin by building a wardrobe of foundation pieces in your choice of neutral color. Then, complement these staples by pairing with playful textures, patterns and materials that are seasonally appropriate. For example, pair a pencil skirt with a silk blouse in the summer and tights and a cashmere sweater in the winter months.”
Local designer Kate Hewko echoes Tant’s comments and says that layering items is the key to dressing in Calgary. “Use a mix of high low to keep things affordable; this means spending money on a unique piece, but buying the more affordable option for basic items.”
Sunjeev Prasad, local fashion blogger and founder of Street Gentlemen, says his mission is to “positively impact and empower men through personal image consulting.” He says dressing for Calgary’s four seasons does not have to be difficult. “Of course you’ll need items specifically for each season like a winter coat and boots, but there are ways of building your wardrobe without breaking the bank.”
Prasad explains that he focuses on teaching his clients how to invest in pieces that are both timeless and versatile. “Doing so gives you more flexibility when it comes to getting dressed every day. This will make your life much easier since we all know how moody Calgary’s weather can be.”
Having a wardrobe of coats is something Tant recommends. Consider a casual puffy jacket or a tailored wool coat to take you through fall and winter. “We like layering in down or faux-fur vests and warm scarves in the winter. A light cashmere loose sweater is another great buy. A shift dress is a smart investment that can be dressed up for cocktails with heels and jewelry, and then dressed down for the weekend with flats and a denim jacket.”
For an edgier look, Hewko says a light moto jacket is great for all Calgary seasons. Layer it on top of a dress for cool summer evenings and rainy days, or wear on top of your turtleneck during warm winter chinooks.” She adds that accessorizing is a great way to bring functionality to your wardrobe. “Adding tights and a long-sleeve T-shirt to a summer tunic creates a fall-appropriate look. The same tunic can be styled with bare legs and strappy sandals for the summertime.”
Jaia Talisman, local personal shopper, stylist and owner of Talisman & Crush, helps wardrobe working women who don’t have time to shop or spend hours sifting through the racks. Her clients count on her to keep them on the cutting edge of fashion while respecting personal budgets.
“You know winter in Calgary … one day you can wear shorts, the next day you get hit by brutal winds that have you bundled up to the tip of your head with only your nose peeking out. But as a professional woman in the business world, looking ‘put together’ is a necessity despite the challenges.”
Many of the pieces that Talisman selects for her clients are either on sale or purchased at a vintage store. “It’s important to know that you don’t need to buy at full price all the time – however, be sure to always check the quality and be a slow-fashion shopper. Fast-fashion are clothes that rip, twist and disintegrate in the washing machine after one wash. They end up in landfills and end up polluting our environment. Making good choices and investing in long-term items that will be staples in your wardrobe end up costing you less than buying fast-fashion.”
Darren Biedermann of Supreme Men’s Wear agrees and says, “Purchasing top-quality limited-production fashions only really feels expensive the first time. Once you experience the compliments and the way it makes you feel and the connections you make while wearing elevated, passionate fashion, you understand the value proposition. Investing in fashion will be one of the best investments you make in yourself.”
According to Adam Percival, national director of tailored clothing for Harry Rosen, there are many elements to consider when selecting an appropriate wardrobe for the seasons. “It’s always helpful to have a connection with a clothing adviser in-store. They will get to know your taste, understand your fit and provide appropriate suggestions. If you don’t have an adviser, simply make your way into the store and head towards an adviser whose personal style you identify with and let them take care of the rest.”
Percival adds that it is always best to start with a foundation of basics. “Consider darker colours such as navy and charcoal in fabric weights that are season-less. Start by selecting a navy suit, for example. In a pinch, the jacket can be worn with separate trousers or even jeans and the pants on their own as well.” He suggests avoiding the temptation to buy too many “fashion” pieces as you’re starting to build your wardrobe. “Add these in once you’ve got a solid starting-off point.”
A foundation wardrobe, says Percival, would start by avoiding true summer fabrics and true winter fabrics. For example, linen shirts are perfect for a hot summer afternoon outside but shouldn’t be worn after Labour Day. Similarly with flannel (shirts or trousers); these can be too heavy past March and, in today’s climate-controlled environments, won’t be entirely necessary. Pure-cotton shirts in a variety of colours and patterns are ideal.”
For footwear, Prasad recommends Chelsea boots – they are versatile and can be worn both dressed up or down. “They’re great in nearly every weather condition and are fairly comfortable to walk around in too.” Chelsea boots also have the advantage of being suitable for both men and women.
There are many ways that you can wear your clothes throughout the year without having to pack it away for months, says Talisman. “Our seasons change so frequently in Calgary, we can always have a pullover handy in our closet to wear in the middle of summer. By organizing your closet the smart way, you can have access to everything throughout the year and always know what you’ve got. Mix and match your pieces and remember, layering is the key when dressing in Calgary.”
Like adding spice to recipe, Prasad cautions that you can overdo it if not careful. “Add just enough and you enhance your look. Overdo it, and there’s a good chance you’ll ruin your outfit.”