The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

04 October 2010

How to dress like a Canadian

Dressing like a Canadian is an art form. It requires agility of perception as well as of closet space. Sound tricky? It is. Allow me to demonstrate.

The date is October something or other. Temperatures have calmed from summer highs in the 30s to more palatable teens. Mornings start out chilly, but the day can warm significantly by noon, before flirting once more with the frost factor come night fall. It might rain, it might be overcast, or it might be brilliantly clear and sunny.

Agility of perception is required in not being bullied by the calendar. It may tell you it is October, and as you learned in elementary school, October is an autumnal month. Catalogues and advertising campaigns dictate that in autumn months we wear sweaters and scarves with our perfect jeans, and jump joyfully through piles of leaves in our sturdy leather hiking boots. How idyllic that world is!

A Canadian, however, due to vagaries of weather and a constitutional reluctance to admit summer is over, will still wear open-toed shoes until it becomes absolutely necessary to move to the next level. Driving down the main street of any Canadian town in the fall, you will see every combination of shorts and sweaters, boots and sandals, t-shirts and jackets… all on the same day. And even on the same person.

Which leads to agility of closet space. It requires ingenuity to manage the clothing for three seasons concurrently (storing the necessary footwear alone is a great challenge). During the fall, Canadians are still holding on to sun-kissed dreams with their cotton, while acknowledging the approach of winter with wool.

To give an example, here is what I wore when I went out last Sunday evening: capris and a t-shirt (fond memories of summer), a cardigan (admission of summer’s passing), a long woollen sweater-jacket (for survival in colder temperatures), and flip flops. You see, wardrobe is just a small factor in how to dress like a Canadian; you’ve got to be tough. We have been exposing our flesh to the harsh elements for so long that we no longer feel the pain of frostbite setting in.

We are not entirely foolish, however -- we do know when to concede to the elements. We know to allow for double layers of socks when sizing new boots, and to buy the heavy winter coat in a larger size to make room for a thick sweater underneath. We even have special seasonal unmentionables that cover more surface area for added thermal insulation. In the thick of winter, it’s not unusual to see a Canadian dressed in parka and mukluks clutching a shoe bag. Underneath that parka is a cute sweater, or a business suit, or a formal evening gown. The shoe bag declares that while we acknowledge the weather in order to survive, we will not surrender our Jimmy Choos.

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