The West Coast Style Revolution…


Photo by Anastasia Shesterinina - CreativeCommons

It’s been almost two years since MSN Travel awarded post-Olympic Vancouver a bronze in their “Least Fashionable Cities in the World” event; however, the undated critique remains active on the MSN website, lending itself to legions of journalists, bloggers and wannabe fashionistas who continue to refer to this article as “proof” that the lower mainland of BC is considerably less than style-savvy.

Agreed:  we all grew-up holding hands, singing kumbaya, and rattling off various interpretations of “don’t judge a book by its cover”; however, the reality is that  – as anyone who has taken first year psych will smugly explain – we are making judgments constantly.  About pretty much everything other than what is being said.

Granted, these aren’t major character judgments- it’s unlikely that anyone will say that someone isn’t “nice”, “sweet”, or “fun” just because they’ve been wearing the same sweats for the last year or so; but, with current emphasis placed upon networking in securing employment, and near-future projections of an economy with increased reliance upon freelancers and independent contractors, the notion of managing yourself and your personal brand inevitably eases requests for introductions and referrals…  When you happen to spot the HR Director of your Dream Company from across a crowded coffee shop, it’s much easier to introduce yourself as a high-flying social media, marketing guru when the conversation isn’t distracted by a frantic explanation/apology for your cut-offs and spandex at mid-week lunch.

There are many reasons to start rebuilding your wardrobe:  New phase in life, new body type, new job, new season…  This isn’t about trendiness – it’s about appropriateness, and the basic tools that just about everyone can benefit from.

When we dress for nothing, that’s pretty much what we can expect to follow.   Truth is, mom was right:  a great suit will open doors (as long as it is a timeless style that fits well and is in good repair).

Living in Vancouver, we have the luxury of local designers, national chains, international distributors and fantastic craft and consignment – our closets can be filled in a way that covers all the bases (and then some) without the fear of looking like Anyone else – let alone Everyone else.

But where to begin? By drawing upon our West Coast strengths, of course.

be green.  (step one:  clothing audit)

Invite a friend over, set up a full-length mirror in the living room, crack open some of your favourite sparkling beverages, turn on the music and release your inner Carrie Bradshaw.  Have one bag ready for repairables, one for sellables (if it’s a recognizable name and in fantastic condition), and one for donatables.  Be ruthless.  If it doesn’t fit, doesn’t feel great, or is irreparable, allow it to move on; it’s unlikely you’ll ever pick up the classic button-front shirt that you need if you’re still hanging onto the one with the yellow stains under the arms.  

be savvy.  (step two: invest in the basics) 

Assess the damage and create your plan.  Whether walking down West 4th, Robson, Granville or Commercial, it’s clear that the issue isn’t lack of budget or lack of interest, but lack of direction.  Vancouver spends on style – it’s the uber-luxe athletic gear, paired with a top shelf purse and a pair of Very Comfortable Shoes…  but seriously, when is that outfit appropriate?  For a hike?  With a $700 purse and no ankle support?

Spending your entire clothing budget on athletic gear and accessories is the wardrobe equivalent of living on carbs and dessert – if you’re doing either, chances are you’re not looking too great.  The crucial element of looking your best is to have a variety of clothes for various occasions that work together for you.

be independent.  (step three: support local)

Step out of your comfort-zone and into a local design studio.  There is no better way to capitalize on the perfect combination of trend, individuality, and consumer responsibility.  As a bonus, there’s often opportunity for custom order and personalized fit.  Great for those who are hard to fit (hint:  Everyone is).

Vancouver Weekly is getting out to meet some local stylists, dressers and designers, checking out the newest collections and oldest thrift shops, rebuilding our wardrobe without leaving the city limits.  Stay tuned and drop us a comment if there’s someone or somewhere you’d like to see featured.