What to Wear in Canada

by | Apr 7, 2017

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Last updated on November 19th, 2023

Canadians in general are relaxed and pretty informal. If it’s winter when you arrive, a knitted toque(hat) and gloves are essential in many parts of the country. Also If you get invited to someone’s home, it’s considered polite to remove your outdoor footwear at the entrance.

Cynthia, Ottawa, Canada

For American women (especially from the South) travelling to Canada on business; it can be the hottest day of the year, but in a business situation pantyhose are essential. It’s considered distasteful and unbusiness-like to show bare legs in the workplace. So heads up and invest in some sheer hose!

Meg, Washington, DC, USA

In Canada – from October to April the weather can be very cold especially in Dec-Feb. We recommend wearing heavy warm clothing and warm boots. From May to September the weather is can be very warm and sometimes can reach 90F. Women generally wear dress pants or longer skirts and are typically very well dressed. Keep in mind that Canada (Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto) have a lot of foreign cultures therefore pretty much any dress is acceptable. Teenagers typically wear short skirts and short tops which show their belly button as belly button piercing has become very popular. Men generally get the wrong impression if a woman is wearing short shirts or revealing tops and these clothes wouldn’t be recommended when going on the subway or bars in any of the suburbs. Generally people are fairly friendly and would be more than happy to lend a hand.

Caroline, Cambridge, Canada

Most (but not all) Canadian towns and cities have temperatures that range from a little above freezing to a lot below freezing in the winter. While we’re not snow-covered for the entire season (in fact, we only get a few big snowfalls a year in Toronto), there are often patches of ice on sidewalks and streets. This creates footwear challenges, if you have packed beautiful, fashionable shoes (even low-heeled boots and flats) to match your outfits. You need versatile walking-around shoes that have soft rubber treads that provide you with enough traction not to slip on the ice. You can have them added to an existing pair of shoes (before you leave or once you’re here). If there is snow on the ground (check weather forecasts), there’s also going to be salt on the ground (which eats your shoes). Pack an older pair of flat, waterproofed ankle boots (or shoes) – with treads – that you won’t cry over if they end up salt-stained.

Kate, Toronto, Canada

The winters get cold in Canada, so a winter jacket, boots, hats and mittens will be invaluable. The summers are hot, so shorts and tank tops will do fine. Like any country, very short skirts/shorts/tops may attract unwanted attention. Dress is dressy-casual. Going out for dinner? Wear something casually chic.

Marissa, Toronto, Canada

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  1. Terri Hawkins

    What to wear in Canada is dependant on what part you are visiting. Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Calgary are much more formal and business like. On the West Coast (Vancouver and Vancouver Island) things are much different. It rarely drops below 0C in the winter and we usually only get one or two snowfalls a year, but we get a LOT of rain. Layers are important – sweaters and waterproof boots and coat are essential, as well as an umbrella, which you can pick up cheap and leave it behind if you are trying to save space. It is also very casual – most women wear leggings, yoga pants and jeans. Very few people, especially on Vancouver Island, dress up even for dinners out. Summers on the Coast are hot and humid but we have a lot of lakes and beaches so bring a bathing suit or two to take advantage of them. Hiking, kayaking, splunking, scuba diving and other outdoor opportunities are everywhere, but be aware that there is wildlife in both the cities and outside urban centers, and it is illegal to feed them. Educate yourself on what to do if you encounter a bear or cougar, although it’s uncommon to see either of them. Insect repellant and sunscreen are available everywhere, so don’t waste suitcase space. My list for friends visiting is something warm to wear in the evening, because if you aren’t used to it, even a summer evening can be chilly; casual clothes in layers for the day, weather, good walking shoes and a scarf to dress up whatever you are wearing. If you want to dress up, a dress, skirt/slacks and top are acceptable everywhere. There are also a lot of second hand stores in most cities and towns, so if you forget something, check them out to pick up something cheap. Canadians are friendly and if you tell someone you are visiting from elsewhere, they will be happy to share a list of their personal favourites, or offer help if needed.


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