Pam has become a real fan of the Learning Channel program ‘What Not to Wear’. It’s a show in the mold of ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’, only this time it’s Fashion-Eye for the Clueless Girl. Stacy London and Clinton Kelly take some woman who has no fashion sense and maybe a lot of potential, give them a $5,000 credit card shopping spree in NYC, and throw away all of their old clothes (while taking them to task in all manner of zingers as they do so). After a new hairdo and makeup session, the transformed victim arrives to cheers of friends, coworkers and family (this part is the most staged and feels very much like the show is a rip-off of Queer Eye). Unlike the other show, it does not seem to me to have quite as much of a ‘good heart’, but Pam feels she is learning lots of good tips and rules of thumb along the way.
Fast forward to dressing here. All of the rules are backwards. In the world of fashion, Vancouver is Bizarro World (for the non-Superman or Seinfeld-savvy, Bizzaro world is the invention of the aforementioned comics, a place where up is down, good-bye is hello, and wrong is right. You get the idea.
Dressing up in Vancouver is wearing something that isn’t falling apart. As a friend of Matt’s exclaimed during a recent visit, “Everyone looks like they’re about an hour away from snowboarding.” (Which technically we are, if you factor in the drive to Grouse and line for lift tickets). When I go into work, which is in Gastown (a slightly seedy and touristy area that has many panhandlers) and happened to be dressed a little nicer, I stand out, in a way that’s probably not so good (i.e. , I’m approached by more panhandlers, who assume I’m a rich tourist). We’re talking khaki pants, button down shirt and leather jacket here; that’s overdressed.
In practical terms, a leather jacket is fairly useless around here, anyway. When it’s dry and the leather jacket would be safe to wear, it’s too warm. When it’s cold enough for the leather jacket, it’s usually too wet.
The standard jacket here is a windbreaker or alpine jacket, , made of GORE-TEX. usually with a hood, (see above picture) obtained at a Mountaineering or Sports store (The MEC is renowned here.) As for pants, it’s denim, or perhaps cargo pants. The shirt? Long-sleeved or short-sleeved T, sweatshirt (preferably also hooded). To top it all off, if it’s cold outside, finish the whole ensemble with a Toque (the Canadian term for knitted cap, often, but now always with a little pom-pom at the top). Colours can match, but don’t have to. Shoes are Doc Martens, jogging shoes, or those bowling shoes that went in style a few years ago (which I wish I could wear, but can never get in a width that is narrow enough).
So my difficulty here is that much of my Bostonian-centric wardrobe, including half a dozen white button-down shirts, some fancy wool trousers and assorted cardigans and cashmere sweaters is what the fish out of water is wearing here. Today I went out in some old jeans, a grey t‑shirt topped with a chocolate brown shirt that has no collar, and wore a hooded fleece sweatshirt. Walking back from the local caf�, I said to Pam “Today, I finally feel like I look like the everyone else.”