How Do Canadians Dress?

Kat N.L.M./CC-BY-SA 2.0

Broadly speaking, clothing trends in Canada vary from region to region and according to cultural backgrounds, with those in Vancouver being rather casual, and those in Toronto likened to British styles. French Canadians, meanwhile, commonly have a casual European style of dress. Canadians, in general, are considered more conservative in their choice of clothing than Americans.

Historically, the early settlers of Canada had little choice in their clothing and tended to wear either what they brought with them or what could be made using locally-available materials, such as animal skins. Imported cloth was expensive, and weaving was uncommon until the 18th century.

European fashions influenced Canadian tastes, although there was a considerable delay of more than one year between styles arising in France and their adoption in Canada. Examples of such received fashions, which were generally adopted by the wealthy alone, included male wigs, lace cravats and brocade dressing gowns.

Poorer settlers wore home-made clothing. For men, this included leather moccasins and leggings, which were inspired by indigenous attire. The woolen “ceinture fléchée,” a colorful braided sash decorated with arrowhead patterns, was likewise inspired by indigenous populations, and it became a particularly iconic item of clothing among French Canadians during the 19th century.

Women’s clothing between the 17th and 19th centuries was characterized by separate tops and skirts. Until the late 18th century, corsets, chemises, petticoats, aprons and caps were also worn, all of which were inspired by everyday French clothing.