It’s Fashion Disaster Week in YYC!

If you’re from Calgary, or you know someone from Calgary, or if you have ever been in the vicinity of Calgary, then you know of what I speak.  For the benefit of my readers who are not in the YYC area, I will attempt to educate you on the local cultural phenomenon known as the Calgary Stampede, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year!

The Stampede takes place for ten days in July, and the Stampede grounds are the site of many a teenage group date/ drunken debauchery/ parents walking around with furrowed brows and crying children.  I don’t go to the Stampede grounds anymore, but I do enjoy the general camaraderie that only decorative hay bales and store windows painted with cartoon cowboys and bucking broncos can bring to an urban platform.  It’s not a big deal to me now, but when I was working in an office downtown, Stampede basically equalled a license to get drunk during the day and on company funds, two-stepping with drunken coworkers and watching them do tequila body shots off of waitresses/prostitutes, wheeeeee.  I am not even kidding about the prostitutes, people.  We like to pretend it actually IS the Wild West out here. 

The weeks following Stampede, divorce attorneys are kept busy, and sales of home pregnancy tests skyrocket.  March brings a mini-baby boom every year.  I have a son born in March, ahem.

Another “benefit” of working in downtown during Stampede is the novelty of being able to don “Western wear” at the office.  For many, that simply means wearing jeans.  For an alarming number of people, though, it means WESTERN WEAR.  I don’t know how many times I was completely startled by a co-worker who, during the rest of the year would be wearing normal business casual clothing, but during Stampede would show up to the office in skin-tight Wranglers, a Stetson, and a shirt with wolves howling at the moon on it.  It was oddly unsettling, like my co-workers had whole other lives aside from stressing out, screaming obscenities at brokers, and breaking phones (true story).

Let me be clear: I’m not a hater.  But this week is full of fashion disasters, and it doesn’t have to be that way.  Little dress worn with cowboy boots and jean jacket?  Cute.  Super short Daisy Dukes with “Save A Horse: Ride A Cowboy” t-shirt?  Skanky.  

As an aside: I really, really want to get one of those shirts when I’m ninety and living in a nursing home.  It will be simultaneously hilarious and horrifying.  Wearing one NOW would indicate that I’m a slutty coug, and would probably alarm my non-cowboy husband, but when I’m ninety?  COMEDY GOLD, BABY. 

But there is good Stampede wear:

I may be biased since I have a total girl-crush on Kate, and also I love all her clothes and her shoes, my god, her SHOES.  There is also terrible Stampede wear:

This is a poor, poor choice.

Now, lest you think I’m being judgemental, I’m not.  I just want to prevent complete fashion disaster.  Let me give you the benefit of my experience; back in the early nineties I had a denim vest, for the love of god.  A denim vest.  And I wore it, over a tiny cropped tank top, to the bar.  That denim vest was the catalyst for the only celebrity comparison I ever received: a very, very drunk man told me I looked like Shania Twain.

Note: I do not look like Shania Twain.

Stampede can be fun, though, ignoring the bad fashion and the poor life choices that are frequently made.  This morning my parents took the boys and I to a private pancake breakfast where there was a good band playing, bouncy castles, and a plethora of sno-cones, popcorn, and cotton candy.  Jake received a cone of cotton candy that was way bigger than his head; Mark had three sno-cones.  Good times were had by all.  Plus, it was at the military museum!  Boys + tanks = happiness.

Yes, I’m wearing a denim top and plaid neck scarf.  Don’t judge!  I bring them out only during Stampede, I swear.


  1. I grew up in Massachusetts. They do not now, nor have they ever had cowboys. So when I moved to Oregon nearly 20 years ago, I was outrageously entertained by the western wear on display during the first (and only) rodeo I ever attended. It just never got old – crazy shirts, non-ass covering jean shorts, frightening hair, hats, all so differently hilarious from where I grew up. (there was PLENTY of frighteningly hilarious fashion where I grew up too, but it’s more along the lines of Jersey Shore that cowboy). I still love me some bad western wear.

  2. Quadelle says

    I once visited my brother and his family in Calgary during the Stampede, and the cowboy clothing was so ubiquitous that when I happened upon a cute cowgirl shirt I came-this-close to actually buying it.

    Then sanity ruled: I live in a city with ~4 million Australians, who don’t do the cowboy thing. Not the way it’s done in Calgary, at least. Something more like this you can get away with, but certainly nothing remotely like the Stampede-esque top I was considering. For the record, it was more akin to Kate’s top than the frightening one in the picture below it. Meaning, next to everything else available it looked almost normal, but next to everything else in my wardrobe it clearly fell into the “one of these things is not like the others” category.

    Plus, I think it’s great to have Stampede-suitable clothes if you actually live in Calgary. So I’m all for your cute ensemble, especially since there are no wolves in sight! 🙂

  3. True story: I wear a leather cowboy hat. All the time! In my defense: I don’t look good in baseball caps but I’m paranoid about skin damage.

    Prostitutes? I don’t want to know.

  4. My husband would love those tanks.

    Mmm. I still love cotton candy.

  5. I love Kate’s hair. It’s so bouncy!

    My sister, as you know, lives in Calgary and makes a point of avoiding the stampede each year – except this one because for some unfathomable reason my parents drove out there to go to the stampede with her. I bet she’s having some fun. Heard they were going to have deep-fried butter there this year.

  6. Man, I need to start paying attention to the fashion disasters when we go to our rodeo.

  7. I live in a city surrounded by a city…when my girlfriend became an RCMP officer, she got transferred to Alberta. And the folk up in the northern parts sport these festive garbs all the time…all year round. So be thankful of your scarf that only pops out once a year


  1. […] I have two items of clothing that regularly come out at Stampede: a straw cowboy hat, and a denim shirt dating from 1997.  I felt that my Stampede “look”, such as it is, needed an update and that is how I […]

Leave a Reply