How to dress for the Calgary Stampede without looking like an idiot.

…or a “Woo Girl”.

Last Friday the school hosted it’s annual Stampede Breakfast; it’s a year-end tradition that is greatly anticipated by all the staff and students, and of course my kids were no exception.


Cute cowboys!

As I dressed that morning, I thought of all the years I’ve spent disparaging Stampede or Western wear. Typically, I think of the week of Stampede as the week that Calgary loses all fashion sense, while people walk around embracing their inner cowpoke by wearing tight high-rise Wranglers, giant belt buckles, and shirts with sunset and/ or howling wolf motifs. I always want to get into that festive Western spirit, and yet I a) don’t want to spend any money to do it, and b) I don’t want to look like an idiot and/or what my friend Jen (HI JEN) euphemistically calls a “woo girl.”

Be the change you want to see in the world, I say, and so here are three outfits that you can pull together inexpensively and with things you probably already have in your closet that will get you in the Stampede spirit. That is, if you’re in Calgary. If you’re not, though, maybe you have a Western-themed costume party you need to attend this summer. I don’t know if such a party exists outside of Alberta, but hey, if it does, I’ve got you covered.

First Step: Ditch the denim cut-offs. Cut-off denim shorts are universally unflattering. Well, I would extend that to shorts in general but then I usually get stridently humourless messages about the wonders of shorts, so I will leave it at denim cut-offs. This is especially true if the denim shorts are of a length where the pockets extend below the “hemline,” and I use that term loosely. Remember this maxim: just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Second Step: Spend a small amount of money on accessories. I have lived in Calgary my whole life and I still don’t own cowboy boots. I think they’re cute, I think you can work them into other outfits, but every year I find I cannot bring myself to spend any money purchasing them. I have some kind of mental block about it; I’d happily pay for yoga tops, yoga pants, and black sweaters even though I have dozens of each, but I cannot bring myself to buy a pair of cowboy boots. Maybe you want to, though. Several years ago I bought a straw cowboy hat for under thirty dollars and it remains my best Stampede accessory. It’s versatile too; cowboy hats look very cute with bikinis on the beach. Ladies, don’t forget your hats on the beach! You don’t want to end up like apple dolls, or raisins.

Outfit #1: This is what I wore to the breakfast on Friday. It’s a good outfit for cool-ish weather because of the layering potential.

Start with a tank top and skinny jeans (or any jeans).


Oops. That’s a bit too cleavage-y of a shot. Here’s a better one.


Bonus fuzzy slippers! Next, layer on a button-up shirt. I have this ugly Western-themed one, but really, any button-up shirt will do. Bonus points for plaid.


You can see the Western detailing on the back. Note the tank top – not too much cleavage or you’ll end up looking Woo Girl, as this is what we are trying to avoid.

Add the hat:


Now, as I said, I don’t have cowboy boots. They would be perfect with this outfit, however, my normal ankle boots will have to suffice.


Outfit complete!

029 031

Outfit #2

Start with a tank top and denim skirt, if you have one. If you don’t have a denim skirt, jeans will work just as well.


Next, add a bandana. I have had this thing for years. I actually got it in 2001 at this restaurant in Houston called Taste of Texas, which features gigantic steaks that are free if you break the record of x number of ounces. I did not partake in that activity, but nevertheless I received this bandana.


Next, add the hat. See how versatile the straw hat is? I’m really pushing for it.


Bandanas are very inexpensive to purchase – or free, if you frequent the right restaurants – but if you don’t have one, just go with the hat and tank top/ skirt combination works.


Cowboy boots would be the best footwear choice in this scenario, but usually I end up wearing sandals. People aren’t generally looking at your feet, unless those people are my shoe-obsessed mother, in which case she is totally looking at your feet. The lady likes her footwear, is all I’m saying.

Outfit #3

Start with a sundress, any sundress. Floral is really cute if you have one, but I do not, so I have to settle for this black number.


A word about this dress: it’s made by the yoga-wear company Prana, and it is, without exception, the most comfortable article of clothing I own. That includes pajamas. The material is soft and stretchy, and it has a built in shelf bra so it’s just like wearing the most comfortable yoga top ever, but extended to the knees. I like that it’s a bit on the longer side, so I don’t have to worry about a gust of wind displaying my badonkadonk.

Next, add a jean jacket, denim vest, or denim top.


The outfit could, really, be complete right there, but why not top it off with a cute straw cowboy hat?


Again, cowboy boots would be very cute with this, but sandals are a decent second place.

Are you all set for Stampede now? Can I get a YAHOO? Or maybe just a WOO? xo


  1. Shoot you’re cute! 😀

    Great post!

    Yee haw!

  2. I miss Stampede! What fun it was going to work in western wear every day.

  3. OMG, Apple Dolls! Does anyone under 35 know what those are? I’m totally going to make one with the kids and freak them the hell out.

    My husband is already trying to talk me down from buying a cowboy hat when we are in Calgary this summer. I have no idea what I would ever do with a cowboy hat but it seems it must be done. It’s HOW WE DO. Everyone else on the plane home will have one!

    Also: adorable outfits :).

  4. bibliomama2 says

    That sundress is THE BOMB. Also, I love how you thought the shot was too cleavage-y but left it in anyway (thank-YOU). The mirror strip in the third pic of you looks like you have a stripper pole in your room which was hugely enjoyable and confusing for a second until I scrolled all the way down. And you are the most adorable non-woo-girl EVER. If I was in Calgary I would totally try to dress like you and feel sad that I didn’t pull it off as well.

  5. Great outfits! You’re right: totally cowgirl, without having to buy head-to-toe new outfits.

    I think one reason I dread the annual shorts-are-never-cute reminder is that it chips away at one of my dearly-held tools for reducing my social anxiety: I often channel anxiety into fretting about my clothes, and I will soothe myself saying, “No one cares what you wear. No one cares what you wear.”


  1. Labels Blog says:

    Embrace Your Cowgirl Fashion Sense

    […] rant in Houston called Taste of Texas, which features gigantic steaks that are f […]

  2. Peel Blog says:

    Embrace Your Cowgirl Fashion Sense

    […] ak the record of x number of ounces. I did not partake in that activity, but nev […]

  3. Empty Nest says:

    […] marks the beginning of Stampede week – I shall refer you to my older posts about dressing for the Stampede without looking ridiculous and my subsequent purchase of cowboy boots. While I’d like to be one of those women who […]

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