With the Calgary Stampede just days away, the time has once again come to pack away business casual in favour of Western wear.
But for many in the corporate world, the question is how to get the perfect outfit that takes someone from watching the Rodeo from Ranahans to clubbing at Cowboys, with a few pancake breakfasts in between.
LiveWire Calgary invited three women in leadership roles in corporate Calgary to work with Lammle’s Western Wear visual manager and Western wear expert Jessica Schaaf on June 21, to learn how to better dress for corporate Stampede events.
Lammle’s is the Western wear supplier for the Calgary Stampede.
“My rule is if you’re a little bit nervous about going to a Western store, start with what’s in your wardrobe. You can make any outfit Western,” said Schaaf.
The key to turning any outfit into a Western one, she said, is having the right accessories: The right boots, the right belt, and the right hat.
For Schaaf, she said that people dipping their toes into dressing Western can start with what she calls the rule of three.
“The rule of three is of those three accessories, two of the colors need to match,” Schaaf said.
“So if you’re going to have brown boots, we recommend either doing a brown hat or a brown belt, or in that combination with in a different way.”
She said that although that rule tends to be an absolute for men, women dressing for Stampede events have a little more flexibility in what they choose because of how ornate women’s wear is compared to the men’s.
“It doesn’t really matter because our boots are so fancy for women. We kind of want to see them trying different styles of jeans to really show off the style of boot,” Schaaf said.
Serene Yew, CEO of Pixel Tree, said that for women, dressing appropriately for different functions during Stampede, especially if they have changing bodies from being mothers, can be difficult.
“I really hope that what we did there today will help women, and not just mothers, hopefully have a bit of an easier time when preparing for what is undoubtedly going to be a very hectic corporate Stampede Week,” Yew said.
“For women, there were these three distinct styles which was actually a great thing because it allows you to align your sense of fashion with the theme of Stampede without compromising on who you are, and how you can fit it in with what feels right for you.”
Selecting an outfit
Schaaf breaks down the typical Western wear for Stampede into three different categories.
Western traditional is the style that can be worn to corporate functions and then to the rodeo. It typically consists of a Western button-up shirt, darker denim jeans, cowboy boots, and a traditional style hat—felt or straw, said Schaaf.
Western casual is a look that can be worn while strolling Stephen Avenue or the Stampede grounds, to the more casual Stampede work event.
“We’re looking at weather: it’s maybe if they don’t if you don’t want to wear denim [jeans], you’re going to be wearing a dress. What we want to do is with a dress, maybe look at a denim jacket accessory,” she said.
“Denim in general is extremely casual, so that’s how we take any outfit and make it more casual.”
She said that with that style of look the choice of hat is more flexible, including the currently-popular fashion hats that have different brim shapes and sizes from traditional cowboy hats.
Western formal, usually worn for an evening out or to more formal events during Stampede, is the outfit style that frequently causes the most hang-ups for people trying to dress Western, said Shaaf.
“Sometimes they hear that word formal and they think well, you can’t wear high heels or you’re not going to be wearing a blazer. So what do I wear instead?” Schaaf said.
The format outfit consists of high-fashion boots, which are denoted by their style and heel heights, along with a dress and Western accessories.
“We’re able to pair a fringe jacket, which is extremely Western, paired on top of a planer-style dress,” Schaaf said.
“We can incorporate the higher fashion boots which are taller than your average 13-inch shaft boots, and with a little bit more heel to give that woman a feeling of confidence that she’s going to the right formal event.”
Style options for Stampede
- Hat: Bailey beige felt hat
- Top: Ariat women’s dottie snap shirt
- Jeans: Kimes light denim
- Belt: Wrangler black hide concho belt
- Boots: Corral white sparkle boots
- Hat: Charlie 1 Horse straw hat
- Jacket: Stetson denim jacket with white floral embroidery
- Dress: Red bandana print high/low dress
- Belt: Wrangler black hide concho belt
- Boots: White shale Corral boots
- Hat: Charlie 1 Horse tan felt hat
- Jacket: Rock and Roll fringe denim jacket
- Dress: Easel white sleeveless maxi dress
- Belt: Wrangler black concho belt
- Boots: Stiefeld hide on hide ankle boots
- Hat: Bailey forest green felt hat
- Top: Panhandle white snap shirt with denim fringe vest
- Jeans: Kimes ranch jeans
- Boots: Floral print cowboy boots
- Hat: Charlie 1 Horse tan hat
- Dress: Wrangler denim dress
- Belt: Ariat women’s rectangle concho leather belt
- Boots: Corral petal print with turquoise stitching
- Hat: Charlie 1 Horse tan felt hat
- Jacket: Double D Ranch fringe jacket
- Dress: Double D Ranch white dress
- Belt: Ariat women’s concho turquoise underlay leather belt
- Boots: Black leather accented boots
Western fashion is timeless, but fashion boots are in right now
Schaaf said that the broader trend in fashion is for boots to be back in style.
“I’ve seen it across so many styles, where it’s that corporate look where that woman’s in a suit, but she’s rocking some white cowboy boots,” she said.
She said that the fashion hat trend is also growing in Alberta, with more women wearing hats again on evenings out. Fringe and other Western trends are also coming back into style but Schaaf said that never really went away.
“Western is it truly lives as a timeless way of dressing. What is beautiful about Western is it never goes out of style, and it’s never really in style, it lives just on its own in its own world,” she said.
“So if you are investing in your items, you’re gonna have them forever. And with the trends, we do see some stuff coming back. Right now it’s very much Garth Brooks, old school, and like those styles Dolly Parton—truly the timeless pieces.”
Emma Stevens, who works as a Director of Communications and External Relations for the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, said that talking to a stylist prior to the Stampede was a way to get more fashionable for people who didn’t grow up with the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
“It’s so useful. You see people wearing great outfits, but you don’t know how to put them together. So it’s so helpful knowing how to put an outfit together for stampede and how to dress for the occasion that you’re going for,” Stevens said.
“I think I have a good sense now of my options, how to dress a bit more traditionally a bit more formally, a bit more casually. I have a better sense of how to put pieces together—I never would have put together some of those accessories.”
Shareen Ayoub, Manager of Business Development for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said that she is ready to rock some of the styles she tried on as soon as Stampede starts.
“I had no idea that there was such versatility in Stampede fashion, and I’m so thrilled to have been exposed to all of these different looks that you can wear,” Ayoub said.
“I’m very much excited to pull a few of them off in a couple of weeks.”
The Calgary Stampede runs from July 7 through 16.