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I Went Shopping For Winter Clothes In Canada For The First Time & It Was The Worst Thing Ever

Buying the right gear for Canadian winters isn't cheap!

Trending Associate Editor
Janice Rodrigues trying on jackets.

Janice Rodrigues trying on jackets.

This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

If you've been in Canada long enough, knowing how and when to buy winter clothes is probably not new to you.

But, if you're a newcomer to Canada, that means you have to do many things for the first time — and getting an entirely new winter wardrobe is just one of them.

And let me tell you that it's not easy, especially if you've come from a hot country.

I had always thought swimsuit shopping was one of the most demoralizing shopping experiences of all time, but that was before I actually had to take a crack at buying clothes for a Canadian winter.

What started out with me wanting to get "a few coats and boots" evolved into a nightmare of realizing how little I knew about winter shopping and how expensive it can get. (Seriously, are some of those parkas stuffed with gold?)

I also made the grave mistake of thinking I could do it all in one day, which is how I ended up trying on everything from jackets to coats to boots – and not buying anything.

I do have photographic evidence of my failed shopping attempt though, and the displeasure on my face is an apt representation of just how the entire experience progressed.

So, here are the reasons I absolutely hated winter clothes shopping in Canada, and a few valuable lessons I picked up along the way.

The stuff that looks good isn't usually warm

Janice Rodrigues trying on a jacket at Lululemon.

Janice Rodrigues trying on a jacket at Lululemon.

Janice Rodrigues | Narcity

As someone who moved to Canada from the Middle East, winter shopping to me meant cute heeled boots and fashionable trench coats.

But, over here in Canada, winter shopping takes on a whole new meaning in that clothes are not just supposed to look good but, well, keep you alive during those icy months.

As I quickly realized, anything that I even partly liked – peacoats, figure-hugging jeans and badass leather jackets – are just not practical enough to handle the coldest months.

And the stuff that did look like it could keep me alive – bulky parkas and jeans that accommodate layers of thermals – are not very easy on the eyes.

So, my advice to everyone in this department is: when in doubt, always go for the warmer outfit, even if it's not as pretty.

What helped me was researching any product I was spending over $100 on and checking user reviews.

Your future self will probably thank you for the extra effort!

Winter shopping is expensive

Eventually, I did find clothes that were gorgeous to look at and seemed to also do their job of keeping the wearer adequately warm.

But all I had to do was look at the price tag to know they were going right back on the rack.

In fact, the first time I looked up the prices at Canada Goose, I nearly shed a tear. A lot of the jackets and parkas there looked great but with price tags above the $1,000 range I think I'd have to take a loan out to afford one.

I compromised by deciding on a budget and then shelling out on some mid-range brands for essential products while getting no-name brands for less-important stuff.

Thrift stores are also amazing places to get quality stuff on a tight budget, I've learned.

You need so many accessories 

\u200bJanice Rodrigues trying on a coat.

Janice Rodrigues trying on a coat.

Janice Rodrigues | Narcity

I knew that winter shopping was all about accessories and layering.

But, what I didn't realize, was the sheer number of accessories Canadians have for the extreme cold.

Take getting the right boots, for example.

While I previously thought one pair would suffice, I quickly learned that I actually needed a pair of "everyday boots" and then a separate pair of "snow boots" for winter activities.

And don't even get me started on the varieties, like knee-high boots and combat boots. Or features like water-resistant vs. water-proof.

Gloves (that work with touch-screen phones), beanies, ear-muffs, thermal socks and hand warmers (not to be confused with hand gloves) are just some of the other things I've learned I'll likely need.

And all that is hard on the wallet, especially when you need to buy them all at once!

It's overwhelming when you're new

When you come from a hot country and suddenly have to buy winter clothes, the options can be quite overwhelming.

Luckily, many brands actually do list out what temperatures their clothing is best suited for, and this was super helpful to a newbie like me.

It can also get confusing because you want to buy basics that go with, well, the rest of your wardrobe. But you also might want statement pieces that look fashionable, are different colours and stand out.

And, well, I'm still struggling to find the right balance there. Any tips for me here, Canada?

    Janice Rodrigues
    Trending Associate Editor
    Janice Rodrigues is an Associate Editor for Narcity Canada’s Trending Desk focused on Canadian immigration and passports, and is based in Scarborough, Ontario.
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