dressing canadian

The outfit above includes a base-layer (not visible), to ensure comfort both indoors and out.

My friends who live in warmer, mainly non-Canadian climates are always aghast at how cold it can get here. When I was visiting Saskatchewan this Christmas, the temperature dropped to -45 celsius - including windchill and "real feel" or whatever the hell you call it, of course. That's -49 for all the fahrenheiters out there.

Last night I was talking to a girl from San Francisco who happened to be visiting Montreal during our current cold snap (a mere -33), and she couldn't comprehend how we function when it's this cold. The key: layers. And lots of them.

The trick is to keep adding layers until nothing you own is large enough to fit over the last piece of clothing. Just when you think your circulation is about to get cut off, put another layer on. If you can't move your head to the left because your scarf is wound so tight that it's restricting motion, it's time to add a touque. Some people even double-up on touques, or do a touque/earmuff combo, but personally I think that's just plain overkill. The goal is to reach a point of sausage-casing like comfort. But be careful to not push it too far - the buttons of my coat have already popped off three times this winter.

However, our expert Canadian knowledge of the layering system does have a downside. As a child, while all of my warmer-climate friends were allowed to buy form-fitting and fashionable winter coats, I was required to pass the 2-sweater test. Growing up, it was standard practice to buy my coats at least one size too large, just to ensure adequate layering. I kid you not that when I came back from University after my first semester away, all of my friends thought I had lost weight. It wasn't a matter of weight-loss or gain, it was a matter of me finally purchasing a coat that fit.

And don't even get me started on Halloween. It wasn't until I moved to New York that I finally understood what that Halloween scene in E.T. was all about. As a child, I could only wear costumes that accommodated a full snow-suit. "Downhill Skier" was a popular costume among my friends.

I've lived in cities that have a much warmer winter climate that Montreal, and although there was a definite adjustment period upon my return to Canada, it's really not that bad. The upside to all of this is that you've never seen a group of people appreciate summer like Canadians do. We earn summer every year with 4-5 months of horrendous weather - and damn it - it's worth it.

So, to all of my American friends out there who like to complain about their -9 or -15 degree temperatures: suck it up. And go put on a sweater.

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