The Calgary Stampede. Dubbed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, this event is 10 days of fun in Calgary, Canada.
The event boasts a rodeo with one of the largest pots of the season, a parade, a midway, outdoor concerts, chuckwagon races, a grandstand show and nightly fireworks among its events. Beer gardens, free cowboy breakfasts and “beef on a bun” dinners are also part of the festivities. If you’ve never attended The Calgary Stampede, but are thinking of including it in your summer vacation plans, I think it’s something worth seeing at least once in a lifetime!
Want more details on The Calgary Stampede? Check out Episode 4 of The Real Girl Podcast where I discuss all things Stampede and everything you need to know when attending The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!
The Calgary Stampede or just “Stampede” as it’s known to locals is a 10+ day period where you can dress like a cowboy without looking like a poser. In fact, it’s encouraged. We want you to get into the spirit of the event, so don’t worry about any feelings of cultural appropriation! All businesses allow employees to wear denim, boots and hats for the work week upon when the festival falls. It’s pretty much tradition at this point.
Most Calgarians have a go-to set of clothing that they pull out once a year. As a long-time Calgarian (almost 20 years now), I’ve come to collect “Stampede Outfit” items as I see them. It’s much easier than trying to scramble through what’s left in stores to be picked over by tourists. I often find myself purchasing items I see on sale throughout the year because they’d be “perfect for Stampede”. Remember – this event is 10+ days long in July heat so it doesn’t lend itself to re-wearing much without washing it in between!
The weather during Stampede can be a bit funny. It’s either blistering hot with a predictable mid-week thunderstorm and brief downpour, or it’s rainy and cool. Don’t worry – this post will provide you with all of the necessary wardrobe items for you to mix and match for such weather changes!
Not sure what to wear for attending Stampede Week events? We’ve got you covered! No matter if you’re heading to a Stampede Breakfast, the Rodeo or a Stampede work event, everything you need is in this post!
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- Necessary Fabrics + How To Wear Them
- Must-Have Pieces For Your Stampede Wardrobe
- The Right Footwear + Cowboy Boot Alternatives
- The Perfect Hat + Cowboy Hat Substitutes
- The Best Bags + Accessories to Perfect Your Outfits
- Stampede Outfits For Men
- What To Know When Dressing for The Calgary Stampede
You don’t have to wear Jack Daniels branded shirts or look like a rodeo participant to fit in during The Calgary Stampede. Stampede dressing is really quite simple and you can be as basic or as flashy and flamboyant as you’d like! Here are my tips for what to wear to The Calgary Stampede and how to build a “Stampede Wardrobe” that you can go to for years to come!
#1: 3 Necessary Fabrics + How To Wear Them
Fabric 1: Denim, Denim and More Denim!
The easiest way to make an outfit “Stampede-y” is to start with or layer on something denim. Just be careful not to go too overboard à la 90s Justin and Britney!
Denim Pants: I always opt for skinny jeans because they tuck nicely into boots. Traditional Wranglers need not apply unless they’re really your thing! My favorite are 7ForAllMankind’s b(air) denim line because they’re soft, stretchy and lightweight, making them super comfortable in the hot sun. They’re also wearable all year long, not just for 10 days in July. My picks:
Denim Shorts: Denim shorts, particularly ‘Daisy Duke’ style cutoffs are a big winner. They look cute with boots and they’re great for hot days. My picks:
Denim Skirts: A denim skirt is another great option for bottoms. I love ‘cutoff’ denim skirts with a frayed edge to make them look more worn. My picks:
Denim Dresses: There are so many cute denim dress styles now. One of my favorite ways to wear a denim dress is with a belted denim shirt dress! A denim dress is also super easy because it’s almost an entire Stampede outfit all in one piece! My picks:
Denim Shirts: A chambray or denim shirt is an excellent choice to western-up a pair of white jeans or shorts or even something patterned. My picks:
Denim Jackets + Vests: Looking to add some western flair to your summer sundress? Toss a jean jacket or vest over top, add boots and you’re good to go. I find that a classic denim jacket goes a long way in your Stampede wardrobe and is great for those cooler summer nights. My picks:
Fabric 2: Gingham + Plaid
If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I’m a gingham enthusiast! This lightweight checkered fabric pairs beautifully with jeans and breathes well in the hot sun.
Then there’s plaid. Ahh, plaid. Gingham’s lovely cousin and the easiest thing to throw on with jeans to make yourself Stampede ready! I love flannel plaid shirts, but I strongly suggest ditching those for this event as it is in July when it is quite hot out!
I love button up and pop-over gingham and plaid styles with sleeves that either have ties or can be rolled up. I’ve curated quite a collection of these shirts over the years! Gingham dresses are always among my favorite Stampede pieces, too (don’t worry, I’m sharing those below). My picks:
Fabric 3: Leather + Suede
Leather and suede (or Vegan + Faux, if you prefer) are great additions to top off your Stampede outfit, but be cautious in how you wear them. Ensure that your style leans western or festival rather than biker and remember that chaps, although cool looking, are quite warm! Consider fringe in this fabric department, too. To really add these fabrics to your outfits, I suggest including them with shoes, belts and bags. Don’t worry – I’ve got plenty of those picks coming up in this post!
#2: Other Outfit Staple Pieces
Dresses: This is where women get an easy break for western style. Take just about any dress and throw a jean jacket or vest over it and you’re good to go. I’m all for upping the ante here, though. Opt for subtle floral patterns (consider patterns carefully to ensure they align with the western or country feel), gingham and plaid of course, lace details and anything that says ‘summer cowboy’. I love belting dresses for Stampede, especially a denim shirt dress! My (many) picks:
Traditional Western Shirts: You’ll see them at every western wear and tack store in the area! Snap front work shirts are a great way to express western style and are often made by traditional western brands. Look for styles with embroidery and pretty embellishments. Note that this is often a more expensive outfit piece than a plaid or gingham shirt, but it will likely be wearable for years to come. My picks:
#3: The Right Footwear
Cowboy boots are of course the traditional and most common choice of footwear for The Calgary Stampede. They go well with everything and they keep your feet protected from getting dirty and stomped in crowds! Other styles include “lace-ups” and work boots that you’ll see on the farm.
Cowboy boots are a great way to express your personal style, too! They come in so many different colors and patterns that you don’t have to stick with the traditional black or brown. One of my girlfriends even wore blue ones under her wedding dress! My picks:
If cowboy boots are just really not your thing or you don’t want to splurge on something you’re not going to wear that often, there are a few cowboy boot alternatives that will still go with your western outfit! My picks:
Want a pair of custom boots? Check out Alberta Boot Company while you’re in town!
#4: The Perfect Hat
The White Stetson is an iconic symbol of the city of Calgary and The Calgary Stampede. It’s a gift that is given to foreign leaders and dignitaries and what volunteers and officials wore during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. BUT, cowboy hats aren’t for everyone.
TIP: Opt for a hat that is either white or straw. Black and felt hats are considered ‘winter hats’ by true cowboys because they are just too damn hot for the first week of July and summer in general. Cowboy hats come in different shapes and sizes, so you should be able to find one that suits you. My picks:
If a traditional cowboy hat isn’t your jam, but you’re still looking for a sun-shielding chapeau, here are a few cowboy hat alternatives:
Want something truly Calgarian? Head over to Smithbilt for a Made-in-Calgary hat that’s customized just for you!
#5: The Best Accessories
Accessories can truly make an outfit – and in this case, they can really up the cowboy quotient. Here are my favorite ways to accessorize Stampede style!
Bags: Leather and suede (in real, vegan or faux!) are the best choices for a Stampede bag. I love a crossbody style that I can also wear on my shoulder. I lean towards colors like black, brown and cognac as they are the most versatile and seem to go with every outfit. For styles, opt for saddlebags, embellishments and anything with fringe! Cow print or horsehide? Even better! My picks:
Belts: Look beyond the rodeo belt buckle. Belts are one of the most fun accessories for western style! I love suede, woven leathers, traditional and embellished styles. I also love wide styles and wrap belts for cinching dresses and adding structure to shorts. Anything leather pairs perfectly with jeans, skirts and shorts! My picks:
Jewelry: I tend not to wear a lot of jewelry during Stampede because it’s really hot out, but when I do, there are a few pieces that I love! Anything horse themed, like a horseshoe charm necklace and anything beaded or turquoise! Look for both boho and Native American inspiration here, too. My picks:
BONUS: Stampede Outfits for Him
I feel like men have it so easy when it comes to Stampede dressing. Jeans + Belt + Button Down Shirt + Shoes/Boots + Hat (if desired). At The Calgary Stampede you will see men dressed in a variety of ways, some all decked out in booze branded rodeo button downs and Wranglers and some in more simple ensembles! Here are the easiest ways to help your man dress for Stampede:
#1: Jeans: Any jeans will do – literally any. I would opt for a lightweight denim in whichever wash you prefer. Go for blue shades as black denim is a bit passé and can look too worn. Want something modern yet still traditional? Opt for Levis over Wranglers.
#2: Belt: Feel free to wear a large belt buckle if you want to, but a standard belt that you’d wear with jeans is just fine. Large belt buckles tend to be reserved for more traditional, authentic cowboys and rodeo stars, but souvenir versions are available for tourists.
#3: Button Down Shirt: Opt for dress shirts in either plaid, gingham or solid colors. Anything that seems “classic cowboy”. Snap front farm work shirts are also appropriate. I like long sleeves that are rolled up for a more casual look. If you really want to get into the spirit, opt for shirts that you see rodeo cowboys wearing that feature prominent event sponsors!
#4: Boots/Shoes: Cowboy boots are always a favorite, but if they’re not for you, a pair of brown dress shoes are the ticket…just make sure your belt matches.
#5: Hat: Cowboy hats aren’t for everyone so don’t feel pressured to wear one. They are great for keeping the sun off if you’re spending an afternoon at the rodeo, though, so you might find yourself shopping for one on the grounds!
A Few Other Tips For Dressing For Stampede
If you’re attending the rodeo or the chuckwagon races, I have a few additional suggestions:
1. Make sure to check your tickets to see where you’re sitting to determine the amount of sun or weather exposure you’ll receive and dress accordingly.
2. Note if you will have to walk across the chuckwagon track (it’s dirt!) to determine footwear choices.
3. Pack a light jacket if you’re staying for the Grandstand Show as it can get cool at night (we’re close to the mountains).
4. Pack a poncho or an umbrella for days when rain is forecasted because when it rains during Stampede, it pours!!!
5. If you’re on the Stampede grounds and it’s blistering hot and you realize that a cowboy hat is the way to go, there are several shops on the midway that sell hats, boots, clothes and everything in between at a variety of price points.
My Stampede Wardrobe
+ Western Outfit Inspiration
Now that you’ve got all the pieces, let’s put them together! Here is some outfit inspo for your Stampede looks from my own Stampede Wardrobe! P.S. All of these looks are shopable, too!
Not heading to Calgary this summer? These looks will show you some examples of what to wear to a rodeo, too!
This outfit is super easy – this lace-up gingham dress is a natural base for a denim jacket and boots! Finish with a hat, if desired.
Traditional outfit choices like this are a breeze and these pieces are cute enough to wear all summer long! Hattie certainly agrees!
Tip: A small front tuck of your shirt adds style and shows off your belt!
On hotter days in July, I prefer to swap out my jeans for shorts. I keep the boots because they’re hella comfy and protect my feet.
I love off the shoulder styles for summer, and adding boots turns them into a cute cowgirl look!
Shop My Stampede Outfits + Wardrobe