As I found myself googling 'where to buy a fascinator near me' in preparation for The Cup, it occurred to me (not for the first time) what a shortage of formal wear designers we have in Vancouver. We have plenty of streetwear, athleisure, and contemporary fashion but when it comes to dressing for an event where the dress code is literally "get fancy," it's a tall order to find original places to shop.
The stakes also feel particularly high dressing for The Cup since there is a $10,000 cash prize for the best dressed. The Style Stakes competition invites all attendees to capture their look at the portrait studio and be entered to win the grand prize. If you do win, you'll also be a judge the following year.
So with that in mind, how do you put together your outfit for this posh day at the races? Sure, there are the usual suspects like Nordstrom or Holt Renfrew, and then pre-loved luxury consignment stores like Turnabout, Mine and Yours, and Collective Will, but what about those of us in search of a unique showstopping outfit that supports an indie designer? Toronto has Narces, who do we have that fits that bill?
Enter Evan Clayton. The eponymous fashion label's designs are the definition of showstopping. Carly Rae Jepsen just wore a custom ruffled tulle Evan Clayton minidress with beaded lace applique to perform at Bristol Pride and many of our favourite Canada's Drag Race queens have been dressed by Clayton for the show. It's cutting it too close for a custom look by Clayton for The Cup but some of his ready-to-wear pieces are available on his website.
This hidden gem boutique label has a brick-and-mortar store on Richards in Vancouver with dresses and separates ranging from minimal to flamboyant but they also offer custom design. My favourite Shelley Klassen pieces for The Cup are the flowy skirts (either the Robin maxi skirt or the Melody skirt) and the strappy 1920s style fringe Teresa dress which would look stunning with an over-the-top hat or fascinator.
Boboli is a luxury boutique that's been a staple in South Granville since 1985. It carries an exquisitely curated collection of designer women’s clothing and accessories that you may not have seen before. The pieces in-store are all about structure and bold patterns that make people go 'wow.' Some of the items may be out of budget for people but I highly recommend taking a look at the sale rack for an investment outfit that will be the jewel of your closet for years to come.
We can't forget about the men. Surmesur has showrooms across Canada including in Vancouver on Mainland Street. They can create made-to-measure suits, shirts, tuxedos, chinos, trousers, jeans, sports jackets and coats but they also have ready-to-wear collections for people in a time crunch. Their selection of 'party shirts' are a great way to jazz up an existing suit without having to buy a whole new three-piece but if you're going all-in you might as well.
One of a Few
One of a few is the best place to introduce yourself to Vancouver designers. This store on Water Street in Gastown has been around for 17 years and stocks exactly what it says, a limited amount of pieces from emerging and well-established slow fashion designers. Most are perhaps a bit too casual for The Cup (although I am a believer that casual is all in the styling) but it is worth checking them out any time you have an event because there are occasional formal wear gems like this Rachel Comey Dante dress in eggplant.
Now on to the accessories. A day at the races wouldn't be complete without a hat, it's almost the whole point of getting dressed up is to add a headpiece at the end. Flaunt Millinery are handmade at a Vancouver home studio and sold through Etsy. They are colourful, intricate, and absolutely fabulous. Just look at this gorgeous orchid-inspired one. Not many people know about them so it's definitely going to be a conversation starter.
This Vancouver-based atelier with an Italian heart does more traditional hat-making for men and women in addition to fascinators for those who would prefer a wide-brimmed straw hat or a boater for the races or maybe even a top hat. Located in Gastown, Capelleria Bertacchi is the real deal with a massive selection of hats for all occasions.
The Hat Shop
We can't talk about hats in Vancouver without mentioning The Hat Shop on Granville Island. The classic shop has been a staple in the area for over 35 years (formerly Edie Hats) and they have men's and women's heads covered in all occasions and all weathers. The occasion section for women is a tad limited but there is a cool Canadian-made top hat that would make a splash. Otherwise, I would recommend gentlemen look into their selection.