Clothes to pack for late summer trip to Montreal/Ontario lakehouse?
July 12, 2014 9:30 AM   Subscribe

What stylish but versatile mix and match clothing articles and accessories should I pack for three July nights in Montreal and four nights in a cabin off Lake Beverly in Ontario? How do I keep them looking "fresh" despite heat, humidity, and my own unforgiving sweat?

Since it will be summer in eastern Canada (I've never been before!) I'm trying to figure out how to pack clothes effectively for this trip without:

1) bringing more articles of clothing than are necessary;
2) looking out of place, whether it's at the lake or in the city;
3) forgoing style - I want to balance style and comfort!
4) packing fabrics that won't hold up well in luggage, or in humidity (although I own a travel size de-linting machine, as well as a fabric steamer)
5) breaking the bank (it would be preferable to shop my own closet rather than to buy too many new clothing items, if I knew how to strategize such an effort?)

Background info: I'm a 27 year old American woman traveling by car with my Canadian boyfriend. Body type: I'm on the tall side (6'0) and relatively slender, but wide through the hips and thighs. I look better in skirts/dresses that hit no higher than just above the knee. Anything that accentuates my waistline is a plus. I tend to like a healthy mix of classic pieces a la Chanel mixed with boho/thriftstore chic.

I'm basically looking to learn how to look clean and chic in the summer on a thrifty budget.

Canadians: Is late July going to be just as humid in Ontario and Montreal as it is here in Virginia? What type of layers should I pack, and what materials are best (cotton, linen?) as well as what colors? I have a tendency to sweat more than other women (you should see me at the gym - other women on the treadmill will glow, while I look like I just got spray hosed!) and prefer prints or darker tones, especially navy, since navy never goes out of style and it conceals sweat stains well. Lame excuse, but still (I'm aware of the genius of Certain Dri but don't use it as consistently as I'd like). I'm also very open to accessorizing (lightweight scarves and shawls, fun statement/costume jewelry, a great oversize purse).

Last but not least: what are the ultimate stylish walking shoes for all day city walking and standing? I have fallen arches, which makes this a complicated issue for me as is. I hate the look of most shoes with 'comfort arches' in them, but do like wedges/espadrilles despite the fact that they exhaust the balls of my feet after a few hours. (I tend to wear Steven Madden ballet flats everywhere I go because they're relatively inexpensive, chic and comfortable for long-day wear at both the office and for everyday casual. But I'd like an alternative walking shoe that isn't dowdy. Maybe even a hip looking sneaker/tennis shoe? I've got some gray low-rise Converses and a pair of orange/blue striped Keds, but I think they'd hurt after a while.

So far I'm looking to bring two pairs of skinny jeans, a crisp button-up shirt, a navy blue cashmere sweater for chillier evenings, a white cotton a-line skirt, and of course some sweat-wicking exercise clothes for when I work out. But other than that... clueless. MeFi stylistas (better yet, recessionistas!), please help!

Extra tips are welcome on HOW to pack these clothes and keep them looking fresh for a week!

Thank you in advance!

P.S. If anyone has some off-topic (but much appreciated!) useful tips on how to get by in Canada as far as cash/exchange rates and other cultural differences, please MeFi mail me!
posted by nightrecordings to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't travel anywhere these days without a jersey maxi dress. Mine are all striped, but you could go solid, or a different print. They pack well, are excellent for lounging around the hotel/cabin, and with a jacket/cardigan/scarf, make perfectly acceptably daytime clothing.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:47 AM on July 12, 2014

Bring at least two swim suits (nothing worse than trying to get into a still-wet swimsuit!). The weather has not been too humid at all, and it should be quite temperate by the lake. I favour packing plainish dresses and then just switching out the scarves/coats/hats. With light fabrics you can hand wash and then hang to dry so you don't need to pack a different outfit for each day. Montreal has some AMAZING designers, any chance you will get a few hours to shop and add to the vacation wardrobe?
posted by saucysault at 9:57 AM on July 12, 2014

In these situations the best idea is to pack silk, along with laundry leaves or extra shampoo. At night, you can wash the silk things out in cold water in the sink, then leave them to drip dry in the shower. In the morning, they will be dry and perfectly smooth.
posted by tel3path at 10:03 AM on July 12, 2014

Your packing list is good (not great; an evening layer is good but I don't think you'll want cashmere; it will likely be too hot, and I might swap one pair of jeans for shorts) for Montreal and way off for the 'cabin.' This is a cottage, yes? Not a resort?

Cottage dressing is mostly about 'Does this still reek of bug spray? Perfect, there's my outfit for the afternoon.' Think dark shorts that don't show dirt, loose 'leisure pants' for mosquito-y evenings, a plain dress you can throw on over a swimsuit, and nothing white and nothing in a fussy fabric. Don't wear anything you would be shattered to have a random stick tear a hole in. I would not give a second thought to wrinkles. Shoes should be something that slips on and would not be ruined by stepping in a weird wet patch of something.

Less of that applies if you are going to a fancy 'summer house' or the 'cabin' is part of a resort where you have dinner in a nice dining hall, etc. But if it is going to the cottage on the lake as Ontario generally understands it (and they do, en masse), the dress code is closer to camping than anything else. A caftan is the only interesting bit of clothing I've seen anybody pull off well at a cottage. Most flavours of 'stylish' will render you useless for a lot of cottage activities; 'clean and chic' is just not in the mix (outside of the odd dress you pull on over a swimsuit to look presentable for dinner). You will swim and sit on an old dock, haul firewood, battle blackflies. If you don't pack enough can-get-filthy stuff you will end up wearing the same shorts the entire time you're there, but that is okay, too.
posted by kmennie at 10:05 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

saucysault - Good advice on the two suits (I only own one, since I rarely swim)! Thanks. A cute bathing suit cover up probably won't hurt me, either. Looks better than a damp towel around the waist.

I'll have nothing but time to shop in Montreal (we plan to stroll, eat, shop, and leisure about carefree) so if you have recommendations on clothing shops (especially vintage/consignment boutiques that are fairly priced and won't break the bank), do tell!
posted by nightrecordings at 10:06 AM on July 12, 2014

tel3path - do tell? I only own two silk items, a green silk pencil skirt and a gold silk peasant dress. I never wear them in summer because I fear not only that I will look a sweaty mess in them, but that I won't be able to remove the deoderant/sweat mixture stains from them. Would cold water be enough? Or do I need a new deoderant system?

Also, by laundry leaves I assume you mean fabric softener sheets?
posted by nightrecordings at 10:08 AM on July 12, 2014

A plain t-shirt and jeans can look very stylish with the right accessories (scarf/necklace/belt/earrings/bracelets) and then you can leave the accessories off near the lake, where you will likely be a bit grubby anyway.

As mentioned above, it hasn't been a particularly humid summer so far.

Have you tried putting Superfeet in the Keds? That might make them more comfortable for walking in all day. I would wear my Birkenstocks and just up the style a bit further up, but that's me.
posted by TORunner at 10:10 AM on July 12, 2014

kmennie - It's definitely not a resort, not even close. It's 3 or 4 cabins (some more rustic than others - ours is the most rustic) that were hand built and still owned by members of my boyfriend's family. I've heard they're beautiful, but definitely know better than to expect a mosquito or dirt free time! :)

From your (excellent!) advice, it sounds like I'd do best to bring my caftans. I own two (they're short and come to the knee) and was thinking about picking up a few more. That and plenty of jeans and v-neck tees. I'll just keep the clothes simple and use costume jewelry and my wide-brim hat to accessorize, perhaps? I'm definitely a 'help haul the firewood' type so would my ankle-high leather lace-up boots be out of the question at times?
posted by nightrecordings at 10:19 AM on July 12, 2014

How are the treads on the ankle-high leather lace-up boots? If you are actually hauling firewood, your shoes need a decent tread for gripping and stability. Something with lugs is good, smooth bottomed soles are kind of useless.
posted by TORunner at 10:34 AM on July 12, 2014

I fear you are setting yourself up for trouble at this rustic cabin.

I have done this. I have packed dresses and capris for the cabin, but spent the week in sweatpants and dirty shorts.

The bug spray, campfire smell, dirt, and general yuck will make you appreciate a more cabin-appropriate wardrobe.

Keep in mind you will need fabrics you can hike in, get wet and dry easily, get dirty, and rip. And any loose pant legs or skirts will be a trail for bugs (especially ticks) to cling to. I shook out my yoga pants before a shower last month while at the cabin and 5 ticks fell out. They came on the flared leg.

If you really want to be on trend for a cabin, get all of the North Face / REI nature girl outfits you can stomach. There is definitely a culture of young women that go to cabins that buy these clothes for the trendy-ness.

If you don't want to spend all that but want to be comfortable and practical, bring 2 pair sneakers or hiking boots, a pair of flip flops, one pair jeans or cotton pants that you would do gardening or manual labor in. Bring a tank top, 3 tshirts, a rain jacket and a sweatshirt.
Lots of socks and underwear.
posted by littlewater at 10:53 AM on July 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

Get more than one cover-up. They can be damp the next day or you can spill your oily lunch on them for a lovely indelible stain.
posted by jgirl at 11:24 AM on July 12, 2014

TORunner - the boots have a medium to heavy tread. They're tough enough to field a little hiking/outdoor activity but stylish enough to be worn at dinner with the right jeans and blouse.
posted by nightrecordings at 2:15 PM on July 12, 2014

I bring four hats to our Lake Michigan cabin.
  • One structured fabric to wear in town, with copious bug spray on the underside of the two-inch brim.
  • One Tilley hat (it floats and ties on, so it's good for on the lake.) These were made for cottage country, and I can't recommend them too highly.
  • One cozy cotton/acrylic open crochet hat for bed (when the nights get cold; you probably won't have heating)
  • One brim cap (cadet, ball cap, whatever) provides better viewing angles when I'm out of the sun, and can be soaked in big spray
If you have a bug spray you know works well, be sure to bring plenty. If you're not sure, use the time between now and then to test out some brands. Getting a skin rash and massive itchies is not a good setting for a romantic adventure.
posted by Jesse the K at 2:28 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was just in Montreal last weekend, and hand to god, every second stylish woman under 30 was wearing some color of these Birkenstocks. If you want to fit in with the cool kids in Montreal, you will be wearing them.
posted by amelioration at 4:10 PM on July 12, 2014

I'm a Montrealer. My family owns a cabin near the Ontario border. I'm of similar age and build, and it sounds like our fashion tastes are pretty similar.

In the city, I usually wear cotton jersey maxi-dresses, loose silk tunics, lots and lots of linen dresses and pants. It's fairly hot and humid in the city but cold indoors, so I usually carry a cotton or linen scarf to use as a wrap. Cashmere will definitely be too hot. I second the mention of Birkenstocks, both in the city and by the lake.

At the cottage, I wear linen shorts (American Apparel has some decent ones) with cotton t-shirts, thick cotton knit sweaters when it gets a bit chilly. Nike Frees in bright colours. I usually pack a pair of slim cotton pants for evenings by the fire. Multiple swimsuits. One casual dress for when we drive into town for dinner.

Cottage life is totally different. I like to make sure I look decent, so I don't instantly hate holiday photos, but I basically forego makeup and coordinating outfits for a week. It's the best.
posted by third word on a random page at 10:57 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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