Frozen fashion: how to dress for Montreal’s electro scene

Photo by Keith Race

Every January, frostbitten ears await the first sounds — usually a combination of enthusiastic cheering and rousing electro-pop beats — that signify the return of Igloofest at the Old Port’s Quai Jacques-Cartier. However, there’s also something to be said about the distinct rustle of old polyester.

Photo by Keith Race

Entering its eighth year of production, Igloofest has become an event that draws not only music and culture enthusiasts but the sartorially-savvy as well. Festival-goers have learned to prepare for the city’s inclement weather and sub-zero temperatures in fun, creative ways. When cold, bundled-up bodies start to fill the performance space, there is never a shortage of either colour or personality.

Unlike its summer counterpart Piknik Electronik, those attending the winter event have to take their wardrobe into careful consideration. Factors like warmth and the ability to move around are undeniably important, which would explain the prevalence of the onesie, which has become one of the fashion cornerstones of Igloofest.

The onesies have seen better days as far back as the ‘70s and the ‘80s, when they were highly popular sportswear pieces. As the festival approaches, thrift and novelty stores are flooded by people eager to hunt down the castoffs, fresh out of the cedar closet and smelling like mothballs. The neon colour combinations, though outdated and garish by today’s standards, are exactly what make them appealing for this event. In fact, the uglier and flashier, the better. An all expenses paid tropical vacation is up for grabs in a contest for the ugliest one-piece, hosted by the event sponsors. Eccentrically-costumed partiers are photographed, and the public votes on the best of the worst through social media. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Also spotted among the crowds were morphsuits in every imaginable colour. For those not familiar with the concept, just picture those spandex American Apparel leggings stretched over a person’s entire body, sometimes layered with necklaces and sunglasses. Other people channelled Macklemore by strutting onto the Quai in floor length fur coats.

Also common this year were one-piece animal jumpers, known to some as “Kigurumi,” costumes that originated in Japan. The whimsical, hooded outfits are also practical, since they zip up easily over winter jackets or heavy sweaters.

The more conservative of the crowed donned the festival-sanctioned, pompom-topped Igloofest toques that are sold as souvenirs. The

variety of colours, textures, and characters are what have helped shape the event and make it a certified draw for tourists passing through.

“Even if you don’t like the music, you can just have a drink and people watch,” said Jennifer Glover-Drolet, a first-time attendee whose friends trailed closely behind, wearing matching penguin costumes. “Your eye can’t settle on just one place or person.”

Most people can agree that it takes quite a bit of chutzpah to dress up in flamboyant getups, but while you’re tracking your feet through the sleet and slush, you may as well entertain others at the same time.

So, in the end, even if music is a force that can unify and warm the masses, there’s nothing hotter than the unmistakable ensembles spotted at this frigid winter gathering.

Photos by Keith Race


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