January cold weather gear
January is the coldest month in Fairbanks. Who can afford it flies out over the winter break to thaw in the Lower 48 or melt in Mexico or Hawaii. Those who stay, stay inside whenever possible when it is 40 below. Unfortunately, you still have to shop at these temperatures when you did not stock well, drive your kids to school or walk your dog(s). Many Fairbanksans just throw on their down coats and down pants over their PJs at these temperatures. There is barely someone out there and they wear the same. And (wo)man, it is 40 below!
Dancers attend the annual 40 Below Ball. It is a formal event, black tie optional. There are men showing up in tuxedos, cutaways, or white dinner-style jackets and women wearing full length evening gowns. However, the majority of women wears a knee-length or tea-length cocktail dress. A minority of the women wears maxi summer dresses. This style is especially popular among college students, while highschool students wear prom dresses.
February means Valentine dresses, down-coats & -pants
Every other year in February, a big event is the Yukon Quest when it starts in Fairbanks on the Chena River in downtown. Dress-code: down-coats and down-pants optional.
Valentine’s Day means dinner, and dances. A little red dress is optional as most of the time it is way to cold to dress-up in a sexy typical Valentine’s Day attire. Thus, one goes with the spirit wearing a red item (e.g. photo above) when the date is at a roadhouse, or a restaurant. Only a Valentine’s Day Ball calls for the cocktail dress, a promo dress or a maxi dress. Red optional.
March: warm outerwear, kuspaks and casual
In March, the BP World Ice Art Championship is a big event. Artist – local and from all over the world – carve sculptures from single or multiple ice blogs depending on which competition they entered. They even carve fashion items! An ice coat anyone?
The Festival of Native Arts attracts fiddlers, artists, and dancers alike. The performers wear kuspaks (see photo on the left below) and fancy gowns. The dancers wear casual clothes with Alaska style jeans (16 oz with flannel plaid lining) and flannel shirts.
April outerwear, and running gear
April has the Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic. This is a high-speed race with snowmobiles pulling a skier between two courses. Dress-code: Outerwear when you are watching it.
April also has the Beat Beethoven 5K Race, an annual fundraiser for the Fairbanks Symphony. Participants wear normal running gear, while cheerers along the route wear casual outerwear.
The dress code of the Parka Parade in April is obvious. This event show-casts beautiful hand-made summer and winter parkas The photo on the right shows my DIY parka. The event comes with a sled dog race downtown prior to the parka show.
May summer outfits and regalia
May is graduation season. The University of Alaska Fairbanks has her annual commencement each year on Mother’s Day. Thus, you see many Mother’s Day outfits, mother of the graduate outfits and regalia when you happen to be in town that day.
May is the onset of the summer tourist season. You immediately recognize the tourists by their long-sleeves and long pants with Birkenstocks or sneakers when everybody in Fairbanks wears shorts and short sleeves with flip flops or summer clothes.
June is the official onset of the fire season, but also summer solstice. The midnight-sun run (10 K) not only attracts serious runners, but also Alaskan costume designers. There are various competitions for the best costume. One important pre-requisite for getting the award is to actually do the run in that costume! The route of the run is just around the corner of my street. In the year, when Sarah Palin became governor there was an invasion of Sarah Palins with red blazer, black pencil skirt and 2 inch heel black pumps. Dress code: Any sports wear and costume goes as well as casual summer wear.
June is also the season of outdoor weddings. You may see brides wearing Xtra tuffs, the Alaska must-have rain boots.
Old times costumes and Fairbanks Formal in July
Musicians, actors, dancers and artists of various media are excited about the annual Summer Arts Festivals at the end of July. While many of the attendees are from all over Alaska, there are lecturers from all over the world. On the stage, you will see the same high end clothing you see in performances in other places. The audience, however, wears Fairbanks Formal meaning a clean (T-)shirt and dark jeans, which for women means that it is ok to wear a fancy vacation or cocktail style dress.
At the end of July, the striking of gold in Fox near Fairbanks by Felix Predro is celebrated with the Golden Days Parade and many local dance, music, dinning and show events. You can even buy a warrant to have your travel companion, friend, spouse or kid imprisoned. You can get imprisoned yourself by not wearing the Golden Days button or stocking holder of the respective year. This events attracts people from everywhere between the Alaska and Brooks Range as well as tourists. Dress code options: Founders’ years attire, kuspaks or casual. You will be immediately recognized as a tourist when you wear long sleeves and pants with a rain jacket and sneakers or Birkenstocks. Fairbanksans bear the rain with an umbrella or just so with short sleeves and pants.
August rain gear casual and formal
In the Interior and on the North Slope, residents get glaze in their eyes about the Tanana Valley Fair in August that provides great shopping and amusement opportunities. Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars is a big attraction like the riesenrad or the plastic bubbles that you enter and then roll with in a big water pool. For my European readers note that this fair is a combined business, trade, industrial and funfair. August is the rain season, rain gear is key. Sunshine means shorts and shirts.
September casual and running gear
In September, the Equinox Marathon takes place. At that time, temperatures are often already in the 40s to 60s (5-15.6o), but the runners wear their normal running gear and on-viewers wear jeans, shirts and a light jacket.
There is also the Potato Extravaganca, a fundraiser of Fairbanks Festival that works on the beautification of the Fairbanks downtown area. Here the dress code is Fairbanks Formal optional which means you are a minority when you wear Fairbanks Formal.
October – Oktoberfest attire
In October, the many local breweries in the Fairbanks area celebrate Oktoberfest all months totally ignoring the actual time of the traditional Münchner Oktoberfest which starts in September. At this time, the last summer tourists are gone. Now the locals wear long sleeves and long pants with a light jacket and sneakers or hiking boots. 😉 The bands may or may not wear lederhosen and female singers may or may not wear a dirndl.
Another big event is the International Friendship Day. Here you see traditional clothes from all over the world worn and/or presented by immigrants and natives. You also see many dance costumes from all over the world worn by the performers as well as Fairbanks casual worn by the audience.
Another big event is Halloween like in many places of the Western World. Here key is to wear warm clothes underneath the costume when trick-n-treating.
November down clothing
In November, Fairbanks sees its first cold snaps with temperatures below -20F (-29.9oC). This time is onset of down clothes, tights, Alaska 16 oz jeans with flannel plaid lining, duck boots and/or bunny boots.
Many Fairbanksans attend the Diwali Festival organized by the Indian Student Club of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. While it is a must for Indian women to present the newest saris from their homeland, some local women wear saris too. Otherwise it is Fairbanks casual or some Fairbanks streetstyle picking up on the theme.
November also has the Fairbanks Champs – the big fashion event in the Interior. Local clothing stores have their winter gear modeled by local fashionistas. The female audience wears cocktail dresses or evening gowns and the men wear business casual or formal attire. This dress code is quite different from what you wear at fashion shows elsewhere in the states.
December sees Santa
For my money, most holiday sweaters are ugly and those that are not, are so expensive that they are not worth their money. Their name is holiday sweater for a reason which restricts their wear to about the six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nevertheless, given that North Pole, Alaska (a real community close to Fairbanks) is just around the corner, many go with the (commercial) spirit. Among young students Santa Claus hats are a must-have or must-wear in December. Girls like reindeer antlers. Among female teenagers holiday earrings are a great fashion item to don. Some women go with the spirit wearing holiday inspired outfits.
Various dress codes for monthly entertainment
While there are many annual or biennual events in Fairbanks, there are also many monthly events for the locals with their own dress code. I already mentioned the large arts scene in Fairbanks in my post what to wear for First Friday and presented one of the events that presented beautiful (unwearable) dresses.
Visitors of the Fairbanks Symphony or the Fairbanks Chamber Concert wear Fairbanks casual. This means they wear whatever they find in their closet being appropriate for the weather. You will only see an evening gown when they have a female guest artist playing with them. And yes, it is only her who wears a gown.
During the ice hockey season, you wear the colors of your team. There are two teams in Fairbanks, the Ice Dogs (sweater with their Ice Dog face) and the Nanooks, the team of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Here yellow and blue attire is appropriate when you don’t wear their shirt.
How is the dress code in your town around the year? Have you ever thought about a year in dressing? What would it look like? Let me know I am curious.
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Photos: G. Kramm (2016)
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