Q&A: What to Wear in San Francisco

April 2nd, 2009

Q:  I am from Toronto, Canada, and I’ll be heading down to San Francisco for a week at the end of April. Any tips for what I should pack?

What to Wear in San Francisco
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Springtime in San Francisco is beautiful - it’s generally mild weather-wise, but be prepared for unexpected wind, rain, and a layer of fog to roll over the city.  The key to San Francisco style is layering, as the weather can change pretty rapidly from one moment to the next.  Happily, the city’s fashion scene tends to be somewhat eclectic, so you’ll be able to pull off unusual layering combinations if you need to.

While in San Francisco, you’ll want to be ready for daytime temperatures anywhere from the 50s to the 80s. Here’s what you need to bring:

Tops: Pack long sleeved tees and blouses, but you can bring a short sleeved tee just in case.

Sweaters: Bring a couple of sweaters for layering to adjust to temperatures inside and outside.

Outerwear: Pack a light to medium weight jacket, one that will protect you from wind.

Bottoms: Long pants and jeans are going to be your best bets.  No shorts, but you may be able to get away with a pair of cropped pants.

Dresses: One sleeved dress should be enough for your short trip.

Shoes: Bring shoes that are comfortable for walking–especially on hills.  Flats are a great idea; heels are not.

Accessories: A layering scarf is a good idea to help you adjust to whatever weather patterns come up.

If you’re going to be visiting areas outside of San Francisco (e.g. going up to Napa or down to Silicon Valley), be aware that temperatures tend to be warmer outside the city - and that the weather patterns are generally more stable.  Dressing in layers is still advisable, especially if you’re spending part of your day in the city.

Have a great tip about what to wear in San Francisco? Share your style with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: Q&A,Women's

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Finsen  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 12:56 am

    I agree that the weather in SF varies quite a bit from morning to night. But it has been too warm these past few weeks to warrant a coat like the one shown. I would say skip the wool coat, but add a tank top (or something thinner) underneath the blouse. This way, you have an extra layer for warmth, but can still stay cool.

    People are already in shorts and tank tops here in the Bay Area. It feels more like summer than spring.

  • 2. rb  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 10:45 am

    If you’re planning on shopping Union Square, you’ll get better service if you’re not dressed like a tourist. I would lean toward the smart casual side for shopping or dinner – leave the white sneakers at home! Definitely layer. The weather varies by the hour and by the block. Late April/Early May tends to produce some of our warmest weather, at least in the afternoons, so bring a tote or large bag you can stuff your layering pieces into when it warms up. You’ll need those layers again by early evening when the chilly breezes kick in.

  • 3. BL  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Those boots from Target look really cute. Would you tuck pants into them or not?

    I’m a little scared on tucking my jeans into my boots b/c I have a definite booty. Advice?

  • 4. Trisha  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 11:52 am

    I would also add that it depends where in the city you are, as there are microclimates within the city itself. And though it has been warm here for the past few weeks, I still wore a wool coat while getting dinner (in the Sunset area) last night. Then again, maybe I’m a wuss when it comes to cold :)

    As for the boots – it depends more on the pant than the boot. I would only try tucking them in if you have a really skinny pant…which is probably not super flattering if you’re curvy.

  • 5. Jenna  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    As a fellow Canadian, I just want to point out that that coat looks much too heavy for San Francisco for someone from Toronto. I am from Alberta (which is usually warmer than Toronto) and I was just in San Francisco and Monterey Bay last month and also in December. I found anything heavier than a very light jacket to be much too warm. My fellow Canadians and I were wearing shorts and skirts while everyone else is was in winter jackets. I’m not saying this helped us fit in (people asked if we were Canadian) but the it helps illustrate that us up North are used to cold weather and I personally would wear the above mentioned coat in below freezing temperatures without a problem so I doubt that the asker from Toronto would feel comfortable temperature wise in such a heavy looking coat.
    That was my long-winded way of saying that the above tips are great for fitting in properly with the cold-fearing Californians but the average Canadian girl is going to feel much to warm in the suggested clothing. No shorts in San Fran? I bet the asker has already broken out her shorts and skirts for the coming summer and strutting around in flip flops.

  • 6. Meghan  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    You guys should update some of your staples, half the items you post are no longer available; i.e. AE skinny cargo or slim vintage jean, etc.

  • 7. Sandra  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Definitely layer. San Francisco is a fickle place. As someone else mentioned, San Francisco itself has micro climates. Right now mission bay, soma, and the union square areas are sunny and warm, probably hitting close to 70. The embarcadero is sunny, but it gets wind off the bay, so it’s freezing cold. If you’re going to be on the ocean side of SF, near ocean beach, the golden gate bridge, or the zoo, it’s going to be about 60, with fog coming in around 3pm. If you plan to do any bay tours (like alcatraz) you will definitely need a coat. Also, since you obviously like clothes, if you want to take a break from the big stores in Union Square, check out Union St. in Cow Hallow and Hayes Valley (near Oak and Octavia).

  • 8. missmoneypenny  |  April 3rd, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Third it on the coat. (Sorry I’m late to the party.) I used to live in San Francisco and the damp wind can make it very chilly but quite honestly I never wore an actual wool winter coat in 10 years there. What is really useful: a down vest. If you get one in a non-wintery neutral (say, beige) it keeps your core warm, goes with pretty much everything, takes up surprisingly little space if you have to pack it, and can be styled to look very casual-groovy.

  • 9. missmoneypenny  |  April 3rd, 2009 at 10:13 am

    PS — Ooh, another idea: a mid-weight leather jacket. Stylish and yet perfect for cutting that afternoon wind, which is really the main problem in keeping comfortable in San Francisco.

  • 10. colleen  |  April 4th, 2009 at 9:30 am

    I will be purchasing my jewelry soon, my best friend is a designer in fashion jewelry..what should I have her make for my spring and summer pieces…She is very very good at what she does..

  • 11. leticia  |  August 5th, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    I’m from Utah never been to san francisco n I’m going to the west coast hip hop awards at fort mason. I have no idea what to wear. Please help.

  • 12. donna  |  January 31st, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I’m from Hawaii. SF is my favorite “get away” and I have one rule whenever I travel to any major city: Pack Black. Mixing matching and layering is fun… dress it up with interesting big dangle earrings or simple wires; belted or scarved… all accessories are easy to pack and these days, you have to pack smart with the airlines charging for every bag. Skinny pants, free fit tops will look good… leave the dress at home. In SF, the walking is killer. Pamper your feet and forget about those cute pointed toe flats that look so fabulous. Splurge on the shoes, go for comfort… you won’t regret it. If you are going out dancing, buy a pair of shoes at Nordies and pack them in a bag to slip into at the club.

  • 13. Jordan toledo  |  April 25th, 2011 at 11:30 am

    When I was in sanfrancisco a couple months ago it was gusting winds and then suddenly 70 degree weather. It can be pretty unpredictable in the bay. Just layer your clothes and you should be fine.

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