Pugs belong in OUR arms and on YOUR back

It's a DIY bedazzled pug jacket...need we say more?

I’m as big a fan of minimalism as the next girl, but there’s a limit. Sometimes plain is boring, and more is more. That’s how I feel when it comes to denim jackets, and mine was looking like a piece of dry toast begging to be made into a delicious sandwich. Luckily, I had some choice jacket additions hanging around, so I took on the project in the spirit of “measure once, cut twice.”

For my jacket-improvement accessories, I chose a sweatshirt with a giant pug face on it that doesn’t get a lot of wear due to an awkward fit. I also had two Bedazzlers that hadn’t yet bedazzled a thing. With all the necessary tools, I took the plunge, and I suggest you do the same.

Here are the steps to making your clothing a piece of wearable art that people will stare at on the street. Are they thinking it looks great? One hundred percent of the time, yes. Okay, here we go.

1. Wash the sweater, because the last time you wore it, you spilled pasta on the pug’s face. The jacket is a little musty too, so may as well throw that in the wash with it.

2. Measure the area on the denim jacket where the back patch will go.

3. Feel extremely nervous as you cut your awesome pug sweater apart. Cut an excessively huge square out around the pug in case you need extra fabric. Tell yourself this is for a seam allowance.

4. Dig your two Bedazzlers out of the closet and wonder how they work. Why do they have so many pieces? Now is not the time to give up. Smooth out the ancient instructions. One paper is a mail-in order form to send away for more rhinestones from Rockaway Beach, New York.

5. Take a quick break, overwhelmed by the complexity of the machines.

6. Skim the instructions, which are text-heavy and stress the importance of reading them fully.

7. Spend 10 minutes trying to get a tiny stud into a plastic “stud setter.” Curse the world. Society must have developed a better way to get studs onto things by now. Realize that you were using the wrong size of stud setter and that the other Bedazzler has a specialized mechanism to do it. It takes about one second to load studs.

8. Practice studding some scrap fabric. It’s so easy and wonderful! How did you ever think this would be hard? Apologize to the Bedazzler gods.

9. Choose your approximate design (mine was a pug crying rhinestone tears à la Johnny Depp in Crybaby). How many rhinestones is too many? It’s hard to say. Bedazzle rhinestones and studs in place. Admire your work.

10. Worry about difficulty of attaching patch to jacket; abandon project for two weeks.

11. Get pumped up looking at pictures online of back patches other people have successfully attached. If they can do it, you can do it. Come back to jacket. Listen to some jammy jacket-sewing music. Steel your nerves.

12. Choose a thread colour. You could pick one that matches your patch so the seams are invisible, or you could do a cool contrasting colour. Or do neither: my patch was grey, and I chose a kind of taupe thread that sort of matched.

13. Begin hemming the raw edges of your patch. At this point you might turn it over and think it looks a little homemade. But you’re a raconteur and an outlaw and so you do not care about things like wobbly seams! You just live your life! DIY or die! Keep hemming.

14. If you want to add any embroidery like mine, learn from the master, Martha Stewart. I just drew what I wanted on a piece of paper, pinned it to the fabric, and used Martha’s backstitch and French knot instructions, sewing through the paper.

15. Pin your patch onto the jacket, and try it on. From there, you’ll get an idea of what it will look like, and can adjust the placement to wherever you want.

16. Sew your finished square (or maybe trapezoid, no judgement) patch onto the back of your jacket. You can sew it by hand, or use a machine if you have a heavy-duty needle to use on denim.

17. Add more! Always add more! I put some pins on the front for good measure, because a dozen rhinestones on the back didn’t feel like enough. Trust your instincts.

You’re done! You totally finished what you started! I’m proud of you. Plus, I bet your jacket looks great. The only thing left to do is start a bike gang. Mine will be called the Diamond Pugs, and we will bike around pretty slowly and stop often to eat snacks. Now accepting applications.

text, illustration, and photography // Averill Smith

Of Sexiness and Superheroes

How can Catwoman kick ass in stilettos? A panel of experts weighs in

Every costume we wear makes a statement about ourselves. There’s no escape from that fact; as fashion illustrator Maurice Vellekoop put it, “even a plain t-shirt and jeans says, ‘I’m not that interested in this “fashion” thing.’”

Vellekoop was participating in a Toronto Comic Arts Festival panel called “Fashion!” I attended earlier this spring. Moderated by Krystle Tabujara, the panel featured speakers with a variety of perspectives on drawn style, from historical cartoons to superhero comics, and couture illustration to fashion journalism. They sought to answer the age-old question that has plagued man since the dawn of time (or at least since Superman first came down from Krypton): when it comes to comics, do clothes matter?

In comics, clothes inform character. They can do the obvious, like helping the reader tell characters apart on the page, but they also enhance the plausibility of the character. Cartoonist Ramon Perez argues that costume design for science fiction and fantasy is all about functionality. Every piece of an outfit needs to have a reason to be there. When he started drawing Wolverine, he got rid of some weird stripes on the character’s upper arms (“what were they, tricep armour?”) and pared down his uniform.

A similar commonsense approach would definitely benefit many of the female characters in superhero comics. Fashion journalist Nathalie Atkinson waxed nostalgic about a glorious period in Catwoman’s story arc where a new artist put her in lug tread boots she “could actually kick ass in,” instead of the impractical stiletto heels she had previously worn, and—at the pen of a new artist—has returned to.

An upside to the pervasiveness of hyper-sexualized outfits assigned to female superheroes is that they make room in the world for some fantastic parody. One of my favourite Canadian comic artists, Haligonian Kate Beaton, has produced some wonderful work on this topic. The Adventures of Sexy Batman is a great place to start. Beaton has also come up with female superhero trio Strong Female Characters in collaboration with two other illustrators, Carly Monardo and Meredith Gran.

Another great example of parody is the satirical Tumblr The Hawkeye Initiative, which gives readers a chance to turn the gender stereotype upside down by submitting their own illustrations. The site compiles feminist fan-art in which male Avengers character Hawkeye is drawn in the same ridiculous outfits and poses female comic book characters are usually depicted in. In doing so, The Hawkeye Initiative offers a clear window into the sheer volume of outlandish streetwear that exists for women in the superhero comic universe.

If the female superheroes on these pages are really able to perform feats of acrobatics wearing stilettos, then they deserve our admiration. The agility and hamstring strength required alone would top that of any male character. As cartoonist Bob Thaves wrote in a 1982 strip, “Sure [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, backwards… and in high heels.” So, theoretically these superwomen might be able to parkour across rooftops wearing hot-shorts. But why should they have to? Wouldn’t they be more effective crimefighters (or supervillains!) wearing something a little more practical? The new outfits wouldn’t even have to be unattractive: a middle ground does exist between “leather bikini” and “burlap sack”. Plus, the image of a strong lady kicking ass and taking names is always going to be attractive in and of itself, regardless of what she’s wearing.

The Fashion in Comics panel at TCAF 2013 was moderated by Krystle Tabujara and featured Nathalie Atkinson (fashion journalist, The National Post), Willow Dawson (No Girls Allowed), Kagan McLeod (fashion illustrator, Infinite Kung Fu) Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Ramon Perez (Wolverine & The X-Men), and Maurice Vellekoop (fashion illustrator). You can watch a taped version of the thought-provoking discussion on YouTube here.

further reading // The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid // Exterminating Angel Press // 2009