We Have Decided to Throw YOU a Party Because You Are a Cat

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If there is one thing WORN knows how to do it’s, well, make a great fashion magazine. But if there’s another thing we know how to do, it’s without a doubt throw a killer party. And let’s say there’s this third thing we know how to do, and it’s love cats.

In anticipation of your unique desire to see those three things combined, we made this black cat-themed party to celebrate the release of our 17th issue JUST FOR YOU.

Please come to your party. Please feel encouraged to wear your best black and white to your party. Please bring your friends to your party. Oh, the memories you will make!

See you tomorrow, Saturday, November 23, at Dovercourt House (805 Dovercourt Road) at 9:00 p.m. $10 pre-sale tickets are only available until Friday, November 22, 2013 at 5pm, and at Type Books on Queen Street West until 7pm on Saturday November 23rd, so don’t purrcrastinate. Admission at the door is $15 and comes with the newest issue of the magazine. Once inside you may drink, dance, and participate in a wonderful midnight raffle. Okay?

The Dress that Changed Nothing Whatsoever

Nicole Wornette was insecure at 12, for all the years that followed, and also bought a vintage dress

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There are some who believe formative self-loathing is instrumental to becoming a cool adult. This particular lemonade is made over and over again by those attempting to ascribe meaning to what they fear would otherwise be seen as self-indulgent ennui, and who are comforted by fellow-sufferers able to tell their lives like a self-worth rags-to-riches story. Happiness is without substance; misery makes art. I started from the bottom, now I’m here. But of course, here comes much later. First you have to dislike yourself.

And this was, for a long time, my personal gospel.

In my story, I made all the right moves. I hated myself. I was skilled in the art of turning absolutely anything into evidence of my failings. At 12 especially, I was deeply invested in changing the person that I was to be a different, better person. At this age, a girl is still new to self-loathing, so of course, she makes mistakes. I fell prey to the idea something like a haircut, a pair of shoes, or a new school year would alter my situation so dramatically I would find myself cured. So it was when the time came for my oldest cousin to get married. That was when my mother took me shopping for my first vintage dress.

Despite my initial objections to wearing used clothes, once in the shop, I was instantly able to appreciate how much more cinematic these dresses were than any I had seen at the mall. I have always had a soft spot for dresses that reach the floor and never apologize for how they get there. A tangle of chiffon, silk, and sequins, these were the garments of which stories were made.

Though I had resolved not to leave this shop with an old dress, I was delighted to be in that room. While my mother went over the preliminaries with the shopkeeper, I traced my hand along the racks, remembering something half-lost about what I’d wanted before all I wanted was to be somebody better than myself. Just as I was getting close to some fuzzy truth, my mother came up from behind me.

“Okay,” she sighed. “Let’s go to the mall.”

Um, what?

Despite my mother’s whimsical intentions, I was still a child and these dresses were all woman-sized. Stunned, we moved towards the shop door, until the shopkeeper’s memory jogged. “Well, it’s hardly appropriate for a wedding, being cream and all, but that one will fit her,” she said, pointing to a short dress hanging from a hook high up on the wall.

The dress wasn’t something you gasp at—it was just exactly right. Like it was already yours and you recognized it out in a crowd and thought, “What are you doing here? Let’s go home, you silly goose!” I’ve experienced this comfortable confirmation many times since: on finding the right apartment, the right university, jobs, friends, men, and of course, clothes. We never discussed the fact it was cream, since a gawky twelve year old is at virtually no risk of outshining a bride. Obviously, we bought the dress.

This was, indeed, the first time I’d been vintage shopping, the first time I’d recognized myself in a dress, and the first time I remember expecting something I bought to change me in some dramatic way. In the lead up to the wedding, I would take the dress out of my closet and stare at it thinking, “Now that I have this, the hard part’s over.”

When the day of the wedding arrived, I dressed simply. And while I wasn’t certain I enjoyed a day-long event where adults I had never met made inscrutable jokes into a microphone, my girl cousins slow-danced with each other to be all like, “We don’t need no men!” and I got far less attention than I was accustomed to, I was sure of the dress. In it, I was a changed woman.

I was sure of this right up until my mother got her film developed at the local one-hour photo and I saw the picture.

No person was ever more ungracefully 12 as I found myself in that picture. It was the most jarring thing, having my worst suspicions about myself confirmed. The girl in the photo wasn’t changed for the better. She was a ragamuffin with thick eyebrows and a body that seemed to be introducing itself to her at every moment. And god, that girl was so serious. Her self-doubt and torturous sensitivity registered plainly on her face. I was repulsed.

My only recourse was to bury the dress in the back of my closet, forget it ever happened and try harder. During the years that followed, I employed all manner of tactics to solve the problem of me once and for all. I really believed I could will myself into flawlessness. After that, I imagined life would be just a lot of eating in hip family-style restaurants and people photographing you mid-laugh but it’s, like, always really beautiful.

Instead of achieving this clumsy approximation of perfection, I got something else entirely when, at 24, my mother and I were unpacking boxes and arranging my possessions in a west-end basement studio, the first place I’d ever live alone. Buried in one of the many boxes was a packet of photos. Among them, of course, was the photo, which I have no memory of ever taking from my mother’s albums. And with so many years separating the girl in the photo from the girl holding it, perspective was easier to find.

Before, whenever I discussed who I had been, it was always with a tone of mild alienation. Not only was the present day version of myself the best one but, rather, the only one. Who I had been was inconsequential, irrelevant, and lampooned in my most defensive jokes. As a militant self-improver, it is difficult to resist this temptation.

But there was something exquisite in the deflating realization that despite all the effort and dramatic change, so much stayed exactly the same. I am still a self-conscious, serious girl. My eyebrows still feature prominently on my face. And goddammit, will I ever feel graceful in this body?

Naturally, I had grown into myself. A decade plus of time, experience, and extensive introspection will do that. But more significant was that, standing in my new apartment, holding the once-repulsive photo, not only was I able to recognize myself in it but also to appreciate its beauty. It was a lovely, vulnerable moment captured on film. Just a very young girl in a very special dress.

“Mom, whatever happened to that dress?” I asked, my eyes still fixed on the photo.

She thought for a moment and said, “I have no idea, Nic. Honestly, it probably got thrown out.”

It was a shame. That dress had been coded with so much adolescent disappointment, and now, with a little clarity, it would have been nice to wear it like a nice dress deserves to be worn.

That night I got an email from my dear sweet mother with the subject line, “LOOK WHAT I FOUND!!!!” The email body contained only an attached photo of the dress, a little rumpled and desperately in need of a dry cleaner’s love, but unmistakably my special cream dress.

I was in her house for perhaps only five minutes before excusing myself and slipping down the hall to what used to be my bedroom and now is the extended territory of an ageing cocker spaniel. Quickly I stripped down and pulled on the dress. It fit. The dress and I had been given our second act by whoever it was that decided that I should never develop breasts.

I no longer allow myself the delusion of a self-worth promised land. The top is a lie, though, so too is the bottom. My new thing, these days, is conscious continuity. With this, it is important to acknowledge the small victories, and doing right by my first vintage dress is certainly one.

What are you doing here? Let’s go home, you silly goose.

Wornette’s Classic (Not Boring) Things to Share With You Today

Nicole Wornette gave her mother a boring Christmas list and then shared what's been catching her computer eye

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You said I’ll have to live out of one suitcase. I’ll bet yours isn’t this small.

This is a suitcase?

Well, a Mark Cross overnight case.

I gave my mother a boring Christmas list. However amusing it is that I am an adult woman who still gives her mother a Christmas list is not the point in my sharing. The point is that my Christmas list was rejected, or rather sent back to me for a second pass, on the grounds that it was dull and in possession of zero holiday magic. Upon review, I had to admit that I would not want to buy any person the things on that list. It was just a collection of household necessities and personal grooming practicalities; the heart’s desires of a truly boring person. Which I like to think I am not.

The trouble is that my personal style has gotten really classic of late. Actually, the classic bit is not so much the problem as is the visible fallout from this shift. All of my sartorial desires are so utterly simple, their tones so neutral that it’s tempting to view them through the eyes of the more fashionably adventurous among my friends and think of them as boring also. The contents of my original Christmas list served as a reminder not to fall prey to this thinking and get all sloppy with it. To my mind, having classic style is all about specificity and enthusiastic choice; “a gentle exercise of will” at every acquisition.

The following are links that are reminding me of that, among other things today.

PS: The final draft of my Christmas list was as follows: gray crew-neck cashmere sweater, crisp white cotton sheets, and a year’s subscription to The Paris Review. And to get any or all would make this classic wornette very, very happy indeed.

Grace Kelly’s Handbag in Rear Window

I just watched Rear Window for the first time. (I know, I know. “It’s a seminal work” or whatever…) And Grace Kelly’s New York princess style could and should be discussed at even greater length than it has already been. What I will say here, in the spirit of brevity, is that the Mark Cross handbag she pulls out in one scene reminded me of how much I like a bag so utterly free of branding and iconography. It is what it is and she can say whatever she wants with it.

Alice Gregory’s Camel Coat on Into The Gloss

So many reasons why I like this. Where to begin? Alice Gregory, fellow appreciator of the always classic, late Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, is a great writer. Next up, this is all about looking for a very long time for the perfect, minimal and entirely classic camel coat. Now this is a story after my own heart! I was very happy to read about Gregory thinking and dreaming about clothes the way I do. And, expecting them to be as transformative.

Refinery29′s Office Tour of The Paris Review

I am a writer, and so, obviously, The Paris Review exists in my thinking as a kind of lit promise land. So imagine my delight at being able to peek inside their new New York offices and read about the personal style of those who call that incredible magazine “work.”

Daphne Javitch for Band of Outsiders

I have been a from-afar admirer of the personal style of Daphne Javitch for, let’s just say, some years. Girl’s got a supremely classic sensibility but is always slightly off-beat. She has described her style as “chic muppet” and I liked that a lot. This is a fashion film where you get to see her shop and get dressed.

“‘A First-Rate Girl’: The Problem of Female Beauty” in The New Yorker

This outstanding article by Adelle Waldman circulated quite a little bit when it first dropped but it’s sparked so many great conversations lately that I would be remiss not to include it here. It may not deal with fashion, but in my mind, it is at least tangentially related. Or they have conversational friends in common. Or just read it, okay?

Ink Tales

Five Wornettes share stories about their tattoos

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Kat Wornette’s forearm
One of the most memorable events of my late teenage years wasn’t graduating high school (I left early), prom (see previous), or anything of that nature—it was the demolition of a favourite building.
Standing six-stories proud at the corner of 13th & Pacific since 1891, the Luzon Building was one of Tacoma, Washington’s first “skyscrapers,” and one of my first architectural infatuations. Abandoned since the ’80s and the last building on an otherwise vacant block, its spectral presence was a historic treasure or an eyesore, depending on who you asked. I was firmly of the former opinion along with many others, and we were all saddened when it was demolished in 2009, despite efforts to save it. Still angry over the demolition, I turned my attention to reading as much as possible about the building’s history, and I discovered that it was designed by one of the most prominent architectural firms of the late 19th century—Burnham & Root of Chicago. The story of these architects is fascinating; they helped to pioneer the design of North America’s earliest high-rise buildings.

I knew I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate both the Luzon and Burnham & Root. I decided on a quote widely attributed to Daniel Burnham himself that begins “Make no little plans”—a fitting tribute as well as a good reminder to myself. So last May, while on vacation in Chicago, I got the phrase inked up the inside of my arm in spidery Victorian lettering taken directly from one of Burnham & Root’s architectural drawings. I’m delighted with how the design turned out, and its advice is hard to ignore when I have to look at it all the time!

(The extended version of this story involves nearly getting arrested, but you’ll have to ask me about that in person.)

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Nicole Wornette’s ribs
I have an obligatory lunch once a season. For the last three years of university, our bedroom doors opened onto the same living room, and the overheard noises we made during sex were just another way to know each other; tantamount to any other house sound. Though we were categorically similar, we had little in common where it counted. Simply choosing a movie to watch together was always a long, dull heartbreak, for example.

It has been my experience that having friends you feel lonely beside serves a crucial function: sharpening your ability to recognize your true tribe.

What this amounts to is that, with graduation now years at our backs, my old university roommates live together one 30-minute streetcar ride away from me and I feel tremendous guilt for how little I see them. So every few months I let it happen but always get wickedly intoxicated to temper things. A girl can only hear, “Okay…what else is new?” so many times before the shadows close in.

On one of these lunches, the topic of tattoos came up. This struck me as a pretty neutral topic until:

“Oh my god, Nicole! Remember when you wanted to get that 30 Rock quote tattooed on your ribs?!”

And:

“I bet you’re so happy you didn’t, right?”

And also:

“I know you really liked that show but that’s totally a thing you would have regretted.”

And finally:

“I’m so glad we talked you out of that one.”

Now I had a decision to make. Because at that very moment, emblazoned across my ribs in black inked Courier New was “I want to go to there”, my favourite of Liz Lemon’s catchphrases on NBC’s 30 Rock. This is a tattoo I’ve now had and loved for years. I have never regretted it for so much as a moment; even weathering the requisite later-season deterioration of my beloved 30 Rock without questioning my decision to commemorate it on my flesh. It is by far the least meaningful of my tattoos but is also my favourite.

Plus having a notoriously painful rib tattoo is the only thing about me that is hard, tough, or street.

Sitting across from them, I could predict the exquisite fallout of me saying, “Actually, I did get that tattoo. Wanna see?” and lifting my shirt up in the bar. Their supreme awkwardness, mental notes to discuss my foolishness once I was gone, the unacknowledged gorge separating us widening further still. I saw it all and was hungry for it but instead I said:

“Haha, yeah. That sure would have been stupid of me. Thank for stopping me and stuff, you two.”

Honestly, it just didn’t feel worth it. All it would have meant was one more uncomfortable conversation, one more round of pitying glances, one more pregnant silence in a lunch that felt like it would never end.

No. It wasn’t worth the trouble. I shut my mouth and thanked the air for the people I now have who understand why the stuff that appeals to me appeals to me.

That’s right, Elsasser, save the story for the tribe.

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Ishita Wornette’s nowhere
I never wanted a tattoo until my parents told me I couldn’t have one. As a kid in an Indian family, I heard constantly that drugs, motorcycles, piercings, and tattoos were all in the same category—dangerous and forbidden. But now at 19, I’ve come to the realization that despite my parents’ greatest and most communicated fears, I’ve been a goodie-two-shoes my whole life. Always afraid of breaking the rules, I’ve never dyed my hair, smoked a cigarette, or gotten more than my ears pierced. And I definitely have no tattoos.

Lately, I’ve started to embrace my inner rebel in my own small way. I’m not afraid anymore to lob all my hair off, make strange fashion choices, or wear wacky jewelry. And I’m slowly beginning to accept that I am, quite frankly, in love with tattoos. While my browsing history and bookmarks are full of tattoo designs, I know it will take a great deal of courage to break my inherent reluctance to displease. But progress has been made—all this dallying around, needing to figure out a meaningful design, has stopped. I know that when I make the commitment to get my tattoo, I’ll figure out exactly what I want my special swirl of ink to be. And that time is coming soon.

20th birthday present, anyone?

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Angela Wornette’s lower back
After years of contemplating a number of designs (that I am now really glad I didn’t settle on), I finally went to get my first tattoo in 2003. I found Ryan at a Queen West Parlour to help me draw a unique “fancy bar with all the curls that divides up sections in old books” with which to permanently decorate my lower back. In my mind, this was the perfect symbol to simultaneously allude to my bookworm tendencies and penchant for frivolous decor and I couldn’t have been more ready.

As much as I had mentally prepared for the big inking day though, no amount of pain in my young adult life could have prepared me for what felt like miniature cars equipped with scalpel-sharp wheels racing on the track of my spine. Despite the original estimate of the process to take up to four hours, an hour is all I could actually endure. At the first mention of a break, I deemed the pain too great (and my dedication to my vision too weak) to continue. I sprung off of the seat and declared the session over. I remember nodding dizzily at Ryan as he heartily suggested that I come back at a future date for another sitting.

Many years later, with the experiences of a surface piercing and another tattoo under my belt, I have mixed feelings about returning to have my first tattoo finished. The hard, clean lines void of any shading or details reminds me pleasantly of the simple outlines in colouring books. Through the years, I have come across countless ornamental section breaks (as I finally found out they are commonly referred to, seeing as that they still lack a proper name), and I’ve come to the fortunate realization that their being frivolously ornate is not a must.

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Sofie Wornette’s collarbone
I was always told to be good. My parents, my friends, and now my lover: it’s all she says to me before I leave for a night out, before I go out for drinks.

I am not good. I was an angry, spontaneous, generally troublesome kid. Sometimes I still get angry and I often do spontaneous things.

I was not good before, and I’m not good now.

In contemplating my fourth spur-of-the-moment walk-in tattoo before I went into New Tribe, my go-to inkers, I thought about what I’d get and where I’d get it. I was hand in hand with my girlfriend and I realized what words I’d need to get on me to remember them forever.

It hurt a little to get tattooed right on my collarbone—it’s the first of my simple tattoos to actually bleed. But it’s my favourite. I tattooed ‘be good’ on myself so that every t-shirt I wear can show off the reminder to myself; so that everyone who curiously reads it aloud will be reminding me of the same—to be good. Be good. Don’t fight. Stay strong. Be good.

photography // Claire Ward-Beveridge