No Wornettes Were Harmed in the Making of this Blind Date

Anna and Eliza Wornette are locked in the office, asked to talk shoes, love it, and then go for drinks happily after

Anna and Eliza talk shoes

The lives of certain Wornettes intersect more than others. Editorial Wornettes gather around the table with other editorial Wornettes. Likewise for the stylists. This is just the nature of the magazine beast. But sometimes, serendipitously (read: when we ask them to), two Wornettes, who have not been able to get in as much quality time, sit down in the office for a good solid chat. And this time, the chat was about SHOES.

Anna: I’ve got big feet. They’re like, size 11/12 women’s and I wear a lot of like really simple flats ’cause I’m also six feet tall. I have this one pair of brown boots with a bit of a heel and they lace up. I got them at a vintage sale. They fit and I never find shoes that fit, especially not vintage. I think they’re originally from Aldo or someplace really boring but they’re the only heels I’m actually comfortable in.

Eliza: I don’t wear any heels either.

A: ‘Cause you’re also tall!

E: I’m pretty tall and when I wear high heels, I’m kind of towering over everyone. I don’t know. I like seeing other peoples’ faces.

A: I was in high school when Facebook became a thing, and everyone had joined Facebook groups. I was part of one called “Cute Girls with Big Feet” about where to find shoes for tall people. Then I got a friend request from a guy I didn’t know and he messaged me, “Do you have big feet? Do you have old shoes you can give me?” So I blocked him and every few months, I would get a friend request from Steven Smallfoot or Mr. Bigfoot Lover and I would just block him right away. He’d send me surveys like, “Eye color? Shoe size? Do you ever sweat in your shoes? What do your shoes smell like?” and they’d be like really sexual. So, I had to leave the group.

E: …Wow. [laughs]

A: I walk a lot and I don’t wear socks and my shoes do smell bad, so I probably could pay my rent by selling him my old shoes but I have not done that. True story. [laughs] Okay, what are the weirdest shoes that you own?

E: Actually I’m not sure I own any particularly weird shoes. My sibling actually got a really cool pair of shoes from Chinatown and they were Kool Aid shoes; they were completely orange.

A: Like dyed with Kool Aid, or?

E: They were orange shoes and then they had the Kool Aid mascot on them. Those shoes are awesome but I don’t really have any really statement-y shoes. I’ve always wanted these rain boots that I used to have when I was a kid. They had little frog eyes on the front.

A: Were they green?

E: Yes, they were green. But they definitely don’t make them in my size anymore.

A: I used to actually work at a shoe store as a quote-unquote sales associate which meant that like I had to find sizes for people. All the shoes were on the floor too, so I’d point and be like “Oh, there’s your size” and that was literally my job. People would ask me fashion questions, but we sold like the simplest generic shoes so I’d have to say “Sure, yeah, those like, black loafers are in for fall. You should get them. Or perhaps try brown. ” Like black and brown were the only colours.

E: My mom’s actually a really big shoe collector. Her eyes just light up around them. I guess that’s why I’m not as much into shoes, because I spent so much time in shoe stores when I was a kid. Hats were like my main priority because I’m tall; I feel like my shoes are so far away. I mean, your feet are at the bottom of your body.

A: But it’s something you notice because shoes change the way you walk and stand and hold yourself more than really any other clothes, unless you’re wearing a corset or something.

E: Do you have a dream pair of shoes that you’ve kind of always been looking for but never found?

A: When I pay attention to runway shows, I don’t look at shoes as much but there was this Balenciaga shoe in, I want to say it was 2009, and the heels were like rock mineral experiments. Something you would look at in a high school geology. Is geology even a thing you do in high school?

E: I’ve always liked this shoe designed by Jeremy Scott. Just these sneakers that are fuzzy and had a teddy bear attached to them.

A: That’s such a you thing to like.

E: I’ve been obsessing over them. I think that kind of shoe is like, really a statement shoe.

A: It’s kind of like a grownup version of those rain boots.

E: Yes. [laughs]

A: I’m into sneakers lately. I’m like, “I’m laid back. I’m cool. I wear sneakers with my dress.”

E: When I was a teenager, I really liked Lily Allen. She always wore those prom dresses with the sneakers and big hoops. I had never thought of someone dressing up like that and wearing such casual shoes. There’s this movie I saw, Party Girl.

A: With Parker Posey?

E: She’s the most memorable character from movies or TV shows with her shoes. She was wearing these platform sneakers. They were white.

A: Platforms. Oh god!

E: I really love them, though.

A: All I can think of is the Spice Girls and the Union Jack shoes.

E: When I was 16, I went to New York with my mom and we were looking through all the stores on Bleecker Street. There’s one store I really liked so we were spending a bit more time there. It was pretty empty and there was a photographer in the store. And then the photographer started talking to us and said that they were doing an article about round-toed heels, which were in style at the time, and that they needed someone to wear them for the photoshoot.

A: That’s such a “small town girl goes to the big city and becomes a model” thing [laughs].

E: It was in the New York Times. My dad sent it to all the relatives.

A: So you’ve been in The Times!

E: I don’t even know if I actually read the article! [laughs] I was just like, “Cool!”

A: Did you end up getting the shoes?

E: No. I felt like I should get the shoes, it was a pretty nice store, but I would always rather buy a hat.

illustration // Averill Smith

Crushing on Sabrina Kyle

Indie wrestler meets retro badass zombie killer

Sabrina Kyle is an indie wrestler. This means she catapults off turnbuckles, high kicks people in the face, and performs flips and other gymnastic manoeuvres, all the while trying not to rip a carefully thought-out costume so that she can do it all over again. Kyle has found her calling in a sport that too often uses costume to trivialize its most talented female athletes. By sticking them in impractical (but sexy) outfits or with silly gimmicks, it can be nearly impossible for anyone but the smartest of marks to take them seriously.

Kyle started training six days a week when she was 15. She was the only girl at the time at the Living Legends Wrestling Academy, which was unfortunately common. The professional wrestling scene treats female wrestlers as a special attraction, most shows often featuring only one women’s match a night. Kyle is all too familiar with this reality, as she has had to constantly compete for attention among the ever-growing number of female wrestlers in North America, all of whom are trying to be noticed in a sea of blonde hair, pink bras, and glitter.

But after eight years in the game, Kyle has started to come into her own. She knows what makes her different and persistently changes her style to stay above the fray. Now she’s a fashion leader on the indie circuit as well as a household name in Southwestern Ontario and the Northern Midwestern US. Her gear is a significant part of her identity as a wrestler, along with her gritty personality and top-notch ability. WORN caught up with Kyle to ask her about her personal style and how she stays true to herself.

How would you describe your personal style?
Comfortable. I just wear whatever, I really do.

And how would you describe Sabrina Kyle’s style?
I would say retro, ’50s, zombie, horror. For a while I was doing the superhero thing, so everything was Harley Quinn or Batman-oriented. I used to wear these huge bell-bottoms. Now I’m doing more of a rockabilly thing, and my gimmick right now is like a little sailor outfit, and then I wear Frankenstein socks. I just try to bring a little bit of horror into it. I try to be unique—not like every other female wrestler out there.

Would you say your personal style affects Sabrina’s at all?
[Shakes her head and laughs.] Night and day.

Where does your gear come from?
I design my outfits. I’ll either be watching a TV show or reading a comic book, I’ll see an outfit and I’ll think, “Oh, I can turn that into wrestling gear!” So I will show my mom pictures of what I want. My mom’s a seamstress and she does all the sewing. She makes my pad covers, everything.

Does Mom have much input?
My mom’s very supportive of whatever I want to wear. Sometimes she will think that something will look better another way, and she’ll just go ahead and make the change. I’ll get my finished product and notice, “Okay there wasn’t supposed to be black there,” but it usually looks better.

Do you generally seek out fabrics or patterns you like, or does your mom take care of that?
My mom and I, we always go to Anne’s Fabric Store in Hamilton. Their entire attic is all lycra and spandex. They know me; there’s actually me and a couple other wrestlers that get our material there, and they give us discounts because they know we’re wrestlers and we always put their name out there to other people. My mom usually goes with me and helps me pick it out. I usually know what I’m looking for when I go in, but sometimes I find some material that’s totally crazy.

Is everything you wear made from scratch?
Once or twice I’ve bought spandex pants from Zellers or whatever and had them cut off or redone, and then had stuff added to them. But usually my Mom has patterns, and she just makes it.

Has she ever made you other clothes, or just your wrestling stuff?
Oh yeah, she’s made me outfits. She made me a Batman dress out of a Batman sheet for my birthday last year.

When you’re not making your costumes, are there any particular stores you like?
Value Village, Winners, Hot Topic. I have one outfit: it’s black spandex with army print netting, and it has bell bottoms. But I got made fun of a lot, so I don’t wear it anymore. People would rib me backstage at shows all the time.

Does that bug you?
When it’s guys in the back, I would say no, since I’ve known them all since I was 15. But I do get upset when people post pictures online critiquing the way I look. People have called me the most ridiculous names—I weighed 220 pounds for a while, and trust me, people let me know that I weighed 220 pounds. I mean, it doesn’t feel really nice when it happens all the time. But with the guys, I don’t care about them. Most of them look like they’re wearing diapers anyway.

Are there any fabrics or styles you avoid?
Vinyl or pleather. A lot of guys wear pleather, and it looks backyard. I would never wear basketball shorts—I wrestled in the US one time, and the girl I was wrestling showed up wearing basketball shorts and a Jeff Hardy t-shirt. I would never wear running shoes. If I absolutely had to, I would wear kick pads over top of them to make them look more legitimate.

Would you ever wear heels in the ring?
I wouldn’t. I was managing the Amazing Darkstone for a while when I was hurt. The promoter wanted me to wear heels and dresses to every show—do you know how hard it is to walk around a wrestling ring in high heels? It’s padding, right. I couldn’t do anything. If I had to do a spot, I would take my heels off before I got in the ring and wear flats. If I couldn’t wear flats, I wouldn’t do the spot, ’cause I knew I could break my ankle. I have a hard enough time walking in heels as it is.

What’s your favourite wrestling outfit?
Probably my Harley Quinn outfit. There are a lot of girls doing the comic book thing now though, so I don’t wear it anymore. I wrestled one girl at a show, and then the next time I saw her she had almost identical gear as me. There’s only a couple of us in Ontario… but I didn’t say anything, I just changed what I was doing.

Does your wrestling gear make you more confident?
Yeah! I feel like a badass zombie killer. Laughs. It boosts my confidence. When I put my gear on and get in the ring, it’s business time.

Costume is important to a wrestler’s personality. How does it contribute to a gimmick?
It depends what you’re doing, and if you’re even doing a gimmick. Most girls don’t actually do gimmicks; they just wear what they want to wear. One girl I wrestled would always wear bathing suit bottoms and a bathing suit top—but she didn’t have a gimmick, and it didn’t matter ’cause everyone knew her name. But if you’re doing a vampire gimmick, then you’re not going to wear bathing suit bottoms and a bathing suit top—you’re going to make yourself look gothic. If I was trying to get over as a punk rocker, and I came out in a white bra and underwear… it makes no sense.

Male or female, who is your wrestling fashion influence?
Well, my favourite wrestler is Gangrel from the Brood, during the Attitude era—he did a vampire gimmick. And Trish Stratus. I think every girl says that, though—at least every girl from Toronto; she’s the most influential diva ever. But no one in wrestling now influences my style. I was really confused for a while about what I wanted to do—I did a showgirl gimmick, in which I wore sapphires and sparkles all the time, I did the superhero thing for a long time. I was just so confused, and I wasn’t getting noticed. If you want to be a female wrestler and you want to go somewhere, you need to have a gimmick, a look. You need people to say, “I remember that girl. That’s the girl who wore that.” Someone told me to just think of things I like and incorporate them into my gimmick and style in the ring. I really like B-rate horror movies and rockabilly music, and as far as fashion, I love Bettie Page—I wish I could dress like her every day. So I incorporated all that, and that’s how I got where I am now.

What’s your dream costume?
That’s a hard one, because my mom already makes what I want her to make. For my next set of gear, I want to get a two-piece made. I’ve never worn a two-piece the entire time I’ve been wrestling. But I’d like a two-piece made with Gir from Invader Zim—like a zombie Gir, with a brain cup on the side.

Do you think going pro wrestling (WWE) changes the way girls dress in the ring?
Well, I don’t actually watch WWE that much anymore. But Natalya, she wears Hart Foundation gear. Ever since day one in the WWE, she’s worn gear. And Awesome Kong/Kharma, the gear that she wore in WWE, she’s always worn that—but they made her wear makeup. When she was working indies, she wouldn’t wear any—she was supposed to be mean, that was the gimmick. When they brought her into the WWE, that’s the gimmick they wanted her to do, but they made her over, made her look like a giant Barbie doll. Same with Beth Phoenix; she was supposed to be this powerhouse, but they had to make her look feminine. I like her gear, I liked her one-piece… but before she left, she was wearing a skirt. And they make women into jokes. Like they put Beth Phoenix with Santino for the longest time, and she wasn’t even doing anything. Don’t get me wrong, I like Santino, but why would you put your most dominant female with this person to make her look like a joke? And with Natalya, they did a gimmick with her where she was farting all the time. It was so stupid. And Mickie James, I really didn’t like that Laycool gimmick they were doing for a while, where they were calling her “Piggy James,” ’cause she was a little bit bigger. That was part of the reason I liked Mickie James, because she was thicker, but she looked good and she could wrestle. Yet they played off that, and made fun of her for it. No wonder she left.

Sometimes promoters or other wrestlers will influence the choreography of a match. Do they ever dictate what you need to wear?
Now, a lot of the girls around here work hard to make themselves legitimate. Before it was all bras and panties or a bikini match. That’s what it often comes down to: sex appeal. Actually, a promoter once tried to book me and Kaitlin Diemond in a lingerie match at an indie show. I emailed him back and told him I wasn’t going to show up if that’s what he wanted us to do. I would have shown up in Batman boxers and a t-shirt anyway. I had a gig in the States where they made me do a cowgirl gimmick for a while—my name was Scarlett Rose and I was a cowgirl. I wore jean shorts, tied my shirt up and wore a cowboy hat and everything. I did that for two or three shows. But when I had had enough, I told him I was leaving. I left for a year, and then I came back on my own terms. I said, “This is the gimmick I’m doing now, I’m not changing my name.” He still wanted me to wear these little tiny outfits, because he thought it would get better ratings. But I’m not going to wear a bra and panties for a show that airs at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Not to mention, if I go out there and do that, I’m going to get heat from the other girls who are legitimate wrestlers that I look up to, like Portia Perez and Sara Del Rey. Their outfits allow fans to focus on their wrestling ability, and not their looks. And that’s what we should be focusing on. I’m not Kelly Kelly. I’m Sabrina Kyle, and I’m going to wrestle the way I want to wrestle, and I’m going to wear what I want to wear.

photography // Laura Tuttle
artwork // Averill Smith

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