It’s All About the Labels

A Dandy Guide To Dating Vintage Menswear From WWI to 1960

Sue Nightingale’s process for dating vintage is simple: look at the label. Most of A Dandy Guide To Dating Vintage Menswear WWI to 1960 is devoted to how to properly read and identify them. Only a few pages in, I found myself interested in learning just how to date denim, despite the fact that I haven’t worn jeans in about 12 years.

The book is filled with black and white ads for Sears, J.C. Penny, and other major menswear labels from WWI to 1960. Throughout the book, we see the graphic design of labels become less ornate and more regulated as the decades pass, showing us how subtle visual clues can reveal the exact date of the piece. A Dandy Guide goes into great detail over legislation that affected the look of labels during the time—incredibly helpful and very thorough—making some key notes on this section will help this guide become more functional for the reader. A quick reading of this section will familiarize you with the decades you are dealing with, but the book is a guide and having it handy while actually dating clothing will be when it’s most useful.

The second half of the book is an explanation of the general styles and trends of the time as well as practical care instructions for vintage clothing. Nightingale outlines popular styles on the pages filled with old pictures and advertisements, then gives tips as to what to initially look for when dating vintage. An entire chapter devoted to robes and “smoking jackets” is something we rarely see in contemporary men’s fashion, and is an interesting reminder as to how much the lives of men have changed—and thus their clothing. The same can be said for men’s work clothing. Denim was functional long before it was trendy.

A Dandy Guide to Dating Vintage is a valuable resource to anyone interested in vintage clothing, men’s or women’s, as the tips and tricks are helpful for both. Above all, this book is a guide. It’s not an evening read for the bathtub, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s designed to be lugged to Value Village with you the next time you’re eyeing those velvety smoking robes in the men’s aisle.

photography // Brianne Burnell

What to Wear When Hot on the Trail

Whether solving crime or cracking codes, it's best to do it in style

Fashion has always been filled with mysteries: What is hiding behind Karl Lagerfeld’s sunglasses? How can there be more than 52 fashion weeks in a year? Lotion and denim—meant to be?

Then, there are some things we don’t even need to question. As long as there have been sleuths—whether in fact or fiction—there has been clothing to covet, be it elaborate disguises or the more traditional trench coats. We got our Wornettes to get to the bottom of the case in figuring out who the best-dressed detectives are.


Dr. Julia Ogden (CityTV/CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries)
As Murdoch Mysteries‘ token “New Woman,” Dr. Ogden is a doctor, early forensics specialist, and women’s health advocate. She is also intellectually and temperamentally a perfect match for the series protagonist, Detective William Murdoch, and their partnership is the heart of the show. Her style reflects her position as a woman in a world of men, and she is almost always wearing menswear inspired pieces like ties, vests, and separates. But as the show has progressed and her presence has become more accepted (and she has moved away from the autopsy table), her dress has grown softer and more feminine. In the season 5 finale, she sexed it up completely in a black and red, low cut, sleeveless, beaded and sequined ball gown, the perfect outfit for a woman who is about to leave her husband for another man in 1900. Intelligent, brave, and forward-thinking, she’s the woman I would want to be if I were alive in Victorian Toronto—heck, she’s the woman I want to be now. // Megan Patterson


Hercule Poirot (multiple Agatha Christie novels)
“The neatness of his attire was almost incredible,” Captain Arthur Hastings remarked about his old friend Hercule Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. “I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound.” Useful, when one’s job is solving crimes.

Agatha Christie introduced her diminutive, fastidious, and arrogant detective in the ’20s. She couldn’t have known that the transplanted Belgian, with small mincing steps, would follow her the rest of her life. Poirot was laid to rest the same year as his creator, in 1975. By then, his three-piece suits, bowler hats, and patent leather shoes were ludicrously out of date. But it’s fitting that a character that Christie described as a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep,” would stubbornly cling to his jazz age style in the era of punk.

Poirot’s most famous attribute was without a doubt his moustache—a small handlebar, always perfectly waxed. In some Poirot films, he’s even shown wearing a moustache-net while sleeping. When dressing actor David Suchet, the definitive Poirot from the BBC series, the costume designers tested 40 fake moustaches in order to find the most symmetrical one. For costumers, as well as detectives, details are of the utmost importance. // Max Mosher



Jessica Fletcher
(CBS’s Murder she Wrote)
It ain’t easy maintaining a sleepy east coast lifestyle while catching crooks on the regular in rural Maine, but Jessica Fletcher pulls it off with as much flair as guile. Whether she’s unearthing a crime at a Native American archaeological dig, dining with one of her countless nieces and nephews, or sleuthing with Magnum PI on a trip to Hawaii, she does so with an elegance that can only come with knowing that her night out will end up with her talking to the cops (seriously, does nobody question that wherever she goes, reckless murder tends to follow?). With clip-on earrings, jaunty hats, houndstooth jackets and a scarf collection that would earn jealous glares from the likes of Nancy Drew, her mix of belted, shoulder-padded mackintoshes and smart button-down vest combos offer up the best of nor’eastern fashion that makes us all want to curse, “clam dip!” // Whitney Wager


Carmen SanDiego
Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego? We never actually figured that out, but her tomato-red trench coat remains unmistakeable. Sandiego was the title outlaw of the 1980s children’s computer game where players scoured the globe looking for clues of the thief’s whereabouts. SanDiego wore the classic bank robber’s uniform of all black, topped off with a bright red floor-length trench coat and matching fedora, always poised for the getaway. It’s a testament to her stealthiness that she could remain perpetually untraceable while wearing some of the most noticeable clothes, earning her the apt nickname of “The Lady in Red.” Sure, unlike the other names on this list, SanDiego was more a crime starter than a crime solver, but her conspicuously coloured trench was the ultimate subversion of classic detective attire. // Isabel Slone


Mata Hari
Marilyn might have sung “Diamonds are a girls best friend,” but it could have easily been said by the French courtesan Mata Hari, who was executed during WWI for being a supposed double agent. Often seen lavished in exotic diamond head-pieces and decadent silks fit for a bold spy disguised as an Egyptian goddess, Mata Hari’s glamour possessed an intruding sexiness uncommon during the still reserved days of Edwardian Europe.

When Greta Garbo played her in the 1931 film Mata Hari, the velvets, the furs, and the intoxicating amount of bling undoubtedly became one of the strongest focal points in every scene; so exuberant are they that it puts every modern-day Kardashian’s luxury to shame. But it’s not the excess of luxe that makes Mata Hari a fashionable dream—with a hazardous history of prostitution, seduction, and espionage. It’s the way in which all her diamonds are threaded with dangerous mystery, intrigue, and two-facedness that allow her and her style to become the quintessential archetype for dicey femme fatale glamour. Even James Bond called her his first true love. // Paulina Kulacz

Lana Kane (FX’s Archer)
Archer is one of those cartoons in a post-Simpsons world in which you can’t let its animated facade fool you—this is not a show for kids. It constantly straddles the line between delightfully subversive and obnoxious bro-humor with its frustrating Don Draper-meets-James Bond protagonist, secret agent Sterling Archer. Lana Kane (Aisha Taylor) is Archer’s ex-girlfriend and coworker, her no-bullshit attitude providing him much needed foil. And though the way she is drawn recalls ridiculously sexist notions of female anatomy seen in many male-targeted comic books (seriously, her chest-waist-hips ratio makes Barbie look like a stick) she actually gets to fight crime wearing relatively sensible clothing. OK, her high-heeled boots are a little nuts (though impeccably badass), but she’s got a whole wardrobe of these turtleneck sweater dresses that she wears to the office that scream, “I Enjoy Being an Attractive Lady But Also it is Important That I am Comfortable While Doing Behind The Scenes Intel Work Yet if Need be I can Also Easily Kick Your Ass in This Skirt, Also: Check Out My Gun Holsters; I Have Two of Them.” If only my own knitwear could be so badass. // Anna Fitzpatrick


Harriet the Spy (1996 film adaptation of Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh)
Forget typical trench-coats and fedoras. Eleven year old Harriet M. Welsch does her best secret snooping in classic ’90s grade-school style. Solid tees are layered over long-sleeved stripes, jeans and hoodies are very baggy, and plaid flannel is never far out of sight. On duty, Harriet (played by Michelle Trachtenberg before she became an evil mastermind) wears a bright yellow raincoat and a matching utility belt (it holds up her massive jeans and carries vintage spy supplies); her ever-present “PRIVATE” notebook is tucked in the front of her jeans and binoculars hang around her neck. Harriet is always ready for action, whether she’s hiding in a rich lady’s dumbwaiter or hanging from her best friend’s window ledge. Most of the time she’s sticking to practical pieces in primary colours—except when she’s dancing to James Brown in an onion costume. // Stephanie Fereiro


Joan Watson (CBS’s Elementary)
Being TV’s first gender-swapped Watson wasn’t enough for Joan—she also had to have a pretty wicked sense of style. As a born and bred New Yorker, I suppose this only makes perfect sense. When we think of Dr. Watson from other adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, we typically think of someone very stuffy and buttoned up, and his style has always reflected that. Jane Watson on the other hand, exudes fresh breath of casual air, in her demeanor and her clothing. Her wardrobe is the exact opposite of the stuffy Victorian gentleman’s—flowy tops, leggings, perfect unstructured jackets, LOTS of New York-appropriate black, and miniskirts (girlfriend loves a miniskirt, and has on more than one occasion worn a leather one). Lucy Liu makes it all look effortless in that infuriating way she has, even the parts that involve dead bodies (which is, of course, most of them). // Megan Patterson

illustrations //
Jenn Woodall
To see more stylin’ detectin’, check out our Nancy Drew inspired editorial in issue 9 of WORN Fashion Journal.

Lowbrow

What happens when bleached brows detach from the runway

I like my hair white. Freshly fallen snow white. Nearly translucent white. Sometimes the colour may shift to pastel mint, lavender, or pink, but for the most part I stick to shades of the printer paper variety. Some might say I’m a bit too obsessive about banishing any hint of a yellowy tone, and I’d probably say they are right.

This past week, I stumbled upon a look that would take my ghostly appearance to a new level: bleached brows. How did this revelation take so long? I have been fawning over barely-there browed models for ages, but I never quite made the connection: I could carry out this look in real life.

I clawed at the idea with the ferocity of a cat in a litter box. How do I do it? What volume activator do I use? How long before I get roots? The questions were endless, but the answer, it turns out, was pretty simple. I got drunk with my best friend and painted my brows with Jolen cream bleach. I started watching YouTube videos, completely forgot the bleach, remembered and frantically tried to rub it off as quickly as possible, and voila! No eyebrows!

But really, for that first hungover 24 hours I really looked like my brows has been pillaged, ripped right from their perch on my face and taken to an unknown location. It wasn’t until I bleached my roots and toned both bodies of hair to match that I attained the model-like result I’d been after. Bingo. I started to think of myself as a little more alien, more doll, more forest nymph/fairy/magical creature. But to my surprise, others didn’t share the same excitement.

When sifting through the internet for tips on managing the very quick grow-out phase (I already had teeny roots two days later), all I could find were warnings of potential blindness, the condemning of Kelly Osborne, polls debating whether the look should be “runway only” and some very direct reports banning it altogether.

My real life reactions were even more daunting than those of the voices on the internet. Friends literally looked and me and said, “Wow, your eyebrows look weird,” or (nervously), “When will they grow back?” From shock to horror, almost every reaction was negative.

The general consensus seemed to be “But why would you do that?” Perhaps the most confused and upset of them all was none other than one of Toronto’s top brow gurus. Known for her fabulous face-framing skills, she had just finished up with my best friend’s luscious brown brows when we got to talking about her doing mine sometime (when the lack of colour grew out and I needed more shape). The moment of realization that my eyebrows were not naturally light flashed across her face like tinfoil in a microwave, and she suddenly seemed unable to contain her dismay. She just couldn’t believe I had done such a thing willingly when “brows frame the face!” She asked, “but why?” at least five times while I struggled to comfort her and convince her it was a very solid runway trend, then eventually gave in to reassuring her they would grow back very quickly and it was just for fun. Although still confused, she greeted this possibility with hope and appeared to let it go.

Had I committed some form of facial faux pas? Was there a special place in hell reserved for women who purposefully erase their brows? Although I’ve tried many a crazy passing trend (full length denim jumpsuit, high-waisted pants that go up to my breasts, see-through dresses with nothing underneath, etc.) I have never experienced such negative feedback to a fashion statement: apparently challenging traditional beauty standards is not a risk I’m supposed to take.

It’s a well known fact that brows lighter than your locks just look “weird,” but why is that? Because we all need some level of sameness to feel comfortable when we gaze into one another’s eyes? As the tiny roots creep into sight on my brow, I’ve hit a crossroads: do I bleach them back? Or do I conform to traditional beauty standards and return to life as I knew it, with a perfectly balanced and shaped face? Is flattering more important than fun? The answer of course, is no. Despite the various people I’ve promised the return of my brows to, I think I’m going to indulge in this runway-only look a little longer.

photography //
Brianne Burnell

T-Shirt Manifesto

Threadless tells the story of how an idealistic vision became a design revoluion

Threadless is not just a t-shirt company that produces inspired graphic work, and it’s not just an internet upstart that championed “crowdsourcing” and social networking. In the words of co-founder Jake Nickell, Threadless “is a living breathing community of people that can’t be told what to do.” In Threadless: Ten Years of T-Shirts from the World’s Most Inspiring Online Design Community, Nickell chronicles the scrappy start-up’s rise over the past 10 years and makes a pretty good case that the company is something of a (t-shirt) revolution.

Nickell is joined by a cast of new media experts, designers, and fans who collectively recount the company’s deal: users are encouraged to upload designs and visitors vote on which t-shirt will go into production. Guest essayist Seth Godin writes that Threadless is, “a company that hires the unhireable, codes the uncodable [and] markets the unmarketable,” and Jeff Howe notes, “The genius of Threadless is that they put the community on a pedestal and then stepped into the background.” The mini-essays illustrate a company that democratizes art, and are the highlight of the book’s written content.

Text is dwarfed by the technicolour t-shirt designs and I found myself recognizing a lot of the prints as I pored over the pages, like this graphic of a badass Scooby-doo fanfic drawing of Velma with a shotgun and a bloodthirsty Scooby. Threadless’s designs have become pervasive over the past decade, and my sentiments on ubiquity were shared by those interviewed. Barnaby Bocock from New Zealand, speaking of his design “Nuts” said, “I think the ultimate compliment is seeing how much it has been ripped off. It was especially surreal when I found fakes being sold in Bangkok.”

Nickell’s strength as a businessman is sharing the spotlight. And although he’s writing about the company he started, the charismatic and critical engagement of other thinkers and artists are what put his success into a broader context and make it shine. As Nickell says: “Threadless is a community of people first, a t-shirt store second.” He gets away with wide-eyed utopian statements because the book is just as much an inspiring testament to sticking to your principles as proving that innovation can be more than empty business jargon. Threadless isn’t so much a coffee-table book as it is a colourful manifesto.

further reading // Threadless: Ten Years of T-Shirts from the World’s Most Inspiring Online Design Community by Jake Nickell and Jeffrey Kalmikoff // Henry N. Abrams // 2010

book report // Cayley James
images // Brianne Burnell