Uh, That’s Not What I Meant by “Date Me”

A while ago I decided to try my luck at internet dating. It was neither a failure nor a success, and I soon lost interest. The only lingering evidence is a leftover profile at OkCupid, mostly because I’m too lazy to delete it. I still get the odd message from guys who like my smile and think we should chat. It’s what you’d expect, the sheepish norm of first contact between potential paramours in the digital age. What you don’t expect to get, however, is unsolicited style advice.

I am one of the lucky few.

The new message announced itself with a cheerful digital chime. The sound was misleading. It read: You are cute, but you should work on your wardrobe. Makes you look much older than 22. Just thought I’d help you out.

You know that alarm sound that Uma Thurman hears in Kill Bill? That’s what I heard. I wanted to send back a string of expletives, shredding his opinion of my personal style. He was totally wrong… right? Just to refresh my memory, I looked over my pictures to see what sort of “dowdy” ensembles he was criticizing. One was a ’50s style strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline, covered in a pattern of prize ribbons. Another, a silk blouse with a whimsical print of chairs, leaves, and umbrellas. In the third, a black dress with drawn cassette tapes unspooling in every direction. All of them are very cute outfits; none of them requiring a stranger’s intervention.

But a flash of self-doubt wracked me. My insecure inner 12-year-old suddenly wondered if maybe people saw me that way. Did I really come off as stuffy and uptight? It took years for me to feel comfortable in my skin. My shape never fit the American Eagle model that was popular when I was in high school. More than once, I wept in a change room, unable to navigate a pair of pubic-zone-grazing jeans and, rather than turning me into a Seventeen-queen, trendy mini-skirts just highlighted my stumpy torso. It was crushing. But creativity eventually took the place of insecurity. I went after vintage silhouettes and tailored looks; maybe they looked “older” to some but they made me feel self-assured. That’s when I decided I wouldn’t let people make me feel silly for what I put on my back.

So why did I let this man’s comments send me into a tailspin?

With his comment, he didn’t just insult my clothes—he insulted the image I had of myself. I wasn’t fishing for compliments, but the pictures I chose were of a confident and beautiful me. His offhand offer to improve what I thought was me at my best bruised my ego and made me question what the world saw when they looked at me. And although I want people to like me for who I am, the voice of the ostracized pre-teen in my past was suddenly asking, should I change?

If I were to slide off the high road and come face to face with my insulter I’ve considered a barb or two I could hurl in his direction. I’ve even thought of the outfit I’d wear: a red and white iris-printed sundress with a button front, cap sleeves, and a crinoline underneath. I would lower my cat-eye sunglasses, my neck scarf fluttering a little in the breeze. In my drollest Katherine Hepburn voice, I’d say: “Hey buddy. My wardrobe doesn’t need help. As for your personality, I’m not so sure.” But what would be the point? I know who I am, I know what I like, and as trite as it sounds, I’m confident I’ll meet someone who appreciates me just as I am.

I wonder how his quest for true love is going?

text by Cayley James

Strings Attached: The Great Urban Apron Experiment

I love aprons. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a waitress just so I could wear one. Waitresses seemed so cool and in control. They carried so many awkward things at once, and always with a smile. Since then I’ve had more than a couple of jobs where an apron was required, and I now know they have little to do with multi-tasking prowess, and yet I maintain my affection for the domestic accessory. I thought about writing a love letter to the humble apron, but Serah-Marie, our editor-in-pants, had a more immersive idea: “Why don’t you wear them and write about that instead?”

It seemed simple, but when I mentioned it to a friend of mine he was taken aback.

“Aprons?!” he scoffed. “You’re going to wear aprons…outside?”

“Yes. Is there something wrong with that?”

“No…I guess not. I mean, would it be weird if a butcher walked around wearing his apron outside?”

I paused. My initial confidence in this social experiment cooked up in the safe stylish world of WORN began to waiver. To put me at ease, my first sartorial choice was a sentimental one. I picked a blue-fringed floral apron I had worn as a kid in my Grandparents’ backyard. (I was pretending to be a waitress and “taking orders.”) I checked my reflection in the mirror. I liked the way my new accessory looked over my jeans and light cotton tunic. I thought: “Yes! This works.”
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Book Review: Cowboy Textiles

When I was a little kid I had a particular affection for Roy Rogers movies. My favourite was Don’t Fence Me In, a matinee frivolity from the ’40s that involved a jaded East Coast reporter, played by Dale Evans, getting sent on a story out in the wilds of the frontier, to investigate some rural legend. She inevitably falls for Roy Rogers and his merry band of musical ranch hands and it all ends in a song. Roy Rodgers, Dale Evans and Trigger (“the smartest horse in the movies”) were a happy-go-lucky embodiment of the freedom and charisma of the “Wild West.” For those of you who have never seen a Roy Rogers movie or even dabbled in the Western genre, a good aesthetic gateway would be Thomas Kiley’s pictorial love letter to western style in Cowboy Textiles.

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What I Wore to WORN: Cayley’s Swishy Top

Cayley James, publishing intern

Tell me about one of the items you’re wearing?
The trade bead bracelets are from my dad, who travels a lot around Canada for work. He’s found amazing hole-in-the-wall boutiques in some pretty far flung places. Both of them are made from antique glass beads once used as currency during the fur trade. I grew up in a family that is slightly obsessed with our national history so these pull at my heart strings.

What inspired this outfit?
There are commercials for Back to School splashed across every conceivable medium. Wool coats are being stocked in every mall across the country and the collective pallete is shifting towards browns and blacks. But the thermometer is still pushing 30 degrees and I’ve got a burnt nose. So this outfit is in the spirit of summers past with arms full of hemp and friendship bracelets, canoe trips and bare feet. Also, I live a 60 minute bike ride from the WORN office, so whatever I wear has to be practical enough to weave through traffic and dodge pedestrians too.

What’s the best book to read in this outfit?
Outlander by Gil Adamson. It’s an epic fugitive tale set during the turn of the century. It’s a potent mix of dark poetic realism and historical fiction, and one the best Canadian novels I’ve read in ages.

shopping credits:
The top is from Anthropologie; I picked it up at the end of last summer during a killer sale. The shorts are from Gap. The earrings are from a little boutique on Kingston Road in the Beaches called Trinity Gallery, and all the bracelets are from little shops and craft shows across the country.