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

More is More

10 things about the Great Canadian Burlesque

Surrounded by suitcases bursting with incandescent crystal-laden braziers and fluttering ostrich-feather fans, trays of pasties, and women decked out in the best of pin-up vogue, it was like I had stepped into a different era. A warm era, with soft curls and hard eyeliner. I spoke with a handful of next-to-naked women of the Great Canadian Burlesque (GCB) troupe, getting ready to trade their bodies for applause and whistles that night at the Mod Club. I was dazzled by the flashy costumes, so delicate and intricate up close; and by the dancers themselves, who were stunning, with confidence and charisma any stage performer would aspire to have. I settled in to watch my first burlesque show, unsure of what was to come. By the end, I was cheering louder than anyone, completely caught up in the electrifying atmosphere and the sex that filled the air. However, I did manage to learn a thing (or 10) during my time with the talented ladies (and men) of the GCB.

1 // More is more
When it comes to burlesque costumes, you can never have too much of anything. Performers adhere to the three S’s like religion: sequins, shine, and shimmer. “The flashier the better,” says Fionna Flauntit, GCB performer, founder, and producer. Costumes are over the top, both in theme and application. There’s more Swarovski crystals at a burlesque show than a Michael Jackson impersonator convention (Miss Mitzy Cream’s Glamophone outfit has over 43,000 of them, trimmed with plenty of 18-ply ostrich feathers). “In any other application it would be cheesy as hell, but in the burlesque world, it’s perfect,” laughs Flauntit. But performers exaggerate the theme of their characters, too. Ms. Chaos Divine’s black widow costume, whose black nail polish was drying as we spoke, incorporates a spider web-cut leather corset and garter belt, a spider’s nest fascinator, complete with floralytes, a bouquet of roses I’m assuming for the funeral of her not-so-dearly departed (and digested) husband and a spider perched on top. Oh and spider-web pasties just for good measure.

2 // Face time
Makeup is an important part of every performer’s ensemble. It can contribute thematically to the character, like in Cherry Typhoon’s geisha routine, or simply enhance the drama of a performer’s look, like the seductive Sassy Ray. Performers sometimes paint themselves from head to… well, you can imagine… in which case makeup is one of the most prominent features of an act.

It gets heated onstage under the spotlights, so makeup needs to cover sheen, while amplifying facial features with fake eyelashes and gauche blush so even the audience at the back can see. Veteran Miss Mitzy does her own makeup meticulously in a little bathroom above the stage before the show (pantless, I might add), smudging foundation and powder onto her cheeks and forehead, and carefully applying dramatic eye makeup. Some performers like Miss Mitzy use their own products from home, while others have their makeup done professionally. Coco Framboise had her Cleopatra-inspired visage crafted by Stacey Laureyssens, a Toronto-based stage makeup artist and owner of theOriginalFace. The decision to use a makeup artist or DIY can depend on the complexity of the performer’s character, and how big a part the makeup plays during the performance. Hint: Flauntit’s Mystique costume is pretty heavy on the makeup.

3 // Size/age is just a number
Perhaps in response to the rail-thin young white models that grace most of our runways and fashion spreads today, burlesque has joined the ranks of counter-culture, frequently offering up a diverse array of performers that vary in size, ethnicity, and age. From size 2′s to 24′s, GCB succeeds in showcasing women from all walks of life that defy conventional beauty: black, white, Asian and Latin women, PYTs to impressive legends Tiffany Carter (Miss Nude Universe 1975) and Tempest Storm (one of the most iconic women in the industry). I think Forrest Gump once said that burlesque is like a box of chocolates. And he was right.

4 // A pastie party

Pasties are pieces of material that performers use to cover their nipples. The tradition of wearing pasties is about as old as burlesque itself; troupes in the 1920s used them as a way to get around moral laws of the time (no nip, no foul, right?). They come in countless forms—like the traditional conical shape, hearts, stars, X’s, alpha letters, or just plain glitter—and can encompass various features, from dangling tassels that spin rhythmically with any slight upper body movement, to the flaming ones that Tanya Cheex courageously dons. Dancers can buy them online, or locally from women like Cheex or Patte Rosebank, who make them by hand and sell them on platters at events. They are attached securely to the breast using double-sided adhesive tape, or wig-tape, which occasionally can be painful to remove. But it’s better than having them fly off during a particularly intense twirl.

5 // To prop or not to prop
A giant gramophone complete with rotating platform. A feathered crown composed of removable fans. A classic stripper pole. Depending on the performer, acts can incorporate varying degrees of accessories. Some performances keep it simple, involving only a chair or an umbrella filled with rose petals, a choice that puts more focus on the dancer’s choreography. Others lean toward the more sublime of sets, like Divine’s subterranean lair, a world rife with jars full of creepy crawlies, baroque furniture, and gloomy drapery. Coco Framoise included some “sex slaves” as props in her Cleopatra routine, and Sauci Calla Horra used her male volunteer’s (ahem) props to juice some lemons.

Choosing to use props can depend on the context of the routine: they can get in the way of choreography-heavy performances like those of troupes (the Harlettes, Glamourpuss Burlesque), but they can add to the laughs in more comedic acts. I’m certain old Will Shakespeare would approve of the glitter shower Akynos (the Incredible Edible) gave herself on stage, or Miss Mitzy’s baby that poops and vomits crystals.

6 // The show must go on
What happens if a performer steps on her hem and her whole outfit unravels, or a pastie flies into the crowd? “You just roll with it and make it look like it was meant to be,” says Flauntit. It helps that burlesque is rooted in comedy, but having to stop to wrench open a zipper mid-act sort of kills the mood. Not many women have the issue of unfastening a zipper (it’s generally the opposite we struggle with, trying to fit into too tight jeans). But Divine has experienced that one. “I think the mark of a seasoned performer is one who can manage a costume mishap, because it’s going to happen,” she says. And there’s always wig tape and safety pins for quick fixes. Worst case scenario, a performer pulls a Janet and the audience gets an eyeful. But something tells me they wouldn’t mind.

7 // Howling at the moon(s)
Wolfman, like his time-honoured shark fin suit(?) that he purchased at Winners for Girlesque 6, is a mainstay within the GCB organization, though he came into his role almost by fate. Playing off a nickname bestowed upon him by bullies in his adolescence, Wolfman had pitched a song to the fledgling company to use on stage. Back then, GCB was spookier (Miss Mitzy “Scream” was a vampire, and founder/producer Chris Mysterion, a local mentalist, hosted the shows), and the werewolf thing kind of fit. Before long, Wolfman started hosting due to a chance double-booking, and the rest is history. Like many others in the industry, though maybe more appropriately, he moonlights at the burlesque shows, and graces the stage of many other events locally, emceeing everything from rock shows and magazine launches to animal rescue events and fundraisers. Awoo!

8 // The stuff characters are made of
A sexy song, an entertaining figure in the media, an especially inspirational fabric: burlesque performers’ characters are born in many ways. Flauntit found a particularly hideous dress in a thrift shop (crushed velvet, lime green, over $300 of crystals sewn on). But with some alterations, it was perfect for her Green Lady performance. Divine is occasionally motivated by chakras and energy, or deep emotions like heartbreak, but more often by the costume itself as she pieces it together. “The character usually develops as I start creating the costume and start rehearsing,” she explains. “It’s funny how I can feel myself changing into something else, and embodying whatever I’m doing after I put the costume on.” Sometimes the performance is entirely about the costume, like Miss Mitzy’s self-described look at my pretty outfit routine. But each performer has an extensive rotation of characters they can embody on any given night. Miss Mitzy has over 65 different acts, each with its own costume. You can imagine her closet!

9 // Hand-made-ens
It’s rare that a performer can find exactly what she needs off the rack. There is a strong DIY culture in burlesque, as women often need to alter a fantastic thrift shop find to fit their measurements, or adorn it with crystals or bows. There are performers on a shoestring budget who you would never guess shopped at Dollarama, thanks to their darn-ed skills. Some performers are quite talented seamstresses, like Divine, who has been sewing and putting on fashion shows since she can remember. Most of her outfits have dual purposes, starting as one thing and then transforming into something else. “I like having versatility in the way I look,” she says, and like many performers, she would not wear something straight off the rack. Other performers may not have the skills themselves, and so employ others in the industry to create their costumes based on their direction. “I’m horrible at it, I’m hopeless at making costumes,” admits Miss Mitzy, whose glamaphone outfit was created by fellow performer and costume designer, Patte Rosebank. Alternatively, performers can shop at various specialty stores, like Danger Dame or Lip Service, and piece together an outfit like a puzzle.

10 // All the dance classes in the world…
When it comes down to it, a burlesque performance isn’t just about one thing. It’s about the way the costume, the makeup, the choreography, and the sex appeal all come together. “It’s the whole package, it’s about how you feel on stage and how you come off on stage to the audience,” says Flauntit. It takes guts to get up on stage in a room full of people and take your clothes off. It’s seemingly simple, but it’s hard to do well, in a way that makes the audience laugh, get turned on, and widen their eyes in awe at the same time. “You know, you have to have the charisma, and the audience loves to see when you’re enjoying yourself,” Flauntit emphasizes. “You could have the most elaborate costume, but if you don’t have stage presence and the personality… Personality is the one thing you can’t teach people.”

photography // Claire Ward-Beveridge

Stick It To Me

The DIY tattoo, coming soon to a party near you

I was attending a co-worker’s birthday party when, in need of a drink, I walked into the kitchen to find the birthday girl being pricked with a sewing needle and India ink. It was her present from a friend—and for a small fee, I was told I too could get in on the action. I declined. Was this really what the kids were doing these days? Stabbing each other with sharp objects and ink? Well, yeah, Katy Perry’s lover giving her a heart-shaped stick’n’poke in one of her videos definitely affirms the artform’s youthful revival.

I associate the rise of stick’n’poke tattoos with the recent popularity of all things punk rock, but it’s really a modern take on an age-old tradition. The Maori used sharpened bones to cut designs into the skin and then tap pigment into the wounds. The ancient Egyptians are believed to have used wooden instruments with metal tips and soot. And until the invention of the tattoo gun in 1891, Westerners used a tattoo method adapted from the Tahitians after explorer James Cook’s sailors took up the practice in the 1600s. These cultures used the same basic model: a sharp object dipped in some sort of pigment that was hammered/scraped/poked into the skin.

Since that first party, I have had more than one friend get drunk and break out a BIC pen for a quick and dirty tat. But I’ve also seen stick’n’poke stands at craft fairs, and I’ve witnessed more than one tattoo parlor advertise the old-school service. Most recently, I started working with a bunch of DIY tattoo enthusiasts who all frequented the same amateur artist. My coworkers frequently traded meals and scotch for one of her at-home tattoos. I decided to put my curiosities to rest and tagged along when my boyfriend went to her to get some new ink the old fashioned way.

The tattoo artist decided to remain anonymous, due to the murky legal area this all occupies, though she was more than happy to answer a few basic questions. Although she agreed with my initial assumption that stick’n’poke’s popularity has been partly fueled by the rise of punk and DIY, she says there is more to this resurgence than mere trendiness: “Everyone’s moving away from manufactured goods that were made as quickly and cheaply as possible. Everyone is going and getting handmade, crafted, made-in-America type goods, and the same is true for tattoos. People don’t want to get flash off the walls anymore.”

She first tried tattooing the more conventional way, apprenticing at a parlour in Montreal post-university, but says she hated the feeling of using a tattoo gun and ended up “drawing a bunch of shitty tattoos that people came to get on a whim.” She got her first pin-prick tattoo at 20 when a friend experimented by giving her “a moon that looks more like a piece of swiss cheese.” Despite this lukewarm introduction to the form, the artist has no intention of going back to the gun. For her, stick’n’pokes are superior because they’re cheap, heal quickly and, most importantly, are a slow process, allowing for an intimate experience for her and whoever she is tattooing.

My first query was, of course, a style one. Since the only DIY tats I’d seen before hers were punk emblems and prison tats (OK, those were only on TV), I assumed the form lent itself to a particular style. She quickly dismissed these restrictions.

“I think often people assume stick’n’pokes are limited to certain styles, like harder lines with not as much shading. But you can achieve anything with stick’n’poke, because really, a tattoo gun is the same just a lot faster.”

Her clients are evidence of this. Some get only straight lines and bold colours (my boyfriend opted for a simple design that mashed up his punk inclinations with some good old fashioned illuminati insignia). Others opt for shading and more complex images, like my coworker, who has a beautifully coloured rose, or my boss, who has Piglet holding a red balloon on her upper arm.

The resurgence of stick’n’pokes as a party game is not without its negatives. When I voiced my concerns about hygiene, the tattoo artist agreed, saying people need to be careful. “I get the fear of transferring disease, because it’s not often that you talk to someone who got a stick’n’poke tattoo that has been sterilized. Most people are drunk at a party and pull out some ballpoint pen, and use that ink and a sewing needle they probably didn’t even burn with a lighter. I think that’s a huge risk with their building popularity.”

Despite being worried about her drunk brethren, the tattoo artist still believes the rising popularity of stick’n’poke is nothing to fear. “I remember wearing plaid skirts and army boots and studded everything when I was 14, and that was frowned upon. Now you walk into ZARA and everything is studded. Who ever thought that would happen? With that I think comes stick’n’pokes.”

Like so many counter culture practices before it, stick’n’poke is slowly slipping into the realm of the socially acceptable.

Our anonymous tattoo artist gave us a quick rundown of how she gives a sterile tattoo from the comfort of her living room:

1 // Establish clean and dirty fields (both of which are lined with paper towel). The clean field is where you keep sanitized needles (she personally uses tattoo gun needles) and whatever super clean receptacles you’re keeping your ink in. The dirty field is for discarded needles and used paper towel.

2 // Slap on some rubber gloves and wipe the skin down with rubbing alcohol.

3 // Draw an outline of the tattoo on the skin with a thin layer of tattoo ink. Sometimes she will use transfer paper or India ink to draw a preliminary mock-up on the skin, but more often she freehands it.

4 // Dip the needle in the ink a few times to build up a layer of dry ink—this will help keep the ink on the needle as you go. Other people use a thread attached to the needle as an “anchor” to accomplish basically the same thing.

5 // Pull the skin taught so the image doesn’t get distorted and start poking. Dip and poke, dip and poke. Periodically wipe away excess ink with a wet paper towel.

6 // Once the tattoo is done wipe it well with a damp paper towel and then apply some aloe or other soothing lotion.

7 // Wrap the tat in saran wrap—to keep it clean—and then voila. Tattoo complete.

photography // Laura Tuttle

Homemade Haircut

Change has an interesting way of manifesting in our appearances. A big promotion calls for a new suit, a new school year demands a new look, and a new romantic partner begs new briefs and panties (please tell me I’m not alone in this one?). The possibilities for displaying these shifts through personal aesthetics are endless, but the most obvious and attainable indicator of transition—be it physical or mental—has to be the haircut. In late November, I was ready for said change. With a new job and apartment on the horizon, and months full of trial and error, heartbreak, and harrowing anxiety behind me, I marched into the WORN office, scissors in hand.

I had decided 24 hours before to cut off my hair. And while I wasn’t planning on going Jean Seberg-short like many brave Wornettes before me, the impending change was drastic enough for me. Fund restrictions and a lack of patience led me to a Google chat with my editor here at WORN, and we scheduled my cut for 8 p.m. that same evening; like my dreary memories of the past, I wanted it gone, and I wanted it gone fast.

Looking back, this haircut wasn’t really about vanity. If I wanted a perfectly sculpted coif, I surely could have waited the extra week and booked an appointment at a salon—though I must admit that my confidence in Serah-Marie’s cutting capabilities doubled when I walked in the office and Edward Scissorhands was playing on the projector. For me, the cut was more about marking a transition. And, as corny as it sounds, holding six inches of loose hair in my hands somehow re-affirmed that I had the ability to not only accept change as it came, but to create it for myself; no week-long wait to book, and no hesitations.

text by Casie Brown
photography by Serah-Marie