We Also Have Thoughts About Oscar Outfits

In the week since the Academy Awards aired, the internet has been abuzz about the best and worst looks. The way you’d hear the tabloids talk about it, a starlet who dares wear a dress that is “unflattering” (read: doesn’t make her look as skinny as possible) is far more offensive than a host in blackface.

There probably isn’t a ton of new things to say about awards ceremony dresses (rich people in fancy dresses!) but it’s still fun to see favourite runway looks in action. Usually, though, it’s the same dresses that end up on every best dressed list. We definitely don’t aim to disparage the popular looks (even though Gwenyth Paltrow has the unfortunate habit of being Gwenyth Paltrow, many of us thought her minimalist Tom Ford gown and cape ensemble was killer), we still thought there were some overlooked or critically panned outfits that deserve our respect. Here, the wornettes compiled some of our favourite looks.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Bunto Kazmi
Sharmeen, who won the Oscar for the documentary short Saving Face, took her moment on the red carpet to highlight a designer from her native Pakistan. I am loving the pattern on this dress, apparently a combination of a Persian motif, birds, and French knots. My favourite aspect of this dress is definitely the beaded loops coming out from the sleeves: it’s like a necklace for your shoulders. // Anna Fitzpatrick
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On the Outs With Fashion Ins

According to the 2011 Trend Report, this outfit, featured in Vogue Paris (the generally acknowledged Bible of Trend), had all your bases covered… in 2002.

While I profess lots of high ideals about fashion, I admit I am often drawn to its lowest common denominator. At the drugstore I stop to look at the weekly magazines’ “Who Wore it Best” sections and, in the first months of the year, never fail to type “red carpet dresses” into my search engine. Every few weeks I browse a local fashion site to inspect their collection of fashion “winners” and “losers.” (Although it does assuage my shame to note that I tend to appreciate the “losers” more.) It was at this site that I recently noticed a link for a fashion week “Trend Report.”

The report (ooh, how official) promised to synthesize the top trends coming out of New York for fall/winter. I couldn’t resist clicking over to see what they would “forecast.” I was confronted with the following list:

Bold Patterns
Neutral Nude (as opposed to… electric nude?)
Bright Colour
Fur Finishes

The list appeared as a series of titled images — runway photos with designer names and virtually no explanations. I looked at it three times and thought to myself, “And this is why people think fashion is stupid.”

In my mind, the notion of trend was always attached to fairly specific things — even if they were interpreted in broad ways: wide-leg or narrow trousers, tight sweaters or loose, stillettoes or flats. Maybe one year would be all about recreating the military structure of the 40s only to give way in the next to a soft 1920s silhouette. You know, trends.

But this list is utter nonsense. At its best, it could be the result of sloppy reporting by people who don’t care about clothes. At its worst, an advertisers’ conspiracy, as though after consultation with manufacturers and retailers, it was decided that the best way to sell something was to push everything — and to do it as vaguely as possible. Don’t like bright colour? Well, you’re in luck because neutral is in! Don’t like graphic prints? Well have we got the stripes for you! This report isn’t telling people anything. It may as well have listed clothes as a trend — or shoes — or skin.

I want to stress, I don’t necessarily have a problem with trends. Just a few months ago I was looking for a pair of glasses frames and, quite accidentally, discovered that round frames were gathering speed. And I bought a pair and the fact that they are most definitely a trend doesn’t make me like them less. It’s good to see them come around again. As Serah-Marie said, there’s something about them that just feels fresh. That’s why things resurface and why people latch onto them. To never embrace a trend is to close your eyes to living fashion — and I like fashion too much to ever do that.

But I hate being told what I “must have.” In 2011, a trend in fashion is just an idea, floating around with a lot of other ideas. Like everything else Post Modern, fashion has lost its common narrative. And I hate that the Fashion Industry (or someone in it) thinks I’m an indiscriminate consumer monkey, and they can tell me any fool thing and I’ll pull out my wallet.

The list doesn’t include black and white, though. I guess they assumed the absurdity was clear enough.

- g.

above image from Prête à tout, Vogue Paris, June 2002
model: Natalia Vodianova
photo: Mario Testino

How to be Well Groomed

While I often talk about my desire to live in another generation, this 1949 video produced by Coronet Instructional Films gave me some insight into how it might actually feel to live in a different decade – and it was a little alarming. Called “How to be Well Groomed,” the film details the grooming habits of siblings Don and Sue and emphasizes the importance of physical appearance, stating, “Your success depends a great deal on how you look.”

Don and Sue’s lives seem more or less consumed by taking care of their appearances – and while the film is unsettling in itself (to me, a child of the 90’s), what’s more interesting still is that it’s part of a larger series of instructional films on subjects like how to be popular, how to act your age, and what you should and shouldn’t do on a date. Don and Sue’s fashion rules are just part of a much broader set of prescriptions for appearance and behaviour – and I feel like, had I been a teenager in 1949, this bombardment of rules would have made me crazy.

I’m all for neatness and health and good posture, but I’m also all for wearing nail polish in every colour of the rainbow, and occasionally rolling out of bed ten minutes before I have to leave for class. While I still love the fashion of decades past, I also love the freedom I have in 2010 – and now, my desire to be part of another generation is coloured by gratitude for being able to choose which parts of those generations to keep, and which to leave behind.

- Hailey Siracky

American Appalling

“Her hair is bad, and I think that I can see a nose piercing. Also, she’s not wearing our best styles. She will not be considered.”

Early in the new millennium, I was working in a little vintage shop in Toronto’s Kensington Market. Along with second-hand fare, we were one of the first stores in the area to offer custom tee-printing right on the cusp of that particular retro trend. When we discovered American Apparel, we were thrilled. While other tee suppliers offered only standard-fit, coarse, blocky oversized tees, AA came out of nowhere, producing affordable “blanks” with a stylish fit and feel – and they were sweatshop free! Along with stock for the shop, I regularly ordered things just for myself (including two dozen pair of their incomparable “bum bottom” panties which, sadly, have been discontinued). I was totally impressed and sure that AA would soon be a household name.

And I was absolutely right. From their unfriendly business practices (AA refused wholesale to a friend because he wouldn’t match their “suggested” retail markup in his tiny, independent shop), their controversial – and yet still somehow deadly dull – ad campaigns (and let’s not forget founder and current CEO Dov Charney’s well-publicized and rather unsavoury sexual tics), the company has sparked much debate.

So I can’t say I was terribly surprised when I found these screen shots from the company’s intranet posted at Gawker (via Born in Flames). And I can’t say I’m terribly worked up about it – since it’s not something most of us didn’t at least suspect was going on anyway. I mean, what kind of job requires you submit a full-body photo with your resume? (Don’t answer that.)

It is amusing, though. Makes me wonder if some of these people weren’t once part of a sorority sisterhood
american apparel dress code
American Apparel extensive dress code (part 2)


Top image from German Historical Museum.