one person’s junque…

When I climbed down the creaky stairs into the Junque Cellar’s basement location, I had my heart set on an adventure. It was a Friday afternoon and Reading Week stretched ahead of me, all possibility and promise. I had been into the store many times before – for me, it’s always been the sort of place you enjoy the most when you’re not looking for anything in particular and are in the mood to be amused or enchanted or some fun combination of the two. On this particular afternoon, I was hoping for exactly that – and I found it.

The Junque Cellar, located on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue, has been a fixture in Old Strathcona since 1993. It carries a mix of antique furniture, secondhand clothing, used books and all sorts of retro knickknacks. There is always something to catch your attention, whether it’s a rotary phone or a case full of costume jewelry or a copy of LIFE magazine from 1973. The majority of its merchandise comes from auction sales, estate sales, or from independent consignors. The sheer amount of stuff packed into its basement room is initially overwhelming, but with a little time and patience, it quickly becomes exercise in treasure hunting.

The treasure I found this time was a box of old photographs. I almost didn’t see them at all. Although they were displayed in plain sight, I was too distracted by typewriters and vintage cameras and pillbox hats to notice them until I was about to leave the store. Given to the Junque Cellar by a consignor, the photos ranged from the turn of the century until about the 1970’s. According to the salesperson, the consignor who brought the photos to the store was of no relation to the people in them.

I was immediately fascinated. I love photography of all kinds, but more than that, I love the idea of any sort of history. One of my favourite things about vintage clothing is the idea that the clothes I’m wearing had a life before they were mine. These pictures intrigued me because they were real-live evidence of exactly that, in the eras whose clothing I love the most – eras I’ve always longed to have lived in myself.

But the whole thing was saddening, too. Any number of circumstances could have separated these photos from the people they belonged to, and the events that brought them to the Junque Cellar may very well have been completely un-tragic. (I tend to imagine drama all the time.) But as I picked each photo up, and flipped it over to see the carefully handwritten dates and descriptions on the back, I couldn’t help being a little bit upset by the fact that all of these snapshots – that obviously meant a lot to somebody at some time – now had nobody to remember them for what they originally were.

I ended up leaving the store with a small stack of pictures. I know they will never mean the same things to me as they did to the people who took them – but I also know that I can love them and learn from them anyway. I can’t add memories to old photos the way I can to old clothing, but I can appreciate the meaning these photos must have had for someone.

And I can hope that someday, when I’m in my later years, I will wear a cute dress and laugh in the sunshine and somebody will notice that moment and freeze it in time.

- Hailey Siracky

I’m Sticking with You

I’m Sticking With You from g steg on Vimeo.

During a recent visit from her home in Alberta, regular contributor Hailey Siracky not only joined the WORN team in Toronto for an all-staff meeting, but very graciously agreed to unburden WORN’s managing editor of a few things that were clogging up her dresser.

To completely misquote Aristotle, friendship is a single soul dwelling in two closets.


Contributor Corner: Hailey Siracky

How did you dress in high school?
I polled my parents on this one and they both said, “Pretty regular.” High school was when I first really started thrifting and had the desire to experiment, although it was all sort of tentative. I was really drawn to coloured tights and interesting scarves, and developed a small collection of secretary blouses that I wore often. I had a pair of big, clunky, construction-worker-y boots that I insisted on wearing all the time, too.

Who would you rather be trapped in a broken elevator with — Karl Lagerfeld, Tyra Banks, or Lady Gaga?
I’m going to go with Lady Gaga. I am only just beginning to discover the huge volume of outrageous and entertaining things she has been putting out there (sometimes I am embarrassingly slow at keeping up with the world), but I find her pretty fascinating – a little crazy, but also really smart. I wouldn’t be able to resist asking her questions – about music or clothing or her favourite kind of tea or whether she preferred wearing Kermit or Hello Kitty. I feel like even if we were trapped for days, I definitely wouldn’t be bored.

If you could dress like your favourite food what would it be?
I would be an Earl Grey cupcake with lemon buttercream frosting. In my head it’s the perfect mix of seriousness and frivolity, in that I always associate Earl Grey tea with activities like reading musty, hardcover novels in big leather chairs or sitting at an enormous, fancy desk and writing very important things (which I don’t always do but often dream about) – but in cupcake form and with some sugary yellow icing, I would be equally ready for a tea party.
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Braids: A Tale of Love and Hate

In my earliest memory of having my hair braided, I am maybe four or five, sitting in the living room in a tiny pink kiddie chair. I am getting ready for a Ukrainian dance performance, two very tight French braids being the necessary hairstyle for that sort of thing. My mom kneels behind me, getting organized, and although she hasn’t touched me yet her methodical movements send a shiver of uneasy anticipation up my neck. She picks up a spray bottle full of water and wets my hair, and then draws the tail of a comb slowly and carefully down the centre of my scalp, parting my hair in half. Her long fingernails separate first the teeniest, tiniest hairs at my temples. A chill runs down my spine as I feel the first tug of what I know will be a long, torturous series of hair pulls. I am terrified. My lip quivers. Braiding time inevitably becomes crying time.

I hated braids first because, being little and a wimp, they hurt my head. But dancing required that I endure the torture of French braids often enough that eventually I learned to keep my loathing to myself. Later still, I had to learn to braid my own hair, which was another kind of tragedy entirely because, when you’re 10, French braiding your own hair is hard. Your arms get tired and your braids get lumpy in funny places and nothing ever looks as smooth and neat as it did when your mom was doing it for you. Braids went from frightening to frustrating, and I didn’t much like either.

Even when braiding my own hair got easier, I didn’t ever do it unless dancing required it. The idea of wearing them for fun, because they looked nice, did not occur to me – I had no love for them at all.

Then, one evening about four years ago, I came across the 1949 version of Little Women on television. Throughout the movie, Meg (played by Janet Leigh), wears half of her hair in a thick braid wrapped around her head like a headband. The rest of her hair hangs in loose curls at her shoulders. To me it looked so elegant, and so unlike the tight-enough-to-give-you-a-facelift French braids I have always known and mostly hated. Braids could be pretty. The next day I fought with my hair until I had a Meg March hairstyle of my own.

I’ve loved braids ever since. Meg March, it turns out, was just the first in a long line of characters that wearing braids allowed me to pretend to be. Braiding my hair has become my own secret game of dress-up, allowing me to feel like someone else when I am otherwise bored with regular old me. I can be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I can be Heidi, or one of Pride and Prejudice’s Bennet sisters, or any number of romantic and princess-like characters from centuries past. I’m not sure what it is about braids that make them feel so transformative. It might be that their first job in my life was as part of a performance, or that they seem to pull so strongly from history, appearing over and over again in different ways from century to century.

It’s true that in the past few years, braids of all styles have become very popular, and maybe even trendy – but I am okay with that. To me they seem timeless, and are so versatile that it is hard for me to find them boring. Maybe they are especially “in style” lately, but I don’t know if they’ve ever really been out – and either way, despite our troubled past, we have managed to become very good friends.

-Hailey Siracky