Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves

I must admit, I’ve never been one to keep up with models. I adore Heidi Klum for her often ridiculous critiques on Project Runway, but otherwise no one model has won me over as a big fan. However, I have recently become enamored with Crystal Renn. Not only do I find her beautiful, her lack of sexy-face brings something new and interesting to the table. Of course, she is known for more than just her expressive photographs; Renn is a size 12 and the leading “plus-size” model working in the industry right now.

At 23, Cystal Renn has been working as a model for seven years, a career she documents in her memoir Hungry (penned with Marjorie Ingall, a former Sassy contributor). Reviews of the book, or articles about Crystal Renn, all seem to provide the same synopsis of her life. She was discovered at a charm school in Mississippi by a modeling scout who told her she could be a supermodel if she lost nearly ten inches off her hips. To achieve this goal, she began dieting heavily and developed an eating disorder, bringing her weight down to less than 100 pounds. She realized the scope of her illness and was able to recover and has now become a very successful plus-size model that works in mainstream fashion magazines like Vogue. And of course, that is all true, but in this book she engages critically with her past, the industry, and her continuing career as a model in a way that is sold short by a sound bite summary. Her recollections of filling her mouth with peanut butter only to wash it out, crying, are enough to make me hungry. While she writes a personal memoir, Renn’s accounts of sitting starving and miserable in her crappy New York model’s apartment bring into focus a larger reality that exists behind the glossy pages.

The chapters that follow the Renn’s life are staggered, with chapters dissecting body image and the inner workings of the fashion industry. Size and beauty are concepts that are intrinsically linked in our society, and Hungry provides more analysis than I expected. One point that Renn focuses on is how the issue of extreme thinness in the fashion world is consistantly made out to be someone else’s problem. Magazines claim to show women who are thin because designers send them sample sizes, but of course designers say they are making clothing for thin women because the magazines define this size as what is in style. And when blaming each other doesn’t work, it seems that the industry blames the models themselves. The book also discusses how the “waif look” (read: skeletal) seems to be tied to xenophobia. While of course there are waifs of many colours, Renn notes how the seasons that are populated by extremely thin woman on the runway (a recent trend) are overwhelmingly white. She believes this is tied to people’s belief that thinness connotes higher class; marginalized populations (which include millions of people of colour) have higher obesity rates, so therefore whiteness and thinness can be read as signifiers of luxury. And what is luxury if it doesn’t exclude 99.9% of us? Or employ a migrant work force of teenage girls?

Renn comes off as a likable, introspective person. I can definitely see how this book will appeal to WORN readers; she poses some serious questions about how we view our bodies through the lens of fashion, but she still takes time to gush about working with Jean Paul Gautier and Steven Meisel. Her life story is no doubt similar to other young models, but because she has become so successful she has the opportunity to speak out. And luckily for us, she is ready and willing to intelligently examine the fashion industry, while still enjoying the widespread acceptance she has received by it.

Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves by Crystal Renn and Marjorie Ingall (Simon & Schuster 2009).
Reviewed by Hillary Predko.

Hillary and Valentina’s Day Off

What happens when you combine a Toronto native (Hillary Wornette) and a Hamiltonian (Valentina Wornette) and give them a Saturday to do as they please? They swap, shop, and hide in every air-conditioned place possible. I’m from Hamilton, the haven of all blue collar mentalities, so of course I was more than a little excited to be walked around Toronto.

Vintage Parking Lot Party Sale, 24A Liberty Street
We ventured out into Liberty Village in search of two lovely ladies, Natasha Negovanlis and Lia Thomaidis, who were holding a vintage sale over there. I may be biased since I know them, but the girls have impeccable taste, which was reflected by the selection they were offering. Months of hard work shopping (hard, hard work, I know) displayed itself in the form of a wide selection of dresses, tops, jewelry and shoes. Valentina picked up an adorable linen button up, while I lusted over shoes that were all at least half a size too small. There were snacks and refreshments to enjoy, meaning between this sale and the clothing swap (which was catered by Cora’s Magic Kitchen), our shopping adventure had kept me well fed and hydrated. - Hillary

Swap Don’t Shop At 103 Bellvue Ave.

Clothes that we have long grown tired of are usually banished to the depths of garbage bags that find themselves at your local Value Village. Hillary and I met up at the church and waited in line while things we’re being set up. Once we got in, we swapped in our clothes and 8 dollars for a stamp and permission to dig for treasure. There were 4 or 5 rows of tables spilt into your typical clothing categories, like pants, shirts, and so on. For the first 30 minutes we looked around and we both found some pretty fruitful finds. My most prized find is a pair of wooden nude Aldo pumps* which I was quick to get to. After the 45 minute mark the swap became pretty busy and Hillary and I both decided to stop searching. Hillary went to listen to an alterations workshop while I used the make shift change room. The swap had raffles (all the prize packs included 2 issues of WORN) and 3 workshops. They had three workshops, one on alterations, another on styling, one on how to make your moth bag, and one on how to do shibori fabric dying. - Valentina
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Madame Tutli-Putli

In our busy day-to-day lives, it’s hard to be stirred out of ambivalence. Well, for me it is. But when I saw stills from Madame Tutli-Putli, my ambivalence was shaken; I knew I needed to see this movie. Unfortunately, it’s a little-known short film produced by the NFB, and the full recording was nowhere to be found. For months, all I talked about was Madame Tutli-Putli; somehow I would find a way to bring it up in any conversation (much to the dismay of everyone I know). However, my obsession paid off when an obscure connection brought a pre-release DVD into my possession. It was then I fell in love.

The movie, Madame Tutli-Putli, follows the strange and haunting journey of a woman who boards the night train with everything she owns. The filmmakers, Chris Lavis and Macek Szezerbowski, spent over five years making this 17-minute short, which makes sense considering the film is animated with stop-motion. They even spent a month living on a train, learning the rhythm of the locomotion and collecting ghost stories. Everything that appears on screen was made by hand, making every frame visually stunning (I dare you to watch through without pausing at least once to look closer!). There is no dialogue in the whole 17 minutes, but the music is expressive and haunting, which helps carry the story along. The film has won dozens of awards at film festivals all over the world, so clearly I’m not the only one who is overly enthusiastic about it. However, I may be the most enthusiastic about the clothing.

The filmmakers wanted Madame Tutli-Putli to exist as a woman transported from another epoch. She is from an imagined, condensed version of the 20th century. This reads through her clothing, from the tip of her feathered hat, to the sole of her black mary janes. The whole effect produces more of a vintage woman than a woman in vintage clothing. There is no air of dressing up, no irony or nostalgia. Madame Tutli-Putli dresses with conviction. Her period ensemble is refreshing for my postmodern eyes, tired from outfits with mixed signifiers and ambiguous origins. The outfit Madame Tutli-Putli wears is concise, and when put in a contemporary context grounds her character. She may be anxious, but she stays composed by tucking one stoking clad leg behind the other. When she giggles, a gloved hand covers her smirk from her fellow passengers. If clothes make the man, then they make the woman too. Our Madame is less a product of her surroundings than her clothes.

While her clothes may be a little rough around the edges, Madame Tutli-Putli still exudes elegance. Her character seems to realize the whole is greater than the part, or I suppose the outfit greater than the piece. She knows a slightly ripped hat is still better than no hat, as it makes for a better overall effect. When I watch this movie (as I often do when someone new comes over to my house), I stare at the scores of luggage she carries along with her, and wonder what treasures she has hidden away. What beaded, embroidered, felted, and feathered wonders fill those cases? I imagine elegant cocktail dresses, over-the-top smoking jackets, and lace parasols. The character may be fictional, but the filmmakers have created a woman who has stayed with me. Madame Tutli-Putli follows me into every junk shop, wearing that mink stole better than I ever will. She is in every Goodwill, finding the gems amidst the 80s windbreakers, and wearing every piece with awkward grace, but most of all with conviction.

Watch the film!


Hillary Wornette

Hello, I’m Hillary, one of the new Wornettes; I’m looking forward to researching and copy-editing like a 12th grader again! I just finished my foundation year at OCAD, so in September I will start really getting into my program: textiles. My ultimate goal is to create beautiful, soft, jersey with fantastic prints. I can never find printed jersey, and it kills me.

I strive to pursue my love of fashion ethically by shopping locally, fair trade, and vintage. I have boycotted sweatshop-made clothing for nearly two years, but had a moment of weakness recently when I spent a month in China… can you really expect me to turn down a $10
chiffon baby doll? This social consciousness has been supported through working at Lilith, where all the clothes are produced in Toronto. Here I can fuel my addiction to clothing and calm my guilty conscience. I pick up inspiration everywhere: from photo shoots in Vogue, to the ever-changing styles of my idiosyncratic friends. I also have an insatiable love for Project Runway, and adore seeing the process as well as the finished garment. I’m extremely excited to be involved with WORN, because they write about fashion the way I want to read it.

Current Inspirations:

Vintage Sewing
An amazing resource for any sewer, this site has vintage sewing books that have fallen under the public domain painstakingly typed out and scanned for our pleasure. The books date back as far as 1893.

A really well curated blog with fantastic, and often hilarious, house wares, artworks, vintage photos, and pieces of clothing. I also have great respect for her shared love of owls.

Green Porno
Learn something from the lovely Isabella Rossellini while being entertained. While you’re at it, appreciate the fantastic costume and set design.

Janet Caroline
Along with running a great online fabric shop, Janet Caroline keeps this blog, which is great for staying on top of contemporary textile design. The designs are beautiful, and so are the dresses she makes for her five-year-old daughter.

Dr. Sketchy
I haven’t had a chance to make it out yet but… life drawing in burlesque costume? I think so.