Megan Wornette

Our latest editorial intern loves her some internet

I’m a recent graduate of Centennial College’s Book and Magazine Publishing program, and currently the Lifestyle and Science and Technology editor of Paper Droids, a geek culture site for and by women that I created with classmates from the program. I love TV, history, video games, and fashion, as well as the style that lurks within all of these things. I would describe my style as somewhere between Zooey Deschanel and Liz Lemon. That is, a girly tomboy. I’m a huge fan of WORN and super excited to be part of the Wornette Army!

Current Inspirations

The Hairpin
I’m a pretty active member of The Hairpin community, and while this is not just a style site, Jane Marie’s How to Be a Girl posts are amazing, and they recently started a series about the style of historical figures, complete with modern clothing picks. There may also be a (not very) secret Google Group where we all talk about and show each other our outfits, and it is probably my current greatest inspiration on what I’m wearing right now. So many stylish ‘Pinners!

Calivintage
This vintage-focused blog was one of the first style blogs that I followed regularly, and is a pretty good representation of the clothes I like to wear. I even took a picture of Erin’s pixie cut from a few years in to the hairdresser when I cut my hair short a little while ago. Which is not creepy at all, right? >.>

Japanese Streets
Asia, but especially Japan, has some of the coolest street fashion in the world, and Japanese Streets is hands down the best English language Japanese street style site on the web.

Console to Closet
I am a huge gamer, so of course I’m in love with this Tumblr that is full of outfits inspired by my favourite video game characters.

Old Rags
I can, and have, spent entire afternoons looking through this Tumblr of the clothing collections of museums around the world. The elaborate Russian gowns are probably my favourite. And the flapper dresses. And anything from the Renaissance. Okay, so everything is my favourite.

photography // Chayonika Chandra

Lady Snowblood: Queen of Kimono (and Death)

There's a whole lot of pretty hiding under all the blood

Lady Snowblood is a Japanese grindhouse flick from the ’70s, and is probably best known as being “that movie that inspired Kill Bill.” It’s based on the manga series Shurayukihime by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Kazuo Kamimura, and it follows the story of a young woman named Yuki, who is conceived and born for the sole purpose of avenging the rape of her mother and the murder of her mother’s husband and son. It takes place in the Meiji era (1868-1912), right after Japan reopens itself to trade with the West, and the fall of the 250 year old Tokugawa Shogunate. The government was pretty much completely overhauled, the previously defunct emperor given back the reigns of power, and a parliament created. Needless to say, this was a period of unrest in Japan’s history, and what happens to Yuki’s mother is a result of that unrest.

Yuki performs her revenge in a dazzling array of gorgeous kimonos, but first I just want to lay out what that means exactly. There are technically two types of Japanese robes for women: the yukata and the kimono. The yukata is typically made of cotton, and meant for the hot, humid summer months. The yukata is also considered more casual. Kimonos, on the other hand, tend to be made of silk and have two visible collars (called eri). The second collar is usually detachable and attaches to the juban, or under robe. Kimonos are typically worn in the winter, or on more formal occasions. The obi is the topmost silk sash that is usually tied in an elaborate bow at the back. It has more layers than you can see, but I won’t really be talking about them. If you want to know more about kimono terminology, here is a pretty good resource.

CHAPTER 1

This is one of the first kimonos we see Yuki in, which is white with a blue flower motif along the bottom. The cerulean obi with gold detailing is probably one of the most beautiful ones she wears in the whole film. Kimono patterns are very seasonal, and the flowers on this one help to reinforce that this scene takes place in the spring/summer. Yuki wears a lot of white, which I think is to represent her innocence and youth, but often when she is wearing this colour, a whole lot of carnage goes down. However, white also ties her to her mother’s dead husband, who is essentially killed for wearing this colour, and white was the colour worn by samurai when committing ritual suicide, which she essentially is. Yuki knows she could die at any time committing her vengeance, and she dresses accordingly.

CHAPTER 2

This blue striped kimono with red obi is one of the most graphic costumes Yuki wears in the films. The colours and the stripes are quite nautical, aren’t they? And very appropriate for assassinating someone on the seashore. You’ll notice that there’s not a lot of white showing here, and this hit is probably the most bloodless. It should also be noted that her juban here (and pretty much in all the scenes where Yuki is out for murder), is red. You can catch flashes of it throughout the film, and I think it’s there to represent both her true murderous intent underneath her innocent beauty, as well as for a hint of sexyness, as red is also considered a very sexy colour in kimono patterns.

CHAPTER 3

As you can tell from the sword, Yuki is out to avenge her mother’s murderers. But the minimal amount of white here means no battle scene is about to go down, and, as it turns out, this target happens to be dead. Yuki also tends to wear purple during calm scenes, either on the kimono or her obi.

There is a lot of white going on in this outfit, and as you can see, the blood spatter gets pretty intense. Her juban during this fight scene is also red, and you catch flashes of it every time she slashes her sword.

CHAPTER 4

Again Yuki is in purple, and again no fighting happens in the scenes where she is wearing this headcovering. My theory is that main purpose of this headcovering is to help emphasize the shock on Yuki’s face when a certain ally reveals who his father truly is (film studies students, eat your heart out).

This is the “final countdown” kimono, and you can see here that her juban is again red, and this kimono is predominantly white. The butterflies also symbolize the souls of the living and the dead, which is why she’s wearing what might be considered a spring motif in the winter. If she was going to go down, she would go down fighting – while making a sartorial impact.

Game Changers

An interview with Ilya Parkins, author of "Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli: Fashion, Feminity and Modernity"

Ilya Parkins is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of British Columbia, where much of her research has focused on the changing fashion and beauty more of the early 20th century. Her latest book, Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli: Fashion, Feminity and Modernity, takes a look at this era by looking at the lives and work of these three prominent designers, and how their work highlighted the ambivalent role of women at this time as either glamourous, ultra modern style setters, to conservatives stuck in the past.

WORN is proud to announce that we will be holding a book launch and author talk for Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli on December 10th from 7-9pm at TYPE Books (883 Queen Street West). Facebook event at this link for more details.

What made you decide to focus on gender studies and fashion?
I realized, when I started working on fashion about fifteen years ago, early in my graduate studies, that it was a fantastic way of thinking about the join between individual and social. Of course, some notion of the relationship between people and the social world is what informs all feminist inquiry, and this struck me as a wonderfully rich way to get at that. Importantly, it is also material, which attracted me; I was interested in thinking about the relationship between people and things of all sorts – things are part of the social world, too.  I also wanted to counter the trivialization of this feminized art form, because I thought it could open up dimensions of various questions – about modern life, about consumption, about sexuality, identity, and everything I could think of – and because, frankly, writing off feminized phenomena as trivial is misogynist – and boring and predictable! That has been my project for fifteen years, and it not only led to this book but to a book I co-edited, that came out last year, called Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion. I actually saw it as a political imperative to foreground fashion – that’s how I see that edited book, especially.

 What is it about the early 20th century’s fashion that you find so compelling as a subject?
One of the things that’s really fascinating and significant is the widespread recognition of the importance of fashion, among social critics and theorists. People – journalists and critics, and thinkers like Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin – used fashion as a kind of metaphor for modern life. Not only does that counter the trivialization and dismissal of fashion, but it also inadvertently places women and femininity at the centre of the modern. It is also a great way to get at the sense, in the early twentieth century, of living the new. It helped me to get at what people thought it “felt like” to be modern, because fashion was seen to embody the modern in a whole host of ways. In the early twentieth century, the obsession with newness, with modernity, wasn’t just a theoretical concern. It was also lived, quite intimately – often via their clothing.

Did you always want to write about Poiret, Dior and Schiaperelli specifically? Why do these designers stand out in regards to changing notions of women’s clothing and roles?
I wasn’t always interested in any designers specifically. I’d been interested in Poiret for quite a while, and then I read his main memoir. (He actually has three, though two aren’t available outside France, and were obscure and printed in just one edition even there.) Of course, he had a reputation as a vanguardist – as a “revolutionary,” as odd a word as that is in this context. So I decided that I wanted to read the memoirs of other designers who were considered revolutionary in some sense. Not all designers have a major memoir – Chanel doesn’t, for instance – and so in the end, Schiaparelli and Dior were the others I settled on.

How did you go about writing this book?
I began by reading Poiret’s memoir. Then I decided on Dior and Schiaparelli, and I thought that it was important to work on more than just their autobiographical books, but that I wanted to investigate all the writing they did – and much of the writing that others did – in creating their public images. I began by using library press resources in Toronto, where I was still spending a lot of time, but that only got me so far. Once I’d started my current position at UBC, I was lucky enough to get a couple of grants – including a major, three-year one – that allowed me to do research overseas. So I spent a total of about three months in Paris over a couple of years, reading Poiret’s other memoirs and anything I could dig up by and about the designers at the national library and the fashion museum libraries there. I got tripped up with Schiaparelli – she was an enigma who left relatively few traces – and ended up doing some research on her at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Dilys Blum, who works in the costume department there, has an incredibly extensive collection of her press clippings. And I wrote the book as I went, to some extent. I was caught out at the very end of writing the manuscript – around the time I was shopping around for a publisher – by John Galliano’s anti-Semitic outburst in February 2011. All of a sudden the House of Dior and its history were in the news, and I needed to address this history and the question of a possible collaboration of Dior and Nazis. I spent some unexpected weeks digging around in WWII French collaboration history, and added a section to my chapter on Dior. I think the book is much better for it.

What other designers would you say were influential in changing the way women dressed at this time?
There’s no question that Chanel had a massive influence. That’s real, it’s not a myth – you feel it in the press from the period. I also think that Mariano Fortuny had an influence that was quite important; he was crucial in the “orientalist” turn in the early twentieth century, and that appropriation of design elements from various so-called “Eastern” cultures was taken up all over the place.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the Strand magazine article from 1883 where they tried to predict the coming century’s fashion trends, but it’s pretty off the market (apparently they thought the future would be like Alice in Wonderland). Why do you think they were so wrong?
Hmmm! I haven’t seen this gem. I think they were so wrong because they seemed to forget about the principle of innovation. That is, certainly, fashion borrows from and often really recycles the past. But it does so in its own idiom. It’s not like a historical costume. What’s so interesting is that it combines elements of the past with elements of the present. The article about future fashion forgets that this is the innovation structure of fashion, this kind of hybrid of past and present, and seems to just imagine some kind of historical play-acting with hilarious elements for good measure, which looks silly.

What’s your favourite Dior/Schiaperelli/Poiret collection?
I don’t actually have a single favourite collection, I wouldn’t say. Of the three, I really love Poiret’s clothing the best. His pre-WWI work, especially, is stunning. It’s really kind to bodies, that clothing. And the richness, the luxuriousness of it – the colour, the layers, the draping… (This dress on slide 12? Come on! Sooo gorgeous.)