Rented Chic

This week Serah-Marie forwarded me a press release from a company called Cakewalk Designer Dress Rentals. It’s a simple concept: the company offers Canadian women the chance to rent “the latest designer duds” at a “serious fraction of the cost.”

Aside from the ill-considered use of the word “dud,” it almost seems like a good idea. It makes elitist fashion accessible and, as the PR points out, it “greens” fashion by recycling a garment that might otherwise be worn only once or twice. Sounds great, right? So why does this leave a bad taste in my mouth?

When I was in high school, most of the kids in my classes wore Ralph Lauren and Bass Weejuns. Our family couldn’t afford that stuff. I remember feeling like a country bumpkin in my cheap, blue-white Bi-Way shirts. When mom and I went to the Salvation Army, I would scan the racks for secondhand Polo and LaCoste. (To this day I can spot a Ralph Lauren button-down Oxford by only a square inch of fabric on the shoulder.) I quickly learned which eras mirrored others and how to approximate styles. In my painfully insecure teenage years I learned to fit in without being rich.

After high school, I realized my skills could help me “make” runway looks, too. I learned to mix and alter, and to skew a season’s lines to suit my body type and liking. I could spot the quality garments on secondhand racks. My tastes matured and my personal style evolved. I stopped trying to fit in and started having fun. When it came to fashion, all that scrounging had cultivated my imagination. I didn’t have the option to rent a designer dress – and I didn’t need to.

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An Oxford Education

I came across them two months after the deadline I had given myself. On the bottom shelf of a cluttered but charming vintage shop they sat in waiting. Gently used Nine West oxfords within my humble price range (a mere $28). Since then they have been my constant companions, taking me from crowded basement concerts to a recent 3 a.m. hospital visit for stitches. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when my boyfriend casually mentioned that it may be time for their retirement that I even considered parting with them. Although he may be right (the inside of the shoes are slowly shedding woodchips and transforming into a sawdust-like texture), I couldn’t possibly trash them without first paying my respects to where we have been together. Instead of providing a sappy list of our ten best moments, I have decided to pay tribute to my once lovely shoe’s casualties. Here then, is a list of events that have led to the unfortunate demise of my oxfords.

January, 2010: On an overnight bus trip to Montreal a can of hairspray exploded in my travel bag, leaving the left shoe a sticky mess which needed to be dissolved under the hotel hairdryer for about 45 minutes. This left permanent scarring in the form of a large dark strip near the outside heel.

March 2010:
Right shoe loses elastic fastener.

May 2010: A race down a flight of stairs to the bathroom at Czehoski’s ends in my roommate tripping both of us to ensure no one’s victory. Laughter ensues, but left shoe’s upper button is severed on impact and lost somewhere between the sink and stall.

June-September 2010: Late nights and rain drenched walking has led to some inner deterioration. When I remove my bare foot, little wood-like pieces stick to my toes.

Reflecting now, it does seem to be my own carelessness and neglect that has brought my beloved oxfords to this point. Perhaps not wearing them to an event where a kiddie pool in the middle of the dance floor is the main attraction, or even going out of my way to slip on socks before leaving the house, could have prevented this premature passing (or at least helped control odour). Despite their now shabby condition, I do still rotate them into my wardrobe, but I think this may be based on purely sentimental reasons; so they sit, in my foyer, waiting to be worn. Though I may gain the courage in the next few weeks to kick them to the curb (in the nicest way possible), I know that they will always be present in memory, as well as many, many photographs, anytime I reflect on the past year.

- Casie Brown

The not-so-Blues

A few weeks ago, I dyed my hair blue – not my whole head, but a fairly substantial bottom layer. The impulse to dye came not from a Clementine-esque desire to mark any major life change (although I’ll admit after reading the post, I pondered hair dye pretty seriously), but from feeling like I wanted to challenge myself – both aesthetically and, you know, in life. I wanted to get into the habit of doing things I didn’t think I could do. Hair seemed like a good place to start.

In the time since, I have learned not only that I should never underestimate the power of hair dye (and the Worn blog), but a few other things, too.

(And I do feel braver.)

10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT HAVING BLUE HAIR

1. It looks nice with blue hats.

2. It stains my towels.

3. And sometimes also the tiles in the shower.

4. And my neck, at the beginning. And the collars of my shirts.

5. It’s a good way to make friends. (I continue to be shocked by the number of strangers who talk to me about it. I have met more people in my classes this year thanks to my hair than in the last 3 years of my degree combined.)

6. It looks really cool in braids.

7. It has dramatically increased the number of conversations I have about Smurfs.

8. It has also dramatically increased the number of times people serenade me with songs that have “blue” in the lyrics.

9. It has given me a (very tiny bit of a) reputation as a rebel.

10. It makes me feel tough. In some ways, I feel like it gives me permission to be tough.

What have you learned from your hair-dye experiences?

- Hailey Siracky

Way Back When

then

While I was home last week at my mom’s house in Halifax, I came across a goldmine of a photo album of me between the ages of 8 and 12.

It’s an odd window. Before then, most of my clothes arrived in a housefort-sized cardboard box that would come in the mail twice a year from my bubbie and zaidie (mostly my bubbie) in Toronto. The box would be packed to the flaps with toys and department store clothes that always formed the basis for my back-to-school outfits. Every possible nook was filled with pickled herring, mixed nuts, crumbled kosher cookies, and trays of smoked salmon. My brothers and I would joke that we needed to shake out all our clothes before wearing them in case one last can of tuna was hiding in the pockets.
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