Très Click: Best of 2012 Edition

Haley Wornette picks a few of her favorite fashion articles from the past year

My job title is publisher, but sometimes I feel like it should be changed to lobbyist. I am really a lobbyist for the “fashion is important” agenda. The “fashion is feminist” agenda. I am staunchly pro-clothes.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m some sort of feminist hero because I believe that clothes deserve the same sort of recognition we give to other forms of creative expression—please, put your crown away, I could never take something so bejeweled—but I will share with you that I feel very, very strongly that fashion and clothing deserve way more respect in the general culture. I can talk about it for hours. Believe me, I do talk about it for hours.

Luckily for me, 2012 had some of the very best fashion writing I’ve ever seen. I’ve rounded up a few of my favourite pieces by some of the most intelligent fashion writers working today, people who share my conviction and lobbying tendencies.

Maybe a better term for my unofficial position would be fashion evangelist. Even with all the flaws, fashion and clothing are things that I believe in—I have faith that they matter. They matter in the ways we know (as ways to cover our bodies) and they matter in some pretty shitty ways (excess consumption, materialism, and greed) and then they matter in some really important ways (as evidence of our beliefs, our values, our choices, sartorial or otherwise). Here are just a few of my favorite articles from people who share my holy love of fashion. PREACH.

New York Fashion Week by the Numbers: More Models Of Color Are Working
by Jenna Sauers

In the fashion industry, I think hard data is especially important. It’s the best way to really, honestly see where the trends are—and the best way to identify where the problems are. It’s hard to deny that a designer has a problem with diversity when a chart exists that details exactly how white a runway show was.

Jenna has been tracking diversity on the runway since the Fall-Winter 2008 New York Fashion Week season, and the results are showing signs of improvement:

“This season proved to be the most racially diverse that we have ever counted. For the second time ever (and the second season in a row), white models actually comprised just less than 80% of the total model pool. Contrast that with the 87% of all runway spots that were give to white models in Fall-Winter 2008, when we began keeping track of models and race at NYFW.”

That said, this data can only accomplish so much. As Jenna pointed out in her 2010 roundup, “race is a social construct, not a fact,” and representations of beauty don’t fall into neat black or white categories.

The important thing is: “Fashion still has a long way to go before all forms of beauty are truly given equal consideration—but this season is another small step in the right direction.”

Passions Burn After Bangladesh Factory Fire
by Max Mosher

The tragedy in Bangladesh was much too familiar—as Max Wornette pointed out in his regular style column in the Toronto Standard, the devastating incident was reminiscent of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. In 1911, the horror was enough to create a union that fought to protect workers’ rights and higher safety standards; will the same happen in Tazreen?

Your Brain on Fashion
by Minh-Ha T. Pham

Suzy Menkes told AnOTher Magazine that: “I think there’s too much mixing fashion and intellect. Fashion ultimately is designed to cover the human body, to give you joy, to make you feel better. I don’t think it has to have a great intellectual meaning… to intellectualize fashion too much, to me, is just going the wrong way.” I respectfully disagree, and so does Minh-Ha T. Pham.

Pham cues up her “usual spiel,” as she puts it, to explain how “anti-intellectual discourses about fashion are so often covers for sexist assumptions about the meaninglessness of all things feminine and/or related to femininity.” I want her to say this again, and again, and then I want to shout it from a rooftop. A perfect summation of why fashion—and more importantly, why clothing—matters.

What The Fuck Is Nail Art?
by Rachel Seville

It’s no secret that I love my nail art. And I’m hardly an early adapter—I came to the trend late, after years of never painting my nails. I wrote about why I love nail art here (and here!), but I also love to point people to Rachel Seville’s handy guide for people who just want to know what the fuck is nail art?

Why Everyone Suddenly Cares About Nail Art
by Hillary Reinsberg

On Buzzfeed Shift, Hillary Reinsberg wonders about the origins of nail art—the trend of outlandish designs and 3D bedazzled elements has been popular in black communities for quite awhile, but now that the trend has gone mainstream (and now that the Times is ON IT), that seems to be a key fact that’s missing from all the coverage. There’s also a class element involved here—nail polishes are easy ways to allow people who can’t afford a hula hoop bag to participate in a brand. Reinsberg speaks with editors from Allure, New York Magazine, and Robin Givhans to get an alternative perspective on the trendiest trend of 2012.

Who Needs Halloween? Girl, 8, dresses as historic figures all year
by Jennifer Carlile

Ugh, ugh, my ovaries: an eight-year-old girl in Nebraska wears a different historical costume every day of the school year, drawing inspiration from the book “100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century.”

Reddit Users Attempt To Shame Sikh Woman, Get Righteously Schooled
by Lindy West

There has been a LOT of talk about the evils of the Internet this year (and in readings unrelated to fashion, I would highly recommend Adrian Chen’s article on Violentacrez and Patrick McGuire’s ongoing series on what really happened to Amanda Todd), but I do believe the Internet is just an extension of the real world. Sometimes, the real world is so sad and mean and horrible you just want to shut it down forever, but sometimes, someone who was publicly shamed for her facial hair on Reddit writes an eloquent explanation for why she is not ashamed and why her faith is more important to her than conventional ideas of beauty, and the person who did the shaming listens and responds with a real heartfelt apology, and as Lindy West says, on those days, our hearts grow three sizes.

What’s So Bad About A Boy Who Wants To Wear A Dress?
by Ruth Padawar

Seriously, though: what IS so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress? Ruth Padawar interviews several families with children who identify as gender-fluid or gender-variant and looks into the history of people who challenged traditional gender norms. Padawar writes:

“The parents of boys in that middle space argue that gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing categories, neither of which any real man or woman precisely fits…. It might make your world more tidy to have two neat and separate gender possibilities,” one North Carolina mother wrote last year on her blog, “but when you squish out the space between, you do not accurately represent lived reality. More than that, you’re trying to ‘squish out’ my kid.”’

Boy With Down Syndrome Becoming An Unlikely Ad Star
by Tim Nudd

Early in 2012, Ryan, a child model with Down Syndrome, was featured in catalogs by Target and Nordstrom, featured exactly where he should be: modeling clothes right beside his neurotypical peers. As the father of another child with Down syndrome and the author of the blog Noah’s Dad says: “This wasn’t a ‘Special Clothing For Special People’ catalog,” he writes. “There wasn’t a call out somewhere on the page proudly proclaiming that ‘Target’s proud to feature a model with Down syndrome in this week’s ad!’…. In other words, they didn’t make a big deal out of it. I like that.” To read more on clothes, fashion, and Down Syndrome, read our interview with the owner of Downs’ Designs.

What Fashion’s “Ethnic” Prints Are Really Called
by Connie Wang

“Ethnic” and “tribal” prints are high up on the list of useless, nonsensical, and offensively bad, yet ubiquitous, fashion copy. Connie Wang of Refinery29 correctly points out that “Lumping all similar prints into one group or referring to them by a descriptor rather than their real names is just as silly as calling jeans “blue pants,” and helpfully provides a comprehensive vocabulary lesson so that we can all learn the difference between ikat and batik prints. Slate also detailed the history and the contemporary problems facing manufacturers today here.

Authenticity at Jane and Finch: African Dutch Wax Fabrics
by Adwoa Afful

On the Ethnic Aisle, Adwoa Afful explains how learning about Dutch Wax prints became part of learning about her family, herself as a Ghanian-Canadian, and how “Dutch wax prints have come to represent one way West Africans express themselves sartorially.”

Girl Talk
by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

One of my favorite blog discoveries of 2012 was The Beheld, a collection of thoughtful essays on beauty and all that it can mean. The articles are also cross-posted on The New Inquiry (another favourite). I loved and related to her honest admission in Girl Talk: sometimes, she feels awkward around women, and she uses compliments on their shoes or their hair or some element of their appearance as a way to fight that awkwardness. I know I definitely use this as a way to superficially connect with new friends, and I’ve been the recipient of it as well. I think Autumn is exactly right when she says that “something frivolous can come out of my mouth and I’m fairly certain it doesn’t make me seem frivolous. It simply lightens me, desirably so.”

Cindy Sherman’s Superstar Strategy
by Sarah Nicole Prickett

SNP writes about the retrospectives for Francesca Woodman at the Guggenheim and Cindy Sherman at the Met: “And so Sherman has survived where Woodman did not: In assuming the whole lot of female and feminine (and sometimes masculine) identity, she’s given away precious little of herself. Her work is fashion. It is facade. It’s defence.” Every word of this article is perfect and beautiful: read it for yourself and see.

Is there an article about fashion from 2012 that you’d like to share? Tweet it at @wornjournal and use the #clothesmatter tag, or leave it in the comments.

Book Ends: Our (Slightly Belated) 2011 Literary Review

Readers of Worn are known to geek out not only over clothes, but over books as well. Though we’ve already started collectively consuming a ton of books from 2012, we’re still not quite done discussing our favourite reads from last year. To expand the conversation, we asked some of our favourite fashion nerds to share with us the best books they read in 2011.

Nathalie Atkinson, National Post Style Editor
Searching for Beauty, by Cherie Burns

Generally, biographies of the idle rich are to be avoided, but I make an exception for Millicent Rogers. I’d been curious about the Standard Oil heiress for years (her grandfather Henry was in business with John D. Rockefeller), but until Cherie Burns’ Searching for Beauty (St. Martin’s Press) there had been virtually no original biographical research about this late great dame of American fashion (who died at 51, too young, in 1953). I’m forever having a 1920s and 1930s moment (what I would give to have lived back then!) and took Burns’ book on holiday in August, pairing it with two other complementary reads: Flapper, Joshua Zeitz’s superb historical and fashion survey of the first modern women of the first modern decade, and lexicographer-slash-dress-blogger Erin McKean’s whimsical and breezy novel The Secret Lives of Dresses, which concerns the fictional stories of vintage dresses in a boutique.

I didn’t come up for air until the last page. Eccentric high society clotheshorses seem ubiquitous today, but in the late teens and 1920s, Rogers was an original. Astute about clothes, she was ridiculously wealthy but rebellious, and did things her own way—for example, she wore Patou to her coming-out debutante ball at the New York Ritz and made several loopy costume changes thoughout the night. She later became the patron and muse of London couturier Charles James’s classic American evening gown look, and had romantic conquests (Cary Grant!), but instead of following the prevailing fads she remained true to her own style – rather than merely the good little clothes hanger for the designers of the day that so many boldface socialites and celebrities are today. With a closet bulging with Mainbocher, Lanvin and Valentina mixed with the anonymous finds of her far-flung travels, Rogers’s confident and idiosyncratic style choices regularly inspired her friend Diana Vreeland: she went from Tyrol to hippie-chic eclectic and is the originator of the all-American, preppy-Southwest hybrid look that has become Ralph Lauren’s signature. In the 1940s, she moved to the mountains of New Mexico, to Taos, and designed huge, beautiful jewellery that mixed turquoise with diamonds, and wore it as knights did armour—often elbow to fingertip. Rogers left behind this and an important art collection, too—thousands of Southwest artifacts and American Indian jewellery. As fits the under-hyped style icon, she’s buried in an Apache dress by Elsa Schiaparelli.
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Beginner’s Luck

Listed as #1 on my life list of “most beloved pursuits,” fashion also ranks pretty high on my list of things that scare the crap out of me. I’m not talking about Lady Gaga’s outlandish outfits or the nightmare-inducing makeup Alexander McQueen used in his Fall/Winter 2009 collection, “Horn of Plenty.” It’s more about the nearly impermeable exclusivity of the fashion world. Before Toronto Fashion Week actually started, I was afraid I would be shipwrecked in a sea of judging eyes. Instead, I realized that I was more or less surrounded by a bunch of people who enjoy wearing sequins just as much as I do. Now that was a revelation.

Day 1: Monday, October 17th, 2011
The opening night of fashion week was huge affair and the crowd was filled with the beautiful, the heavily made-up, and celebrities like Jeanne Beker and Stacey McKenzie. Let me just say that people who suffer from claustrophobia should stay as far away from fashion week as possible, because people like to push, shove and get all up in your personal space while waiting in line to get into the show. Patience is a virtue, people.

Holt Renfrew was the first runway show of the night, celebrating the Canadian designers they sell on the rack. I loved the cool minimalism of Jeremy Laing and the head-to-toe florals of Denis Gagnon. Next up was the Arthur Mendonca show, where everyone’s favourite androgyne Andrej Pejic modeled a metallic gold trouser suit. Of course, I was none the wiser until my favourite fashion writer Sarah Nicole Prickett pointed it out on Twitter the next day. Last up was Lala Berlin, who had some majorly pretty clothing. I liked the washed out tie-dye prints, especially when they were on blazers and the knit sweaters covered by a layer of clear PVC. Party on, Wayne!


Day 2: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
The theme of Day 2 of LGFW was definitely bums. First in the sexy sportswear at MICHI, and next at the Tosca Delfino swimwear show rife with revealing string bikinis. At MICHI I got my first front row seat and consequently was able to snap this super duper picture of model bums in yoga wear. I think we could all use a little sex appeal when it comes to doing sweaty exercise and MICHI delivered the goods. Laura Siegel is an eco-friendly designer who used tie-dye print in her collection. Those two facts alone are enough to get into my good books. The last show of the day for me was Chloe Comme Parris, which featured exactly the kind of well-tailored, fancy looking clothing that I’ve been striving for in my personal wardrobe. It wasn’t visionary, but it was utterly wearable and I wholly appreciated that aspect. After the shows were over, I didn’t head to a fancy after-party but instead went to hear my classical guitarist friend play an informal concert at the University of Toronto.

I could get used to this fashion thing.

text and event photography by Isabel Slone
outfit photography by Jessica Da Silva