Rebecca S. Wornette

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I grew up on Pop Rocks candy, Spice Girls, Kubrick films, and T-Rex albums. Growing up in a small town just north of Toronto meant ample fresh air, accompanied by knitted hats and scarves from my mother, wearing my father’s gigantic Wellington boots outside, and spending more time in a bathing suit than out of one in August. I always loved fashion, but for practicality sake, I wore mostly jeans. I would sketch designs in purple notebooks of long dresses worn with chunky heels and matching handbags on the school bus. As a teen, I would watch hours of Fashion Television, eagerly anticipate my new issues of Elle magazine, and roll my eyes every time my mother said she just didn’t “get” Alexander McQueen.

When I moved to Toronto in 2010 to study journalism, I was able to explore fashion in whole new way. Shopping no longer consisted of the get-in-and-get-out missions it did back home, and jeans weren’t always the best option. Down here I could scour the racks, discover hole-in-the-wall stores and mull things over before purchasing. Now I am 22, and complete with polka-dot pants and a cheetah-print dress. So begins my next chapter in fashion exploration. I’m delighted that WORN is a part of it.

Man Repeller
This was the very first “I will love you ’til the end of time” fashion blog I followed. As a fashion junky, Leandra Medine puts her sarcastic and hilarious spin on the clothes women love to wear which some men would probably hate. My favourite segments are those titled “Lessons in Layers” that start with somewhat simple and flattering outfits, gradually doused in fur vests, baggy sweaters and heaps of bracelets and accessories. The message: Wear what you want. Fashion should be fun, and not so serious.

Malcolm Gladwell’s “True Colours”
In this 1999 New Yorker piece, Gladwell talks about the somewhat trivial, but still important, role hair dye played during the feminist movement in the latter half of the 20th century. Taken from his book, What the Dog Saw, “True Colours” reveals the moments behind the iconic L’Oreal and Clairol slogans we know all too well.
Honestly, it’s not porn…well, maybe. This Is Not Porn is a compilation of rare star and celebrity photographs taken mostly in black and white. In this jumble of candid and staged shots there are smiles, silly faces, and really super clothes.

Commercial Pattern Archive
I learned to sew somewhere around age 10 and loved going to Fabricland with my mom and flipping through the giant stacks of Simplicity and Vogue patterns. The University of Rhode Island has put together an archive—you can’t access the whole thing unless you’re a member, but I love to scroll through the old pattern covers every now and again and see the different styles from decades gone by.

Not exactly Kurt Vonnegut’s 1997 MIT Address
As a 20-something trying to make it in this glorious world, I like to keep the words from this speech plastered to the walls of my brain. But as a journalist, I love to keep this piece close simply because it keeps me questioning everything. Although attributed to Kurt Vonnegut Jr., he never actually gave this speech. Vonnegut didn’t even write it, yet it made its way around the internet as another snippet of wisdom from the brilliant writer. If you’re blogging, writing papers or articles, or just spewing facts like Siri, know your sources, source your content, and most importantly, don’t forget the sunscreen.

photography // Laura Tuttle

Crushing on Dave Raimey

More than just a football uniform

In the early ’70s, if you knew anything about Toronto football, you knew about Dave Raimey. Considered one of the best running backs of his time, he was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in 2000. Though he played in both the US and Canada, he is best known for playing with the 1971 Toronto Argonauts, named the “greatest team that never won,” after they lost a Grey Cup game following a slip on some wet grass.

Raimey was known in his own right, frequently featured in magazine spreads and news articles, photo shoots and retail ads. This exposure had as much to do with his football playing than it did his groovy threads. Raimey’s eclectic clothing (most of which was hand sewn) made him something of a style icon in the ’70s, creating a cult of fans who followed him both on and off the field. Naturally, WORN is smitten.

How did you first get interested in sewing?
I started sewing years ago. We got hand-me-down clothes: my grandmother would go clean a house somewhere out in the wealthy part of town and bring back clothes that people would give her. I learned how to alter them to fit me.

Who taught you how to sew?
My mother died when we were eight, nine, 10, and 11. I was 10. So I became very attached to my aunts; there were four of them, but one sewed. She had a business going; she’d make hats for women. I used to watch her. Now my son, he sews. And he learned by watching me. I was a single parent, raising him by myself, and he watched me sewing. I bought him a Mustang, when we were living in Columbia, South Carolina. I reupholstered his Mustang for him, brand new seats. It was the first time I had done that, but it turned out fine, and I think that may have sold him on sewing.

So how old were you when you picked up your first needle?
Probably 13 or 14.

How did it evolve from there, from altering your own things to making clothes from scratch?
I used to make clothes, but right now I just alter things. I’ve been shopping at thrift stores for 30 years; I was shopping at thrift stores when I was playing for the Toronto Argonauts. I just always did that. I guess because of my upbringing, I love to shop at thrift stores. I have so many clothes, it’s unreal. Like nice stuff! Fabulous clothes, well-made, high-end clothing. You know, I will pay full price for stuff too.

I’m also really fond of reupholstering. I was a member of the Interior Decorating Society in Dayton, Ohio. Paid my dues! And I decorated a few houses for some folks that I knew. I just always liked that. I still re-upholster. In fact, I’m going home this weekend to get my machine. It’s real big and heavy; it’s a walking foot. I have other machines: here in town, I have three—sorry, four.

So do you ever go to a tailor?
Oh yeah, I go to tailors. I’ve got a jacket now that I’m doing. The shoulders, you’ve got to take all the padding out, and it’s such a complicated job. My real good stuff I take to the tailors! But, I’ve made vests and pants. I’ve even made hats! I made my daughter a graduation dress when she graduated from high school. It was a bold pattern, sort of form-fitting. But she wanted it, so I made it up for her, and she wore it. I was kinda proud (laughs).

What’s your favourite thing you’ve ever made?
I made a men’s jacket with pockets here and pockets there (pointing to his chest and sides), and epaulettes here. Black. I still have it, I made it a long time ago. Kept it all these years ’cause I was so proud of it. I’ll tell you a story: In elementary school in Dayton, Ohio, Grade 6, they had this class where half the year you could cook (home ec), and the other half was sewing. I couldn’t cook, but I got an A in the class. I made a corduroy shirt: orange corduroy. It had what they call a Billy Eckstein collar, a big collar. It went up and folded down. But the worst thing I did, is I made French cuffs on a corduroy shirt. It was ugly. I went home, put the shirt on, and the French cuffs were in here (points to the insides of his wrist). The teacher didn’t even notice. I ended up just making it short-sleeved.

Do you think that class influenced you at all?
Yeah, it did. It showed me how to sew the right way. Since then, I’ve been altering clothes, fixin’ things. I’ll buy a suit, take it home and put the cuffs on myself, and shorten the sleeves if I have to.

A lot of people would find it surprising that a football player was so openly into sewing in the 1970’s…
Yeah, I got kidded quite a bit about it.

Was there anything that ever bothered you?
No, never. You know they kidded me, and you can imagine what they’d say (laughs). They just did a special on our team (The Greatest Team That Never Won), and [the director] called me a fashionista. She said, “Dave, were you offended by that?” It doesn’t bother me, never did. I enjoy it because it’s creative, and it’s very relaxing. And I enjoy looking good and appreciating things that I’ve made.

I heard a rumour that you used to take your sewing machine with you when you traveled, is that true?
(Laughs) No.

Do you have fabrics that you lean toward, or things you like to make?
In the last ten years, I’ve liked vests, real loud vests. Loud and bright, you know, I think that it’s sharp for men to wear a white shirt, or short-sleeve shirt, and a colourful vest. I’m looking at making one now. I think it’s great to wear with a suit. Now they’re making sports jackets with that kind of design already sewn into them, I don’t know if you’ve seen these, but they’re really big right now. But I can’t find a pattern, so I’m going to have to make my own. That’s my next project.

Do you take a lot of pride in the stuff you make?
Yeah, everything. The stuff I’ve made, the stuff I build, the things I’ve fixed. With the knowledge I have, I try to do it the best I can. It’s the only way to do things. Like football, I gave it my all. Every game, every play.

Has anyone not liked something that you’ve made?
No, not that I’ve made. But one day I was wearing an overcoat, down in Dayton, and I loved the coat; I had got it at a thrift store. And some woman told me, “What you doin’ with that old coat on?” It hurt my feelings! I kept wearing it that season, but then stopped wearing it the next season.

Has your style changed much since the ’60s?
Yeah. I’ve always liked shirts with lace on them and they used to kid me, but I’ve always liked that. I think it’s sharp. Paisley, that is one style I did not like. And I never did like bell-bottoms; I’m a short little guy with thick legs, I never looked good in bell-bottoms.

I marvel at some of these designers, some of them are just geniuses, the way they figure out clothing for men and coordinate it. I look at a lot of that today, and there are some talented folks out there.

Do you think in another life that could have been you?
Yeah, but I’m not sure I would have been as good as some of these people I’ve seen. I would have loved to have designed clothing for men. Women’s fashion, I know nothing about that.

Is fashion more personal for you, or do you pay attention to trends?
I do, every now and then, in the magazines, but I just kind of dress how I like. I’ve been watching through the years, and they’ll go with the baggy pants, and then go to tight-fitting, and then back to baggy. They have a wide lapel and they go to a narrow lapel. I’ve watched all that, and said to hell with that, I’m just gonna wear what I wear.

photography // Laura Tuttle

Book Review: Stay-Stitched

Fact: sewing patterns can be intimidating. Really intimidating. Intimidating to the point that I hardly ever sew anymore because I’m under the impression that anything I would want to make from scratch and then wear would be a hair-pullingly complex and painful process.

To make a long story short, I was very, very wrong.

Erin Arsenault’s Stay-Stitched: Sewing without a pattern and designing as you go is possibly the most approachable sewing how-to book I’ve ever read. It’s also exactly what it says on the box—at no point is a pattern ever used, and since garment pieces are based on your own measurements, everything is designed to fit your specific shape. Arsenault describes it as a “workbook,” and she isn’t kidding. There are spaces for you to fill in with your measurements, and plenty of gridded blank pages for your notes, sketches, and ideas. The book contains instructions for eleven projects, including a simple tote bag, a cute kimono, and wide-leg sailor pants. It also has a list of basic sewing supplies, stitches, and instructions on how to do things such as make your own bias tape, add in pockets, and make facings for neck and arm holes.

Since making a tote bag for the purpose of this review seemed like cheating, I chose to make the “Egyptian Tunic,” a simple A-line skirt with braces. After picking out some cutely creepy Norman Rockwell baby-face print cotton, I set to work on my skirt. It was remarkably easy—all you do is use your measurements to find the waistband width and strap length, and the length and flare of the skirt are up to you. I ended up making my skirt shorter and more fitted at the waist than the book suggested, which was not a problem at all, simply a matter of pinning and re-stitching one of the side seams—and I love the way it turned out.

And that’s the beauty of Stay-Stitched—everything is customizable. All you have to do is re-draw your lines if you don’t like the way something fits or looks. Even if the projects in the book aren’t to your liking, I’m sure you could apply the skills learned in these pages to other clothes-making endeavours. A novice stitcher could learn a lot by starting at the beginning and working their way through. (Just a little note on the projects—the book is very skirt- and dress-heavy, but I’m sure some crafty gentlemen and those who don’t like skirts would appreciate the sailor pants and viking tunic.) I can also see this book being a godsend for anybody who doesn’t fit into standard pattern sizes.

I would highly recommend Stay-Stitched to people who want to learn to make their own clothes but don’t know where to start, or to jaded semi-experienced seamstresses like myself, who just need their faith in their abilities renewed.

Stay-Stitched: Sewing without a pattern and designing as you go, self-published by Erin Arsenault, 2009
reviewed by Kat Brightwell

A Wornette’s Guide to Purse Salvation

What I’ve learned in dating, I can apply to vintage purses. Even though it’s beautiful and in tact on the outside, watch out for rotting on the inside. When I picked up this wicker purse at a local Goodwill, it was love at first sight… until I turned the latch and saw the condition of the inner lining. After battling with my gag reflex, I swallowed my hesitations and made the purchase (for $3.49 a deteriorated lining was not a deal breaker). Luckily, I discovered that replacing a purse lining was much easier — not to mention more affordable — than couples counselling.

Step One: Resist hacking away at the lining the second you open the purse with scissors in hand. This step I almost skipped completely, and am sure I would have regretted that decision later in the process. By taking a second to examine the bag’s interior, I was able to see that the lining was attached to the wicker with multiple tacks. With further inspection, I saw that these tacks could all be easily removed, allowing the lining to be removed exactly as is, and for the tacks to be salvaged. Since my scrupulous nature has now been revealed, there is no more need to hide it.

Step Two: Once the lining was removed, I proceeded to ‘break it down’ (MC Hammer, eat your heart out). Separate the seams of the lining so that you have three sections of fabric, or however many parts your lining breaks down into. Pin these to your new fabric and cut around them, leaving an inch or two so you have some room to sew them together.
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