Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

Wornettes reminisce about the triumphs and tears of their night at the prom

Should your streaked mascara match your shoes?

I dragged myself to prom, dressed up like a doll with a broken heart in hand instead of a clutch purse. The boy that I was convinced to be my soulmate had just broken up with me. As in, the day before.

I was absolutely devastated. My life was over. How could I even begin to think about manicures and hairspray? (In retrospect this meltdown is faintly humorous, considering just a few months later I came out as a loud and proud member of the queer community… but I didn’t know that then.) From start to finish, the “fun” day of preparation my mom and I had once been thrilled about melted into a puddle at my feet. Filled with the choking back of tears and the correcting of smudged-off makeup, hairstylists and photographers shook their head in pity. The only reason I can be seen smiling in any photos at all that day is because I had momentarily convinced myself (and him) that we were getting back together. Thanks to this clever emotional manipulation, my fake lashes and glittery pink blush stayed perfectly intact that night… until my dreams of romance were shattered the next day by his “I’m so over it” response.

Years after prom, most people regret their bridal-style dresses, their bedazzled shoes, their hilarious but trendy-at-the-time makeup and hair choices. I don’t have those feelings: I still admire my combination of turquoise and baby pink, my glittery silver shoes, my oversize bow-topped cocktail dress, and my matching heart-shaped glasses. I looked different from every other girl at my prom, and I’m proud my undeveloped self had the guts to do that. The only regret I have is that I let some teenage boy dim my sparkle. // Alyssa Garrison

Pretty in Pink and Blue and Teal and Sparkles

I couldn’t find a full-length photo of the dress I wore to prom; only this cropped, cut-up one, which shows most of my torso. Believe me when I say this dress was extremely out of character for me—it was floor-length, as multicoloured as a dream coat, and covered in beads and sequins with a hot pink halter top. I favour black, white, neutrals, and minimal designs overall; I’m not sure what came over me when I bought it.

Actually, no, I know exactly what came over me. As a teenager, I was obsessed with what other people did and thought. I never saw a cool girl in the hallway without wanting to do or wear whatever she was doing or wearing, which led to some pretty horrible outfits. I wore lace-up Parasuco jeans, glittery pink babydoll tees, Uggs—if a “cool girl” wore it you could bet I used all my minimum-wage paycheque to buy it. You can imagine my disappointment when the cool girls showed up to prom wearing matching short, pastel-coloured dresses.

I think we all eventually settle into the style we’re meant to have. For me, my prom dress was not the last time I bought something because I thought it would help me blend in, and it definitely is not the worst example, but there’s something about it in particular that makes me pause. Looking at this photo reminded me of how long it took for me to figure out what I liked, what I looked best in, which dresses for important occasions would make me happy. Anyway, I know better than to plan on forgetting. To quote everyone’s favourite writer, Joan Didion, “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends”—and I would add, demanding to know: who let them wear that dress outside the house. // Haley Mlotek

A night to remember, a night to forget

I’ve always loved proms. I had been planning mine, from my date (Landon, purple hair) to my dress (black and red, leather wristband), since I was 10. When I was in Grade 11, I decided I had waited long enough and hooked myself up with two tickets for myself and my beautiful best friend, Stas. I was a hippie in pastels those days, and my ensemble was a light pink sparkly dress and pastel green cardigan with fire engine-red hair. Stas came straight from his landscaping gig in a tan, a pair of bright blue pants, and a seventies vest, and we had an amazing time dancing the night away with our friends at what ended up being a dud of a prom. Still, I’m glad I went before senior year, because there was no pressure that this had to be a night to culminate our high school careers. We just enjoyed each other’s company and looked ridiculous.

My next prom was serious business. Because I was hung up on my body, I wore a flattering, pretty black dress and cool black headband, but when one of my best friends showed up wearing the poufy, yellow, vintage dress I wished I had worn, I immediately regretted my choice. Some of my other best friends got kicked out before even entering after being caught with alcohol, but the rest of us stayed to dance. The night was technically a success, though not particularly memorable. I had gotten my prom-mania out of my system the first time around. // Anna Cunningham

Wornlings that go to prom together, stay together

As are most things that Alexandra and I do in our lives, prom dress shopping was done together. I had a very simple plan—or so I thought—of finding the dress of my dreams online, going in-store, trying it on, and falling in love with it in person. But alas, trouble ensued when I spotted another dress. I decided that it was my prerogative to change my mind and switched one dress for another, only to immediately regret it. The trouble with buying one’s prom dress in March when prom isn’t until June is the plethora of gowns that can cause many a nervous breakdown and glittery perspiration in the meantime—kind of like a season of The Bachelorette (so I’ve heard). In the lead-up to prom, I ended up exchanging my dress a second time and going with my first pick. I know I ended up making the right choice. I think. // Stephanie Chunoo

I had a very distinct reference point for my prom look: Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (subway grate not included). I wanted a breezy halter dress that went just past my knees in a demure midnight blue. What I got instead was a long, fuchsia-coloured gown with lace cut-outs. Pretty much the diametric opposite of what I initially planned, to no surprise, thanks to Steph. She picked the dress out and knew that I had to try it on. Despite thinking that it looked like a doily my grandmother uses under her flowerpots, I reluctantly tried it on and fell in love. It was a pure Say Yes to the Dress moment minus the fussy mother-in-laws and “jacking up.” It has become one of my most treasured items of clothing, and as cliché as it is, I’m glad I listened to Steph. // Alexandra Chronopoulos

Diamond Dogs

For me, 2007 was the year of graduating high school, choosing universities, the year of figuring out what it is exactly you want to do with your life. But mostly it was the year of choosing that perfect prom outfit. Both my parents never went to their prom. Their crowd was a mixture of punks and hippies when they graduated, so they believed that prom was uncool and no fun. I, on the other hand, had been seduced by the prom experiences of the Gilmore Girls and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I just had to experience the dancing, the romance, and the dress.

Neither my prom dress nor my shoes were the most important item for me to feature. What I wanted was to have an amazing hat. Hats were my favorite piece of clothing in high school. I would wear bowler hats, fascinators, and occasionally even a teacup on my head. I knew that I needed to have the best hat imaginable, so I took inspiration from my favorite artist at the time, Jeff Koons. I had been in love with his balloon dog sculptures and wanted to recreate that on my head. I researched how to make a balloon dog, I followed all the steps, and voila. I was so pleased with myself for learning this trick.

I decided I wanted it to last well after prom was over so I covered it in paper maché. After it dried I bought cheap CDs from the dollar store and cut them into small squares. I glued them onto the paper maché dog, transforming it into a disco dog. After everything dried, I glued it to a headband, put on my pink dress, and to bring the whole outfit together I wrapped a string of faux pearls around a pair of safety scissors and wore them around my neck. The process of preparing for the prom felt like the most important part of the whole event, and I will always look back on it and smile because I had so much fun and have no regrets. // Eliza Trent-Rennick

Girls with the most cake

I wasn’t even sure that I was even going to go to my prom until about the month before. I was very much not into doing established high school events. But all of my friends were going, and I eventually gave in. I went to The Big City with my best friend and my step-mom, and we just trolled the mall for HOURS trying to find something that a) fit me and b) wasn’t terrifying. Everything was very floofy and pink and sequined… and not me at all. I wound up at this old lady store (name since forgotten) and found a slinky black gown on the sale shelf. It had black beading on the neckline and straps, and culminated in a mini train. I added jewelry the colour of blood, because rebel. It was also my first experience with foundation garments, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was definitely not the best-dressed person there, though—my friend Sarah made an entire gown out of duct tape, turned it red with permanent marker, and made a bag to match. She looked incredible.

In the end, the whole thing was pretty much not a big deal for me. I worked most of the day, then I think I got a haircut, and as you can see, I did not bother to get it styled or anything. I just went home and got dressed and then met my friends. It turned out that my level of effort was the exact right level of effort to put in, because the event itself was TERRIBLE. My friends and I cut out early, bought cake, and hung out down at the lake until like 4:00 a.m.—altogether a much better use of our time, and definitely a much better memory. // Megan Patterson

Geek to chic in one fell swoop

The dress I wore to my high school prom was uncharacteristically feminine. It was all layers of soft tulle and sweet ribbons, which transformed me from an awkward mathlete metalhead into a ballerina fairy princess. When I look back at the photos, it is painfully obvious to me that this dress did not fit, especially in the area where breasts are supposed to be. I had to secure the strapless bodice to my skin with double sided tape, which left nasty marks on my back. My fantastic mother ensured the dress was perfectly accessorized, but I didn’t think being perfectly accessorized was cool, so I smuggled a beat-up, vintage black purse out the door to replace the pink satin one she had bought me. I also brought to prom my nasty habit of never wearing shoes ever and carried my silvery-pink heels around for most of the night. // Brianne Burnell

Make way for Prince Ali

Prom was not a big deal for me. High school was something to survive and move past, not an era to commemorate. I broke up with the first guy I ever dated a month before, so I didn’t even get to invite him and make a gay rights stand against my school’s homophobic bullies.

If I had had the sartorial bravery I have now I would have worn something crazy, like a fuchsia Nehru jacket or something. (Who am I kidding? I would have difficulty wearing that now.) Instead, I rented a tux. Looking back, I’m jealous of my girlfriends who bought prom dresses—when you rent a garment, especially something as standard as a tuxedo, you feel an unavoidable distance towards it. At least I knew how to wear it. The friend I took to try it on pointed out many guys there that didn’t remember to tuck in the shirt.

The best part of prom was the getting ready. My friends and I got all into it, posing for pictures with our moms and singing along to the car radio as we picked people up. The actual event was a dull letdown. Nothing happened. The DJ played ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin. We stared blankly. We had played dress up, but our formal clothes couldn’t make the night significant. // Max Mosher

Cinderella’s mice need not apply

At the beginning of my final year of high school, my mom and I stumbled upon a clearance of shimmery, floor-length skirts at a bridal shop in the mall. After much debate between the many colours, I set my heart upon the wine coloured one and began my matching mission. I dedicated my lunch hour every Tuesday and Thursday (since every other one was spent in choir rehearsals) to sewing in the home ec room alone and managed to produce an entirely wine-coloured outfit consisting of an ankle-length, heavy wool coat, which I wore for only a split-second from the house to the limo, a velvet corset, and a matching clutch that I made by covering a small cardboard box with leftover fabric and beads. To top it all off, I got my sister to put Manic Panic “rose” coloured streaks in my hair and painted all of my nails the same colour. Looking back at the photos a decade later, I can still feel the uncomfortable prickle of the unruly strings of upholstery bead trim that I lined my corset top with. // Angela Leung

Queen for a day

During the time of my prom, I was at the height of my eating disorder. Less than 96 pounds of flesh hung on my 5’5 frame, and I was constantly starving. While many girls at my school had bought dresses a year ahead, I only went shopping with my mom the month before.

We went to a few stores in the mall. Nothing pleased me.

Then I saw it—the tan dress, so light it was almost made of air, a back wrapped in thin lace, with matching capped sleeves and some lace trim at the bottom. They didn’t have size zero, which was my default size by then (the goal, finally accomplished). So instead I climbed into a slightly baggy size two, which hung a little off my hips. At the time, the dress was perfect: it covered my chest, my hips. I wasn’t comfortable exposing too much skin, but I didn’t want a floor-length gown either. It was $400. My mother bought it, the size two which ate at me all the way home, and I wore it with nude heels the day of my prom. Perhaps I was a little too pale—I was coming from a day of work, so I hadn’t gotten my hair or makeup done—perhaps the dress blended in too much. But I felt good. For the first time in a while, I felt good.

I even ate that day. // Sofie Mikhaylova

Feel like your prom experience needs a makeover? Join us this Saturday at WORN’s very own Secondhand Prom and make some new memories!

“Sex Shouldn’t be Comfy!”

A review of Kinky Boots

A classic makeover story, 2005′s Kinky Boots laces together two stories that become irrevocably intertwined somewhere between a drag queen’s broken heel and a young englishman’s broken dreams.

Charlie Price’s family shoe making business is failing; the market for well-made oxfords is dwindling with the rise of fast fashion, and Price is forced to start laying off employees and contemplating closure. Desperate for some sort of sign, Charlie mistakenly wanders into the life of Lola, a drag queen he assumes to be a woman and tries to save from assault. Later in her dressing room at a nearby drag bar, Lola complaints to Charlie about the reoccurring problem she encounters during her acts: her sexy shoes are poorly made, the heels collapsing or cracking under the pressure of a male-bodied person. Although he’s confused, Charlie takes a step into the unknown and sets his mind to building Lola a pair of new boots.

Charlie’s first pair of fetish boots are, to be concise, a complete failure. Cut from burgundy suede with a chunky, short black heel, he presents them to Lola with pride. She of course is mortified, openly resenting the idea that she inspired something “the colour of hot water bottles”.

“Red! Red is the colour of sex!” Lola cries,”Red is the colour of fear and danger and signs that say Do Not Enter.”

“But they’re comfy!” Charlie argues.

“But sex shouldn’t be comfy!” Lola returns.

Based on a true story that inspired a BBC special and a musical, Kinky Boots is all about the traditions and trends surrounding shoes and their makers, and the meaning they take on for consumers and their various identities.

For Charlie, shoes have always meant hand-sewn leather men’s brogues, a tradition passed through his family. For Lola, the very same shoes are a nightmare: even as a child, Lola is shown trading her basic brown school boy’s shoes for bright red bow-accented pumps. For these two people, shoes mean completely different things. Charlie sees them as something ordinary, comfy and practical, and Lola sees them as a tool that can contain or free her depending on their shade and cut. Charlie’s company (Divine Footwear in real life) ends up building the perfect sex-filled stiletto boot in cherry red, but revolutionizes the industry by putting a steel rod in the heel that can support a man’s weight. This innovation gives drag queens like Lola the confidence to sing and dance in their sexiest shoes on sturdy footing.

// Research by Sofie Mikhaylova

The Wornettes do TIFF

The best outfits at the 2012 Toronto International Film Fest happened on screen

Great Expectations Mike Newell
The world probably doesn’t need another adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, but it never hurts to see one of classic literature’s greatest (and most visually interesting) characters, Miss Havisham, re-imagined yet again. In Mike Newell’s version of the story, Helena Bonham Carter plays the jilted ghostly bride (naturally) who is grandly clad in a dusty, decaying dress. The dress was designed by Beatrix Aruna Pasztor who also crafted costumes for Vanity Fair and Aeon Flux. Pasztor drowns Miss Havisham in layers and layers of lace and taffeta silk, creating more of an artistic masterpiece than a simple costume.

Even more exquisite is Miss Havisham’s lovely disciple Estella (her young and adult versions are played by Helena Barlow and Holliday Grainger, respectively). Estella wears pleated travelling dresses adorned with cascading ribbons and feathered collars in hues of blues and purples. Paired with bejeweled neck chokers, Estella’s wardrobe is aesthetically refreshing against the movie’s muddy backdrops.

And then there’s Pip, the blacksmith turned gentleman whose wardrobe is overwhelmingly vital to his transition into the upper echelons of London society. Played by Jeremy Irvine, Pip ditches his thick boots, puts on tailored suits, and gets the girl, all while turning into an uppity snob in the process.

Does this new version of Great Expectations break any new ground? Doubtful. But do the costumes live up to its period piece glory? I think the taffeta speaks for itself.
// Mai Nguyen

Deflowering of Eva van End Michiel ten Horn
This blithely haunting Dutch film unfolds around Eva, your garden variety “dork.” A chubby, bespectacled late-bloomer lacking in social skills, she remains silent for almost the entire duration of the film. Eva is a sullen, awkward girl who seems more interested in spending time with her pet rabbit and listening to her favourite pan flautist than having sex, an activity doggedly pursued by her libidinous classmates. Eva’s shyness results in her isolation from the outside world, where her family and peers treat her like a piece of furniture. Her outsider status is highlighted by her wardrobe: Eva wears mostly t-shirts emblazoned with Louis Wain cats, Converse sneakers, and ill-fitting jeans; in stark contrast to her brand-conscious classmates who love Ed Hardy, leopard print jeans, and skintight dresses.

Eva’s life changes when she is assigned an attractive but irritatingly friendly German exchange student named Viet. Viet plays the part of a clean-cut hippie; a vegetarian who financially supports an African child and meditates as his preferred form of relaxation. Viet’s wardrobe is all-white, consisting of linen tunics and Birkenstock sandals, which are meant to symbolize the purity of his beliefs yet create an ironic tension when his presence begins to wreak havoc in the van End household. It’s clever and funny with a dark, disturbing undercurrent that rears its head near the end of the film.
// Isabel Slone
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The Stories We Tell

Five Wornettes revisit the fictional characters that inspired their closets growing up

Moon Prism Power!
When I was about 10 years old (pushing the limits of an appropriate age for a cartoon obsession), I loved Sailor Moon. She was my moon goddess of style. Though my love may have shifted from Sailor Scout to Sailor Scout, it was the idea of a sassy uniform only put on through an intense and magical costume change that I found most appealing.

The fantasy driven schoolgirl fashions had me acting like a fool as I begged my parents for the whole kit and kaboodle of consumer products marketed to my tween self. I remember the tense Christmas morning phone call between a friend and I as we discussed who had gotten what under the tree that morning. It was as if we thought it made us better people to have added to our growing collection of imported plastic accessories that made us “feel” like we really were “Super Sailor Scouts”—stylish schoolgirls with badass super powers.

As I got a bit older, my obsession stuck in the back of my mind. I couldn’t bear to part with the dolls, t-shirts, and plastic wands that hung around collecting dust in my closet. The cool punk girls I met in high school shared my secret love. We regularly discussed how awesome our animated hero and her friends were.

How did this totally fanciful, junk-food TV show fit in with my new found, anti-consumerist, teenage feminist rants? I began to reposition my fascination, turning my old Sailor Moon nightgown into a hot butch muscle tee and mixing the cutesy Sailor Moon-inspired pigtails of my youth into a riot grrrl-inspired statement. Perhaps the rumours of a lesbian love affair between Sailor Neptune and Uranus had even had an influence on my queerness. Even though I’ve more or less retired this obsession, I still get giddy every time I see a Japanese school uniform, excited at the thought of the magic that the girls who sport these get-ups possess. // Jenna Danchuk

Ten Points for Slytherin
I was obsessed with Harry Potter as a kid to the point that I managed to convince myself that a) I was his sister and b) Voldemort was stalking me. Okay, I’ll admit—I’m still obsessed. I couldn’t watch the last part of the last movie because I couldn’t deal with the fact that the series was ending. Before, when I identified as Gryffindor, I was partial to their house colours of red and gold. I was really big on wearing men’s ties as accessories (eat your heart out, Avril Lavigne). I used to carry a wand around until I was, like, 12. My mom claimed it was just a stick and told me to grow up. (Muggles, am I right?) Unfortunately, I haven’t. I still have the wand (yew, dragon heartstring core, inflexible), lying around somewhere.

When I was 10, I got glasses for the first time, and I didn’t feel like a Horrible Nerd Dorkasaurus as I might have had I got them at an earlier stage. I felt like this further confirmed my assumption that Harry Potter and I were related and I was actually a witch. The reason I wasn’t accepted to Hogwarts, I told myself on my 11th birthday, was because it is in England, and I lived in Canada, and Hogwarts Express doesn’t cross the ocean. Obviously. Anyway, Harry Potter made me feel cool about my glasses. I was in good company.

As I got older, I started to get into Harry Potter from a different perpective. I realized that I was cleary a Slytherin, and that green and silver were the way to go. I still like red and don’t hate Gryffindors, but I avoid gold clothing if I can help it and wear silver instead. // Sofie Mikhaylova

Here. Swear. Swear on Chanel.
I can’t remember being obsessed with anything other than dalmatians as a child, but in Grade 10 I fell under the spell of Carrie Bradshaw. The obsession spilled over to Sarah Jessica Parker (does anybody really differentiate between the two?) and I can remember going to school wearing my Great Grandmother’s broaches as fasteners on an asymmetrical grey cardigan, an homage to her Gap campaign.

My all-time favourite outfit during this phase was based on a dress from the final episode of the series. It was a sea-foam green tulle skirt which I made myself and layered over a structured black halter dress, meant to emulate the dress Carrie runs across Paris in, eventually reuniting with Big (gush). I wore it to our high school’s drama and dance awards.

I think the only problem my obsession with Carrie’s fashion might have caused was that it was so different from what everyone else was wearing in my high school, and so I sort of stuck out like a sore satin-gloved thumb. While everyone was showing up for class in jeans or sweatpants, I was wearing chiffon floral skirts and oversized fake flowers pinned to my cardigan. // Casie Brown

“Whoever said orange is the new pink was seriously disturbed.”
Growing up, I always got the idea that my peers didn’t think I was very smart. No matter how high my grades, my optimistic attitude combined with my affinity to wear pink matching outfits and my blonde streaked hair made me an easy target for dumb blonde jokes. I felt destined to be intellectually downtrodden until the day I saw Legally Blonde. Elle Woods was just like me: fun, girly, and smarter than she looked. I faked an eye exam and got cute glasses, paired knee socks with heels, and began telling everyone I would go to McGill, to which one boy said, “Alyssa, you’ll never be smart enough to go to McGill.” But, like Elle, I studied hard and tried to be best friends with everyone regardless of their judgment. The climax of my Elle Woods phase involved a head to toe hot pink Betsey Johnson corduroy outfit, complete with hot pink knee boots my mother acquired in Las Vegas, accessorized with a pink basket full of pink cookies which I spent my high school day handing out to students. After that I started dating a drama guy and went from Pretty in Pink to Checkerboard Ska. It was a rocky transition.

I never did get to McGill, but only because they didn’t offer a program as well known and successful as the Ryerson School of Journalism, where I am currently finishing my degree. I do, however, still wear pink with pride, and sometimes when I get to class and take out my floral notebook and rainbow pen set, I smile to myself and silently thank Elle for helping me find my smart self. // Alyssa Garisson

All I want is a dress with puffy sleeves.
Anne of Green Gables was a really important book for me as a child. I just liked how she was so herself, even though that self was a little weird and loud and prone to unfortunate accidents. I’ve never dyed my hair green (by accident, that is), I’ve never gotten my best friend drunk (by accident, that is), and I’ve never floated away in a lake and been rescued by a mischievous, handsome boy from school (not yet, that is). I might not have had flaming red hair, but I did have big, bushy, brown curls—I stuck out in the sea of sleek blonde hair that was the style for all the pretty girls in elementary school.

When I first read Anne of Green Gables, I didn’t fully understand what “puffed sleeves” were—I remember looking in a mirror and holding my sleeves up off my shoulder in an attempt to visualize what Anne was talking about—but I definitely sympathized with Anne’s yearning for trendy clothes that her adopted guardians couldn’t afford. As a child, all my clothes came from the sale section of a local discount outlet store. I always wanted what I couldn’t have: designer purses, t-shirts with logos printed on them, $30 lipgloss from department stores. My mother had a very Marilla Cuthbert attitude towards the whole thing. They’re both very practical women who work hard to balance a small budget and are seemingly impervious to trends or impractical wants. I’m the complete opposite—as soon as I was old enough to work, I worked in the trendiest boutiques and department stores, spending my minimum wage earnings on the latest styles.

Once, when I was working at a law firm and had lots of disposable income, I came across a cardigan that had legitimately puffed sleeves. It was a black button-down sweater with ruched stitching on the shoulders, giving them a raised, “puffed,” look. I don’t know if the designers had Anne of Green Gables in mind when they designed it, but I bought it immediately. I never wore it. It’s not really my style. I didn’t relate to the actual puffed sleeves—I related to Anne’s wanting. I understood desiring what you can’t really have. Besides, buying those items for yourself rarely fills a void. When Anne finally gets her puffed sleeves, it’s because Matthew, her guardian and best friend, knows that puffed sleeves will make Anne happy and sets out to get them for her. I’ll always remember how I felt reading about Anne unwrapping the paper on her beautiful brown dress that Matthew got Mrs. Lynde to make. Anne had someone who really understood her and who would have done anything to make her happy. I like to imagine that Anne never gave away or threw out that dress because it reminded her of how much she and Matthew loved each other. She outgrew the puffed sleeves, but she never outgrew their relationship. BRB, crying forever. // Haley Mlotek

photography// brianne burnell