Stick It To Me

The DIY tattoo, coming soon to a party near you

I was attending a co-worker’s birthday party when, in need of a drink, I walked into the kitchen to find the birthday girl being pricked with a sewing needle and India ink. It was her present from a friend—and for a small fee, I was told I too could get in on the action. I declined. Was this really what the kids were doing these days? Stabbing each other with sharp objects and ink? Well, yeah, Katy Perry’s lover giving her a heart-shaped stick’n’poke in one of her videos definitely affirms the artform’s youthful revival.

I associate the rise of stick’n’poke tattoos with the recent popularity of all things punk rock, but it’s really a modern take on an age-old tradition. The Maori used sharpened bones to cut designs into the skin and then tap pigment into the wounds. The ancient Egyptians are believed to have used wooden instruments with metal tips and soot. And until the invention of the tattoo gun in 1891, Westerners used a tattoo method adapted from the Tahitians after explorer James Cook’s sailors took up the practice in the 1600s. These cultures used the same basic model: a sharp object dipped in some sort of pigment that was hammered/scraped/poked into the skin.

Since that first party, I have had more than one friend get drunk and break out a BIC pen for a quick and dirty tat. But I’ve also seen stick’n’poke stands at craft fairs, and I’ve witnessed more than one tattoo parlor advertise the old-school service. Most recently, I started working with a bunch of DIY tattoo enthusiasts who all frequented the same amateur artist. My coworkers frequently traded meals and scotch for one of her at-home tattoos. I decided to put my curiosities to rest and tagged along when my boyfriend went to her to get some new ink the old fashioned way.

The tattoo artist decided to remain anonymous, due to the murky legal area this all occupies, though she was more than happy to answer a few basic questions. Although she agreed with my initial assumption that stick’n’poke’s popularity has been partly fueled by the rise of punk and DIY, she says there is more to this resurgence than mere trendiness: “Everyone’s moving away from manufactured goods that were made as quickly and cheaply as possible. Everyone is going and getting handmade, crafted, made-in-America type goods, and the same is true for tattoos. People don’t want to get flash off the walls anymore.”

She first tried tattooing the more conventional way, apprenticing at a parlour in Montreal post-university, but says she hated the feeling of using a tattoo gun and ended up “drawing a bunch of shitty tattoos that people came to get on a whim.” She got her first pin-prick tattoo at 20 when a friend experimented by giving her “a moon that looks more like a piece of swiss cheese.” Despite this lukewarm introduction to the form, the artist has no intention of going back to the gun. For her, stick’n’pokes are superior because they’re cheap, heal quickly and, most importantly, are a slow process, allowing for an intimate experience for her and whoever she is tattooing.

My first query was, of course, a style one. Since the only DIY tats I’d seen before hers were punk emblems and prison tats (OK, those were only on TV), I assumed the form lent itself to a particular style. She quickly dismissed these restrictions.

“I think often people assume stick’n’pokes are limited to certain styles, like harder lines with not as much shading. But you can achieve anything with stick’n’poke, because really, a tattoo gun is the same just a lot faster.”

Her clients are evidence of this. Some get only straight lines and bold colours (my boyfriend opted for a simple design that mashed up his punk inclinations with some good old fashioned illuminati insignia). Others opt for shading and more complex images, like my coworker, who has a beautifully coloured rose, or my boss, who has Piglet holding a red balloon on her upper arm.

The resurgence of stick’n’pokes as a party game is not without its negatives. When I voiced my concerns about hygiene, the tattoo artist agreed, saying people need to be careful. “I get the fear of transferring disease, because it’s not often that you talk to someone who got a stick’n’poke tattoo that has been sterilized. Most people are drunk at a party and pull out some ballpoint pen, and use that ink and a sewing needle they probably didn’t even burn with a lighter. I think that’s a huge risk with their building popularity.”

Despite being worried about her drunk brethren, the tattoo artist still believes the rising popularity of stick’n’poke is nothing to fear. “I remember wearing plaid skirts and army boots and studded everything when I was 14, and that was frowned upon. Now you walk into ZARA and everything is studded. Who ever thought that would happen? With that I think comes stick’n’pokes.”

Like so many counter culture practices before it, stick’n’poke is slowly slipping into the realm of the socially acceptable.

Our anonymous tattoo artist gave us a quick rundown of how she gives a sterile tattoo from the comfort of her living room:

1 // Establish clean and dirty fields (both of which are lined with paper towel). The clean field is where you keep sanitized needles (she personally uses tattoo gun needles) and whatever super clean receptacles you’re keeping your ink in. The dirty field is for discarded needles and used paper towel.

2 // Slap on some rubber gloves and wipe the skin down with rubbing alcohol.

3 // Draw an outline of the tattoo on the skin with a thin layer of tattoo ink. Sometimes she will use transfer paper or India ink to draw a preliminary mock-up on the skin, but more often she freehands it.

4 // Dip the needle in the ink a few times to build up a layer of dry ink—this will help keep the ink on the needle as you go. Other people use a thread attached to the needle as an “anchor” to accomplish basically the same thing.

5 // Pull the skin taught so the image doesn’t get distorted and start poking. Dip and poke, dip and poke. Periodically wipe away excess ink with a wet paper towel.

6 // Once the tattoo is done wipe it well with a damp paper towel and then apply some aloe or other soothing lotion.

7 // Wrap the tat in saran wrap—to keep it clean—and then voila. Tattoo complete.

photography // Laura Tuttle

Backwards In High Heels: A Fred & Ginger Supercut

A look at the classic Hollywood style of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire

When WORN held its redesign Indiegogo fundraiser last fall, the top perk for support was a film supercut of the bidder’s choosing. One of the supercuts was snapped up by Nathalie Atkinson, Style editor and culture columnist at the National Post. Atkinson’s choice was a supercut of every single outfit Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers wore when they appeared together on-screen in their ten musical pairings. Here, she explains why.

My taste—and to a degree, what I do for a living—was shaped in my teens, by whatever TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies host Elwy Yost felt like watching every weekend.

Elwy loved old movies and particularly the RKO musicals of the ’30s, and as a consequence so do I. I love the costumes in many of his favourite Silver Screen classics—Rosalind Russell’s striped topcoat and hat from His Girl Friday, everything Myrna Loy wears in The Thin Man, by costumer Dolly Tree, the pre-Code bias satins and boas of Dinner at Eight. But the grace, elegance, and wit of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ costumes in their musical comedy pairings remain my favourite. Their panache not only affected dance: it popularized the American songbook (Berlin, the Gershwin) not to mention a fantasy world of stark black and white Art Deco interiors and beautiful evening attire. “The Continental” from The Gay Divorcée won the very first Academy Award for best original song.

The legendary dance duo spent eight hours a day for six weeks rehearsing and perfecting choreography with Hermes Pan prior to shooting a film (which they did, in long takes, on perilously glossy floors). Note that as a 1982 “Frank & Ernest” newspaper comic strip by Bob Thaves later coined, Ginger did everything Fred did, only backwards. And in high heels.

They were the perfect complement for both banter and ballroom: Fred’s dancing is debonair and classy; Ginger’s is graceful but sassy (or as Katharine Hepburn put it: he gave her class; she gave him sex appeal.) Did they or didn’t they? Reading Rogers’ 1991 autobiography, Ginger: My Story, you’ll learn that while both were performing in separate Broadway shows before she was lured to Hollywood (when they made their first picture together, it was her 21st and only his 2nd), she and Fred had been more than a little warmly acquainted. They’d been on a few dates and even shared a real clinch or two (which is more than they ever did on film, given the newly cordial and reserved relationship with Astaire, by then married and, according to Ginger at least, his wife Adele was jealous and possessive).

Fred is known for the white tie, black tie, and tails, and Ginger’s loveliest bias-cut ballgown costumes are those made in collaboration with Howard Greer, a fashion and costume designer who stayed on in France after the Great War to work at Molyneux, Lucile, and Poiret before returning to Hollywood. (Fun fashion fact: Rogers didn’t make her first trip to France until 1952, but she made up for lost time. In Paris she stayed at Le Meurice, where Earl Blackwell squired her to a fashion show and later, numerous private fittings with designer Elsa Schiaparelli. And in the 1970s, Ginger collaborated on a capsule collection for J.C. Penney!)

Carefree’s “The Yam” dress by Howard Greer is one Rogers describes as “chiffon panels of red flame and steel gray.” In this film she also wears a bold original dress design of appliquéd arrows piercing a heart by costume designer Howard Greer and Edward Stevenson (you may recognize it from its recent contemporary copycat: a few years ago New Zealand designer Karen Walker did a very, very similar frock she called “Cupid”). There’s “Change Partners,” also by Greer: “a beautiful black marquisette gown, with a picoted bodice with silver threads, which caused a slight glimmer of reflected light as I danced around the floor.” The dress for “Color Blind” made her feel “like the fairy godmother in Cinderella.” For The Barkleys of Broadway, the first number in the film was the “Swing Trot” and costumer Irene made her a gold lamé dress to contrast with the purple chorus gowns. “My dress had a very full skirt and when I whirled, it filled with air because of the way it was sewn—balloon-style at the hem.”

It’s in 1949′s The Barkleys of Broadway, their final film together—in Technicolour—that you see the beginnings of Astaire’s more casual personal style, later recognizable in films such as The Band Wagon and Funny Face: the necktie as belt, the kerchief, the brightly coloured shirts paired with shortened trousers that showed off his intricate footwork (which inspired Michael Jackson to crop his trousers the same way). Here, the menswear is by MGM costumer J. Arlington Valles.

The Fred and Ginger movies follow a loose formula—a meet-cute dance number, a solo, a casual one, a romantic seduction dance (such as “Cheek to Cheek”), and one grand production number to close. And while they’re elegant, my favourites of their 1930′s costumes aren’t the formal suits and gowns but their more playful, casual attire. Fred was daring, for his day and American audience, because he emulated the English tweed sport jackets and Savile Row suiting style of the Prince of Wales (he traveled to London himself to be fitted by purveyors Hawes & Curtis or Anderson & Sheppard). Ginger wore witty, sometimes goofy costumes like satin sailor suits (Follow the Fleet), like jodhpurs and roller-skating skirts, in the looser numbers. There is also, of course, some dish about the infamous costume at the heart of the legendary fight she had on Top Hat with Astaire and their longtime director Mark Sandrich, the director on five of their nine RKO musicals together (their 10th was in colour, at MGM). Rogers had specifically asked for a pale blue dress with front and back neckline trimmed in long ostrich feathers. Fred didn’t care for it, especially since with every movement and quiver, it shed feathers—all over his tuxedo, for example.

She got her way and the dress—and all its feathers—floats languidly and sensually through the number; it now resides in the Smithsonian, along with her glittering dress from The Piccolino. The dance partners reconciled and from then on, his nickname for her was ‘Feathers.’

And if you look closely, around the 50-second mark you’ll see the high-gloss dance floor littered with the ostrich feathers that have slowly drifted over the course of their dance.

text // Nathalie Atkinson
video // Daniel Reis

Every one of the costumes they wore on-camera together during their partnership, in chronological order:
Flying Down to Rio
The Gay Divorcee
Roberta
Top Hat
Follow the Fleet
Swing Time
Shall We Dance
Carefree
The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle
The Barkleys of Broadway

further reading >
Astaire & Rogers by Edward Gallafent
Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein
Puttin’ On the Ritz: Fred Astaire & the Fine Art of Panache by Peter J. Levinson
Ginger: My Story by Ginger Rogers
Fred Astaire: His Friends Talk by Sarah Giles
The Astaires by Kathleen Riley

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

Crushing on Citizen Vintage

Citizen Vintage is one of our favourite haunts in Montreal—and not just because they act as our unofficial spokeswomen in the city, representing WORN at craft shows and hosting issue launch parties. More than just a shop (and a delightful shop filled with treasures at that), the store also brings fashion-friendly folks together for various events. Partners Brooke Doyle, Rebecca Emlaw, and Lara Kaluza talk to Worn about the value of vintage clothing, the importance of keeping a strong presence in their community, and Indiana Jones’s bow-tie.

Why is it important to shop vintage?

Rebecca: Vintage is a way of life for me now. Fashion is about individuality, and vintage selection can offer that. We never have two of the same pieces on the racks. Vintage is good quality for a good price. And substainability is important to me: vintage clothes practically have a zero carbon footprint, due to the fact that everything is already there.

Lara: Personally, I wear vintage because I find the clothing sold at big brand clothing stores is made so poorly that it falls apart in a few months. Plus, I hate showing up at a party wearing the same thing as someone else—I like that uniqueness vintage pieces give to my wardrobe.

Brooke: It’s pointless to spend your money (whether it’s $20 or $200) on something brand new, only to have it fade, stretch, peel or otherwise deteriorate within days of wear. Even “luxury” brands are just not as well made as they used to be. I trust vintage. I trust that if a leather bag, pair of boots, jacket or sweater has lasted 20 years, it will last another 20. The fact that it’s unlikely you’ll see someone wearing the same garment is just a bonus! It’s more likely you’ll see a cheaply produced newer garment replicating a vintage print or pattern, so why not buy the original?

Why is community involvement so important to you?

Brooke: We really make an effort to diversify our business by collaborating with musicians, artists, and other entrepreneurs.We work really hard to know our neighbors and be supportive of local businesses, the more we extend ourselves to others the more we learn! Citizen Vintage introduced the idea of a “vintage walking map” to the neighborhood, which includes several local vintage shops and so far has been really well received. It’s important to realize there’s strength in numbers.

Rebecca: Life and work is more interesting and fulfilling when you involve your friends and neighbours around you. There is so much great energy in this neighbourhood, it’s hard to resist involvement.

Describe each of your personal styles.

Brooke: I wear whatever I can bike in! I wear a lot of button ups, cardigans, printed dresses, Converse, and flat leather boots.

Lara: I suppose out of the three of us, I like the older vintage, ’50s and ’60s, the most. I like to mix older and newer pieces together. Though at the moment I’m really into the ’90s—I pretty much wear my chunky heel ankle boots and a rotation of little floral dresses everyday.

Rebecca: I love natural fibres and I love classic styles. I like clothing that is tailored and fits well. I’m a curvy girl and I want things to fit in all the right places. Frumpy is not a good look for my shape, so when I shop I look for darts that are well placed, and fabric that has a classic drape.

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