WORN: Fashion That's Quirky, Beautiful and Fun

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h1Few people know that L. Frank Baum and Salvador Dali created window displays for major fashion retailers.

Serah-Marie McMahon, WORN Fashion Journal

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WORN is a Canadian fashion print magazine that comes out twice a year, and their companion website is just as cute and smart. In fact, the scrappy print magazine is so smart that it was nominated for a National Magazine Award and Best Cover of the Year in 2010 and continues to be beloved by readers who care about the cultures, subcultures, histories, and personal stories of fashion. An alternative to mainstream fashion magazine, WORN has been described as part academic journal and part indie zine – and it all comes together in quirky, beautiful and fun magazine. As Jane Pratt of xoJane puts it: "This is where fashion and feminism kiss and make up."

Serah-Marie McMahon is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of this wonderfully creative project– and one of Jane's top Style picks on the SAY 100. We caught up with Serah-Marie in Toronto to find out how she creates her beautiful magazine with an army of volunteers, her fashion guilty pleasures – and what other style sites are doing it right.

WORN explores fashion from a cultural, historical, political, and practical point of view. Give us some examples of recent popular stories in the magazine that do this and why you thought they were important to cover. In a nutshell, we find fashion to be an endlessly fascinating subject, yet it is often only discussed in mainstream magazines as something to be consumed – in other words, we don’t want our readers to feel like they need to buy more to be in style. Some topics are just purely interesting, like profiling several iconic window dressers in issue 13 (few people know that L. Frank Baum and Salvador Dali created window displays for major fashion retailers). In other cases, we want to share the often-ignored stories of marginalized identities, including an article in issue 11 about the history of flight attendant uniforms, and the sexist impositions that were mandated for female employees under the guise of wearing a uniform. In every issue, we investigate a fabric (examples include lurex, moiré and corduroy) and explain how to properly care for them; we don’t assume that our readers can just send things out for dry cleaning. We also just want to encourage people to have fun and be creative with their clothes, which is the driving point behind our photo-shoots.

We've heard a big about the Wornettes, your community of volunteer WORN editors and writers. Who are they and how do you find them? When I decided to start a magazine, I put up a little flyer at my art school and at a few vintage clothing sotres in my neighbourhood. It said something like "do you love fashion but are frustrated with fashion magazines?" and had a time and date to meet at my house. When I look back I was so naive - I put my home address in print all over Montreal. But about 10 people showed up and some of them are now my closest friends. Now, wornettes find us! We put up flyers at universities and post on our blog, but mainly people just email us. Most people get confused and think that wornettes are only interns, but really it's anyone (of any gender) who is or has ever been involved at WORN.

Where do you shop online? I almost never wear pants, so much of my wardrobe budget is currently going to Sockdreams. I've taken to wearing knee socks pretty much always, light ones for summer and thick wooley ones for over tights in the winter. It makes me feel like I'm an extra from Clueless or Strike!.

What's your favorite fashion thing right now? Fan art necklaces from Etsy. I am usually wearing one of either John Waters, Special Agent Dale Cooper, or Rayanne Graff.

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What celebrities embody the WORN aesthetic? You can ask any Wornette this and each answer would be completely different. But essentially, anybody who has an unapologetically creative relationship with their clothes, or who takes risks with their art in general. Iris Apfel, Beth Ditto, Lisa Bonet, Bela Lugosi, Edith Head, Yoko Ono, Miranda July, Diana Vreeland and Grace Jones are at the tip of a much vaster iceberg. Mostly, though, we take inspiration from our friends, our peers, and each other.

What would your fans be surprised to learn about you and fashion/style? When I was in high school in small town British Columbia, people used to make fun of my clothes constantly. I didn't fit into the snap-track-pants-brand-name-sportswear mold, even when I tried. Eventually I gave up and started wearing whatever I wanted, which was clothing I'd thrifted on the precious few trips we took into "the city" three hours away. I wore 4-inch Spice Girls style platforms in a town with dirt roads. People would literally slow down their cars to gawk and my mom hated my wardrobe. But honestly, I would kill to still have some of those pieces now.

Also, I always co-ordinate my underpants with my outfit, in case the wind blows my skirt up while I'm walking to work.

Are there any other independent style blogs you read and admire? Who's doing it right? Even though it's really aimed at a younger audience, I love Rookie. It's sweet, and honest, and fun, and I wish I'd had it when I was a teenager. I love Susie Bubble (Style Bubble), Worn Through, Advanced Style...

Fess up - any fashion guilty pleasures? I don't really believe in guilty pleasures - I own my bad taste. I hate when people say they won't wear something because it's too trendy. Not liking something because everyone else does is just as bad as only liking something because everyone else does.

How would you finish this sentence: When in doubt, wear…whatever the fuck you want.

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Who are your fashion/style heroes? Anna Sui, Emily Winfield Martin, Joan Holloway Harris, Bill Cunningham, Betsey Johnson, Jeanne Beker, my aunt Rosemary, Lady Bunny and Lady Sybil Crawley.

The latest issue of WORN is available now – go read it, it's a great issue! (You can buy issues and subscriptions to the print edition of WORN here). Look for the hair issue this Fall.

Follow Serah-Marie and WORN on Twitter @wornjournal.