Book Review: The Worn Archive

The Worn Archive
Serah-Marie McMahon, ed., 411 pgs, Drawn and Quarterly,, $29.95

Since its first publication in 2005, Worn Journal has rejected the notion that fashion is an exclusive club reserved for consumer culture. Instead, Worn consistently knocks “fashion” off the runways and asks its readers to perceive it as something for everyone — no matter who we are or what we look like. The magazine presents itself as a club where everyone is invited to participate. As Worn’s founder Serah –Marie McMahon states: “Want to be a Wornette? You already are.”

Meticulously crafted and designed, The Worn Archive showcases the best art and literature published in Worn since 2005. Highlights include essays, how-to guides like the “Tidily Tangle-Free Guide to Tying Ties,” and personal anecdotes, such as McMahon recalling the first time she saw her soon-to-be fashion icon Courtney Love.

With its quirky vintage inspired photo-shoots, and cutesy details adorning every page, this book is an aesthetic triumph. However, Worn truly impresses with its writing and its nuanced presentation of fashion history. Ted Kulczycky’s “Safety Dance,” for instance, follows the life of a safety pin as it travels from fastening baby’s diapers to the clothing of anarchist youth in the late 1970s.

The Worn Archive is as much about fashion as it is a critique of consumerist culture. Stories and photo-shoots celebrating second-hand clothes are prominent throughout the archive, but Worn’s critique on consumer culture is most notable in Catie Nienaber’s “Home Ec is Where the Heart Is.” Here, Nienaber explores a culture shift from a mend-or-recycle mentality towards a buy-and-throwaway mentality.

This is 411 pages of straight-up intellectual eye candy that will dazzle any self-proclaimed lover of clothing. The archive should most definitely be picked up by anyone who would like to read about fashion without having conventional, mainstream aesthetics shoved down their throat. (Chloe Stelmanis)

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