Judging by any magazine you might grab off the shelf, writing about fashion in a smart way that doesn’t alienate anybody due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, clothing size, and economic background is a massive — and at times impossible — task. At the end of the day, fashion is a commodity, and if the Vogue writers don’t sell fashion to the right consumers (ones with money), then most big fashion magazines will cease to be. Media and the industries it covers (be it film, publishing, automotive, etc.) have always made strange bedfellows, as one really does need the other to thrive. Yet the way fashion is covered by mainstream media, and the complaints audiences have long held how they hold up an impossible standard for many in terms of body image and what is affordable, it sometimes feels like fashion magazines, filled with more pages of ads than articles, are basically big catalogs with a little bit of editorial copy added in for good measure.
Founded in 2005 by Serah-Marie McMahon, Worn has been a welcomed antidote to the tired fashion magazine formula. More a community than a major media conglomerate, the Toronto-based magazine has to date put out 18 issues, operating under a set of basic guidelines laid out in their FAQ, including their somewhat revolutionary approach to advertising:
We’ve structured our sales to guarantee that the majority of our revenue comes from our readership — they alone ensure our survival. We accept advertising but maintain complete creative control separate from our advertisers. Our advertisers think WORN is worth supporting and our readers worth informing, and applaud our policy of independence.
Now, with The Worn Archive, a collection of some of the magazine’s best pieces, readers old and new have an opportunity to see what makes Worn so special. With pieces like “Beauty as Duty,” with the subtitle, “Patriotism, patriarchy, and personal style during wartime,” the book is a fitting a tribute to Worn’s past, but the collected articles that make it up come together and make the book the one fashion book that anybody interested in fashion, journalism, or even how a print magazine can operate these days should own.
From emulating matriarchal style with “The Mom Project,” to pieces on how to properly wash your clothes, what makes The Worn Archive special is that it takes fashion and style and makes them what they should be: empowering. The entire book is filled with articles aimed at letting anybody in on the secret that style and stylishness is attainable. It has fascinating and well-researched articles on the evolution of the airline stewardess dress, along with “How the safety pin became a revolutionary fashion accessory,” and, like any book put out by Drawn & Quarterly, it looks great. Put it all together, and you have one very necessary book.