Adult · I am Canadian · Nonfiction · review

Review: The WORN Archive: A Fashion Journal about the Art, Ideas, & History of What We Wear by Serah-Marie McMahon (Editor)

18465497Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by Drawn and Quarterly
Source: Publisher


The WORN Archive: A Fashion Journal about the Arts, Ideas, and History of What We Wear is a manifesto on why fashion and clothing matter. For eight years, the Canadian magazine has investigated the intersections of fashion, pop culture, and art. With prescient, intelligent articles, WORN Fashion Journal strives to address diverse issues such as gender, identity, and culture with openness and honesty. WORN asserts that fashion is art, history, ideas, and most of all fun—that style is a personal experience that need not align with the fashion industry.

The four-hundred-page book features the best content from the journal’s first fourteen issues, assembled by WORN’S founder and editor in chief, Serah-Marie McMahon. Articles penned by a host of unique contributors (academics, writers, curators, and artists) touch on topics as wide-ranging as the relationship between feminism and fashion, discourse on hijabs, how to tie a tie, the history of flight attendants, and textile conservation. With eclectic photo shoots featuring “real” models, striking illustrations, and whimsical layouts, every page is a joyful, creative approach to clothing.

The WORN Archive is the ultimate cultural style map for those who don’t want to be told how to dress but are seeking a transformative understanding of why we wear what we do.


To be completely honest, I hadn’t even heard of Worn until I came across this collection and once I read the synopsis, I was hooked. I will be the first to admit that I am not much into fashion but I like thinking about what I will wear, what the colours look like together, what clothes look good on me but I don’t let it consume me the way other people, who are more interested in fashion would be. Also, while I did not immediately put the superficial tag on all things fashion related, I was intimidated by the fashion industry because their ideals of beauty are ones that I cannot aspire to for many reasons.

However, The WORN Archive, from McMahon’s introduction sets itself apart from other fashion magazines and allows, in fact, demands that the reader redefine fashion – fashion is not something determined for a person by other sources but something that is individually defined by the person themselves. Each person defines their own style, according to their desires and expressions of self. According to the collective articles, fashion is more than the collection of designer apparel and accessories you own. In fact, material objects go only so far where fashion is concerned; it is  how you interact with these objects that determines your fashion. Instead of throwing away last year’s skirt, find another way to wear it.

WORN uses its own staff as models and the models wear their own clothes so you get real people, people of all sizes and shapes, wearing things that mean something to them and this comes across in the photographs. The photographs are not of manufactured products, primped and plucked and captured for your envy, but actual people who are more than simply hangers for the clothes. The articles, too, are amazing and I loved how there is such a variety of them. I was especially fascinated by the piece on buttons. The idea that history could be deciphered through the study of buttons is an interesting one and historians could speculate on what things the societies of the past placed importance on by studying buttons and the materials they are made of is interesting. I also appreciated the piece they had on the different kinds of hijabs worn by women around the world; it was well researched and did not have a judgmental tone. Also wonderful were the pieces that discussed fashion during the wars and other turbulent periods and frankly admitted that fashion has been considered superficial and empty of substance but then went on to discuss why that perspective is problematic.

Bottom line? I quite enjoyed this collection and will definitely be seeking out more recent issues of WORN. I recommend to everyone who feels alienated by Vogue and other fashion magazines. This is beautifully bound (Drawn and Quarterly does it again!) and beautifully designed. The content does the outside justice. Pick it up and let you inner fashionista take the reins without leaving your brains behind. Fashion can be intellectual, this collection proves it.


3 thoughts on “Review: The WORN Archive: A Fashion Journal about the Art, Ideas, & History of What We Wear by Serah-Marie McMahon (Editor)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s