Welcome to a surprise, A-Camp edition of Straddler On The Street! I resurrected this incredible column to introduce everyone to Chelsea, a two-time A-Camp veteran and this year’s Kippier Clothier Camper.
Chelsea’s a Canadian teacher from Alberta, which she assured all of us was the “shanking capital of the world” when I met her at A-Camp 2014 in our cabin. She was a Gladiator — the cabin under the care of both Rory the Woodland Nymph and me — and damned if she wasn’t looking fly the entire time. With a lifetime of fashion penchant behind her and whole lot of years to perfect her andro style before her, Chelsea’s at quite the crossroads. We sat down to talk about the roads less traveled, Canadian infatuation with the most definitely American invention of “the blue jean,” and glitterbombing.
Hi! So you were the Kippier Camper – can I see the photo you submitted to win this contest?
I can show you!
I don’t look all that dapper, but I’m wearing a tuxedo jacket I made in high school for my graduation.
You made a tuxedo jacket for your high school graduation? As someone who cannot craft without shaking out of anxious nervous energy, I am so in awe of the idea of you making a tuxedo jacket for your high school graduation.
I did! I was super into fashion design and decided I was going to design and sew a tuxedo and corset for graduation. It took me the entire year to do all three pieces, with so many failed attempts.
That is super awesome.
So you’ve been into fashion for a long time?
Yes. My Pinterest wardrobe is amazing. And imaginary.
I completely relate. What are some of your favorite websites / magazines / etc. to go to for all things fashion?
Well, Pinterest is obviously one of them. I also like to follow a few different hardfemme, tomboyfemme type of Tumblrs, and a lot of the fashion posts on Autostraddle. Some of my friends are very fashionable, too, so I get their input all the time.
How would you define your own personal style?
It’s been evolving quite a lot so it’s a bit of everything. I find I’m drawn to colourful prints and interesting fabrics, and I’m trying to build up a more androgynous wardrobe. Before I was much more femme.
Did you go to Dapper Hour at A-Camp?
I did! I had help from my cabin mates — Amanda let me borrow her vest and Clarie taught me how to tie a bow tie.
Adorable. What other fashion stuff did you do while you were on the mountain?
I went to the workshop on sewing a bow tie — the one I wore to Dapper Hour — on the first day. For the Rengayssance fair, I finally got to wear a corset I’ve had for years and have only worn twice. I wish I would have made one of those floral crowns, they were all so amazing!
So tell me more about the Kippier Campership contest. How’d you end up at camp, Chelsea? TELL ME EVERYTHING.
Gladly! The person who originally won the campership couldn’t go, which was really sad for them I’m sure. On the Saturday before camp, I was at my friend’s wedding and as I was leaving I checked my notifications to avoid making eye contact with people who were wondering why I was walking downtown alone at night, dressed all fancy. I saw a notification from the A-Camp Facebook group — someone was asking to find someone who had tried for the Kipper Campership who would be able to go on short notice. I drove home thinking my A-Camp miracle had arrived. I’d wanted to go so very badly, but couldn’t justify the expense in my current financial state. When I got home and checked Facebook again, the post was gone! I emailed Bren saying that I had seen the post but then it disappeared so they probably found someone, but in the event that they hadn’t, I could be that someone.
And that’s when the miracle occurred.
Bren emailed me Sunday afternoon and said that if I could commit 100% that day, I could take the original camper’s place.
The rest is campstory.
Precisely. And the whole trip was like a magical dream! Or dream-come-true I should say.
Wait, and one more question: how the fuck did you get to a-camp on such short notice?! FROM CANADA!
Again, all part of the miracle — I begged my dad to let me use his miles and there was a direct flight arriving at LAX at 11AM Wednesday morning. THAT NEVER HAPPENS!!! OK, that sometimes happens. I also begged my boss to let me take the time off. I had been saving my last four days off in the hopes that I’d somehow make it to camp, but I had to beg because it meant missing a staff meeting and a professional development day. Only I really didn’t have to beg because she was super supportive and excited for me. But I thought I had to!
So the stars really aligned for you this May, then. And you even made it here and back without getting shanked! I hope. [EDITOR’S NOTE: During our cabin initiation, Chelsea told us all that she was proud to hail from Alberta, the shanking capital.]
Zero attempts on my life and I didn’t lose my wallet either! Unlike in October, when I lost my wallet on the very first day.
OH MY GOD! How’d you end up getting back into Canada?
I still had my passport, and a cabinmate lent me some money in case I got hungry at the airport. ‘Straddlers are the BEST people in the world.
They totally are. OK so, feel free to gush to me about how much you like A-Camp now. Besides your really amazing counselors that is.
But my counselors were SO FUCKING AMAZING!!!
*blushing emoji.* What are some of your favorite A-Camp happenings?
So many things! In no particular order: Chatting with my fairy god mothers at the Rengayssance Fair, the Buffy sing-along, Mal Blum, the gayest wedding of all time, pool parties, Klub Deer…
But my most favouritest thing that happened at camp was spending time with my cabin mates each evening to play spin-the-bottle-with-feelings.
AKA: The [redacted] game, correct. I will censor it out in the post, you know, for confidentiality. The F*******e Game.
Haha – that’s perfect. Oh, can I please add “being consensually glitter bombed by Rory” to my list of camp things…
YES. Rory asked me if I wanted glitter at the Black & White Ball, and then he asked me to bend my head backward and shut my eyes. Very sensual. Actually, can we just discuss Rory in general and how much we love him because I could not handle it. Rory for life.
Oh my God, YES! Rory and his stickers and his warm hugs. One night, I decided I was going to talk in a terrible British accent – only terrible because it was coming from me – so Rory started talking with an American accent. It was incredible.
Oh my God wait, yes, and then I asked him to show me and he refused to talk American unless I spoke in a British accent! Also, I speak on behalf of both Rory and I when I say that however much y’all loved us we loved you like a trillion times more.
We seriously had the best cabin of all time! Just thinking about all of you makes my heart grow three times bigger!
As a total fashion icon, what’d you pack for camp? Any tips / must-brings items on your list folks should know about? Also, do you roll things when you pack or do you fold. This just interests me, really, because nobody else rolls.
I ROLL! Must-bring items: flip flops for the shower. I also packed a variety of clothing that could coordinate with each other – variety meaning both femme and masculine-esque things so I could present as either. What I didn’t pack but should have was more warm things.
What’d you wear to Bren and Carrie’s wedding?
To the wedding ceremony I dressed dapper: black skinny jeans, pink doc martin dress shoes, denim button up with a black vest, and my yellow woodgrain patterned bow tie. Side Note: A full denim outfit is often referred to as the “Canadian tuxedo,” and I was in black denim jeans and shirt…. Just sayin’.
I am so into everything that has to do with Canada, so I totally approve.
After dinner. I switched to femme mode and wore a flowy red dress with an equine print and boxer briefs.
WHAT! Oh my God.
What does an American wear when they’re in Canada for July 1? [Editor’s Note: I was headed to Canada for Canada Day when we had this interview. Also, I love Canada.]
Americans visiting on July 1st would look very stylish, and surely catch the eye of a friendly Canadian queer, were they to dress in anything that gives a nod to Canadiana such as the Canada flag, moose, mounties, maple syrup, maple leaves – there’s a lot of M things happening, I don’t know why – or a denim vest. Or, anything and a denim vest.
So I need a denim vest is what I’m hearing. And potentially I need to wear it with denim pants slash shorts. Maybe denim shoes and a denim hat.
I might be biased about the denim vest thing. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m Canadian, or queer, or just post-Outsiders crushing.
I’m kind of into it, too, and also cannot tell if it’s because of the Outsiders.
You’re a teacher, right?
Yes, I am!
Can you explain how someone who designed her own tux in high school and studied studio art ended up teaching in the prairies? Tell me your life!
Sure! …I just don’t know where to start.
How’d you get into teaching?
I actually tried a lot of different things first. I was afraid to try to survive of of fashion design because I was so passionate about it I was worried it would be ruined by real-life necessities like paying bills, etc. I didn’t really believe I was good enough at it to actually succeed, and I was too scared to try. When I see people like those at Kipper Clothiers and Scout’s Honor living that dream, I often wonder if I should have gone for it. I don’t think it was my true passion though. Not like that anyway.
I originally went to school to be a nurse but during my second year practicum that I was not cut out for it – I just couldn’t stop crying each night when I got home from the hospital. So I dropped out and did some career counseling and took the Myers Briggs test and kept getting “Nurse/Artist/Teacher” career recommendations. So, I found some volunteer work teaching English to refugees, then got a job teaching rock climbing at an indoor gym, and loved teaching. While I was doing that I got my diploma in massage therapy because I still felt very strongly about health and healing.
And it just so happened teaching stuck?
It was around this time that I heard about Art Therapy. It’s ultimately what I want to do, and it’s kind of a blend of all three careers, but it’s only offered as a Masters’ course and I didn’t even have an undergrad degree yet. Doing Art Education seemed like a great way to get a degree I could use if I didn’t do my Masters’ right away, and I’d be able to take studio classes without having to do a portfolio. I just graduated last summer, so I’ve only been teaching for a year. I’ll need to do about a year of psych classes before I can apply for the Art Therapy program, but I really do love teaching. I just want to take on a more counselor, life-coach role.
Well, at this point I can tell you that I would 100 percent bring you on as my life coach, if only so you could dress me and then help me learn to craft calmly. I already have a life coach, though, so I have to call you my “guru” or something to differentiate.
Is there something else you wanted to talk about or say? Closing words?
Just that I’m so indescribably thankful to Kipper Clothiers and Autostraddle (and my Dad’s miles) that I was able to go to camp again. I don’t have much of a queer community here yet and I’ve felt really isolated in the last year or so – I came out later in life, two years ago. I struggled at the October camp with some personal issues, and really wanted to return in May, almost like a do-over. This time around was more than I could have ever hoped for.
Hi, jalapeños! This has been Straddler On The Street, a feature where we celebrate all of you incredible Autostraddle readers by hunting you down, demanding you chat with us, and then writing about you on the Internet.