I’m very tempted to change the subtitle of this site from a personal style blog to the life of an occasional style blogger. But before I get into all of that, I’m going to rewind to the very beginning - to pay a little homage to the original pioneers of the fashion blogging world - and then tell you my story from the inside out.
Here’s how it started…In 2007 I was working as a fashion designer for a small company out of New York City. You could say that I liked fashion (hello, career choice), but I would not win any best-dressed awards. When I showed up in NYC I was wearing Target jeans with H&M tops, basically broke and just trying to show up in clean things that went with each other. I didn’t wear a lot of dresses and I had very little vintage clothing in my closet.
We would regularly travel to Hong Kong to work with our development team there to source fabrics and trims and create samples. Essentially we’d take anything/everything that was popular in Europe and extract it, boil it down, mix and match it and come up with new styles (this is pretty much how all fast fashion works, if not even more direct copying). So while we were there we’d be on a 12 hour time difference with New York, and in the post-lunch slump the small team (three of us) would break a bit. No one was in our home office at that time (it was the middle of the night there!) so we’d all get on our laptops and goof around. That’s when I found an online rabbit hole into the world of personal style bloggers (very new at the time!) and people who photographed their daily outfits.
It was colorful! And vintage! And creative! Mostly composed of women who dug through their local thrift stores and boutiques, it wasn’t stuff you could just go out and buy at the mall. And I wanted in! Some of the early members of the flickr group wardrobe_remix were Jeanine (formerly of Independent Fashion Bloggers and the Coveted, now of Mrs. Peasy), Beth (B. Jones Style), and Jenny (formerly Frecklewonder, now Mikasa Su Casa on etsy). These were my original favorites and I still follow all of them on social media. And all of this happened wayyyy before anyone was getting sponsorships or trips or even had banner ads on their sites. I’d like to call this phase the good old days.
I didn’t even have a “fashion” blog yet! I posted my daily outfit photos to flickr and to the remix group but blogged on my old blogspot page and then my personal tumblr blog. I called my flickr set ‘What I Wore’ so when I eventually thought of doing a blog of just outfits in 2008, that’s what I decided to call it too.
Back then a lot of us little bloggers were big on helping each other out, meeting up in NYC and some of my best long distance friendships were forged during this time. I remember meeting with one street style photographer who asked about my site traffic and told me when I got to 2,000 page views a day, I could start selling ads. I still remember where I was when I hit that tally (2400!), thanks to a round up link from Gala Darling (who I didn’t know personally at the time and eventually became friends and travel mates with down the road) So Gala, thanks girl!
Fast forward about nine months. I had met Adam and he helped me put together a media kit and business plan to make What I Wore a legit business. My first big client was ModCloth and I self-hosted a little sidebar ad for them and reinvested a portion of what they paid me to buy outfits from their site. Eventually they gave me store credit and that’s when I started listing my clothes from them as “courtesy of” and then “c/o” or “gift”. This was long before the FTC outlined guidelines on any sort of disclosures either.
Those early days were a financial struggle but I felt really good about my clients and how I incorporated products into my blog. I still feel good about that, but I certainly got a lot of flack from readers. At least the loud and vocal ones ;)
So here’s where the story starts to turn for me. These days blogging as a career isn’t as rare as it was and people are able to make great livings. If you read the trade news some people are pulling in six figures a year (unfortunately, not me). A lot of women can stay home with their children, buy houses, support their families - and that’s great. I can say the same for myself and I’m grateful that this platform has allowed me to do so. I think the fact that this is a business is a wonderful thing for me and for everyone else.
That said, there are quite a few things that don’t sit well with me anymore, and why I don’t feel proud to be called a fashion blogger. I cringe when someone introduces me as one. Here’s why:
EVERYONE LOOKS THE SAME. That’s an exaggeration of course, but I do see the same outfits every where I look. Hell, I copy outfits too but the general face of the fashion blogging world looks like a coordinated catalogue to me. I’m not inspired by looking at it and it doesn’t inspire me to participate in that way anymore. Sometimes I want to wear a mom uniform but some day I wanna be the true weirdo that I am!
In the olden days the blogosphere was much more diverse and creative. Girls in thrift store clothes, girls in Target mixed with vintage DvF, guys in girls clothes, big girls, tall girls, tiny girls, average girls. Girls with lots of makeup and girls with no makeup. It doesn’t feel good to me that now the “top” bloggers are mostly skinny, white, and from wealthy backgrounds. Feels like an episode of The Bachelor. And yes, I know I’m skinny and white so I’m part of that problem. I’m also fully aware that I can seek out the diversity I crave. But on a personal note, I’m looking to break away from being just another girl in head to toe J.Crew.
(Side note, I do like J.Crew and I have a lot of items from them I’ve purchased in the past, although I will say the quality is really starting to slip and the styling used to be so much more funky and quirky, so I think I’m falling off the bandwagon. Time will tell).
So we have these slender women who are beautiful and I don’t hold that against them at all, but what I do have beef with is that the fashion blogging world has pretty much replaced magazines and look books with the exact same thing. We used to be like “F Vogue! Not realistic!!” and now I wanna scream “F FASHION BLOGGERS! NOT REALISTIC!!!!!”
I think some of this has devolved from the moment money got involved. On any collaboration with a client the creativity is a compromise to some degree - whether you’re a graphic designer or video editor or any kind of artist working for someone else. This isn’t a bad thing, but from an artistic point of view, I can see that my relationships with clients and use of affiliate links has changed my perspective and goals on my blog. I do believe if you’re helping sales through virtual word of mouth and making big companies a lot of money, you deserve a piece of that too. Designing a website, putting together an outfit, doing hair and makeup, selecting a location, posing, photographing, editing and writing blog posts well is a lot of work. Some bloggers are single-handedly doing as good of a job (or better) than entire editorial magazine teams. That takes years worth of skill and I’m happy bloggers are being recognized and paid for their work. Yet, only wearing what’s popular and what’s selling best inevitably creates a cookie cutter approach.
I want to push myself and return more to my roots. I’m an artist. I’m a designer and tailor and a knitter and a milliner. I’m an author, illustrator and teacher! I make things! I have bins of funky vintage prints that I want to wear. I like looking a little different and I can’t source similar items as every little treasure I’ve found along the way. I like that! I’m also a business woman and mother and I want to make money for my family. I want to blend those two things harmoniously with a push to be even more authentic, even when what I’m wearing isn’t popular or on trend (a theme I’ve been exploring a lot in the past year). I pride myself on honesty, especially when it comes to my emotions and experiences, so I owe it to myself to be more loyal to my vintage loving, pattern playing, off-beat personal style too.
Where do I go now? I’m going to be the most true version of myself, both in my sartorial choices and by pursing my many interests. I don’t like getting dressed in the winter as much as I do the rest of the year, which means less outfit posts this time of year. So I’ll take a chance to explore my other hobbies - cooking and baking and knitting and making things. I believe those all deserve a home on this site, regardless of the title of this blog. The name ‘What I Wore’ is already past tense. It will be a part of my future, but in the context of becoming an occasional style blogger.
And I like the way that looks on me.