Jennifer Barger’s “My Blog, My Self” in Friday's Washington Post Express asked a provocative question: “When style bloggers show off their clothes, is it inspiring or narcissistic?” After criticizing a few popular blogs, Barger concludes that fashion blogs are written by “little girls, all dressed up, with no place to go, staring into the mirror.”
Alternatives to Link-baiting
The tone of this article is very different from Ms. Barger’s other pieces on Express, so it was jarring when Barger dismissed local gals Carlis and Katya of Spicy Candy DC as members of an “echo chamber” composed of “clash-y, slightly trashy outfits in what seem to be Shaw alleys,” especially after Barger herself complains that style blogging is akin to an “online high school cafeteria.”
It’s easy to make fun of fashion blogs, but there are real benefits to the style blogging phenomenon that were not discussed, such as the diverse faces and body types they make available to their readers. In the blogosphere, short girls, curvy girls, and those in between are giving readers an accessible alternative to the cookie cutter body type splashed across popular print magazines. You don’t have to be stick thin and 5' 10’’ with cheekbones of steel to represent fashion online-- you just have to be yourself, be honest, and be creative, and that’s pretty cool.
What’s more, Carlis and Katya of Spicy Candy DC—along with many other locally-focused blogs—serve an important community function that giant news media corporations don't provide. Those two ladies are constantly partnering with small, local DC businesses to promote a store opening here or style a lookbook there. The fact that they take photos in "alleys" is far less meaningful to me than what they actually do with their blog.
Spicy Candy DC and Kelly Framel's The Glamourai (also mentioned by Barger in a negative light) exemplify one of the most significant and exciting attributes of the fashion blogging phenomenon. These blogs serve as an empowering, entrepreneurial online space for women to promote their small businesses, their fashion skills, their writing, or their personal brand. This is the case for the vast majority of popular blogs in other categories (hello Seth Godin, Daily Kos, etc.), and fashion blogs are no exception to the rule.
Ms. Framel, for example, used to have her own jewelry line for sale on her blog. Her outfit posts served as a free, DIY display catalog for her latest creations and I always thought it was an ingenius form of marketing. Apparently the Ford modeling agency, Instagram, and her many other big-name partners agree. Framel worked in the fashion industry before her blog and jewelry line took off, but like many successful bloggers, her site allowed her to become fashion editor, art director, and head stylist—all on her own terms. By styling photo shoots with the tools she had at hand and investing in her own brand, she built a portfolio that made it clear she could direct an editorial spread just as artistic and edgy as any that you might see on the pages of Vogue. The difference—the Millennial generation twist, if you will—is that she didn’t need Anna Wintour’s approval to do it.
Jessica Quirk of What I Wore provides another great example. She also worked in fashion design before making it big with her blog, writing a book on affordable personal style, and being featured in a diverse array of print publications, from Marie Claire to the Wall Street Journal. She did all of that by taking a lot of pictures of herself and posting them online (and maybe some hard work, skills, and dedication).
What's clear is that there is a strong contingent of people who blog as a side hustle to earn supplemental income or to snap up a position in their dream field. While Barger might be correct in categorizing Gen Y and Millennials as the "look at me" generation, it's also true that they are the generation most likely to start their own businesses. They are a generation of Etsy shops and start-up popsicle stands. They are the type of people who see their peers facing growing unemployment and start a popular movement to fix the problem. They are building their own life trajectories, and they are blogging all about it.
The neat thing is that for the most part, stylin' lady bloggers are supporting one another instead of tearing each other down. Check out the gloriously pink and sparkly girl power of Gala Darling or What I Wore's pro-tips for new bloggers to see what I mean. On a local level, the Capitol Area Fashion and Beauty Bloggers (CapFABB) are one of the warmest, most supportive groups of women I have ever met. Ms. Barger should join!
Blogging for good?
Time for full disclosure. Clearly, I am writing this expansive 'letter to the editor' via my own style blog, which I started approximately two months ago.
Ms. Barger is right: I love to dress up, even if I have no place to go. Also, looking at pretty pictures on style blogs inspires me to look my best in conservative, suit-filled Washington, DC. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for the shiny and sparkly often clashes with my thoughts on international trade policy, industrial farming, and labor issues. Fair Vanity is my way of reconciling my love of fashion with my personal ethics, and perhaps inspiring a few others along the way. Here, I can promote brands and designers who not only make beautiful clothing, but who are kind to the earth and to the people who live on this earth.
Hats off to Barger's new fashion blog
I want to thank Ms. Barger for sparking what I'm sure will be a lively discussion. For the record, if she were to start a fashion blog – she describes herself as "an old-fashioned stylista who would rather wear sweatpants to Fashion Week than show off my wardrobe on the Internet," – I would bookmark and read it EVERY DAY.
If Barger chronicled her appearances at high-fashion events in sweats and other grubby attire, ideally including a few candid reaction shots from the pretentiously scandalized guests surrounding her, I guarantee she would gain an ocean of readers.
And, Ms. Barger: I would be your number one fan.