15 June 2011, 12:15
Fashion blogging is a beautiful jumble. There aren’t really any rules; everyone gallops around with their own perspectives, & anything goes. The thing we all love most about blogging — & fashion blogging especially — is the variety of viewpoints we’re exposed to on a daily basis.
But did you ever look around & notice that the most popular bloggers are, well, pretty slim? Did you notice that the bloggers who get the most exposure, or work with the biggest brands, are often the same people?
I wanted to look into this phenomenon, & I also wanted to investigate how other fashion bloggers affect your self-esteem. Does looking at other girls’ outfits inspire you — or make you feel insecure? Do you feel more or less excited about posting your own photos? Do you compare yourself with other fashion bloggers? What’s going on in our brains around this issue?
Sometimes when I write about body image or weight issues, I get feedback from people who claim that because I’m on the smaller side, I can’t possibly understand what other people are going through. That’s true; I’m not you! I can never be you, or know what your problems are. But I struggled with an eating disorder for years, & the whole thing with body issues is that everyone is susceptible. It doesn’t matter if you’re an XXS or an XXL; it’s all too easy to feel bad about how you look.
Blogging is becoming a business, & as the industry picks up steam, things are beginning to change.
When big corporations want to work with you to promote their product, & when bloggers are getting book deals or even appearing on T.V., it’s clear to see that the tide is turning. Bloggers are making it offline, & experiencing real success in the “real world”. If you’re a fashion blogger with a sizeable audience, it follows that fashion companies will want to work with you — & the most obvious way to collaborate is for them to put you in a campaign. Make-up artists, stylists, photographers, massive exposure… The whole nine yards.
But it brings up some questions, & certainly raises many insecurities. I know a girl who was hired as a “real girl” for a clothing campaign. She is gorgeous, & by the way, she is tiny. When she arrived on set, the stylist looked her up & down, stared at her boobs, & said, “I don’t know what to do with those.” The (female!) stylist continued to make disparaging remarks to her about the size of her breasts all day.
It definitely casts an ugly pallor on what is supposed to be an exciting, fun experience.
The craziest thing about this change is that blogging is a business where we didn’t think we’d be judged on how we look! We’re writers, photographers & artists! We’re stylists & fashion enthusiasts! We are used to being judged by the quality of our work, not our external appearance. But what happens when we — the girls who have been behind the scenes — are thrust into the limelight? It can be a rude awakening for many. No wonder we’re having self-esteem & confidence issues!
99.9% of us are not models, & that is why so many of us love it! Blogs are where we go to get inspiration from what other girls are really wearing in their daily life. But as daily outfit pictures evolve into photoshoots & production values increase, more actual value — we’re talking $$$ here — is placed upon how we look. After all, for a lot of us, making money from our blog is the ultimate dream. Where does that money come from? Mostly, it comes from big companies with big budgets.
In a conversation with Karen from WhereDidUGetThat last week, I said, “Sometimes I think if I was skinnier I would get more work! & that’s CRAZY! I’m a writer, not a model!” It’s true that some very popular bloggers are much smaller today than when they started. Is it coincidence, or is it a carefully-orchestrated attempt to obtain (or maintain) success in this strange world? At some point, you have to ask yourself whether your health or your career is more important.
This is all egged on — often subconsciously — by the short-sightedness of most large companies. They’re used to working on campaigns with size 0 models, so it’s no big mental stretch to use a blogger — with a large audience & even bigger influence — who is model-size, or close. It’s the kind of beauty they can digest. It’s the kind of beauty they’re comfortable with, & those girls fit into sample sizes! Do girls who wear a “medium” even get considered? How often are plus-size models picked without making a big song & dance about it? (“Look how accepting we are!” Right?)
I think that’s something that big fashion houses or cosmetics companies are missing. They don’t understand why blogs are so hot, they just know it’s a train they should jump on. What they don’t get is that the reason they’re so popular is because they are a depiction of REAL girls! Real girls with limited budgets & wardrobes! Of course, we all love the glamour that these campaigns provide — but it’s important to remember how unattainable that whole lifestyle is. Even the people featured in those campaigns only get a little taste of it for the few hours they’re on set. Then we have to go back to real life!
Fashion has always been an aspirational industry, & it is dictated from the top. Fashion is about models, sample sizes, & how a piece of clothing fits the body. It’s connected to photoshoots, beauty & something which is beautiful but distant. Fighting to maintain (or build) a sense of radical self love & security about how you look is a constant battle when you are being barraged with images which are designed to be unobtainable.
Style blogs used to be a place where we could avoid this. We were wild, bold & original. We didn’t compare ourselves to one another, we were just having fun! But the bigger & more competitive the blogging business gets, the harder it is to ignore. When you look around & see only the skinniest & most beautiful being rewarded, it can be a major blow to your self-esteem. It can affect your blog, too — if you’re not feeling good about how you look, your motivation will suffer.
I’ve met a LOT of bloggers in my time, including two of the biggest names in fashion blogging, Rumi & Jane. I know that they are sometimes held up as the ultimate examples of bloggers who are slender & wealthy with unattainable lifestyles, but I feel for them when people feel the need to commentate on their lives. They are such nice girls! Rumi is a legitimate, working model who just happens to have a (wildly successful) fashion blog, & even though Jane has resources many of us cannot comprehend, she is a smart, savvy, & impeccably styled girl. I think she has better developed sense of personal style than most adult women.
But we all have our own personal versions of Rumi or Jane in our lives. Whoever these girls are that we choose to compare ourselves to, they’re just living their lives — & honestly, if that makes us feel bad about OURselves, it is OUR issue.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Comparing ourselves to others takes an even uglier turn when we turn it on its head. Have you ever noticed that only women attack one another online? No man is going to leave a comment on a girl’s fashion blog telling her she “looks fat” today. It’s women doing it to other women, & it’s really, really sad. Let’s get our shit together, huh? Let’s decide to support other women, no matter whether we know them or not. Let’s take a stand to recognise that when we hate on another woman, what we’re really doing is projecting our own self-loathing onto someone else.
The truth is that you can’t achieve anything if you’re constantly looking at everyone else & keeping tabs on what they’re doing. This is as true for blog content as it is for what size clothing people wear. Comparing yourself to someone else is such a waste of time & energy. All the hoping & wishing in the world won’t change who you are. You will never look exactly like someone else, & THAT’S WONDERFUL!
We have to be careful about who we idolise & what we place value on. You don’t know what other people are going through, & sometimes what is being presented to us is not the total truth. We all retouch our faces to be blemish-free, & if you only knew how many bloggers manipulate their waistlines or thighs in Photoshop! My point is, some fashion blog images are as unrealistic & idealistic as what is presented to us in magazines.
It’s important that we are thoughtful about the images we see, as well as the way that we digest them & assimilate them into our world-view.
Who wants to be a clone?
If we’re craving more diversity among fashion bloggers, WE are the ones who need to rise to the challenge! If you want to see more variety in body types, TAKE PHOTOS OF YOURSELF & POST THEM ON THE INTERNET! The wonderful thing about doing this is that other women — who look like you! — will be inspired by you, simply for being who you are. That, to me, is what fashion blogging is really about. It’s about putting yourself out there, & leading by example.
Try reading personal style blogs by all kinds of people, too. If we want to see real change, & if we want to see different types of people succeed, we need to support them! Diversify your Google Reader! Don’t just stock it with girls who look a certain way. Simply by doing this, you can expand your own notions of what beauty is.
I’m not a toothpick. I have imperfect features. I can’t wear ripped denim shorts & look like a sex goddess — it’s just never going to happen. But I love my body, & I look after it. I hope that posting photos of my outfits makes girl with figures similar to mine feel good about how they look, & that everyone can be inspired by the colours, shapes or attitude of what I’m wearing.
No two bodies are identical & that’s what makes this arena so wonderful. Do you remember, before fashion blogging, when the only fashion pictures we’d see were of sample-size models in sample-size dresses? These days, all you have to do is open your browser to see a beautiful, bootylicious girl showing you how that dress would look on a body like YOURS... & that’s what fashion blogging is all about.
Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing insights from other bloggers — & blog readers — on this topic. Stay tuned. I think it’s going to be eye-opening & wonderful.
You can support this post — & help spread this idea — by hitting the “Like” button & spreading it on Facebook, by reblogging it on Tumblr, by submitting it to StumbleUpon. Thanks so much!