A Passion for Fashion? Yawn.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, La Grande Odalisque, 1814
"[A woman's] own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another." - John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 1972

Is it just me, or have fashion blogs gotten really...boring? Whether 'boring' connotes weariness, hollowness, or stagnancy, I've taken a hatchet to my Google Reader as of late and many of the blogs I've been reading (some since their inception) have gotten the cut.

I started trolling personal style blogs in 2005 when the list was relatively small and similarly guileless. There was the Sartorialist, sure, arguably the godfather of style blogs, but there were a host of others, too. Personal style from around the globe; Scotland, France, the US, the UK, and so on. More than anything, it was fascinating to see how stylish girls threw together looks on a daily basis. A few of the blogs rocketed in notoriety; brands began to take heed, the whole process shifting imperceptibly. It was gradual at first, an ecstatic post here and there about a designer sending an unexpected gift--a gift that was typically a standout in a wardrobe otherwise comprised of the typical mix of H&M, vintage, this & that. Somewhere in there, a pattern emerged and with it came a pompeiian cloud of capital-C Change. Call it fashion's New Deal: Bloggers became the face of brands, ambassadors of a new era; harbingers of an industry turned on its head. 

Amidst the incessant brand courtship, squiring, and borderline-bribing, however, many girls seem to have lost their voice, the original spark that made their blog worth a glance in the first place. What used to be a haven for non-models, non-editors, and non-fashion pros to demonstrate their passion for personal style has morphed into something, well, weird. It's not uncommon to scroll through photo after photo (snapped by the blogger's rarely-credited boyfriend-cum-photographer, natch) of what should be a visual "what I wore today" diary and instead find a who's who of gifting and brand-sponsored bribery. 

And what about the photos? The rule of thumb these days seems to be that unless you've mastered the wilted-flower-whose-bud-is-artfully-askance pose, don't even bother showing up. There's a feeling I get when I glance through a handful of blogs at once that, since I'm without a more appropriate term to affix to it, I'll simply use "icky" as a placeholder. It's something in the affectation, the studied poses, the self-possession--something I can't quite place, but as a spectator in the whole circus, it feels distinctly disingenuous. More than that, it reeks of consumption; rampant shopping sprees documented and similarly gobbled up, only to be shat out on Pinterest. Hungry eyes roving style blogs day after day and the willing participants who present themselves as the token offering. But what's that? A knowing glance over the shoulder, the piercing eye contact, the shattered notion that we've just happened to intrude upon a private world that isn't our own. No; that world has been created for us. Nom, nom, nom.

I'm getting away from myself here. There used to be a charmingly off-kilter quality about girls documenting their personal style for strangers like me to be inspired by. It seemed reciprocal, this process of inspiring and being inspired. It was more about the clothing, anyway. More about the way a girl might mix, match, and re-appropriate the contents of her closet from day to day on a lark. Without naming names (since the group includes roughly 80% of prominent fashion bloggers, anyway), this transparent DIY-geekery has evolved into a daily posting of photos whose pursed lip signature 'looks' seem to serve instead as a placeholder for the subject's thinly-veiled narcissistic tendencies. The audience has morphed, too, or at least the appropriate term for it has: what used to be a base of readers (however modest or bloated in size) now finds more secure footing in the realm of fandom. 

And no, since it bears mentioning, I don't think the entire kit and caboodle reeks of narcissism. I know prancing around in a new outfit every day and documenting it might seem odd to some, but trust me--despite how it may sound in this post, I'm genuinely a fan of fashion/personal style blogs. But there's a line, however microscopic it may be, that separates passion from self-service, and many of the bloggers I once admired have blithely obliterated that line with one swipe of their Wang-gifted heels. 

What's more, they're all starting to look the same. A knowing (and well known) look, a leg bent just so, a calculated-yet-scattershot combination of this trend with that one and a smidge of this gift and that shoe to frost the sartorial confetti cake and--wait, I feel like I've seen this all before. So much for inspiration; impossible aspiration has stepped in and usurped the role inspiration used to play, anyway. Gilded (or Gilted) lilies, all in a row. 

And don't even try to tell me those towering 6-inch heels are comfortable to totter around in all day long. Sister, please. No one's buying it anymore.

**UPDATE** If you've wandered to this post via a different blog, welcome, and please be sure to check out my followup post here, featuring a few girls who hit the sartorial nail on the head. 


Kate K said...

Well said. I've been going through my reader and unsubscribing from quite a few fashion blogs but I wasn't exactly sure why... until I read your post.

NodToStyle said...

i'm so happy to know i'm not alone. thank you for voicing this way more eloquently than i could have.

Isabel said...

From inspiration to aspiration - you really couldn't have said it better. Thank you so much for writing this! It's how I found your blog and I look forward to reading more of your awesome and original voice.

Han said...

You are so right!

"The audience has morphed, too, or at least the appropriate term for it has: what used to be a base of readers (however modest or bloated in size) now finds more secure footing in the realm of fandom. "

^ especially on this point! The hoard of rabid fangirls are always ready to pounce!

Another thing which I have noticed happens mostly on fashion blogs is disabling comments. It makes the whole thing seem a bit weird to me. "Its like saying you can look but you can't touch"

polka dot said...

'From inspiration to aspiration': I agree, brilliantly put.

I only discovered you (thru my friend Sabine's retweet) and I've saved this link, and can't wait to read your other posts. The whole thing has gotten so out of hand, and I sometimes wake up and think 'hang out, what have I been doing the last few years?'

As someone who never intended to do 'self style' (altho, weirdly, on my own - as a fine artist, working with one of the top art collectors in NY, part of my art was 'self portraits' in the weirdest places, which were precursors to self style blogs) I did find that an interest in social trends, social anthropology, drew me to shooting streetstyle photography. By last September, at LFW, I simply could not bare shooting these posers anymore. I felt like I was on the wrong side of the story.

In some ways, I feel like my relationship with my blog is going thru either a really drawn out break-up, or morphing into something else. What, I don't know. But I don't want to shut down, until I figure it out. So I continue to post, and with each post, I can feel myself pushing away the audience of rabid fangirls.

How did I not find your blog til now?

Apologies for writing so much, but it's early and as someone has just said, I'm just so grateful to read this - for you 'voicing this way more eloquently than I could have.'

ELLA. said...

HALLELUJAH! I was thinking the exact same thing... I was going through blogs and thinking 'jeesh if I see ONE. MORE. PAIR of Jeffery Campbells I'm going to SCREAM.'

I love blogs too, for the originality and a sense of realness and sure, I don't always get someone's style, but at least they are doing their own thing.

Nowadays it seems to be getting just so... boring. Just one long self obsessed catwalk if identikit wardrobes. DULLSVILLE! I'm glad I'm not alone. Congratulations for having the guts to speak out! x

Gray Skies said...

Fantastic post! I have removed quite a few "big name" blogs from my reader lately for all the reasons you mentioned. They all just started to seem too similar and too stale.

But in defense of my 6-inch heels, I would like to say that they are comfortable! Really! But only for like two hours, and only if I don't walk more than a few blocks :)

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