on fashion blogging

I’ve been trying to write this post for a while and the words just haven’t been coming.  But in light of several emails and tweets I’ve gotten from my readers recently (thank you so much, and I apologize for not responding to each one personally!) I figure it’s time to try to hammer it out.

As regular readers can’t have failed to notice, I’ve been MIA from Cartoon Heart for about a month.  It’s not because I got a job or otherwise fell off the face of the blogosphere — honestly, it’s more related to the blogosphere itself.

When I started WAITIN ROUND 2 BE A MILLIONAIRE in 2007, fashion blogging was hardly new, but it was far less developed than it is today.  Over the past five years it’s evolved from a quaint real-world concept into an unstoppable industry juggernaut.  While this is excellent news for the thousands of people out there who’ve managed to make names for themselves and transition from Internet hobbyists to career bloggers, it’s been giving me an increasing amount of blogging ennui.  The commercialization of fashion blogging is awesome in a lot of ways, but in my opinion it’s also dulling the point of why people started doing this in the first place.

There’s a TJ Maxx commercial airing right now featuring a blogger named Lindsey Calla, who runs a site called Saucy Glossie.  Before these commercials started running I’d never heard of Lindsey or her blog (and based on this discussion it appears I’m not the only one), but of course I was impressed by — and not a little jealous of! — the recognition she’d received.  However, something about the commercial rubbed me the wrong way.

What made me give this commercial — and by proxy, the entire blogging industry — the side-eye is Lindsey’s proclamation that she likes to think of herself as “the voice of real girls.”

This alone doesn’t bug me.  As a fashion blogger I’ve been using the exact same “voice of real girls” line myself since I was 22 years old (hell, I’m even quoted in Genlux magazine as saying that fashion bloggers represent “real” people).  The thing is, I think the majority of fashion bloggers start out intending to be some kind of voice for “real girls,” so much so that the sentiment is a bit of an eye-roll-inducing blogger cliche at this point.  But at what point do these “real girl” bloggers stop representing “real girls” and just start representing…bloggers?

In the TJ Maxx commercial, Lindsey follows up her line about being the voice of real girls with this oxymoronic statement: “Because I post new looks almost every day, I have to shop almost as often.”  And right there is where she loses me as far as being “the voice of real girls.”  What real girl can afford to shop almost every day?  Even if you are shopping exclusively at discount retailers, that shit adds up quick. Real girls don’t shop every day.  Real girls can’t shop every day.  Real girls aren’t heading to TJ Maxx and making it rain in the shoe department on their advertiser-assisted salary.  Therefore, I resent that this Lindsey Calla person (or, really, whichever TJ Maxx drone wrote the commercial’s script) thinks that she represents me.

But it’s not Lindsey’s fault or TJ Maxx’s fault or even the fault of the new agency dedicated exclusively to representing bloggers (one of whom, interestingly enough, is Lindsey Calla herself).  It’s simply that over the past couple of years the fashion blogosphere has evolved — or maybe the word is devolved — into a creepy, insular, self-obsessed, self-aggrandizing, self-congratulatory world.  Where fashion bloggers were once on the fringes of the industry, looking in and offering their unique outsiders’ perspectives, people like Rumi and Tavi and the like are now the insiders, the tastemakers.  Fashion bloggers have their own defined look — there’s a polish involved now that replaced the rough-around-the-edges quality I used to like about blogging.  The idea that established fashion bloggers represent real people is at this point fucking laughable.

Sure, I’ve always felt isolated from wealthy, upper-echelon bloggers like Jane from Sea Of Shoes, because I couldn’t possibly imagine having their capital or closets.  But now I feel equally isolated from the bloggers who claim that they represent real women with real budgets.  And I believe that the reason is because where fashion blogging in its infancy had no rules, it’s now an Industry in and of itself, and in order to be successful you have to hit a certain amount of checkpoints.  Everything is starting to feel eerily similar.

Having been blogging for years, and having remained essentially at about the same level of “success” (read: pretty much none, but with a small passel of much-appreciated and much-loved loyal readers) for most of it, this whole commodification has been starting to stunt my ability to write for Cartoon Heart.  When I made the moved from WR2BAM to this site it was with the intention of writing about more than just fashion, but it’s been difficult to shake my perception of my site as a fashion blog.  And as far as generating content, fashion is easy to write about — at least, it should be, right?

But lately I’ve been feeling like the title “Fashion Blogger” doesn’t represent me.  I feel like I need to fit into a certain niche in order to be taken seriously, to gain more readers, to keep people coming back to my site.  And that in turn makes me feel bad about myself as a blogger, because I never started blogging with the intention of making money at it (and the fact that I’m still here five years later, still with no ads and still with no TJ Maxx commercial, is proof of that!).  What has always appealed to me about fashion blogging is that there was a sense of the organic.  Now it feels manufactured, and I feel like I’ve been trying to fit into this manufactured role of Fashion Blogger and that has stunted my ability to write.

I really did start blogging with the intention of being “a voice for real girls.”  (Insert eye-roll here.)  And I think what has kept me going for as long as I have — and what’s brought me back here after my monthlong hiatus — is that maybe I really can represent what some people are looking for in a fashion blog.  Not all people, and not Digital Brand Architects or the Times, but certain people.  People who are discouraged by the continued commercialization of what used to be outsider territory and “real girls” who can’t, as it turns out, afford to shop almost every day.

I still want to write about what I’m wearing and what trends interest me and what I want to spend my (small amount of) money on as far as clothes are concerned.  But I think I need to stop considering myself a fashion blogger, and stop considering Cartoon Heart a fashion blog.  I’m just not sure what direction to go in, and I really appreciate the continued feedback and input of my readers.  I apologize for disappearing for so long and I’m going to try my hardest to get back into this swinging hard with both fists.


40 responses to “on fashion blogging

  1. I thought that was why you started Cartoon Heart; to have a fashion blog+. The plus being the stuff you’ve done about your etsy creations, feminism, punk, “mix tapes,” Cunt Sparrer, random rants etc. All that stuff add to a pretty unique blog (insert eye roll at the word unique, I know) and I’m actually jealous I didn’t think of the idea first. You’re exploding with ideas about features and outfits and the way you illustrate them is what separates you from the Rumis and Tavis, who’re both quite overrated to be honest. You have a genuine talent for graphics and presenting your ideas in a way that’s not like every other person with an online journal. Dry spells for writing and blogging happen a lot, they happen to everyone, so don’t worry too much about that. I do hope you’ll continue this blog, though, because selfishly speaking, it’s one of my faves.

  2. Maybe it’s because I’m not a big fashion blog reader, but that’s why your blog appeals to me so much – you post about rad clothes but also a lot of OTHER awesome stuff. I just discovered you a couple months ago, but your blog is a total breath of fresh air! Btw I don’t know who Rumis and Tavis are, so this might not mean much coming from me. Do it however you want to, no pressure, because either way it’s awesome.

  3. You ARE the voice of real girls — smart, genuine, on point real girls.

  4. Ditto to what everyone is saying. I think truly unique and interesting people grapple with these issues, and perhaps it’s why I’ve slowly but surely unsubscribed from so many fashion blogs. When their biggest issues or musings involve “OMG, which free box of clothes should I open up first?!?!”, I’m turned off. You’re an amazing, creative writer, and I’m glad to hear that you’ve got your fists up. We need more fighters like you.

    • Thanks, Alyssa. I (obviously) agree that fashion blogging has taken a weird turn over the past couple of years. I really appreciate that in your unsubscribing frenzy you’ve stuck by me!

  5. There is no one cookie cutter “real girl” to be represented by the one true fashion blogger. This isn’t Highlander, there can be more than one. That’s why I love your opinion and outlook on fashion, and everything in general, because I feel like you are a more eloquent version of myself. I feel I can relate to you better than I can to other bloggers because their lives and tastes are far too different than mine.

    I will read your words no matter what URL they are under, what pages they are on, or what even what they are about. I just genuinely like what you have to say and how you say it and will follow you around on the internet as long as you will let me.

    • “This isn’t Highlander, there can be more than one.” Excellently put! I’m so grateful that you feel like you can relate to me. If nothing else I definitely try to keep it real…and having awesome readers to keep me in check totally helps.

  6. I cannot agree more!!!! This is why I love your blog! You ARE a real girl. That is why I relate. Real girls cannot afford Rick Owens jackets, and don’t get front row tickets at Fashion Week, much less have designers send us free things to feature on our “blog”…. I love your creativity with what you have, and your ability to inspire me, despite the fact I am usually broke. Please keep your posts coming! We need you! You are one of us still!!

  7. I super, completely, absolutely agree with everyone who’s commented before me.

    Your blog is more interesting, more relevant (to myself, at least), and has more creativity than any other blogs I read. I started following you after wiwt drama with your photoshop’d backgrounds (geez was that like 2 or 3 years ago?) and fell in love with your writing/life/you.

    Keep on writing, girl! I like what you’ve got to say.

  8. While your style is what attracted me originally to your sites (both WA2BAM and now at Cartoon Heart), it was your words, and more specifically, your voice that kept me coming back. You have a unique and honest point of view and it’s something I really appreciate.

    I love the fact that it’s not just Jeffery Campbell shoes and TopShop shirts. I love the fact that what you offer isn’t just snap shots of your wardrobe (though I adore those, too). I just hope you don’t become too disenfranchised from the blogging world to stop offering what you have to show to us. You have a lot to say. And you have a lot of people who want to listen.

    • Thank you so much. It’s really gratifying to know that my readers identify with me as more than just another fashion blogger. I felt like I was starting to fall into that trap and comments like yours make me feel really glad I didn’t succumb.

  9. I have been following you for a while, I think yours was the one of the first blogs (wrbam) that caught my eye because your style, your opinions…also because you look genuine and this is so difficult to find these days. Blogsphere is like everything else, there are plenty of crap and stupidity but you can find people like you that have things to say and people like us that want to hear you.

    • Thank you so much! It’s always awesome to hear from readers who have been around since WR2BAM, especially because looking back on some of my early posts there is cringe-inducing to say the very least. I really appreciate your compliments and your readership, dude.

  10. I’ve only recently started reading your blog, but am super into whatever you post, fashion-ish or otherwise. The first post I read was this one (which seemed more like something from I Live Sweat than what I would expect from a fashion blog), and it’s been the variety of types of posts that’ve kept me around! Basically, way to do a thing, the thing you’re doing is great.

  11. The important thing is that you keep writing. For the last month I’ve been obsessivley clicking to this link like a lab rat waiting for your new words. I don’t particularly like your unstructured fashion or your band’s sound…but I love the way you write. You’ve got to figure out a way to turn your perspective into profit. I’m rooting for you SaraMillionaire!

  12. I think that yours is the “food pyramid” of blogs–well balanced and tasty–to boot. You are an intellegent writer with a great sense of style, which by the way is better than (in my opinion) being fashionable; fashion is fleeting but style is eternal, but I digress. I like your posts because they are insightful, honest, humorous, and you are a “girl’s girl” who really gets the importance of femal empowerment. I can really relate with your views and if my daughters grow up to be as R-O-C-K-I-N then I will have done my job as their mother well. Continue to follow your rainbow and you will always find a pot of gold.

    • Thank you so much, Shauna. I can’t even begin to tell you how important comments like yours are to me, and I am 100% sure your daughters are going to be totally amazing.

  13. whatever you’re writing, sara, i want to read it. i’m with you!

  14. I totally feel you, but just replace fashion blogging with healthy living blogging. Not to sound overly dramatic…but sometimes it just feels so pointless. But anyway, I’ve been reading your blog since wr2bam, and I followed you here, and shall continue to regardless of whether you write about fashion or not. Honestly, I don’t really care about fashion, but what I liked about your blog was your style–both with clothes and writing. That’s what kept me coming back. Plus you like punk rock, which is always a good thing in my eyes 🙂

    • Yeah, I have a feeling this sort of ennui is crossing over into every blogging “nice” as the medium continues to grow. The feeling of pointlessness can be totally disheartening, but awesome comments like yours give me the motivation to keep doing my thing. Thank you!

  15. I discovered your blog about 2 months ago and over the course of 2 days read everything back to page 1. I really enjoy your blog and the posts I enjoy the most are the ones that you just talk about YOU stuff. I mean- fashion is enjoyable but there are so many blogs out there where I can see girls talk/critique/bitch/attempt fashion. But how many girls are in an all girl cock sparer cover band?!
    You are a rare and interesting flower in a sea of BORING, You are like Dawn Davenport in female trouble, so badass no one can tame you!

    My suggestion (as a new-ish and enthusiastic reader) is to don’t be so concerned with defining your blog as a ‘Fashion Blog’ just DO YOU BABY BOO.

  16. I love your blog! Just be yourself, you’re like the “Juno” of the fashion blogosphere (witty, charismatic, and confident with who you are, just minus the whole pregnancy). Glad to have you back! Don’t make me have to tweet you again! lol J/K . . . but not really

  17. I admittedly read a lot of those fashion and lifestyle blogs often, but they entertain me in the same way reality shows do. Most of them have great style, looks, and lives yes but also come off as totally self absorbed and removed from reality. I read your blog because I like you and the stuff you like. Keep it up and don’t feel like you have to play by any rules.

  18. I agree with everyone above and I think these sentences are telling:

    “But lately I’ve been feeling like the title “Fashion Blogger” doesn’t represent me. I feel like I need to fit into a certain niche in order to be taken seriously, to gain more readers, to keep people coming back to my site. … What has always appealed to me about fashion blogging is that there was a sense of the organic. Now it feels manufactured, and I feel like I’ve been trying to fit into this manufactured role of Fashion Blogger and that has stunted my ability to write.”

    People who write what they feel like writing are usually able to write more genuinely and that’s likely what the kind of audience you value most wants.

    I agree that it’s difficult to post outfits and not accidentally compare yourself to the industry side of “fashion blogging” – or have to explain the nuances when others try to compare you. On the surface it looks like you’re trying to do the same thing. But you’re not. And the most interesting blogs are the blogs of interesting people.

    Sometimes I think the best thing to do is to not define myself at all and just *do*. I don’t need direction and I don’t need a moniker. That’s what’s fairest to me.

    Anyway, please keep blogging so I can keep reading!

  19. Sara- as always I agree so deeply with what you have said. Part of the reason I love reading this blog and those before it, and why I have followed you off and on from lj to these blogs is that you are so genuine. Not to mention you have a great way with words– *a real voice* (said in a drawn out fabulous tone, obviously). I just wanted to pipe in and say that I appreciate reading your thoughts, especially on things other than fashion. Fashion blogging for the most part has been so boring. Since I work with men’s fashion I tend to follow that a little bit more, but I see it with both sexes… there are people now that you can tell are just ‘dressed by blogs’- they jump on every trend, they are TOO polished, and then when you ask them about it they have no idea what they’re even talking about. I really appreciate it that your blog doesn’t reflect that, and neither does your sense of style.

  20. Interestingly, I have just discovered your blog tonight, when I did a search on this Lindsey Calla character. I literally saw the ad on tv, for the billionth time and finally asked, “who is this chick?!” because even I’ve had a “fashion blog” for 2 yrs and am dying to know what about these other blogs make them so neato. I really agree — they’re all following a boring formula! Namely, high end camera shots, slim thighs, too many bracelets and expensive handbags that were obviously gifts. Oh yeah, and lots of time on their hands since they don’t appear to have day jobs? {i myself work for a strategy consulting firm about 70 hrs/week, have an MBA and engineering degree}.

    But here’s the point, which I hope will make you feel better Sara: that boring formula doesn’t include good writing. REAL writing. As in, the ability to tell a story, create rhythm, a dialogue, a mood… just with words. That takes talent darling. I too dislike the way blogging has gotten so insular. In a sense, it’s great that bloggers are being noticed, taken more seriously. And yet, they’re not representing me as a blogger the way I want them to…. as AN ARTIST! A CREATIVE THINKER! They just seem to be trend-hungry, opinion-rich, and cash-poor, taking on whatever free gifts come along.

    Keep your voice, your talent. Editorial integrity is everything. And don’t call yourself a fashion blogger anymore if you don’t want to! I don’t like the term either. I prefer to think of myself as an editor, a writer. An true expert with passion. Not simple materialistic addictions. Hope this helps. xoxo.

  21. Your blog is honestly such a pleasure to read, not only because you have such fun and unique taste in clothes, but because you actually think about more than just fashion. I love that I can look at a cute outfit AND read something pertaining to feminism or the music scene on the same site. I agree about the commercialization of fashion blogging: I’m only 20, for Pete’s sake, and I have pretty much no money to speak of as a poor college student. That T.J. Maxx commericial is pretty ridiculous because the majority of girls I know can’t afford to go shopping all the time (myself included!). I think the bloggers who will stand the test of time will be the ones like yourself who actually have a personality and have content that makes people think. Keep on with your blogging, chica! 😀

  22. I like what you said, “What has always appealed to me about fashion blogging is that there was a sense of the organic. Now it feels manufactured, and I feel like I’ve been trying to fit into this manufactured role of Fashion Blogger and that has stunted my ability to write.”

    Shoot, I’m definitely not like her. I don’t shop EVERYDAY. I don’t even BUY my own lunch to work. I BRING LUNCH! That’s how you know that I’d rather not spend money!

    I hope you find your identity with this whole “fashion blog” category. You’re cool. I like you.

    I wrote something about FASHION blogging in my blog. If you’re interested, come check it out. Id like to know what you think


  23. hell yes. this is exactly why I stopped blogging, but I really hope you continue! I have read your site(s) for years, because it really does connect with me and represent my budget/lifestyle. I love that your picture-taking style hasn’t changed and your clothes aren’t all “c/o” and blah blah. As long as you’re writin’, I’m readin’!

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