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.