Are style blogs getting boring?

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Photo: Getty images

Jump onto Instagram and there’s @GaryPepperGirl in another random rooftop photoshoot, @TuulaVintage hop-skipping around Europe, and a thousand #WhatIWore posts featuring impossibly thin girls wearing impossibly expensive threads, prompting the usual smattering of comments - “I DIE”, “Gorgeous”, “Amazeballs”. I know, I know, haters gonna hate. But I swear, if I see another fashion blogger post a picture of Diptyque candles, a vase of peonies in a clean white loft, or an overspilling Celine tote from which Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment, fashion week invites and a Smythson diary flows, I’m going to punch something.

These blogs purport to be about showcasing real-life personal style and, as most put down in their About Me sections, seeing beauty in the everyday. The problem is, the “everyday” things they feature often cost two-month’s worth of my disposable income. With the succinct dropping of a designer friend’s name or a TwitPic of their hotel suite or latest purchase off Moda Operandi, my ability to relate is instantly lost. I’m left scratching my head, wondering how on earth a freelance stylist can afford such a lifestyle.

I have the same reaction to street photography blogs - Jack & Jil, Garance Dore, Citizen Couture et al. A quick scroll-down of The Sartorialist and all I see is off-duty models on their way to a casting call, fashion editors decked out in head-to-toe designer threads (riding a scooter, to add insult to injury) and the occasional 50-year-old Asian male hipster wearing Air Force Ones and stylishly upturned camo slacks. Originally conceived as a means to democratise our perspective on contemporary fashion and create a two-way dialogue about how it relates to everyday life, the most popular blogs now almost exclusively feature photos of the wealthy elite in clothes I’ll never afford.

Where are the thrift store chic outfits that used to feature so prominently? Where are the everyday girls who haven’t dressed up – consciously or subconsciously - to be style snapped? Are photos of expensively clothed, size zero subjects (couched as “real” women) walking the streets of SoHo really so different from watching the latest runway shows from New York Fashion Week?

The fashion blog genre used to be about defying the mainstream and challenging traditional, glossy notions of beauty, not reaffirming them. It was once about celebrating the “every woman”, creating a space for expression and celebration of one’s self. That essential element of realness is now missing.

The most renowned fashion blogs have become mere extensions of what we see in magazines and advertisements. There’s the professional photography, expensive product placements, heavy editing, the supermodel good looks. Their creators constantly eschew the opportunity to showcase real people in all shapes, colours and sizes, wearing real clothes that push the boundaries of what’s considered fashionable. The images they publish instead perpetuate a false and repetitive picture of what constitutes everyday style, worn by would-be models with friends in PR and access to lots of freebies. They’ve set an unattainable goal of perfection that links fashion with wealth and discredits beauty in diversity. The “every woman” has become yet another meticulously curated example of what every glossy fashion magazine stands for, where the same aspirations for high-culture and luxury apply.

The thing is, if I wanted to see a bunch of well-dressed photogenic freaks doing fun, invite-only stuff, I would’ve bought this month’s issue of Vogue and flipped to the back pages. When I consider everyday style, I see something more real, more graspable, yet still subversive. The best style bloggers should be challenging our eye and training us to appreciate things that are new, yet accessible - not rewrapping looks straight off the catwalk and adding a rose-tinted Instagram filter.

14 comments so far

  • Great piece Kathleen - I laughed like a drain at the Diptyque candles line - and I totally agree. I used to regularly read a bunch of style blogs and one by one they just turned into blog versions of In Style. I've turned to non-"style" focused personal Tumblrs to get my fashion fix these days.

    Commenter
    Clem Bastow
    Date and time
    February 12, 2013, 7:50AM
    • Well said Kathleen.
      These blogs have become just as highly stylised and undemocratic as those highly stylised advertising....I mean, fashion mags.

      Commenter
      Alia
      Date and time
      February 12, 2013, 9:33AM
      • A piece saying what I was just thinking last night! Where are the street snaps of Uni girls pushing the boundaries of taste but somehow making all that crazy glam work? The lamb dressed as op shop mutton in an 80s Teddy Boy mashup? The well put together mavens wearing all their jewels at once?
        There's nothing dangerous or fun in these blogs anymore (if there ever was). It's all 'aspirational' and fashion week and well practiced poses. And shoes without socks.

        Clem is right...tumblr brings all the fashion to the yard and they're like, just chuck it all on and be happy.

        Commenter
        JFox
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        February 12, 2013, 10:20AM
        • I (generally) agree Kathleen. It's a shame we've lost focus.

          But...there's 1600+ fashion bloggers out there typing in Australia alone. So those "real" life, differently shaped/aged/coloured, on a budget, vintage-wearing people are still out there. We discerning readers just have to look a little harder and cull our blog readers/rss feeds a little more carefully (as it seems most people do want to the glossy, model-adjacent blogs; after all why would they be so popular and then get publicity and become even more popular?).

          Try Business Chic for ideas on how to jazz up daily workwear.
          Sea of Ghosts for a gothic/artistic take on personal style.
          Lady Melbourne for a mix of op-shopped, bargain and occasionally high end finds (she does 'nanna chic' well).
          Esme & the Laneway or Super Kawaii Mama for a vintage aesthetic.

          You can probably tell, I really could go on. And if you find a hidden - perhaps unpolished - gem share them/give them some love! :)

          Commenter
          StyleMelbourne
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          February 12, 2013, 12:03PM
          • Sea of Ghosts? Really? Everything that girl wears (except her own-made jewellery and one or two skirts from K-Mart) is exactly what this entire article is all about, Diptyque candles and all.

            And I loathe when we as readers are required/expected/asked to "show bloggers some love". Sorry, but my schedule is a million times more hectic than these consumerist narcissists who sit around taking photos of themselves all day, thus I'm very particular about who gets my time when I fire up my RSS. If bloggers want love, they need to earn it, starting by not acting as though they're doing their readers a favour by blogging in the first place.

            Commenter
            Mirella
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            March 13, 2013, 12:55PM
        • Totally agree Kathleen. Fashion as interpreted by the rich and/or famous seems entirely predictable - pandering the whims of PRs trying to sell the latest garment-that-looks-like-everything-else-on-the-racks.

          I agree that things are much more interesting on the street, with "everyday people" playing with style to suit themselves, not their "followers". Much more personality, fun and relatability. More please.

          Commenter
          laramcpherson
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          February 12, 2013, 12:16PM
          • I agree totally! Most of these bloggers don't even own the clothes that they post, and I'm tired of just seeing Instagram feeds full of reposted magazine style editorial pics from Chanel, Balenciaga, Givenchy et al. Is that really blogging?
            This is why I started our Instagram and Pose feeds (@alphabetponymag / @alphabetpony) - I take daily pics of my outfits to show how to still look stylish on a small budget with high street brands. I don't spend thousands of dollars on clothes - I'm just an everyday girl who wears a pair of jeans I've owned for 10 years. And in the end, doesn't that take more taste anyway??

            Commenter
            Alphabet Pony
            Location
            Melbourne
            Date and time
            February 12, 2013, 12:51PM
            • Fantastic piece. I've been thinking this for a while and find myself skipping through these 'commercial' blogs on my blog roll. Product placement and everything is so 'same-same.'

              There are some great 'real' Aussie bloggers out there that have a difference. So many jump onto the same bandwagon though. Same goes for interiors blogs. If I see one more pineapple...

              Commenter
              Carley
              Date and time
              February 12, 2013, 12:55PM
              • amen! that is all i can say :D

                Commenter
                haritographer
                Date and time
                February 12, 2013, 9:22PM
                • Kathleen - thanks for calling it!

                  I don't care if they use professional photography and styling and if the products are all freebies, but I just wish impressionable young (and older!) girls realised this. The elite streetstyle bloggers are businesspeople, aiming to make a buck. Like I said, nothing wrong with that. I love following Tuula and Nicole Warne (garypeppergirl) and I marvel at the talented photographers they have working with them, the shots are magic.

                  But readers need to know it's not a lifestyle, it's a scripted performance - please don't let it make you feel inadequate! It ain't real :)

                  BTW there are some great real street style blogs out there too - Helsinki Looks (www.hel-looks.com) is about random people on the street.

                  Commenter
                  Shiva
                  Date and time
                  February 13, 2013, 6:38PM

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