Wednesday, October 14, 2009
There is an abundance of intelligent (and stylish) young women out there starting fashion blogs for all sorts of reasons; to show off their pretty clothes, to have one place to post all of their high fashion haute couture desires, to increase their sales on ebay or etsy, or, of course, in the hopes of finding fame and fortune. With magazines like Vogue and Glamour increasingly losing ad revenue and audiences to the Internet, more and more young women are being profiled and reverred in the mainstream media. To top it off, artists like Kanye West and Justin Timberlake, known for their cutting edge taste in fashion, have been plugging bloggers like Sea of Shoes' Jane Aldridge and Hannah + Landon.
So,why am I following the influx of bloggers myself? Am I striving for fame and fortune, or do I just want to brag about how stylish I can be? Well, let's start with a little history of my relationship with the Internet and fashion. I've been keeping a personal blog since I was 16 years old [which, for the record, is terribly embarrassing to read but I can't quite bring myself to delete it]. I soon ventured to greener, slightly more mature pastures when livejournal became available for free, starting with ocean_child and its most current incarnation, garconniere. I am quite active in a number of livejournal communities, varying from film_stills, thrfitwhore, to the more exclusively fashion based networks of newestwrinkle [first post in 2005], vintage_look, daughterofether and others. Sometimes I simply watch and read the comments, other times I post what I wear and ask for opinions.
On more than one occassion, I thought of boycotting fashion communities simply because the cons outweighed the pros; the privilege of white girls dressing up as indian princesses for halloween and accusing those who criticize them as being too serious, the "those pants/that dress/that style only looks good on skinny girls" comments (eating disorder trigger warning for that last link) on people's bodies who dared to venture outside of the conventional box. I briefly tried creating my own fashion community for those who were sick of the racist, fatphobic, and heteronormative conjecture being spouted in newestwrinkle and hot_fashion by creating stylishandsassy; it was quite a fruitless experiment (i was pretty much the only one who posted, and membership peaked at 50 members, compared to newestwrinkle's 7755) and it is now populated with gaudy ads for ebay and other internet sales. It was good while it lasted, but it proves that it is quite difficult to establish an online community to discuss this issues at length with engaging people, and then to maintain that community.
With all of these complaints, you may be wondering, why the fuck did you keep reading if it just made you angry? Well, the few positive aspects sometimes outweighed the many negative ones. Getting comments from people saying "you really know how to dress," or "nice armpits, friend!" when the people I was interacting with in reality would often mock my style or be repulsed by my distaste for razors. But moreso, it was seeing women like zana, [link from a post in 2005, ] who now has a great blog called garbagedress, witty commentors like hahawhat, creativetypes, etc. who never seemed to post enough compared to the sea of (mostly) teenaged white girls who bought clothes with daddy's credit card. What kept pulling me to check and engage with these communities regularly were the interactions between the members of the community: girls who liked fashion, were unapologetic about it even though it is often dismissed as superficial, and were never necessarily the people that fashion was marketed towards. Punk diy haircuts, skirts they made themselves out of old thrifted pillowcases, creative ways of pairing modern and vintage pieces, bodies that were outside of the size 0-12 size spectrum, people who mixed patterns i would have never thought could work together, but, surprisingly did. It was a combination of my admiration for these people based on their style and what they had to say. Their positive or witty responses towards negative dismissive comments usually won my heart. Simply by seeing someone post their outfits once every 4 or 5 months on a livejournal community made me feel as if I knew that person, and sometimes, they me.
It was comforting, especially in my late teens when I started posting, to find that I was not alone in my desire to be stylish without having the means to buy designer shoes or all of the things I wanted, even if it was virtually. Comforting to know that one could be politicized about capitalism, consumerism but still like fashion. To see the potential revolutionary aspects of fashion, to unpack the historical meanings behind garments, and to learn from each other's successes and mistakes. To see other queer girls who liked wearing dresses.
When I ventured back into the world of blogger and discovered fashion blogs a year or two ago, I was frankly shocked by the homogeneity. The themes and content become astoundingly redundant: here's "what i wore today," I'm not going to buy anything new for a year, here are cute vintage dresses I'm selling on etsy, etc. But where was the commentary? Where was that personal, political touch I love? Are these blogs really a new place for young women to develop their opinions and ideas about fashion? Or is it just another place to reproduce the ideals long spouted by runways and fashion magazines around the world for decades?
Instead of just bitching and complaining about the prevalence of pretty and lack of savvy substance, I decided to borrow the idea from activism communities: if you want something to exist or change and it doesn't, do it yourself. I want this blog to be a place where I can explore political notions of fashion (without using too much inaccessible jargon) and have other people give me feedback, and maybe even encourage other feminists interested in fashion to start their own blogs to start even more conversations. I have a million ideas I want to unpack, or that I have tried to explore in the past, and it is so much more exciting to have a facet where I can really develop these ideas in more detail.
That is not to say this will be a text-only blog writing about the politics of cultural appropriation, the theoretical underpinnings of self-portraits, and so on: I will engage with some of the staples of fashion blogs as a way of exploring the reasons why so many people do them as well. But! I wrote these ideas out as some kind of a manifesto, as something to stay true to while I blog. To remind myself of my original intentions as this progresses.
Here are some features I hope to have on my blog regularly (monthly or bimonthly):
- What I wore today posts
- Archives: I hope to share a lot of things I have already written about fashion by digging up old posts and going through my own personal archives.
- Links to interesting articles, radio shows, podcasts, magazines, academic journals, and other blogs that have interesting takes on fashion
- Film Features: if you've read my livejournal, you know I am a huge fan of films. I even hope to eventually do my masters in film studies! But for the time being,I will post anything I write about films here. I tried writing them in my livejournal but I think this will be a better place for them. Additionally, I will highlight stylish films from time to time (talk about superficial!) and post film stills.
- Photodumps: from time to time I will post some of my favourite fashion related images. Etsy favourites, fashion spreads, etc. In the meantime you can follow me on tumblr: garconniere.tumblr.com
- Articles written by me: I really need to get into the habit of writing in English again, so I hope to write at least one article a month that has something directly related to fashion from a feminist perspective. I already have a bunch of ideas (the politics of wearing fur/leather if you are vegetarian or vegan, the social signifiers of fashion, body politics, etc). I will limit myself to 600-800 words for these, simply for my readerships' sake!
What I want from you!
- I want you to comment! Tell me what you think about my ideas, contribute your own, link back to your blog so we can keep engaging.
- Tell me what you think I am doing right and wrong: is it contradictory to be so critical of the sea of privileged white girls posting their outfits when I am doing the same?
- Point me in the direction of blogs that you think have got it right. I know a bunch of fat-positive fashion blogs, some really great feminist ones, some great antiracist ones, but am sorely lacking in the department of fashion focused feminist or poc blogs.
- Share resources with me. If there is a movie you think I need to see, a blog, etc, send me a message and let me know.
So that's that! Welcome to a la garçonnière!