Fashion wolf-in-sheep-med

Published on July 10th, 2013 | by Skye Pathare


Fashion – The Child Of Capitalism

Illustration above by Sophie Watson

Here are the top three things that are good in theory, but in practice range from lethal to downright underwhelming: communism, banging your colleagues/flatmates, and reading fashion blogs. The latter was a daily ritual I partook in to stay in the loop about sample sales, shows and new collections, inform roughly 88.23% of my sartorial decisions, and satisfy my bottomless appetite for voyeurism.

Personal and street-style blogs are now a viable new media enterprise, but only appeared in the blogosphere in 2002 and started gaining serious momentum and cultural authority circa 2005. They were a means of challenging glossified, ‘top down’ notions of how we should present ourselves, and democratising what was traditionally an aristocratic business. Rich, hot tag-hags no longer exercised a monopoly on looking good – anyone with Internet access could contribute to the fray of public discourse surrounding fashion and its relationship to people, self-esteem and standards of beauty; merely by posting a ‘What I wore today’ snap. Blogs showcased the perspectives of women with widly different body types, social standings, ethnicities, and senses of style; women who were excluded from mainstream fashion media.

Disappointingly, the majority of the blogs I once respected – which focussed on DIY, vintage or thrifted clothing contextualised in terms of the wearer’s lifestyle or broader ethos – are now commercialised to the point of complete homogeneity. The copy reads like a press release or is utterly banal (“I love these boots – I just can’t take them off!”) and the photography, when it is original, resembles that of an Elle editorial or, even worse, a pseudo-whimsical Lula interview.

I stopped visiting Sea of Shoes because I don’t rides bicycles to brunch in towering (and ‘gifted’) Miu Miu heels, and, unless I start pissing oil, can hardly afford to purchase a $320 tube of moisturiser. It’s boring, and it’s contrived. Furthermore, the comments feature was recently disabled, which totally undermines the blog’s ability to facilitate dialogue. Fashion Toast’s Rumi Neely loves adjectives and tautologies (“an extremely generously cut and wearable basic”, “a disgustingly perfect dress”) as much as her ‘edgy’ uniform of factory-distressed denim shorts and baggy shredded shirts. I don’t mean to insult Jane or Rumi, as they seem sweet and their earliest posts were written with wit and insight; but Sea of Shoes and Fashion Toast typify the sad state of fashion blogs today – controlled and curated by designers yet presented as if they are the efforts of, and accessible to, the girl-next-door.

Some dead white male called fashion the child of capitalism. So it is unsurprising that the humble blog has been commodified and is now perpetuating an industry-mandated aesthetic. Some bloggers are little more than shills – and their posts, gushing odes to the PR people at Alexander Wang who “sent this stunning vest to my hotel room!”, are mere advertorials. Shilling is part of a more fundamental change in the way products and services are marketed to us: brands are ditching aspirational in favour of real. A coat enmeshed in reality, worn by a girl who could easily be you, has more value and seems more attainable than the same garment hanging off a skinny, dead-eyed teenager in a magazine with a name you can’t pronounce. This is what attracted me to fashion blogs in the first place. The women had bodies similar to mine, their outfits were interesting without being indulgent or plain stupid, and they were doing normal things, not lying half-naked on top of a stallion in the middle of a misty field. I liked the explicit connection made between fashion and daily life, its socio-cultural functions; its personalisation. It felt like reading the musings of a close friend. Like sitting in a cafe in a busy corner of town and people-watching for hours.

What concerns me is the message being sent to the other side of the screen when fashion bloggers become caricatures of themselves. They gain online celebrity, huge followings, and the attention of designers and editors. The prettiest and most popular are offered real-time employment and lucrative deals for product endorsement and collaborations (this corporate engagement is often covert and undisclosed). They might lose weight, put on a tad more make-up, and use professional photographers – maybe even Photoshop. Their readership has been taught to adopt a certain level of cynicism when it peruses magazines and lookbooks and views runway shows, but I worry that it doesn’t consume fashion blogs with this same grain of salt. Young women may idolise the self-declared ‘regular girl’, an everywoman; who, in actuality, is no such thing.

Transparency and a multiplicity of perspectives are keystones to a democratic online environment, and most of the blogs I enthusiastically followed (fashion-related or not) no longer meet the standard – and the social impact is toxic. For its particular susceptibility to consumerism, and its capacity to mould both mainstream and subversive trends and notions of ‘coolness’; fashion blogging should be met with an open discourse so we, the audience, can differentiate between blogs that are a labour of love and blogs that are heavily-backed, constructed, unrealistic portrayals of beauty – the kind that takes an unlimited budget and an observer to achieve.

Now that the rant is over, I would like to list some fashion blogs I still visit semi-regularly and hope you will too. These girls wear affordable, accessible clothing in fascinating and unexpected ways, and rarely peddle designer rags. Their blogs are about their personal styles and how they are integrated into their lives, but they’re not shrines to themselves. The photography is pretty and raw; the writing unpretentious and funny. Enjoy. – German, but with sometimes unintentionally hilarious English translations. – This girl has the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen. – Based in Japan, mostly fashion but with interesting bits about Tokyo subculture and music. – Described as “a collective fashion consciousness”, this features selfies and more from contributors all over the world.

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Studies journalism and PR, loves to write and eat cheese.

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