LINKAGE: Hidden Costs of Fashion Blogging

This is the work of Barbara Kruger, the American conceptual artist.

IFB recently republished a post titled, “Finance & the Fashion Blogger: Ignore-ance” that dovetails nicely with the amazing discussions about labor, new media, and capitalism that are happening in the comments sections of Threadbared. (See here and here. If you haven’t joined the conversation, it’s not too late!) In “Finance & the Fashion Blogger,” the blogger considers the personal financial cost of fashion blogging:

I think the rise of the fashion blogger has led to the rise of other things–increased need for consumption, a competitiveness to buy more and keep up with other bloggers. I remember reading about shopping addictions in magazines when I was younger, but I question if that’s on the rise too, with instant access to dozens of sale emails and posts popping up before our eyes every second.

What really struck me was a quote she gives by another blogger, Birdie (of Bonne Vie): “The act of buying is so integral to writing that sometimes I wonder how bloggers keep it up.”

Is capitalist consumption integral to creative production? Is the creative process inextricably bound up in capitalism? Is this new media only a technology for enlisting gender normative capitalist conduct from women bloggers, naturalizing further the myth that “women are born to shop”? I’m not so sure which is why I’ve been pushing myself (as well as asking readers) to imagine the value of digital content and digital labor outside of capitalism.

This isn’t easy. It’s especially daunting for fashion bloggers who are, by definition, engaging (albeit in very different ways) with the procedures and logics of consumerism, accumulation, and possessive individualism. Of course fashion consumption isn’t necessarily a constitutive element of fashion blogs. Maintaining Threadbared doesn’t require that Mimi and I replenish our closets because style posts aren’t a central feature of this blog. (When we shop, we do so for the sheer joy of it!) Strictly speaking, though, Threadbared isn’t a “fashion blog” – it’s a research blog about the politics, economies, and cultures of fashion, style, and beauty. Still, many other more traditional fashion bloggers don’t shop for their blogs either. I’m thinking of bloggers like Amy Odell of the The Cut or Cathy Horyn of the New York Times.

Sheena Matheiken isn’t a blogger, as such, but you can see in the video that she’s insanely adept at putting together outfit posts for The Uniform Project. Just so we’re clear, Matheiken produces these amazing daily outfit posts without shopping for new clothes. In fact, she wears the same dress (taken to dizzying heights of creativity and difference) 365 days per year! I especially love her “pants posts” which magically transforms her dress into a tunic or a jacket and doesn’t at all give that dress-over-pants look that I grew tired of almost immediately as it became popular (8 years or so ago). [I feel that I have to qualify that statement: the dress over pants look is entirely acceptable if one is wearing an ao dai (but technically, that’s a long shirt over pants) and if one is not doing so as costume.] But I digress . . .

[Vimeo 11113046]

If you don’t already know about this amazing project, definitely check out the link as well as this mini-interview with Matheiken. Oh, and if The Uniform Project sounds familiar to you, it may be that you read Mimi’s incisive post about the project and the way it puts into productive tension the desire for  individualization and imperatives of standardization. Now that The Uniform Project is embarking on Year Two, it’s a good time to revisit Mimi’s post!

Here’s how Matheiken describes the project:

Starting May 2009, I have pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Here’s how it works: There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies. Think of it as wearing a daily uniform with enough creative license to make it look like I just crawled out of the Marquis de Sade’s boudoir.

The Uniform Project is also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing education in India. At the end of the year, all contributions will go toward Akanksha’s School Project to fund uniforms and other educational expenses for children living in Indian slums.

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7 Comments

Filed under LINKAGE

7 responses to “LINKAGE: Hidden Costs of Fashion Blogging

  1. sw

    Sorry this isn’t relevant to the post at all but I would be curious what you’d have to say (if anything) about this young lady from Denmark: http://i.imgur.com/3v4x5.jpg

  2. Minh-Ha, I think the original IFB essay is really important, and the comments as well – who hasn’t followed a fashion blog and begun to wonder, after a while, how the blogger affords all those extravagant clothes? Or how a particular item –an expensive pair of Acne booties, for instance– becomes the “must have” across dozens of blogs, seemingly all at once? Of course, one blogger in particular is well known to be astronomically wealthy (or her parents are) and can drop thousands on a pair of shoes she “curates” (i.e., purchases from somewhere), but I believe it’s safe to say that can’t be the case for most.

  3. Yes!
    I have been thinking a lot recently about the role of mainstream media/fashion mags in all of this. They all praise fashion blogs for democratizing fashion but, at the end, they don’t write about the girls on Wardrobe Remix or the thrifting blogs, but profile Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes over and over and over again. I feel that fashion editors are co-opting the medium.

  4. This is probably a little off-topic, but I was worried about this issue too before I started my fashion blog, like–“How does Jane manage to buy ALL THOSE SHOES?” I really wanted to join in the fun but wasn’t sure how to do it while being kinda broke.

    It’s funny–my solution was to make a completely illustrated fashion blog, drawn by yours truly, so I wouldn’t have to buy new clothes and I did just that, and it’s free if you think of all these drawings I’m doing as personal work. But at my usual illustration rate, about $350/drawing, I guess you could say I’m losing money on the deal?

    (Also, new reader here, and I love love love your blog. I’ve been looking for a blog like this for a while now!)

    • Your blog is genius, Angie! You’ve found a way to not only engage with fashion but indulge in it while evading a huge economic barrier to fashion and fashion blogging. By the way, your illustrations are fabulous and Susie’s outfit was crazy amazing! (That’s where I found your blog, on Style Bubble.)

  5. First, I love that Barbara Kruger.

    Second, it took me a really long time to immerse myself in the world of fashion blogs, mostly because searching for “fashion” in the blogosphere brings up millions of blogs detailing fashion purchases, uncritical oohs and aaahs over runway shows, following the sprawl of pop-up boutiques and retail chains, etc., etc. All of which are locked into an indulgent consumerist mentality, and none of which I’m particularly interested in. But fashion writing doesn’t have to be like that. It can and should include the (free or nearly free) consumption of images, literature, art, it can be fueled by craftiness and design interest, ethical and sustainable options, etc…. Unfortunately, it seems this concept is not as widespread as I would’ve thought, but thanks to blogs like yours, I’m able to get my fix of thoughtful, analytical fashion blogs that require no expenditure on your part, and don’t pressure me to spend and accumulate either.

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