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On reality and different approaches to fashion blogging

triplet
twins
twins2

I wore this outfit to work on a Friday. I haven’t shown this £1 blazer on the blog yet, so I wore the same thing again on the Saturday (with a different long sleeve tee underneath). I also thought it would be good to show a more ‘ordinary’ outfit, lest anyone thinks I spend every day flouncing about in vintage dresses. Not that I think anyone thinks that (?).

I was reminded of an excellent post over on decoding dress, where Dee talks about how she feels “fashion/outfit blogging is growing increasingly detached from reality. The carefully curated wardrobes, the corporate sponsorships, the Instagrams from behind the scenes at the [insert brand name here] event — none of that connects with my life, my closet or what’s in either one of them.” This is in contrast with her own disatisfaction with her outfits over winter and the fact she’s put on a bit of weight (She looks fab of course).

I completely sympathise with the frustration of seeing all these model-pretty 22 year old girls who can make a living out of blogging or are in some other life arrangement that allows them to spend hours and hours every day blogging interacting and doing fun things to blog about, when I am struggling to just about keep my life on track. But I’m not sure that’s a question of reality vs. artifice.

The thing is, my blog isn’t exactly ‘real’ if by real we mean daily ordinary life and problems. My life *obviously* isn’t all creative outfits, deep thoughts and pretty pictures. I have the same regular freak outs about my appearance, work and relationships as everyone else, but I rarely talk about them here. Partly this is to protect the privacy of other people involved, and partly because I think all this stuff will sound silly six months down the line, no matter how dramatic or upsetting it is at the time (there’s some diary-style writing from the 16 year old me online, and man am I glad that blogs weren’t about then or there would be so much more!).

The outfits also aren’t ordinary day to day ones. I only do one outfit post a week now while it still gets dark before I get home from work, and I do try to make sure it’s an interesting one. Hence the vintage dresses and copious brooches and nice backgrounds. And when the outfit is not that exciting, such as today, I do something else to make the pictures interesting, such as the twin and triplet stuff here (for which thank you Stef for the inspiration). I’m into the photos as photos, not just as documentation of the outfits.

Dee suggests that people read and write fashion blogs to escape from their lives. I’d word it slightly less strongly than that. For me, it’s about recognising and celebrating the beauty and creativity in my life. It’s edited life, of course, but it’s still life. Because I do wear these outfits to do normal stuff in the ‘real’ world, it’s not as if I just out stuff on for the photo. I suppose a few of the mega successful bloggers do do that, get dressed up just for a photoshoot, but many do wear their stuff properly. It’s just that their lifestyle is so different from most people’s, they have the luxury of being able to focus on dressing to look fashionable and don’t need to worry about also looking professional and getting ready in ten minutes.

So I suppose that’s what it is: different lifestyles and different approaches to blogging. Personally, I’m aiming for something in between daily documentation and aspirational fantasy. I’d say most of the blogs I read fall into this middle ground as well. When I feel like I know enough about the person to get a sense of what they’re like a little, but it’s not as if I know everything about them. But that’s just a personal choice and then I do read some really personal and some completely impersonal editorial ones too.

I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but what do you think (about any of this?)

Update: I just remembered that I wrote something slightly more coherent about authenticity a year go which might be of interest.

Outfit stats:
* dress – h&m * jeans – charity shop * jacket – charity shop * trainers – converse, bought in Hamburg * coat h&m * gorgeous wool scarf – gift * necklace – swap * satchel – cambridge satchel company *

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  • jacqueline 30 January 2012, 9:07 am

    i agree with Dee about many fashion blogs seeming detached from reality, also, i notice that many of them seem almost effortless (especially the ones that don’t actually have themselves at all and just have lifted photos from some brands latest collection on their website and are blogging about it… i REALLY don’t get that) and I agree as having photos as photos, not only as documentations of outfits. My favorite bloggers are the ones that show me something different, not only in their outfits but in their opinions, ideas, posts, etc.
    jacqueline recently posted..Hanoi Winter StylesMy Profile

  • Amy 30 January 2012, 9:09 am

    I went through a phase where I was disillusioned with my wardrobe and style and so I took to reading a few fashion/style blogs to get inspiration. After a while though, I found they just made me more disillusioned, because they were so unobtainable. One of them was this pretty 19 or-so year old who apparently didn’t go to school or work, just spent her days taking pretty photos of herself by beaches and on bridges. Coupled with the fact that she has a super successful blog and appeared to be sent lots of clothes from Modcloth and the like, meaning you never saw the same item of clothing twice, meant that I couldn’t really get on board with her, her life just seemed to be so unrealistic. I’d much rather read a fashion blog like yours, where you have enough ‘pretty clothes’ posts to be inspiring, but also enough ‘regular clothes’ (still pretty though obviously!) posts to be realistic. Your blog gives me so many more ideas for my own wardrobe because I see how you style the same skirt several ways or different ways to wear a scarf etc. Much more realistic and therefore much more fun to read!

  • Trayci 30 January 2012, 9:34 am

    I too totally agree. Whilst I love looking at all the glamorous photos and well thought out outfits I know that it would be fantasy to think people actually looked like that 24/7.

    I will share my mundane outfits to the ward because its what I wear. And I will ramble about my life too. Cause strangely enough thats what important to me.

    Great post.

    X x
    Trayci recently posted..Progress Report….My Profile

  • DeeDee 30 January 2012, 11:55 am

    Oh, Franca, I so much appreciate this post. I was in a bad place when I wrote the post that inspired you here (you’ve got to know that a blog about “why we wear what we wear” is going to be 75% therapy, right?) and perspectives like yours are helping talk me down.

    I think what I need to find in a blog is not necessarily “reality” (whatever that is), but rather some discrete connection to my own experience of reality. When I feel cute and chic I have no problem reading the pro-blogger-istas and get a lot of inspiration from them. When I’m feeling dumpy, poor and bored with my clothes to distraction the same blogs can make me bitter.

    The thing that’s most valuable to me about blogs, though, is the opportunity to meet people like you and to join a community of encouragement and support. It’s meant the world to me — so thank you. =)
    DeeDee recently posted..Decode This: January 19, 2012My Profile

  • ballet news 30 January 2012, 11:57 am

    Completely AGREE. Fashion blogs do very little for me – the ones I read are the ones that I feel are written by real people with whom I can connect.

  • Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys 30 January 2012, 12:04 pm

    I do feel that most successful blog are a bit detached from reality, but I don’t so much blame the blogger as the audience. I can’t really follow people who are so obviously living in a bubble (with one or two exceptions) where there are designer clothes around every corner and the sun is always shining, etc. etc.

    On the other hand, I know that my own blog is a bit detached from reality. I purposefully steer it down that path because it’s pretty obvious that the audience responds better to pretty pictures, me looking pretty, and optimism rather than my usual caustic attitude. Also, I look way better in many of my posts than I do on a daily basis, not because of the clothes, but because I basically only do my hair and put on makeup when I’m shooting an outfit post. Again, I’ve seen that these things make a difference in the reactions I get.

    So what really is the problem? Mine for making reality look more beautiful or the readers out there who want to believe in a more beautiful reality? Hmm, I might turn this comment into a post…
    Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys recently posted..december’s dressMy Profile

  • Lori Lynn 30 January 2012, 3:14 pm

    I actually beyond love this post!!!!!! As you know, I had a slightly similar rant on my blog over the weekend. While mine stemmed from my lack of good camera, it does get at the deeper issue of what makes a good blog, why people are drawn to some and not others, and why, despite the fact that I can’t afford to dress like a few of my favorite blogs, I continue to read them?! What measures success on a blog? When I started blogging it was the satisfaction I got from having a creative space that I could share with others, I found it’s very easy to get caught up in the numb er of GFC readers, page views, and the like. When it boils down to it, I think I just want to know that someone (anyone) is reading my blog and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when I get comments that are meaningful and not just an “I followed you, will you follow back?” Long story not so short, I love the things blogging has done for me and continues to do and I need to continually remind myself that stats aren’t why I blog, that it’s not a competition and that I don’t have to prove my worth…

    Finally, your photos are too freaking cool! And I’m glad you’re one of my fave “real girl” blogs where you’re not a size -5 who wears nothing but freebies! Xo Lori
    Lori Lynn recently posted..Makeup Monday: Benefit Pore-fessional ReviewMy Profile

  • Jen 30 January 2012, 3:51 pm

    I started reading fashion blogs a couple of years ago when I was in a real fashion rut and a job shift demanded that I dress more professionally/ like an ‘adult’. My reality was that I need ideas from real people not the media/models/unlimited budget crap that is in magazines and the style books that I looked at. I needed real instruction (I like alreadypretty for this) and people dressing bodies that were more like mine and who were critical and deliberate about pleasing themselves but also questioning norms (Franca I put you in the category). So I am grateful that people are offering edited realities that inspire me, otherwise I’d be hiding in all-black and feeling that I’m not allowed to participate in fashion because I’m not 22 and a size 0.

  • Terri 30 January 2012, 5:00 pm

    I remember when I first discovered fashion blogs. At first they struck me as so bizarre and then, as I continued to read, I began to understand the purpose of blogs. So, anyone who reads them must have this special understanding. I know that there are blogs I avoid either because they are trying to sell me something or to “show off,” but those blogs have always been there and I have avoided them all along. I’m most drawn to bloggers who think about clothing as a cultural phenomenon and go a bit meta just as you and DeeDee do regularly.
    Terri recently posted..On Dealing with TemptationMy Profile

  • stephanie / those tricks 30 January 2012, 5:08 pm

    Good read.
    I blog as a creative outlet, personally.
    I read blogs more for the friendship/following the person’s (publicly presented) life a much as for their actual style.
    For me, style & fashion blogs are a way to clearly see, visually, what that person is about, rather than just what they are writing/talking about.
    It’s the same as meeting someone in person – you can tell from their style, the music/movies/tv/books/mags/art they like, their sense of humor, etc if you will likely get along and have things in common.
    That being said, there are a *few* blogs I go to just for the fashion.
    But I generally only spend about 10 seconds glancing at the photo, then bounce.
    -stephanie

  • Kimberlee 30 January 2012, 5:15 pm

    I really liked your point about “edited” life. It’s your blog so you can choose what to share. Leia from Leia’s Delights talked about keeping her privacy in tact when blogging so she’s going to show more outfits and talk less about her life. If I did outfit pics, I’d definitely save the best ones like you said. When my friends who have blogs and I get together for dinner, we eat and then go “Crap we forgot to take pics” and then one of us says “that’s because we’re actually friends.” People who are constantly taking pics of their dinners really make me question how authentic it was. I know when I’m having a really good time, the last thing I’m thinking is oh did I get a pic for my blog? Perhaps that’s what makes me a bad blogger… oh well.
    Kimberlee recently posted..Best & Worst Dressed at the SAG AwardsMy Profile

  • The Waves 30 January 2012, 5:20 pm

    I occasionally feel annoyed at the fantasy blog phenomenon, but these days I just pick and choose the blogs that speak to me personally. I’ve also made a conscious effort in trying to not feel so critical about my own blogging, you know, so what if I don’t have time to post a ton of outfit pictures, or so what if I can’t post every day? I’m not a professional blogger, and the blogs I love reading are not professional ones either. And I guess there’s a reason for that. At the end of the day I’m really interested in the way people think about style and clothes. It’s an exchange of ideas and thoughts more than anything else, for me, that is.
    The Waves recently posted..Boy oh boyMy Profile

  • Sunjo 30 January 2012, 6:37 pm

    I recently discovered your blog and was so happy to find someone who I could relate to! I only recently started blogging and the main thing I’ve discovered is that I’m making myself be more creative with my day to day outfits. I have lots of fun clothes, why haven’t I been wearing them instead of the same black pants to work?? haha! Also, I would prefer to read “real” people’s style blogs any day so thank you for being yourself. Also, I love your twin and triplet photos.

  • Sadie 30 January 2012, 7:19 pm

    I’m not a big fashion fan, though I love clothes, and I tend not to follow the kind of fashion blogs full of sponsored posts and behind-the-scenes-at-events stuff. The blogs I like are the ones that show what an ordinary person does with her wardrobe, and the ones I like most are blogs like yours where the blogger has a really strong personal style and isn’t just wearing whatever happens to be in fashion.

    I don’t think my blog is aspirational fantasy in any way, shape or form. It’s not a full picture of my life, because I’ve made the choice to focus on crafting and clothes and not to talk about work or relationships or anything else, but I would like to think that it’s authentic in what it covers. The outfits I post are definitely the ones I wear to work!
    Sadie recently posted..A new way to wear a shawlMy Profile

  • Helen 30 January 2012, 9:28 pm

    Personally I think it’s great that there are many different types of fashion/style bloggers! I like seeing the ridiculous aspirational stuff but I also enjoy seeing what ‘normal’ people are doing too
    Helen recently posted..CardiffMy Profile

  • Rebekah 31 January 2012, 12:07 am

    “I also thought it would be good to show a more ‘ordinary’ outfit, lest anyone thinks I spend every day flouncing about in vintage dresses.”

    I admit that I sorta kinda thought this.

    I like to see average people finding their own style and telling their personal stories. I’m not interested in runway fashion or endless editorial photos of the blogger. Plus, I’m VERY interested in ‘ethical/sustainable’ wardrobes, so blogs full of up-to-the-minute sweatshop clothes aren’t fun for me. More than anything, I look for interesting personalities.

    “Personally, I’m aiming for something in between daily documentation and aspirational fantasy.”

    Yes! Those are my favorite blogs,
    Rebekah recently posted..The Last of the MohicansMy Profile

  • Fashnlvr 31 January 2012, 1:57 am

    I typically read blogs I can identify with and I don’t edit myself much. I only write about that which I am willing to share but none of it is contrived. I buy my own clothes and when I get a piece to review, I state it as a freebie. It has only happened once and I don’t try to monetize. I read your page because I feel like you are a real girl living a real life. It’s ok to have a once in a while photoshoot when it is stated that the outfits are put on just for the shoot. Mostly I like outfit posts where the clothes are worn to work or school or out in the world as I have a job to go to each day myself. Those are usually the posts I create as well. I guess “fantasy” bloggers connect with those who want a teeny bit more than a magazine spread. I don’t know – i prefer blogs like yours and Anika of byanika.com > just a personal preference.
    Keep doing what you’re doing. There is a niche for everyone
    Fashnlvr recently posted..Gardening: When you can’t move Heaven…My Profile

  • Kara @ Unusual Form 31 January 2012, 4:03 am

    More and more I find myself reading blogs with “attainable” style. I get more inspiration from bloggers that are similar to me in that they have a budget and a job outside blogging. I have very little interest in blogs that are all couture I can’t afford or all the items are c/o. I like to see bloggers that have a mix of items but all things that are within my reach.

  • Stef 31 January 2012, 8:33 am

    Eek! I squealed a little seeing your twins. Love that first shot especially 🙂

    I think I enjoy reading what comes naturally most. Whether that is the diary style nitty gritty of every day life, personal musings or full on discussions of topics close to your heart. As long as the writer really feels strongly about the topic it usually shows and that makes the read interesting for me.

    Personally choosing which bits to share and which bits are just too personal for google to hear often feels like a high wire act. When I first started blogging I gave little away about myself but I just find it so much more rewarding when I am sharing bits of my history, beliefs (or for that matter moer often than not lack of belief) and opinions. 🙂
    Stef recently posted..HiatamadlMy Profile

  • Pearl Westwood 31 January 2012, 3:30 pm

    Gah Franca you just wrote what I was talking to Florrie about last night. I was having a bit of a stress that my blog just isn’t up to standard, that my photos even though I try very hard to make them look good, I just dont live in a place which I can find beautiful settings and I dont have anyone to drag around taking the photos, I have no knowledge of editing software….. all the successful blogs are little more than online magazine editorials! A recent Grazia best style bloggers only had those who could be models. Then I remember that the point of blogging and what gets me reading blogs is to share and discover what people wear in the real world, that is what is so interesting.

    I also have to say how talented you are to make these twin photos, they look wonderful! x

  • Ms. P & C 31 January 2012, 4:43 pm

    I completely agree with you. I’m a blogger and I get invited to a lot of the brand events, etc, but I’m not large enough or have enough of a following to warrant free clothing from anyone. I prefer it this way because if I started accepting swag I’d be selling out my opinions, which are strong, and may one day be about fashion and on another be about film or humor or marketing or whatever I decide. I do feel the pressure to show “outfit” posts, but I do a styled flat of the pieces I wore – I never really show myself wearing them. For me, I think self-portraiture is embarrassing because I never like the way I look in pictures (1) and I think for the blogs they’re just so contrived (2). Plus, most of these bloggers have an oh-so-indulgent boyfriend who will happily sacrifice his manhood to snap pics of his girlfriend, even if he thinks she looks ridiculous in that hat… The whole thing is bizarre.
    What’s even stranger to me is that these girls don’t seem to realize that this is all self-promoting fluff. When they meet at parties they love each other SO MUCH and admire and coo, but fail to realize that there’s nothing there. They’re so busy being noticed and counting their comments, but it’s not like they create any content other than themselves. There’s no thought involved or analysis or discussion of anything relevant beyond hemline length.
    The whole thing is disillusioning, but I try to keep a hard head (and a sense of humor) about it. At some point it will be revealed that the empresses are not wearing any clothes….
    Ms. P & C recently posted..J.Crew Spring Catalog Theatre!My Profile

  • Bella Q 31 January 2012, 6:41 pm

    I love this post- the honesty in which you wrote it resonates so strongly with me. I’ve been feeling something similar. I’ve neither desired to “document’ day to day living (I actually hate people’s pictures posting of their meals- the cook in me just rolls her eyes on that one) or misrepresent my life- but I do value art, artful expression and strive very hard to create excellent photography as well as thoughtful posts for my blog. I feel like I’ve been evolving past the limits of my fashion blog genre lately however, and am struggling to find a (blog) purpose after that realization. I’ve created and fostered community in the personal style niche and how does one go out of bounds and expect
    her folks to follow?

    The big time, aspirational bloggers have long ago lost their shiny in my eyes- no offense to them- but as they polish their images more and more like fashion magazine, I relate to them less and less. Since I am neither leggy, lithe, white or 20 years old with a boyfriend/slash photographer, I can’t pretend to relate to the Mod-cloth sponsored lifestyle. How does one afford the constant stream of new wardrobe additions and swag-cluttered events attended?
    I’ve not one clue.
    Bella Q recently posted..outfit post: This is Not An Outfit PostMy Profile

  • Lorena 1 February 2012, 6:29 pm

    Oh Franca, first things first: I loved- LOVED! – your pictures they are so fun AND well done.
    I agree with you on how some blogs are just SO curated.
    For me pictures and styling are great but I also TRY to find the person behind it all, the human part.
    I like a blog with pictures and TEXT, interesting text and sometimes all I run into is a list of brands and no thought provoking posts.
    I read somewhere that some bloggers go to the store buy the clothes, go home, style them, take pictures and then return the clothes ! I think if you are there, you are crossing limits !
    Sure I wish I had someone to take my picture and sure I wish I had time to do more, but it’s not who I am, it’s just a tiny part of me that is exposed – usually a superficial layer.
    Lorena recently posted..Summer nights, summer tightsMy Profile

  • Kate @ With Little Lights 1 February 2012, 11:28 pm

    I agree with so much you’ve said here! (and I love those photos) I most enjoy blogs where I can get a bit of a sense of the writer – I want to get a sense of the woman wearing the clothes & feel like she & I would get along. At the same time, I don’t need *every* detail of your life.

    The ‘edited’ vs ‘real’ thing doesn’t really bother me – we all chose to edit how we present ourselves in every situation. I mean, my answer to ‘how are you’ is drastically different depending on if my best friend or my grocery checker is asking it. I personally don’t like to read all-image, fashion-mag style blogs, but many of them are creative and I can see where the perfectness would be appealing.
    Kate @ With Little Lights recently posted..100% Thrifted: Navy & RedMy Profile

  • Style Eyes 3 February 2012, 7:21 pm

    Another thought provoking post. Yes I agree with you and many of your comments. I have moved away from magazines because it is just one big sell of a lifestyle that I can’t aford and don’t really want to follow. It would seem mad for me then to follow blogs that just offer the same. I sure everyone enjoys reading different things but for me a constant cycle of posts about press days and fashion shows is not really what it is about either. If I want to see artistic photography of model like girls, I will read Vogue, in blogs I want to know about real people and see what they are wearing. I don’t post every single outfit I wear either because I don’t wear a completely different outfit each day. In all honesty, I don’t really get the whole Glossy Box thing either, why would anyone want to spend their hard earned cash on a box of stuff when they have no idea what they are going to get or whether they would even use or need it.
    Style Eyes recently posted..Paisley LoveMy Profile

  • Erin 3 February 2012, 10:48 pm

    I heartily agree. Inspiration can and does come from cruising fashion bolgs, but I do feel a disconnect, particularly in my fourth decade.
    This spring, I plan to launch a fashion blog with a decidedly more “Bottom up” approach to fashion – wherein I’M the project, and not the model!

  • joann, sidewalk chic 10 February 2012, 1:19 am

    So I’ve actually been mulling on your post here for a couple days, and just got around to writing a post of my own about reality versus creativity on my blog. Over the years, I’ve realized that it’s come to the point where it might be impossible for me to document what’s really ‘real’ in my life, because for me, the act of documentation skews reality because I control what my readers see. I’ve ultimately decided that I want to be more creative and embrace this fantastical side. But I do think your post brings up a lot of philosophical questions about fashion blogging, especially since many see them as aspirational lifestyles.
    joann, sidewalk chic recently posted..Reality versus creativity in fashion bloggingMy Profile

  • Fajr 10 February 2012, 7:30 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it is life, edited, but life nonetheless. No matter our approach we are all curating our experiences to make them digestable by our readers and I don’t think that is really a problem.

    My lifestyle doesn’t really afford me to take outfit photos all the time, though I dress up with or without them. I think my biggest issue is the feelings that people have toward those bloggers that can dress up for a living so to speak. I think that they present a certain type of experience and they are consistent with it. I used to feel envious of that but I’ve realized that I’m presenting a different kind of experience. And I’m okay with that.

    Great post.
    Fajr recently posted..The Curse of Perfection: How to Be Effective, Not PerfectMy Profile

  • jesse.anne.o 11 February 2012, 12:37 am

    I starred this in my reader and forgot to come back to it until someone else just linked it.

    I don’t think I read any blogs where there isn’t some type of dialogue behind why they wear the clothes they do from an ethical perspective. That’s really where my interest lies. There are some style blogs that I skim (pictures only, never EVER read the text unless I plan to be suicidal) for inspiration. And I definitely prefer reading blogs where people are working with a limited budget or limited closet, which I consider more relateable.

    I also have a hard time reading blogs that seem very “fashion” – which I want to say seem more contrived but I don’t know if that’s it. I think it’s just obvious that they showcase a different set of values.
    jesse.anne.o recently posted..Women’s Mags: Not Pretty Attractive NewsMy Profile