In the last decade blogging has been lauded for allowing the fashion scene to become more diverse and less exclusive. Fashion blogging is the new ‘it’ girl of the media scene. Bloggers have become brands unto themselves, as evidenced by the arrival of Tavi Gevinson, the 17-year-old fashion blogger and editor-in-chief of Rookie magazine, an unabashedly feminist publication targeted towards teenage girls. Now, all one needs to become a fashion writer is an internet connection, a decent camera, and an outstanding sense of style. Blogging is the media of democracy; what is popular, and therefore successful, is that which is most loved by the people. This makes the connection between bloggers and their fans crucial to creating a workable business.
Despite this newfound level of accessibility, it is arguable whether successful bloggers have diversified fashion at all, or whether they are simply perpetuating pre-existing beauty standards in order to further their own enterprise. Even those who entered the fashion arena simply to document their own style can be swept away by offers of free clothing and cross-promotion. Arabelle Sicardi, who runs the blog Fashion Pirate – a mix of critical fashion discussion and personal style documentation – argues that this can impact a blogger’s authenticity. “It is sometimes hard to discern if people are blogging their daily outfit posts because they are constantly getting new free things sent to them under the obligation that they have to blog about them,” she said, “or if they are blogging their daily outfits because they really just want to talk about their outfits every day”. When it comes down to it, bloggers are still at the mercy of their readers – they are the ones that the writer must please, as they are the ones who determine the writer’s relevance and revenue. Labels and companies are also extremely influential, offering high-profile campaigns to bloggers, the majority of whom are tall, thin, and write glowing reviews. That is, they basically mimic fashion magazines, abandoning any level of freedom provided by their unique position.
But why should bloggers feel obliged to create waves? Many personal style bloggers claim that they have no need to be critical of either brands or themselves, as their blog is merely a documentary of their style from day to day. But this argument becomes arbitrary once you consider the money being made from these looks. As Sicardi noted, the work of fashion bloggers is “certainly not image production just for the sake of image production.” Surely if bloggers are making personal financial gains by exploiting narrow pre-existing standards of beauty, they should be held to some level of accountability.
The pressure to be honestly critical, possibly through the implementation of a standardised code of ethics, could assist in making bloggers more aware that their work is not created in a vacuum; that they have the ability to be more than just glorified advertisers for big brands.
However, it is also unfair to lump all of the blame on the blogger without considering why exactly the fashion industry favours certain beauty over others. As Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, from The Beheld, observed that, “the reason the question is relevant isn’t so much because of the world of fashion and beauty, but because of the world at large.” Indeed, we are the ones who read the work of homogenised blogs, validating their lack of critique, encouraging brands to engage them, and lapping up their every floaty syllable. If the audience is what determines a blogger’s success, then the audience also has the power to demand content that they wish to read. There are numerous fringe bloggers, like Sicardi, who have created their own niche and are pushing the boundaries within it, collecting a sizeable readership along the way. Perhaps if readers truly wanted beauty standards to be subverted, they would be wholeheartedly supporting blogs that demand a more in-depth analysis than that provided in the mainstream.
While fashion is often considered frivolous and unimportant, fashion bloggers have the ability to construct identities and sell ideologies along with material goods. But they can also challenge current mainstream fashion discourse by rejecting and subverting existing standards. Ultimately, demand for such critique does not currently exist. Who knows if it ever will?