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Blogging Behind the Scenes: Why Blogs Have Assistants and Interns

Wardrobe Oxygen - blogging behind the scenes why blogs have interns and assistantsOh gosh, why does a fashion blog need an intern? All the blogger does is stand around and look cute in gifted clothes while her boyfriend takes her picture. It’s not like blogging is hard, it’s just to try to look important, right?


In 2016, blogging is a true business and is far more complex and time consuming than you can imagine. Even part-time bloggers are bringing in full-time salaries and it’s not just for taking pictures of their daily outfits. I hired an assistant last fall and when she got the full-time internship of her dreams where she had to live at the location, I wished her well and brought on a summer intern. Many days I consider hiring an additional person because there is so much to do. Below I’ll share some of the things that blog assistants and interns do to help a blog run and look so effortless.

Manage and Filter Email

I am not a “big” blogger, yet I receive over 100 emails a day related to the blog. Some take a quick scan and delete, but most require a response. There’s readers asking questions, brands interested in collaborating, partners with edits and updates for upcoming posts and social media shares, emails from affiliate programs, and much more. While I don’t have anyone filter my email for me, I can see how helpful it would be to have someone take a first crack and send polite, “thanks but you’re not a good fit” emails to brands not right for partnership, send a quick, “thanks for your email reader, I’ll get back to you soon!” email to readers, and delete all the spam so I can focus on the time-sensitive content and save all that time to answer reader emails.

Format Posts

I’m a quick writer (which can be seen by my occasional typos, grammatical errors, and run-on sentences). I get an idea in my head and race to a computer where I type it out super-fast, then re-read to try to make it cohesive. For me, that’s the easy part. The time-consuming part is all the rest that makes a post a post. The graphics, the headers and subheaders, the links, the widgets to help you shop the contents. I can whip up the text in less than an hour but then spend up to three more hours formatting a post to make it ready to go live. To have someone help, be it editing photos, creating collages, or just entering hyperlinks would open up time to have more quality content.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Snapchat, Vine, Periscope, oh my! How to keep up when also keeping up a quality blog? This is where an assistant can be quite helpful. While it’s important to keep your voice clear on social media, there’s ways where an intern or assistant can help.

My old assistant took over my Pinterest account; while I still pinned from time to time she rearranged and organized my boards, created new ones, and pinned additional relevant content. In just a short time, her work increased my followers on that platform by thousands and increased traffic to my blog by 15%. Pinterest is a time suck for me, I go on there and three hours later I’m dreaming of no-bake cookies, reupholstering my couch, and DIY-ing some old tee shirts and I still haven’t finished my blog post. It made sense for her to take the reins there not only to improve my blog but keep me on task.

While I treasure the community I have built on Facebook and make sure that it’s ME who is the voice on that platform, my assistant did schedule some “evergreen” content posts to go live at less-active times. If you’re a fan over there and saw a 3am post that said, “From the Archives…” that was done by my assistant. It didn’t affect the community, but it did increase traffic to my blog and attracted an audience outside of my usual 8am – 7pm ET discussion group. I also do this sort of posting on Twitter via HootSuite and while an assistant doesn’t do it right now, that doesn’t mean I won’t possibly assign it to one in the future. It gives me time to write quality real-time content while still driving traffic to my blog and reaching a new and larger audience.

A social media-savvy assistant or intern can help a blogger be better on platforms, too. Introducing new platforms to explore, scheduling content at better times, encouraging more engaging content, and in situations like YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr, can help source, create, and edit the content all without the blogger losing her voice.

Updating Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that wasn’t written recently, but is still relevant. I have posts from 2009 that are still regularly pinned and receive comments. For me, it’s usually capsule wardrobes, clothing cleaning tips, and advice about underpinnings or fashion rules. It makes sense to dust those posts off every so often and keep them looking and acting current.

I personally don’t change the actual text of evergreen content unless I come across spelling or grammatical errors or anything that really dates a piece like a then-current event or pop culture reference. However, I will go in and improve graphics to make them more Pinterest- and mobile-friendly and update broken links. This is something great to assign to an intern or assistant so the blogger can spend that time creating new content.

Attending Events

Socializing and networking is key to blogging success. No matter how good your content, opportunities often come with who you know and who you chat up at a cocktail hour or conference. It’s also good business to make an appearance at events, to support your community, promote it on your blog and social media, and to also get your name out there. For me, this is the toughest part of blogging. With a full time job and a family, I rarely am able to attend events. Having an intern or assistant who can attend on my behalf is awesome.

Last year, my assistant attended a Birchbox pop-up shop at Rent the Runway. I love both companies but there was no way I could attend an event in the middle of a work day. She went, had a blast, represented Wardrobe Oxygen, and was able to write a recap post for the blog. I plan to have my summer intern attend a few local events as well, it’s a good way for an intern to learn how to network, make contacts, and also get some writing experience.

Write Content

I learned from last year’s reader survey that the majority of the Wardrobe Oxygen audience does not want regular guest columnists, but the occasional guest post is welcome. An intern or assistant will have a different outlook from the blogger, may be a different age, different personal style, skin or hair type, different lifestyle. That difference is a good thing, and can add a fresh perspective to the occasional post. Last December, my college-aged assistant created a gift guide for college students and many of you found it helpful. I’ve seen other blogs give their assistants or interns a weekly column where they share their knowledge on a topic different from the primary blogger – maybe a weekly recipe for a fashion blog or new music suggestions for a décor blog. Not only does this benefit the reader with variety and the blogger with more content, it benefits the intern or assistant, building her writing portfolio.

Photography and/or Videography

I am lucky to be married to a skilled photographer, but for those who do not have access to such, an assistant or intern can come in handy. I often wish I had another on staff who could help with product photography as it’s not really me or Karl’s forte. As for videography, I’ve dabbled in it, but it’s not my strong suit and it can take a whole weekend stuck at my desk or on the couch to do a crappy job editing one four-minute video. While Karl takes my photos, I am the one who edits them and that takes a lot of time. Having someone on staff who is skilled in Photoshop and/or Adobe Premier could take a blog to the next level or at least free up a blogger’s time to focus on producing more content.

Editor/Second Set of Eyes/Second Opinion

Being a blogger is a very solitary existence. While I am part of a few Facebook groups for bloggers and entrepreneurs and have friends who are bloggers or in similar industries and feel comfortable asking them for advice or a sanity check, it can help to have someone vested in your blog’s success. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked Karl or my sister, or even Emerson’s opinion on an outfit, the wording of a paragraph, or whether I should accept a certain opportunity. To have someone who also knows the ins and outs of blogging and knows that the more you succeed the more she succeeds is so helpful. Just having a sounding board and the ability to bounce off ideas to improve them will only help improve the quality of the blog.

Tech Support

When my blog was still on Blogger I rarely had a tech issue. I could fix or change most anything in HTML and life was pretty simple. But with the growth of Wardrobe Oxygen and the desire for a more professional site and one that I could truly manage and control, I switched to WordPress. While I don’t regret it, I am not completely out of my element. When things break, I don’t immediately know how to fix them. Google is my best friend, but I also rely on external tech and graphics support. If I had an assistant who was familiar with WordPress and CSS, it would save me a lot of time and a lot of money and could help make some of my blog dreams into a reality.

Newsletter Support

Hey remember my monthly Style File? I decided last year to start a monthly newsletter with content completely different from the blog. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work and as the blog grew and work demands increased I couldn’t maintain it. I hope to resume it in the near future, but really I’d love to change it to a shorter weekly newsletter, still having the not on the blog content, adding a bit of what I share on Facebook, and keeping it fun and light and a bonus to everything else I share. This could become a reality with an assistant. Like blog posts, the most time for newsletters comes down to formatting. Even if you have a template, it still takes time to set everything up, add links and graphics. To be able to email the content and have someone else make it pretty would be a dream come true.

Administrative Tasks

Visit the post office to check the PO box and ship out that giveaway prize. Pick up some flowers for that photo shoot. Pack up and mail the samples received for an outfit post. Scan and email back contracts. Search online for ethical brands that offer larger than a size 12 and reach out to them to see if they would offer samples or gift product for thorough reviews. Help organize and file away receipts and other legal and tax documents for the business. Help set up product and outfit shoots. Snapchat or Periscope when a blogger does public appearances, speaking engagements, and the such. Gather analytics and blog metrics. Regularly update media kits, promotional materials, about pages. Find a royalty-free image I can purchase of a non-skinny woman who isn’t squeezing her belly and looking sad (seriously, you don’t want to know how long I looked for the photo in my chub rub post).  Research equipment, applications, and other tools to improve the blog’s photos, delivery, etc. Point is, there’s a lot of random tasks that take up a lot of time for a blogger and it helps to have a second set of hands!

This is from the perspective of a part-time blogger who isn’t “big time;” I can’t imagine the additional work and responsibilities of a blogger who has chosen to make this her full-time profession. When you think that blogging is easy and just getting gussied up for a few photos, know there’s a lot more behind the scenes and it makes sense for many bloggers to have assistants and/or interns!


What I Wore: Secret Band Tee

Jacket: Buffalo David Bitton (similar) | Tee: eBay | Scarf: c/o Nepali by TDM Design | Skirt: Halogen (similar) | Tights: Spanx | Shoes: Nine West “Lottie” | Bag: Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Smitten

Though I wrote a piece on how to incorporate band tee shirts in office attire, I myself hardly do it because I just don’t think they’re professional enough for my office and field of work. But when I saw this tank top on a woman at a show, I felt this may be a more subtle way to rock the band tee shirt. And if you’re worried that a generic tee shirt like this is copyright infringement, I found this article which clears things up and gives some history to the album cover art.  As for the tank, the hem is just serged so it rolls so I folded it under and will likely sew it that way to stay in place.

While I’m not a fan of the frigid temps this week in the DC area, it is nice to be able to wear this scarf again.  It is by far one of my favorites and surprisingly versatile.  It was originally part of my outfit, but with the wind, I felt I needed something to keep my neck warm.  I liked the pattern mixing and decided to keep it not just as a commuting accessory, but a piece of the look even when indoors!

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Blogger Burn-out: How to Get Reinspired for the New Year

The fabulous Kat at Ginger, Adorned recently asked on Twitter what fellow bloggers do to get through burnout. It reminded me that I had started a post on this very subject a few months ago but never did anything with it. Kat inspired me to finish my thoughts, and made me realize that my experience may help those of you who have a blog, site, or similar project.

I’ve been blogging for over seven years, and have experienced writer’s block and burnout more times than I can count. I have almost shuttered Wardrobe Oxygen a couple times, and if you go through my archives can see many times where I just went MIA because I had nothing to offer. Over the years I have gotten better at finding ways to quickly get out of a blogging rut, below are the ways I fight blogging burn-out and writer’s block.

Write for Yourself. When I am in a rut, I open up Word or a journal and just write. Maybe it’s a list of what I’d love in my dream wardrobe, possibly it’s documenting a dream I remember, a rant about a situation at work or in the blogosphere, maybe it’s some random rambling fiction that I make up as I go. Just putting the fingers on the keyboard or the pen to the paper is the important part – making the words. Then I save it to my desktop or close the journal and move on. A day or so later, I re-read what I wrote and often learn a lot from it. Sometimes it turns into a blog post, often it gives me a fresh view of how my mind works and recharges the writing part of my brain. Sometimes it’s just nice to write just for yourself; it’s freeing. You can be wild and creative and sloppy and silly and not even make sense like running down a hill screaming and laughing. We all need a bit of wild and silly and sloppy in our life from time to time.

Check Your Stats. Can’t think of a topic for a post? Hit up your blog stats and see what keywords are bringing people to your site, and what are the posts with the highest traffic. The keywords are great for a new topic, the popular posts give you an opportunity to revisit that topic and add detail or update for the new year. Not only this, seeing how your reader’s mind works helps you know what to deliver to keep them as readers.

Create a Series. Maybe it’s a Friday link-up, possibly it’s a monthly feature on a brand or fellow blogger. Having a series means at least one day a week or month you have guaranteed content. Keep it simple and keep a uniform template to these posts so your readers get that it’s a series and they will look forward to it. Often the content of the series will inspire you in other ways in regard to blog content.

Be Real. While it’s lovely to look at gorgeous photos of gorgeous outfits and collages of drool-worthy goodies, it’s also nice to know about the person behind the blog. Have writer’s block? Why not let your readers know and ask them what they would like to see or read on your site. Why not write a post about your life instead of your wardrobe – it brings depth to why you wear what you wear or why you feature the fashion and style you do on your blog. A great example of this is Alison at The Average Girl’s Guide – she has a “Vent Sesh” series where she steps away from style and vents about something in her life. This provides a great human element to her site, and also engages her readers to also vent and realize they aren’t alone in their personal frustrations.

Do a Review. You don’t have to just review what brands send you in the mail. An honest review that you’re not paid for can be quite refreshing these days in a blogosphere. Maybe your top five beauty products, your experience at a new mall in town, or even a concert or restaurant you recently attended. Even if you always write about fashion or beauty, the occasional review of a book, CD, concert, restaurant, or exhibit can be refreshing and help your readers understand how your mind works.

Poll Your Readers. Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are a great way to promote your blog, but they are also a great way to connect with your readers on a more intimate and honest level. Use your social media channels to ask your readers what they want more of. Maybe use Formspring or Survey Monkey to get anonymous feedback or what they like, dislike, and want more of. Accept that you may get negative feedback, but negative feedback can push you to improve your blog and toughen your skin. Such feedback can really help you step back and assess yourself, your blog, and its future as well as inspire you to write.  I did an anonymous survey when I changed the direction of this blog a few years ago and the feedback was invaluable; some a bit painful, some brought happy tears, all of it inspiring.

Step Away from Social Media. I sometimes take a Twitter break so that I can be a better blogger. Spending a lot of time with fellow bloggers can get you competitive, make you doubt your direction or ability, and get you frustrated. By taking a vacation from social media (as well as your blogroll) you can get back to the person you were when you started the blog. Returning to writing for passion instead of fame can quickly bring back your blogging mojo and the best way I have found is to distance myself for a short bit from my peers.

Start, Stop, and Save. I must have a couple dozen half-written posts on my computer. I start, I lose track, I save and close it. Sometimes I come back in a week when I have inspiration, sometimes it’s even a year. Heck, this post started six months ago, I was re-inspired by Kat, went back to it, closed it and came back a couple days later. You don’t have to write everything in one sitting, sometimes the best inspiration comes after letting an idea marinate for a bit.

Talk About It. I remember a few months after having Emerson I was burned out. Fried to a crisp. I had no desire to blog any more, no time, nothing. I had a baby blog, my personal style blog, my fashion advice blog and I just wanted to delete all of them and run screaming from my laptop. At the time I was part of a monthly women’s circle and that month we met at my house. We were drinking wine and chatting about life and I shared my frustrations with them. One suggested I pare down, concentrate on just one, maybe merge them together. I couldn’t believe I had never thought of that, and within a month I had merged the two fashion blogs and dropped being a proper baby blogger. Gosh, it was so freeing, and it brought back my enthusiasm for the craft. I also have a group of amazing fellow bloggers I consider friends; they (especially my dear friend Alison) are there for Gchat, an email, a drink after work to vent about blogging, to discuss the technical aspects, and to reinspire. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns or frustrations, your loved ones or a fellow blogger may know just the thing to get you back on track!

And now I ask you, what do you do to stop writer’s block or get over blogger burn out?

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On Blogging Vacations

blogging vacationsI’ve had an Instagram account for two years and I just broke 1,000 last month. The only way I did that was by writing a post about my Instagram account. I have mentioned it before in posts, shared pictures on my Facebook page, occasionally share to Twitter, and there was even an icon (or two!) always in my sidebar. I hate when bloggers recap their Instagram on their blogs, come on people, we already SAW those photos! But now I know why – for each post they likely get a few handfuls of new followers, those who haven’t been reading since the beginning, those who missed that last Instagram recap post, those who read in a reader or by email and don’t see the icons in the sidebar.  The new fans.

Once I broke 1,000, the followers have continued to roll in. There’s a tipping point of sorts with blogging social media. Once you break 1,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram you’re legit. If that many people already follow this blogger, they must be relatively decent. There’s another at 2,000 and the speed in getting more followers after that goal number doubles. When you hit 5,000 you can easily get 100 new followers in a day. You need followers to get followers.

Many of you have told me over the year to take a break from blogging. That if it isn’t fun anymore, I should have a blog vacation. However, I really enjoy blogging. While my day job is great and I work with wonderful people, it’s not my dream job or in a field in which I am passionate. Blogging is my way to do something I positively, absolutely adore. I love writing, I love helping fellow women, I love the community, love learning new technology… and I love fashion. When I have a bad day at work, coming home and opening up Word on my laptop is more soothing than a glass of wine.

One cannot take a break from blogging and still keep up. Blogging is constantly changing and becoming all the more competitive. To stay relevant, one must regularly provide quality content. One must maintain social media channels and be active on them. One must constantly improve, be it quality of photos, of content, methods of communication, usability of site. There’s 50 zillion blogs out there, one needs something to stand out.

And yes, with all this time and effort I put into this blog, I like getting paid for it. There’s a part of me that gets mega ragey when I see a shitty blogger who can’t even form a proper sentence win an amazing partnership with an amazing brand. I feel I need to perform not just for you who do read, but for those who may read in the future. Those who may tire of carbon copies with Starbucks cups who don’t proof their copy and don’t reply to comments.  Those who give blogging a bad name and are the reason for all the negative stereotypes.  I want not just to be great for you, but to prove that not every blog is the same.

I’m not thin, I’m not young, and I don’t own a pair of Valentino Rockstuds. I’m not the conventional blogger, so I won’t get the conventional audience and will never make the same money. But I believe that I offer something a bit different, and something that I would want to read. I believe future readers are as important as those who read now; I regularly receive messages from people who just found Wardrobe Oxygen and how they like it or were looking for something like it. So I continue to promote and blog and encourage any other blogger who offers something different and fresh and necessary. And often, I take sponsorships purely because I know I will be the odd one in the roundup – the only one over a size 10, the only one over 30, the only one who isn’t a full-time blogger. I feel it gives not just my blog exposure, but all of the blogs that don’t fit the norm. We have the power to change the face of blogging. All of us. We can’t stop, I won’t stop.

There won’t be a holiday from this blog, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I hope in 2014 to promote more great brands, more great blogs, and give the blogosphere more of what is missing/being ignored. And I hope you bloggers with a message that is more than dollar signs do the same. Don’t get frustrated, don’t compare yourself, be a trailblazer. We need you.


Blogging and Motherhood

I have to say… motherhood isn’t really affecting my blogging. I know people are thinking that as that I have been pretty sporadic in my posting. But it’s not motherhood, it’s work and priorities.

Work has been busy, to put it mildly. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and I have a wonderful team that I work with and a great supervisor who appreciates a job well done and provides comp time (which almost completely covered that staycation I had the other week). Our clients are demanding, disorganized and drop things on us at the last minute, but are greatly appreciative that my team and I make them look flawless to the public or THEIR clients. So I am very busy, but outside of sometimes (like last night) getting home after E has gone to bed or sometimes (like this morning) leaving before I can do anything but feed E… I feel good.

The house is still coming together. Taking care of a parent’s estate, no matter the size, is not quick or tidy work. This past weekend was full of moving furniture, packing boxes, burying ashes. A positive look on the weekend – we were able to move in most of my husband’s dad’s furniture that we chose to keep. It is exciting to see his beloved books mixed with ours on his bookcases, and to eat at my husband’s childhood dining table (it is also exciting to have Craigslisted my dining set that I bought at IKEA in 1998… good set but good to have it finally gone).

Having three dogs… is three times the work of having one! A year ago if I had to get to work early, I would turn off the alarm, slip into the bathroom, dress in the dark, kiss the husband, shush Ruckus and be gone in 20 minutes. This morning, the alarm goes off and three dogs are dancing around as though they hadn’t been outside in 50 years. 12 sets of doggy nails on bamboo floors woke Emerson, so I fed her back to sleep. I try to shush them, have them go back on their beds but they weren’t having it so as I went down the stairs they all bounded down with me, went outside, and proceeded to bark their heads off (it’s 4:30 am) at a cat on the other side of the fence. So I had to round them up, feed them, give them their appropriate meds… and I ended up leaving a bit late and without breakfast.

There are many fun and exciting things taking place in my personal life. Very good friends have recently married, I will be the Matron of Honor in my best friend’s wedding Labor Day weekend, and officiant for my dear friend’s wedding Halloween weekend. So there are showers and bachelorettes to attend in the near future. Since we have a new house and a new baby, we are hosting an all-family (my family, my husband’s family from both his mother and his father’s sides) cookout this weekend.

With a social calendar like that, you can understand that when I get home, I do not turn on my computer! 🙂

The only thing blog-related that motherhood DOES affect is my wardrobe. I think I am even more concerned with finding pieces that have many functions. Dresses are great because I can wear them to work, to a bridal shower, to a daytime wedding, to a memorial service, to dinner out with the husband. Dresses also don’t require much thought or preparation. Oh, going to wear the blue print dress? I will then wear the red heels, the black bra, the black Spanx, the silver jewelry. Same thing goes for trousers – much more versatile than jeans. My gray/blue chinos from Gap can be worn to work, to a cookout, to walk the dogs. I have very few tops right now, so pretty much each one goes with one or two different bottoms and that’s about it.

I also need clothing that will allow me to pump at work and nurse when home or out and about. This cuts out a good 70% of current fashion, which streamlines my wardrobe and helps me stay on budget.

The body is constantly changing and morphing. I can feel the weight coming off, but it is making the sagging show much more. I think my double chin is more pronounced now that it isn’t bloated, the belly sags in a strange way, the arms are now a bit saggy and there is still more weight that needs to be lost. I know a lot of this can be cured with exercise and muscle toning, but I am just trying to stay afloat with what is currently on the schedule and haven’t found much time for proper exercise. I just try to walk a lot and do at least three sun salutations each morning to keep me limber. But with this changing body, I find skirts and pants very difficult to fit. Again a plus for dresses!

The only thing I really have seen change is my personal grooming – I could have time for regular pedicures, cut and color and baths where I slough off everything. The thing is… I would rather sit out on my deck having an omelet and a cup of coffee with my husband, my daughter cooing in her seat, the dogs basking in the sun than sit in a salon and get buffed and polished. To me, I find more rest and relaxation in my backyard. But that is a personal thing more than a Motherhood thing.

I have always felt that mothers can still maintain a sense of style, and even with this busy life I still believe it. Maybe one shouldn’t invest in sequins and the most delicate of silks, but it is possible to be professional, to be stylish, to be attractive, to be more than “just presentable.” I think most women have a busy life prior to children – long hours at the job, evenings out with friends and family, weekends dashing about town getting errands finished. A baby does affect your life in so many ways, but I think it’s less about fashion and more about priorities. But as I always say – said pre-Emerson and say now… you aren’t worth a thing to anyone if you do not take care of yourself first.

So I am logging off so I can get back to work. Tomorrow should start at a semi-reasonable time so I hope to capture a picture of what I am wearing. Today I am wearing my gray and yellow cashmere cardigan from Gap with a white ribbed tank, tan sandals from Lands End and my gray/blue chino trousers also from Gap. Silver chains, silver hoops, hair in a low ponytail with sideswept bangs. Tarte’s Blushing Bride, plenty of black mascara and some lip gloss. Good look for leaving the house at 5am. 🙂

Blogging Love – Interview!

I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!

You can check out the interview here.

I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)

Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!

Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog

Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.

Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!

Favorite Web site to visit: They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.

Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:

1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.

2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.

3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.

Friday Favorite: Samsung NX 3000 Camera – Perfect for Camera-Unsavvy Folks!

Wardrobe Oxygen - Review of the Samsung NX3000 camera perfect for bloggers and those not comfortable with a DSLRAs you know, my husband is a professional photographer and has a couple fancy Canon DSLRs and lots of fancy looking lenses and stuff. I’m scared to touch any of it – it’s expensive, it’s heavy, and I have no photography skills. Some people have a black thumb for gardening, I have a black shutter finger.  But I can’t carry Karl in my back pocket everywhere I go, and it’s not a good use of his time to get on the floor and take an arty shot of my new ankle booties or blush. And with me wanting to get into video, I needed to figure out a way to get quality photos without the pro photographer.

Samsung NX 3000 – for Camera-unsavvy People

I was chatting with my friend Sarah about getting into creating video for the blog.  I could do it with Karl and his fancy camera, but it would be nice to have something to do more casual, on the fly videos.  Karl is happy to help, but it’s hard to schedule time when we’re both available. And honestly, I feel more relaxed when I’m not on someone else’s clock. Sarah said she had been eyeing the Samsung NX3000 and that very day, this camera was on a special price (usually $450 or so and on sale for $275) and while I was still on Skype with Sarah, I ordered that baby.

The Samsung NX3000 is a mirrorless digital camera, which for us photog-clueless means it’s smaller and way lighter weight than a DSLR. It has a cute retro look to it, and has a 20-50mm compact zoom which is perfect for blogging and videos (though wouldn’t be your best friend if you’re trying to photograph something far away). While there is a manual option, I have never used it and stick to autofocus.

There’s plenty of cameras like this on the market and they vary greatly in price. However, this one really appealed to me for some features that are perfect for bloggers and vloggers:

samsung nx3000 reviewFlip Up Display – Take a selfie or video with ease. The video display on the back of the camera flips up so you can see it when in front of the camera. I used this when doing my Clairol video, and for those post-hair photos in the same post.

Your Phone is a Remote – There’s an app available that will connect your camera and phone and let you press your phone to take photos and also to start and stop video. This photo on Instagram? I captured that by putting my camera on a coffee cup for the right height and using my phone to take the picture. For my Clairol video, I had the phone sitting on the sink counter and I could easily press it to start and stop.

Built-in WiFi and NTC – Honestly I don’t fully know what this means but I do know that I have the ability to take pictures with the camera and have them instantly appear on my phone, or easily retrieve photos from the camera to my phone and vice versa. This is fantastic if you want to upgrade the quality of your Instagram photos; no need for a computer and card reader, you can have high quality images to use on social media in seconds!  This is what I have been doing this week to capture selfies of my outfits each morning.

Speed and Quality – Super high resolution, crisp and colorful images, and a fast shutter speed so I can take a dozen photos and pick which one I like best.

Cute, Small, and Lightweight – You won’t mind having this over your shoulder or neck because it’s so unobtrusive. It also has the retro look that very closely resembles my husband’s far more expensive Fuji or a super fancy expensive Leica. I have the black, but it also comes in brown and white on Amazon and I even saw it online in pink.

Upgradable – Once you’re comfortable with the camera, there’s plenty of flashes, lenses, and gadgets you can buy for your Samsung NX to take it to the next level. You can get lenses that zoom more, provide a wide angle shot, fish eye, and more. You can get a nicer flash – knowing from Karl a bounce and swivel flash like this is great for adding light without being obvious or causing glare. You can get filters to improve the color of your photos. And I purchased, but have yet to use this ring light which will help with future videos.

My fancy low price meant I didn’t receive some basics for the camera.  The camera uses a microSD card; I didn’t get one with this deal so I bought a 64GB one and I have yet to fill it up, even with a ton of retakes of my Clairol post. Karl had a card reader that reads every size of memory card and connects to my computer via USB; I can’t get the camera to let me retrieve photos just with the cords that came with it, so you may want to get one (they’re less than $10). You need a micro USB cord to connect to your laptop or charge; Karl has one of these cords for his Fuji but I also bought a wall AC charger (less than $10); I can charge up the battery in about an hour and it stays charged for an entire week of photos

The camera doesn’t come with a bag or protective cover. I put off buying one for a while, figuring I can use some camera bag in my home. But last week I finally bought this case for less than $30. It gets mixed reviews, but I really like it and haven’t felt it needs a breaking-in period to work well.  I chose brown, and it looks like real leather but is a bit too smooth and shiny for my taste so I look forward to it getting beat up and weathered with time.  Some complain they can’t open the cover and take a picture with it still attached; I find it works fine, I use a pinky from one hand holding the camera to hold the front of the case below the lens and it’s just dandy.  I do have to remove the entire case if I wish to use a tripod or have the camera sit flat on a surface.  I didn’t add the enclosed strap and kept the one that came with the camera.  It’s easy  to snap off the front of the case and still leave the brown leather wrap around the camera body.

I’ve had this camera for about two months, and the only issue I have with it is that the autofocus is very… active.  You can be all set and ready to go and it goes blurry.  This happens most when you’re shooting a moving object or outdoors where there’s shadows and movement.  You kind of have to get used to it; this is not your iPhone and just need to get used to its behavior. The app is a bit archaic; while it accomplishes some super cool actions, the setup and options of it is pretty minimal and slow.  But yeah, that’s it.  I’m a very happy customer.

No, this camera isn’t cheap, but it’s better than my old-school Canon Powershot and way better than anything I can do with my iPhone.  Also, if you are a monetized blogger, camera equipment is a legit business expense and tax deductible. Amazon often has great prices on older models of cameras and other equipment and that’s usually the route I go.  You don’t need the latest and greatest, you need to get the job done.

Not Fashion Related: Blogging 101

Do you love blogging your personal style but don’t know how to get your blog off the ground?

Do you find blogging fun but know nothing about coding, Photohop, and the technical aspects of blogging?
Are you a brand new blogger and unsure how to make your blog look the ways other blogs look?

You can join different blogging communities, read blogging sites and newsletters, join Twitter chats on the subject, read books on SEO, but some things are very very simple to get your blog to the next level and they are primarily cosmetic. I don’t know a lot of coding, I don’t play a lot with optimizing search engines, but I have learned with time basic changes that will not only help you get readers, but help you keep those readers. I know many of you have your own blogs and have been inspired lately to start blogs.  I may not comment, but I do visit when I have time and I am so impressed with so many of your blogs and wanted to offer some easy “Blogger 101” tips to help you get your blogs more recognition.  This topic isn’t interesting to everyone, so I’m going to have a jump so the rest of you can keep scrolling to regular content.

Simplify Your Template
Get rid of the printed backgrounds, the Blogger fonts that are all pixilated, the headers that are three feet long, the centered text, and the 50,000 widgets in the sidebar. These days, a clean, white background with black or dark gray text is best. Don’t believe me? Check out all the “big” fashion and style bloggers, they all have clean, simple templates that are primarily white.

  • Font. If you’re on Blogger, they have a bunch of fun fonts for headers and body text, but they are extremely hard to read. Choose something from the first category of fonts (classics like Georgia, Arial, Verdana) versus the Web Fonts which have more personality, but look very messy on most browsers and monitors. I use Verdana in 13pt. font for my body text, in a dark gray (#444444).
  • Links. If you want people to click on your links to other pages or affiliates, make them visible and relatively appealing. I bold most of my links, because I have chosen a color with lower contrast to my regular text color. I used to have lighter links, but had individuals with vision issues tell me that there wasn’t enough contrast for them to see clearly. If you don’t want to manually bold each link, find a color that is obvious without being annoying (hello neon green, yellow, day-glo orange).
  • Headers. Instead of the header that your blogging platform will make for you, consider making your own header. This terrified me for years until I started using online photo-editing software. Check out this post I wrote about PicMonkey, a free tool that can help you create graphics like headers. This is what I use for my header as well as all the graphic buttons in my sidebar.
  • Get Rid of the Widgets. When you’re a new blogger you may feel that you have to fill up your sidebar, but it’s really not necessary. Have some navigation tools (archives, links to certain topics), and have ways to follow you (I’m not a fan of Google Friend Connect because it’s a big advertisement of how many people follow you, but am a mega fan of having a “subscribe by email” link as well as a link to popular subscription tools like RSS and Bloglovin). Also have simple links, not widgets to follow you on social media – your blog is advertising you, not Facebook.

    Again, consider PicMonkey or another tool to create graphic buttons to organize specific topics – outfits, recipes, beauty reviews, red carpet recaps. Create an “about” where you have a picture and a bit about yourself (again create this, don’t use the Blogger widget).

  • Learn Basic HTML. I was an English Lit major in college, and used a computer maybe twice while there, yet know enough about computers to work in Web Communications. How? Google. In 2003 I was trying to plan a wedding while working crazy retail hours and over 60 of those hours in a week. I needed to figure out how to get everything done at 2am or 11pm, so I learned how to surf the Internet, how to use Word and Excel to organize everything. I found The Knot, became obsessed, and through it created a bio which taught me simple HTML that I use to this day with my blog.

    I encourage you to use Blogger to make links and upload photos, and then switch to the HTML tab of your new post and see the code. Copy it, paste it into Word so you can examine it more carefully. Consider creating a hidden second blog where you can play with code and fonts and templates without affecting your current blog. This is also a great way to upload photos to be able to use on your blog (I have a blog just for uploading images).

    Here’s some very simple HTML coding to refine your posts and create your own sidebar widgets (click to see larger):

Make It Easy for Readers to View and Participate

  • Do you have an RSS button? Can they easily follow you on Bloglovin? By email?
  • Do you have your email address available? Readers like to contact you directly (as do advertisers and people who want to give you freebies!). I also created a Google Doc as a comment form and embedded it in a page so people can leave me feedback without having to email me directly.
  • Have social media buttons or make your own so it’s easy to also follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. If you don’t have these channels, no worries, but if you do be sure to promote so readers can get to know you better!
  • Blogger makes it easy to have a footer or signature on each post. Go to Settings, then Posts and Comments where you will find a field to add content to every post. I have some to have people follow, and I just write my post above it.
  • How is your commenting system? Blogger and WordPress have built-in commenting systems that aren’t very user friendly. It’s better to filter spam than have a captcha, which is especially hard to deal with on mobile devices. If you’re on Blogger and install Disqus for comments, turn off the mobile version for your site because the two don’t play nicely. Consider a commenting tool that lets people know when you reply to their comments so they will come back and take part in the discussion.
  • Again, have a simple, clear, easy to read template. Some people may be reading on an iPhone, some may be on a netbook, some on a monitor from 1990. You don’t know, so keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it easy to read.
  • Check Different Browsers. Your blog may look amazing in Internet Explorer, but be completely wonky on Firefox or an iPad. Every so often, open your blog in different browsers and make sure it’s lovely for all. 
  • Preview Your Posts.  Before you publish, see how it looks in a browser.  Do your photos spill into the sidebar?  Are things crooked?  Do you need more space between segments of content?

Improve Your Photos

  • Consistent Width. One of my favorite features of PicMonkey is being able to easily resize all my pictures to the same width. You’ll notice in the past year or so, be the pictures horizontal or vertical, they are all 600px wide. This is kinder to your reader’s eyes.
  • Consistent Size. A larger size makes it easier for people to see detail in what you are wearing. I chose 600px (which is far larger than Blogger’s XL option) after polling my readers and they telling me they wanted bigger. If your outfit photo only takes up a quarter of the screen and you’re an outfit blogger, you’re going to lose readers. People are there for the outfit, the inspiration.
  • Consistent Quality. Try to get clear pictures (pictures taken outside will give better light and more natural coloring), switch up your poses so it’s not a scrolling wall of hand on your hip and ankles crossed, and believe in quality instead of quantity – better to have one good picture than one good and four blurry/unflattering/dark/strange. Honestly, you can have the best style in the world but if your pictures are small and dark people will not stick around.
  • Get Rid of the Bling. No one wants the weird finishes, the rounded edges, the fake frames around your photos. Unless you have a very specific aesthetic to your blog (which you likely do not yet have if you’re still reading this post), these photo finishes are just muddling your message. Use something to color correct your photos, maybe a bit of text to state the brands or whatever (if that’s your thing), but otherwise keep it simple and clean.
  • Use a Collage Tool. We know when you use Paint or PowerPoint to make your collages, it’s clear as day and is the electronic version of a craft project with cut up magazines and glue sticks. A while ago, I made a PDF for blogging friends on how to make customized collages, you can find it here.
  • Give Credit Where Credit’s Due. If you use another blogger’s image, link back to that specific page in a caption below the image. If you want to use an image you found on Pinterest, find the original source and link to that instead. Don’t use images from news sources without permission – I know from experience that it can get you into trouble and cost you a pretty penny. I often use Polyvore for my images and link back to the set’s page so readers can see where I got my images.

    Sites like help photographers find where their images are being used without permission; can also help you find who is the owner of an image you wish to use.

Don’t Get Caught Up in Blogging
I originally had a list of additional blogging resources, but I chose to delete them not because they aren’t beneficial, but they can take you down a blogging rabbit hole. It’s so easy to get so caught up with creating traffic and getting an audience that you forget the real reason why you started blogging.

Simple cosmetic changes to your blog are the equivalent to painting your front door, putting a planter on the stoop and adding a wreath. It’s still the same home and the same great people live in it, but sprucing up your entryway encourages people to come in, and makes people feel that you care about your home as well as those who are coming to visit.

However, just like a home, it’s not about where you got your couch or what you put on your coffee table, but the people and the love felt when you visit them. YOU are the blog, not the SEO or the header or the platform. Create a clean and welcoming platform to let your content sing, you never know your blog may change the face of blogging or be the next big thing!

Note: Most of this advice is geared towards those of you on Blogger.  I see many new blogs are on this platform; I too am on Blogger so it is what I know best (and I obviously don’t think you have to be on WordPress to be successful, nor does Altantic-Pacific or Keiko Lynn or many other big bloggers still on this platform).  If you know of great tutorials specific to other platforms, please leave them in the comments to benefit your fellow bloggers!

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Blogging Behind the Scenes: How I Make Money Blogging

Blogging Behind the Scenes - How I Make Money Blogging by Wardrobe OxygenBlogging is this weird secret society where everyone likes to show how well they hustle and show how successful they’ve become, but rarely admit what extent of success they’ve achieved or how they’re achieving that success. A monetized blog is a business; businesses are audited, often public, and should be ready to open their ledgers to show how they are running an honest business. While I don’t find it proper to talk specifics in regard to money, since you readers are the reason why I make any money off Wardrobe Oxygen, I think you should know how it happens.

I know some of you aren’t interested in the business behind blogging and this will be a long post so I am going to have a jump so it won’t fill the whole front page.

[Read more…]

The Glamorous World of Personal Style Blogging

Several weeks ago, there was an event at a local store. A blogger I like was hosting it, I emailed all my real-life blogger friends (and friends who would not want to slit their throats attending a “blogger event” with bloggers) to round them up. Let’s go to the event, support our friend, get our swag bags, and then go to a nearby bar or restaurant and consume something other than room temperature Korbel and mini cupcakes. Friends agreed, we set the date. The date came… and I had NO DESIRE to go.  I was tired, I was having a bad hair day, I didn’t like my outfit, I just wanted to go home.  And sometimes a blogger event just sounds like a lot of work, especially after a long day at the 9-5.  On top of it, Karl had to prep for a shoot the next day so I couldn’t leave him home alone all night. But these were real friends, and we’d balance the air kissing and Instagramming with gossip and cocktails. I psyched myself up… and then I spilled a cup of coffee all over my dress.

Now, even if you’re not a blogger I think you can understand how awful of a situation that is. I burned my belly, my underwear was soaked, and I had a big brown stain on my light colored dress. This was beyond the capabilities of a Tide-to-Go pen. So I mopped up what I could, hid in my cubicle the remainder of the day, then skipped work half an hour early and raced to Ann Taylor, one of the few stores between me and the Metro with clothes larger than a size 10.

I raced around Ann Taylor in a panic. I had to be at the event in an hour, especially since I needed to leave at a reasonable time to get home to my family. I had a pair of leopard pumps under my desk, so I looked for something that would match them instead of my coffee-soaked sandals. In the fitting room I tried on a dozen different items, all looking awful. Did I mention I was wearing my Comfy-But-Makes-My-Breasts-Look-Wonky bra, the one that is so high cut that it peeks out of a v-neck? Yeah, good leading by example, Ms. Fashion Blogger.

Thanks to a lovely salesperson, I ended up with a dark red ponte dress with a peplum that covered the muffin top from my bad undergarments and a neckline high enough to cover my dreadful bra. I snagged a bracelet that coordinated, tried to make my sweaty so now curling hair calm down and redid my face, though it was still blotchy from stress my lips were all splotchy as though I finished a marathon makeout session. I did yoga breathing to try to cool my core and my mindset, shoved my coffee-drenched original outfit into the bottom of my (thankfully large) purse and headed to the blogger event.

I never was able to cool myself down, it was as though I had actually drank that cup of coffee and five more after it. I was stressed, I felt anxious. Why am I going to a blogger event instead of going home to put my daughter to bed? Why did I just drop almost $200 in Ann Taylor on a dress I don’t even really like? WHY DO I BLOG? WHAT IS MY POINT IN LIFE?? Yes, I started having a blogger crisis in the overheated Metro car.

I got to the event, and it wasn’t bad. Zero calorie pastel-colored drinks in place of Korbel (though still warm), iced cookies in place of cupcakes, A DJ playing pop music through big speakers, bloggers who are just as nice in person as they are on their blogs. Met some new people, tried to relax and enjoy myself and the good company, but it just seemed really warm and crowded and overwhelming. I was still sweating, and for some reason it was focused on my face and scalp.  Dry body, dripping from the neck up and it just wouldn’t stop.

FLASH FLASH FLASH there’s the pro photographer for the event. I’m flushed, I’m sweaty, and my boobs look as though they’re 400 years old and have minds of their own. I know that these photos will be used by the brand and be on a couple different blogs within the week, all linking back to my blog (which is good blogging etiquette but I’d be okay with bad etiquette at this point).  I go into a corner of the store and try to do some damage control, slicking back my hair into a low ponytail and adding more lipstick. I put the bottle of pastel water to my forehead, then back of neck hoping it will cool me. I then guzzle it, thinking maybe that will help. Straighten my wonky boobs and head back into the throng.

My friend Instagrammed a picture with me in it (yep, the one right above).  She adores me, I adore her, and I know she would never share a photo where she felt I looked bad (Yes we bloggers have a unwritten rule that we try to never share an unflattering photo of a fellow blogger we like or respect.  If a blogger shares a really unflattering photo, she likely doesn’t like that blogger, or is new to the blogging scene and is not familiar with the Blogger Code.).  I saw that picture while still at the event (because we were Instagramming like mad because that’s what we bloggers do to show off that we were there, to possibly win a prize, and sometimes because we promised the brand to be nice or to get paid) and knew it must have been a good look for how insane I must have been in real life.  I saw that photo and knew it was time to head home.   My style, my heart, and my mind wasn’t in it, I wanted to be home in air conditioning and comfy pants.  I gave air kisses to those I hardly knew, big sweaty hugs and kisses to those who loved me in spite of it, and headed back to the Metro.
On the ride back to the ‘burbs, I munched on an iced cookie in the shape of a corset and drank more lukewarm pastel water, ignoring the Metro rules about no food or drink.  It’s was late, this was going to end up being my dinner.  Luckily I got an air-conditioned car that wasn’t too full, I could have a seat to myself and let my sweat turn into icicles.  I thought about why I subject myself to such torture… and realized those who see such events from the outside probably think they’re pretty glamorous and fun.  And I thought… they CAN be fun, if I had the right mindset.

Maybe I’m jaded because I have been doing this for so long.  Maybe it’s because I have a family at home I really adore and feel I don’t see enough as it is.  Possibly it’s because I still have a full-time not blog related job that I care about.  But I find blogging events to just be more work, even if I am not the one hosting it.  I feel the need to dress a certain way, to look super polished because I know there will be flashbulbs all over the place.  It’s like attending a networking event where you get photographed a hundred times, wearing your highest heels and carrying your smallest or most expensive purse.

At the same time, gosh I have the coolest part-time job on the planet.  I feel blessed to be based out of DC where so many bloggers are really amazing human beings and friends.  That we do have a thriving fashion and social scene, where companies court us and pay to host events that we can go to.  That Instagramming like a fiend is showing our appreciation for them realizing that DC is just as influential of a shopping town as the other big cities in this country.  That some events are pretty darn spectacular (hello Goodwill’s Art of Fashion) and renew my faith in blogging and the community.  That with the growth of the blogging community, I find it even more important to support those I respect and believe to do a good job.  That it IS cool to attend an event and get free food and free nail polish, and to complain about such perks of the job is being a spoiled brat.

I think the life of a personal style blogger is very different from what most choose to share on their blog.  Many bloggers complain that we get criticized for just sitting around, eating macarons, sipping pumpkin spice lattes, and taking pictures of ourselves spinning in skater skirts and gifted ankle booties.  I think people feel that because they don’t know the actual work behind being a blogger.  Bloggers who who are the most successful create a fantasy world of white lacquer, gifted purses, and crisp Autumn days where they skip down cobblestone streets with their adorable puppy or boyfriend.  Brands want relaxed and happy and carefree.  Whether you realize it or not, most of you readers (as we bloggers can tell by our pageviews, subscribers, and affiliate income) also desire this aesthetic. The blogs with the largest bank accounts and the largest following have the most glamorous or enviable looking lives.

I’ve talked about the behind the scenes of blogging before, and I continue to do so because I think it’s important for readers to realize that be it a fantasy or reality, blogging is hard work and much of it isn’t glamorous.  It’s not just sweaty blogger events in place of family time.  It’s doing a photo shoot you are contracted to do even though you’re sick, you had a death in the family, your boyfriend just threatened, “it’s me or the blog.”  It’s working your 9-5 (which is often more like an 8-6:45) and then coming home to 70 emails from PR people and brands and potential advertisers, 20 new comments (half either trying to spam their company or telling you that you suck), three contracts to go over with a fine-toothed comb to be sure you’re not getting screwed or signing your life away, a handful of business calls, collages to create, blog posts to write and schedule, gifted items that take mega skill to figure out how to tastefully incorporate into a post or upcoming outfit, emails from readers asking for advice or to offer feedback or criticism on what you are doing.  Then you check your stats and find another blogger or a message board saying you’re lazy or you lack talent or you’re stupid or your blog sucks.  It’s constantly networking, constantly educating yourself about new technology and updates to Google and WordPress.  It’s being up on the latest social media, the latest brands, the most recent news about technology, fashion, and the blogosphere.  It’s working until 1am and still having a mile-long to-do list and you have to get up in four hours to take care of your family, go to your day job, speak at a conference, hit the gym to maintain your enviable figure, plot out three shoots before the noon sun ruins your light and you have race to meet a brand at their headquarters and then race home for a Skype interview.

Yes, there are crappy bloggers who make dough off of putting together mediocre outfits, Photoshopping them to death, and posting them with a short paragraph laced with grammatical and spelling errors.  The occasional collage to bring affiliate income and a couple tweets sucking up to brands and promoting their same blog post for the fifth time.  But the majority of bloggers I know… our lives aren’t that glamorous whether we lead you to believe it or not.  Blogging is a job, a sweaty, stress-inducing job that often costs us as much or more than what we make from it.  But we do it because we love it, and we hope you love it in return!

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Blogging and Compensation and Selling Your Soul

blogging compensation and selling your soul - wardrobe oxygenThere was a bit of excitement last night/this morning on teh interwebs regarding a blogger’s post about compensation. I’ll be honest, I never heard of Mini Penny before, and I was impressed with her being willing to call out a brand that time and time again I have heard has screwed over bloggers, and I was impressed that she was willing to speak out about the business of blogging.  Part of her post I agreed with, but part I feel she missed the boat and it could be sending well-intentioned bloggers in the wrong direction, making us look worse as a group.

Some big companies will partner with a couple blogs; they will give them money, free product, maybe buy ad space or sponsored posts and feature them in their campaign. That’s all fine and good. Then they contact other bloggers and instead of offering money, they ask just for those bloggers to promote their campaign or giveaway or new line. Maybe they’ll provide a free pair of glasses or a tee shirt. They sell this opportunity by saying the blogger’s participation in the campaign will provide them exposure, and that exposure is more valuable than money. Some bloggers will decline… and some bloggers will accept it. Some of the bloggers who take part do it thinking they will actually get some great exposure, and some do it because they want to be seen as equals to those who actually got paid to participate.


I have been in Refinery 29, The Washington Post, Redbook, Racked, StyleCaster and more. I have done campaigns with brands where I got maybe one free tee shirt, sometimes nothing. For that exposure I may have an extra hundred pageviews the first day, possibly 50 the next day, and then one or two pageviews every so often for the next couple of months. I haven’t seen an increase in followers to my blog or social media channels from any of these sorts of “exposure” opportunities. I have never been approached to do a partnership or campaign because I was on those sites.

The best exposure I get is from other bloggers. Recently Grace from Stripes & Sequins included me in her weekly link post, and I have received more pageviews from that than my time on Racked. I still receive hundreds of pageviews a month from when I was mentioned on Get Rich Slowly in 2009 or Lifehacker earlier this year; when Sally at Already Pretty or Angie at YouLookFab or Alyson at The Average Girl’s Guide link to me I not only receive a ton of pageviews, but new followers. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but let you know that connecting with your fellow bloggers will provide more ROI than promoting a brand pro bono. Not only do you get more pageviews and possibly followers, but you create great business relationships and friendships. If you want your blog to grow, support your fellow bloggers, get to know them, promote them, and provide content great and unique enough that they will support and promote you in return.

Trying to Look Cool

A lot of new bloggers try to make it look as though they have some partnership with a brand, especially if more popular bloggers in their niche are promoting that brand. If your favorite big blogger is wearing a certain denim brand, seems to be doing sponsored Instagram posts and tweets, and mentions the brand every other blog post and then that same denim brand comes to you and asks for similar just for exposure… don’t do it thinking you will look as successful as the big blogger. Don’t think that doing this promotion for them for free now will mean they will give you money in the future. That denim brand has the money to pay bloggers, they have just chosen to not pay you. By doing the promotion for free or “exposure” you’re saying you’ll accept nothing this time, and always. And those big bloggers know that you didn’t get paid, you don’t look any cooler or bigger or more successful by pretending you got paid when you didn’t. The brands know, the bigger bloggers know, and it won’t help you get to the top.

When Free is Good:


Sometimes, you promote a brand just because you want to. Every magazine and newspaper and publication does this. You don’t get paid, you just think it’s a good fit for your blog, your audience, or maybe you think it will help SEO or you’re building a relationship with a PR person or… well it doesn’t matter why you do it, but you do. And there’s nothing wrong with this, in fact it’s a GOOD thing because it shows you’re authentic. Readers can trust you because not every item shilled on your site is sponsored. You’re a human with a blog, not a robot with a giant pink advertisement.

Real Exposure

Sometimes, a TV show will ask you to come on as an expert, or to represent an organization. Sometimes a website will ask you for a quote, or interview you. This is an awesome opportunity, and an opportunity that is usually done without pay. THIS is true exposure, and good exposure. This is something to add to your resume, a video clip to prove you are just as great on the spot as you are in posed outfit shots, a way to show you have a brain and ideas and are more than the pages of your blog.

Money Money Money

No one likes a person who is just about making money. Even if you are raking in the dough, showing it off or selling your blog space to the highest bidder gets really old really fast. When you care more about the almighty dollar than offering authentic and unique content you’re not going to last. Brands will see through you, and your readers will see through you.

When you start getting opportunities, it’s so tempting to take them. You can cover hosting costs, maybe buy a fab pair of shoes. And then maybe more come in and you can afford a blog redesign and a designer bag. Next thing you know, you may be able to quit your day job and blog full time. That’s exciting and liberating… but remember why you make the money. You make the money thanks to your readers. If you forget them and get too excited about fancy brands paying you and pretty photographs and a closet full of lovely clothes they will eventually forget about you too.

Be it in blogging or reality TV, success comes from being able to stay real as your bank account grows. Not being a carbon copy of another, not forgetting where you came from, and not forgetting who helped you get there. Whether or not you continue your blog in a year, your online presence will always exist. Don’t sell your soul and reputation, it’s not worth it in the long run.

I’d like to thank my dear friend Sarah of Style IT for inspiring this midnight writing frenzy (and she doesn’t even know that she did).  Not only does connecting with bloggers help your blog, but it also helps keep you sane, humble, and informed.  Sarah, thank you for being your awesome, down to earth, educated and very stylish self!


The Girl on the Train, Blogging, and the Whole Story

the girl on the train paula hawkins

I heard about The Girl on the Train on NPR; I caught the last bit of an interview with the author Paula Hawkins and was interested. I had finished the second book in the Outlander series and was looking for a change of pace before I delved into the third. I listened to The Girl on the Train via Audible on my commute to and from work and ended up not just with a change of pace from Dragonfly in Amber, but a new perspective on blogging, social media, and its audience.

The Girl on the Train is a thriller, very reminiscent of Gone Girl, but it’s also a great example of how looks can be deceiving and what happens when people become invested in the lives of strangers. Rachel Watson is a lonely, lost woman; she’s recently divorced and her life is a mess. She takes the train every day, and every day she passes the same row of houses next to the tracks. One is her old house, still inhabited by her ex and now accompanied by his new wife and baby; but the one that interests Rachel is a few doors down. A couple lives there, a couple that she sees as perfect. She doesn’t know them, but she imagines their lives between glimpses of them sipping wine or coffee on their patio or rooftop terrace. In her head she imagines their relationship, their professions, their hobbies; she even creates names for them – Jason and Jess. When tragedy strikes, Rachel ends up being involved in the life of this couple and realizes they aren’t the people in her morning commute fantasies.

Unlike bloggers and social media celebs, Jason and Jess don’t realize they have an audience. But like bloggers, what Rachel the audience sees is only a snippet of their life and she is making the decision to fill in the blanks.

While listening to this book, I couldn’t help but think about how bloggers and Internet personalities are analyzed, criticized, and sometimes idolized. I see on Twitter, on message boards, and on fan/hate blogs how people like Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train make the decision to fill in the blanks. That somehow, if one looked hard enough at the photos chosen by a blogger for their blog or how a paragraph is phrased they can determine if someone is having an affair, miserable at their job, upset that she can’t conceive, a terrible friend, a neglectful parent. Or the opposite, that by examining one’s Instagram account enough one can determine if someone’s husband really loves her, she’s such a nice and giving person, or she’s a really good mother.

The thing is you don’t know why someone chooses to share what they do. Maybe all the pictures turned out terrible except the one where she’s looking down at the ground. Maybe she always wears sunglasses because even after all these years she’s still awkward in front of the camera and the oversized shades hide her deer in the headlights gaze. Maybe she doesn’t share her husband on Instagram because he’s uncomfortable being photographed.  Maybe the post was written in a rush before the baby woke from his nap and she hit publish before proofing.  And maybe she knows how to play the game and sees from her analytics that she makes more sales when she has that smug smile than when she shows her teeth, or that when she writes something controversial she gets more pageviews, more hate followers, more fame, and more money.

The Girl on the Train is a good reminder that with those we follow on the Internet, and even those we know in real life, we make assumptions and fill in the blanks. And often, our assumptions are dead wrong.

I’m not saying getting invested in a blogger, vlogger, or even reality show star is a bad idea. I love blogs, and I have many favorite bloggers and personalities on social media, some who have become friends in real life and some who feel like a friend though I have never met them and likely never will. This isn’t bad, the Internet is a way to not feel so alone or unusual, to connect and relate to others across the globe. To find kindred spirits and gain inspiration. But it’s important to remember you don’t really know them, you only know what they choose for you to know and through the filter they have picked. It’s entertainment, it’s art, but it’s never the whole story.

The Girl on the Train was a well-written psychological thriller. I don’t want to share much more because it’s definitely the type of novel that is more enjoyable when you have no idea what happens before you start reading. And it’s clear I enjoyed how stereotypical characters were proven to be far more complex than originally thought; something that holds true for everyone you meet in real life, and on the Internet.

Blogging Behind the Scenes: Why Do Bloggers Wear That?

Now that blogging has become mainstream, friends ask far more questions about the business of blogging. I figure if they have these questions I bet a lot of you do too, so I am going to have a series answering them. Blogging can be a pretty hush-hush business, lots of negotiations, networking, and competition to achieve success, be it fan-based or financial. I’ve never been one to keep secret about the business of blogging; while my experience may not be the same for all bloggers, I hope my insights can help you understand why bloggers do some of the things they do.

blogging behind the scenes

One of the most popular questions I get are about what me and fellow bloggers wear and outfit posts in general. A few answers to those questions…

How Do Bloggers Get Free Clothes?

Blogs are pretty powerful marketing. A blogger has an audience, know-how to have her posts show up high in Google for specific searches (known as SEO – search engine optimization), and several social media channels where she promotes her posts, and has the know-how to get those touts to the largest audience possible. Sending a blogger a $50 sweater or even a $500 bag is much cheaper than buying ad space, and it has a higher return on investment (ROI).

I’m neither comfortable nor very successful at pitching myself to brands. However any good blogging conference or advice site will encourage bloggers to reach out to brands, sell themselves and their blog, and ask to partner (free clothes, ad space, sponsored posts or social media content, etc.). This often works, the PR person or brand representative will appreciate the gumption and the ability to get their product out to a new audience in a relatively easy low-cost manner and offer to send some clothes to be styled in an outfit post or featured in a gift guide.

Brands also reach out to bloggers directly, or through ad networks who organize sponsored content. The bigger your audience, the more emails you receive offering samples, merchandise, or partnerships. Sometimes you just get an email introducing you to a brand and a general statement about contacting for more information; you can reply back and do a pitch and sometimes they bite, sometimes they do not.

It sounds like a blast to have free clothes be shipped to you, but you need to remember you are dealing with businesses who are treating you like a business person. There is an expectation that anything you receive free you will promote on your site or social media. PR folks talk, and those who accept gifts but don’t promote them will soon get a bad reputation. Also, those who do a great job at promotion and are easy to work with are more likely to get more opportunities in the future. You’re not receiving gifts, you’re receiving a form of income to perform a job.

Why Is That Blogger’s Clothes Too Small?

When partnering with a brand, 99% of the time you receive the free clothes in the mail. A brand will send you a piece and either expect it to be mentioned within a month, or you will have signed a contract promising the piece to be featured very soon. And very soon sometimes means within 48 hours of receiving the item.

As I think all of you have experienced, even if you purchase an item from a favorite brand you regularly wear, that doesn’t mean the piece you bought online or pulled from the rack will fit the way you hoped. Add to this brands you are unfamiliar with, your first (and second and third and fourth) choice out of stock so needing to go outside your sartorial comfort zone, no time for alterations and you can often end up with a piece that just doesn’t fit.

Being larger than many standard bloggers yet not quite plus size, I’ve learned to say no to a lot of free clothes. PR folks will claim their size Large fits a 12/14 but once in hand you find it doesn’t even fit over the shoulders or hips. I’ve learned that if in doubt, size up. It’s easier to cinch a piece with a belt or strategically placed binder clip than try to Spanx and pose my way into a too-tight garment. But even so, we’ve all been stuck with a piece that doesn’t fit and a deadline to make. Your favorite blogger’s photos may all be in profile to hide an unzipped skirt, a clutch may be hiding camel toe, a blazer hiding the fact that a dress isn’t buttoned in back, a half-tuck hiding too low of a rise.

Why Is That Blogger Wearing That Ugly Dress?

There’s a couple reasons why your favorite blogger with a very clear personal aesthetic suddenly shows up in an outfit post wearing a piece that just does not look like something she would ever wear:

  • Money. When a brand offers you a heck of a lot of money to feature their product, you can justify most anything. It’s only one outfit post where I’m wearing a neon yellow tulle mini-tutu with pink roses glued on it, if I style it with a moto jacket and biker boots it may look ironic. No one will remember and I’ll bring home the bacon. I’ll compensate with a really good outfit the next day. Obviously this doesn’t always fly, and if you do it too often you lose your personal style as well as credibility.
  • Contractually Obliged. A brand you love and wear wants to partner with you. Yes! Now you can get that dress you’ve been drooling over for weeks for free! You sign the contract… and then are told to choose from two specific pieces, two you’d never get caught dead in. Do you go back and say no, break contract and likely future partnerships with this brand or do you make it work?
  • Pictures Lie. You’re working with a new brand, you see what looks to be a great piece on their site and request it. When it arrives it looks like the picture on the site… if you squint and are in low light. Your post is to go live that week and you’ve already been paid for your post. Again, do you break contract and refund the money or make it work?
  • Out of Stock. I recently partnered with a great brand. They let me choose anything from their New Arrivals to style. Everything I wanted to wear in my size was out of stock. My SIXTH choice was what we settled on, and luckily when it arrived I liked it and felt good styling it. But this is the reality; your favorite blogger may have wanted to wear what fit her style but her style wasn’t available at the time of posting.

What Do Bloggers Do With All Those Clothes?

I’ve read on message boards how readers find it inappropriate to sell gifted clothing. The thing is, clothing is income to bloggers; we receive it in exchange for performing a service. You may think that it isn’t work to take a picture of yourself in a dress and put it on Instagram, but it is something that brands will pay good money for. The blogger is agreeing to be a spokesperson and is being paid. And I believe that blogger has the right to do as she wishes with her income from a job.

Why Do Bloggers Always Wear Sunglasses?

Sunglasses hide a multitude of sins… and derpy faces. So many photos Karl takes are awesome except for my facial expression. Sunglasses make a derpy d’oh face look dreamy or more candid; underneath the shades likely one eye is closed and the other is looking way off to the right. Also, many of us are shy even with having our husband/boyfriend/tripod and hidden remote shooting us. Sunglasses let us hide and not look so “deer in the headlights” in our photos.

Not only that, if you consistently wear the same sunglasses they become your signature. A signature piece makes you stand out from the other bloggers, but also signature pieces are regularly purchased by readers. A reader may not be able to afford or fit in a blogger’s dress but sunglasses fit most everyone.

Derp camouflage and increased revenue. Win-win!

Why Do Bloggers Wear So Many Accessories?

Again, there’s a few reasons why we pile on the accessories for our outfit posts:

  • Money. We have ways to see what pieces we feature are clicked and purchased. And well, accessories are super popular. Budget-friendly, fits a variety of sizes and personal styles, and fun, accessories are an easy way for a reader to get her favorite blogger’s look. Pile on the bracelets and you’re going to make more money from your affiliate programs.
  • You Like Them. If you read the comments, you’ll see many are about accessories. You like how we chose to style a look with a certain shape of bag, certain combination of bracelets, an unexpected use of a scarf. You comment on how you love that we keep wearing that bracelet, how it’s our signature (see sunglasses). You ask what happened to that necklace we haven’t worn in a month. When you pin pictures from our outfit post, more often than not you pin the detail shots – our wrist holding a Starbucks cup, our hand holding a clutch, our waist featuring an interesting belt, our profile showing an ear cuff. We want to feature what you want to see.
  • They Hide a Multitude of Sins. Sunglasses hide derp face and dark circles, wide belts hide ill-fitting frocks, statement necklaces draw attention from a cheap skirt, a sparkly wrist and awesome clutch take center stage and let a cheap jacket recess into the background. And Pinterest is proof positive that if an outfit is sparkly enough, people will like it even if it doesn’t fit, flatter, or coordinate.
  • Kill Two Birds with One Stone. So many gifted items, so few daylight hours to stand in traffic and pretend to hail a cab. This also answers the “why is everything in that look gifted?” question. You agreed to feature that dress from Brand A, that bag from Brand B, the belt from Brand C, the watch from brand D, and the midi rings from Brand E. Eh, they look pretty good together, might as well get them all in one post and make everyone happy.
  • Stand Out in a Crowd. Especially in this day and age of Brand X sending the same sweater to 50 bloggers to style the same week, accessories are the way to add your personal touch to a look. Leandra Medine of Man Repeller was known for trademarking the term Arm Party, Danielle Bernstein of WEWOREWHAT wears aviators in most every photo. Accessories can help define a blogger’s unique personal style in a land of sameness.

Have a Blogging Behind the Scenes question? Leave it in the comments and I may answer it in a future post!

Blogging Gets Alison Down, News at 11

Blogging gets me down pretty often. Sometimes I wonder why I still do it. And then I realize that The people who make it suck are the minority. People are far more likely to bitch than to compliment – this was true in retail, and it sure as fuck is true with blogs. The bigger your blog gets, the more jerks comment on it.

A couple months ago, it seemed that all the assholes with a computer wanted to tell me that I was fat and had no fashion sense. Eh, whatevs. I don’t think I am thin, and I don’t think everything I wear looks that great so you’re preaching to the choir. But since I vented on my blog about those assholes judging my appearance, my blog has gotten bigger. Like twice as much traffic bigger. And that is super awesome because I do work hard on my blog, and I do want people to read it, and it feels good to be appreciated, but it sucks because venting about body issues has brought on a whole new audience.

The type of audience who tsk tsks me for writing a post about a multiple personality closet because they are bipolar and offended.

The type of audience who asks why I have to judge a woman’s professional attire and why aren’t MEN judged (um, because it’s a blog about WOMEN’S FASHION).

The type of audience who hits me up every day to tell me how mean I am for eating and wearing animals. The type who every day send me a quote or a fact about animals being tortured for human pleasure.

The type of audience who tells me they were angered, hurt, offended, disgusted, and pained by what I wrote. That they discussed it with their best friend/husband/therapist/pastor because it upset them so much.

I am honored that people care about what I write, and am honored that what I write affects them so greatly. But really, it’s a fucking blog, not a religious book. I am not the leader of the free world, I am a shmoe who lives in the suburbs and likes cheap beer. I’m a blogger, just a blogger. And if my words offend and pain you… then really don’t read them. I don’t want to cause anyone pain… but I am not going to adjust my ideas, ideas, and style of writing in an attempt to please all the people all of the time. It is impossible to do that and it surely isn’t me.

I feel as though every blog post needs a disclaimer, and I need to have each paragraph edited for political correctness. Every time I use a swear word or generalize relationships as all heterosexual or use the term curvy for myself instead of plus sized (um, I am not plus sized – no offense to my plus sized sisters, I don’t wish to cause you pain by stating my dress size as 12, I swear it’s not because I am laughing at you or mocking you or thanking my lucky stars I am not your size. It’s just because I am a 12, okay?) I get a few emails, comments, and a shit-ton of entries on my contact form telling me how offensive I am.

And it sucks big hairy dogs. Can I say that, or am I offending canines across the globe? Oh the poor dogs with alopecia, think of the hairless dogs Alison! You are so OFFENSIVE!

Anyway, sometimes blogging gets me down.

She Works Hard for the Money: Blogging and Financial Compensation

I like to be transparent with you here on this blog. I have mentioned before that this blog is for profit – this blog is income for my family to make it possible for one of us to stay home and raise our daughter.  I treat this blog as a job – I may make money, but I put in hard work and strive to create a quality product for you.

Financial compensation has become a sensitive topic in the blogosphere. More and more money is out there for bloggers, and one’s vision can be clouded by dollar signs. My vision has been clouded before, but I’ve learned that there is no dollar amount that is worth losing my self-respect or tainting the voice and brand I have built. I’ve had a few readers comment lately on my monetization, and I’d like to explain it more carefully to you – what I do and why I feel okay doing it.  I know this topic is not interesting to everyone, so though I despise them, I’m going to put in a jump for the rest of this lengthy post.

Giveaways. 99% of the time, my giveaways are through BlogHer. I have been a proud member of BlogHer for several years. I think the organization does great things, and they respect me as a person and my goals for this blog.  I am not blackballed if I refuse campaigns, and they understand if bloggers don’t want to participate in programs or ads because they go against their beliefs or ethics or lifestyle.  Every so often, I receive an email from BlogHer asking if I’d like to be part of a certain campaign. I am told the brand, the general direction for the post, and am asked if I fit a certain demographic. Sometimes I apply, sometimes it’s a wrong fit and I decline.  Sometimes I am approved for a campaign I apply for, sometimes I am not.

These giveaways always involve some sort of review or knowledge of the brand mentioned in the post. I receive the product for free as well as money for writing the post and touting it on social media. I don’t half-ass these reviews, I truly use that product more than one time and I believe give a thorough review. Heck, some of the products I review for giveaways become products I purchase again and again. I write all the content – they do give me some wording from the brand about it’s benefits and ingredients and who they see as their customer, but how I use that is 100% moi. I like working with BlogHer because they pick random numbers for giveaways, they understand not everyone uses social media or wants to blog about a giveaway, they always mail the winners their product, and they work with brands that I like and respect. Oh, and the prizes are good stuff – gift cards and fancy gift baskets and such. I won’t do a giveaway if the prize isn’t something I would like to get myself.

For every giveaway/review I do, there’s three I reject because I don’t think they’re a good fit for the blog or I don’t want to be connected with the brand. As for timing… well sometimes I ask to be part of a program in March but it doesn’t go live until July. this can make for some wonky scheduling (I have to go live the day they choose), and can end up having a month that is way too heavy on the sponsored posts. Luckily it usually ends up that the month after is nice and quiet so hopefully those who come by on a regular basis don’t see me as a perma-sellout.

Sponsored Posts. Other than the BlogHer giveaway posts, I don’t do sponsored posts on this blog. I rarely do a guest post, but when I do it’s from someone I know very well and who knows me and my blog very well and I think provides information or a perspective I cannot provide but will still provide content that resonates with my readers. Sometimes I have done sponsored content on a different URL with a teaser here, but I have gotten burned in the past with how it goes, and am far more careful/less likely to do them these days.

Occasionally I am paid to add a bit of javascript to the top of a post to promote some BlogHer promotion, often a giveaway I am not hosting.  The content of the post is organic and something I had scheduled to share anyway on that day.  I don’t do a ton of these, but just like giveaways they are sometimes scheduled at random times and ends up being right after a giveaway post so it looks as though I’m sponsoring every post.  I apologize for that, I do not have control over when they are scheduled and I usually agree at least a month in advance.

Affiliate Links. When I link to the dress I am wearing, if it’s not a gift from a brand and it’s a mass retailer, it’s likely an affiliate link. I primarily use ShopSense, which has an unknown super secret algorithm on how they pay, but it’s not solely based upon you buying items when you link. I also receive a commission if you sign up for Gwynnie Bee past the intro month and use my custom URL link.  I also use affiliate links when I mention music or books, but then use Amazon. I dabble with SkimLinks and RewardStyle and have used Commission Junction in the past and I may use a different program in the future if they make it easy for me to use, don’t force you readers to buy anything for me to profit, and have the brands that I feature naturally on this blog.

Speaking of which, you’ll never see a What I Crave Wednesday or similar post because I don’t want to encourage you to buy anything you don’t want or need. When I discuss brands and items in non-personal outfit posts, I always write the post first and then do the links – if I can’t find an affiliate link for something I mentioned I just do a straight link instead of changing the content. I also provide the brand of each item I wear so you don’t have to click on a link for more information – you can Google the brand and a description and find it. In fact, when it comes to shoes if I know the style name I will share it so you can click on the link, or choose to Google to find it elsewhere.

Banner Ads (Primarily Found in the Sidebar). I use the sidebar (and occasionally other places on the blog) to sell ads. Some come from ad companies (Google AdSense, BlogHer, Burst Media, Technorati, Lijt, etc.), and some come straight from the brands who work directly with me. With the ad companies, I can’t guarantee what they will show, it’s often determined by your web habits. This is why if you went to look at dresses at Lands’ End and then visit my blog, there’s suddenly an ad right there for the very dress you considered putting in your shopping cart. While I don’t know what will be shown, I do restrict certain products or brands (politics, weight loss, cosmetic surgery, firearms) that I do not wish to support. I also won’t sell adspace to any old company – the longer I blog the more discerning I am with my blog’s real estate and I offer primo space to those companies and brands I like the most.  I promise not to clutter my social media channels or dedicate blog posts to courting sponsors.

Gifted Merchandise/Opportunities. When I started having brands offer to send me free stuff it was so exciting! Sure I’ll take that ugly sweater, go ahead and send me that weird scarf, I’d be happy to try your stinky greasy body lotion, it’s free! The thing is, I would then have to take my time and my blog real estate to review that free item, and it’s not very nice to get a product free and then write a negative review (though long-time readers know I do it from time to time). I now am far more discerning with what merchandise I will accept, and I let them know ahead of time that it will be shared on the blog ONLY if I like it.

Recently a brand I like and wore before they contacted me offered to send me some of their merchandise. I picked out my pieces from a lookbook (AKA teeny little low-res pictures), guessed my size and thanked them. The clothes arrived, they were well-made and cute but they were too small. However, I was able to clearly see the quality and style and the error was on my part, so I incorporated the brand into an advice post instead of looking awful in their very nice clothes.

Sometimes I am gifted an event or opportunity, I always incorporate in the post that they gave it to me. If I don’t mention that a brand was kind enough to send me/let me try/have a membership to something, it’s because I bought it with my own money. Sometimes this may not be clear, so I often write a disclosure stating that my raving is because I am a fan, not because I am paid.

I will note an item of clothing or accessories is gifted with “C/O” which means courtesy of. Even if the piece is three years old, I will still note that it is “C/O.” I have received some comments lately that I wear too much gifted merchandise, but you need to realize I have been blogging for seven years, I choose to feature brands I like, so some of that C/O stuff could be three years old. Also do know for each brand I do choose to feature, there’s three who received a “thanks but no thanks” email. I also find this blog a great platform for lesser-known brands and companies that do good with their product; if it feels I am wearing too much of a certain brand it’s probably because the company as a whole is pretty amazing, has a good message, or supports women who are curvy or plus sized.

Speaking of size… brands often choose to partner with bloggers who are younger or thinner than I even if they have a smaller or less appropriate audience. When a brand contacts me and wants to work with me, a 38 year old soft size 12/14 person, I am impressed. You may have seen that some of my “go to” brands of yesteryear I hardly wear or mention any more, that is because I don’t believe they see us as their desired demographic or my blog as a proper platform. I choose to promote brands that realize that women over 30 and a size 10 love fashion and are willing to open their pocketbooks if a brand will provide and promote quality and style for them.


When I see blogs I love start having more gifted merchandise, events that they are hosting, trips, and ads I am happy for them if they are maintain their voice. Some bloggers are in it just for the money, some are in it just for the platform, and some of us are so honored to be able to receive compensation for what we love and would do for free.

I love blogging, I love connecting with all of you. My goal is to be compensated for this work without compromising the content. If you feel I am selling out, if I am putting money before content… send me an email and let me know. There’s no point in this blog if I am turning off those who have been with me since the get-go, or people who could be new readers and friends.

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Blogging Behind the Scenes: Why Do Bloggers Do That to their Site?

It’s easy as a blogger to think the majority of your audience is either in your field of work (PR, social media, blogging), or very familiar with the business of blogging. But the thing is, even though the majority of comments may come from those in your field, the majority of those reading quietly don’t know much about what goes to make your blog run; many have never seen another blog other than your own.  I often get questions from readers as to why I or other bloggers do some weird, stupid, or odd things. I’ve never been one to keep secret about the business of blogging; while my experience may not be the same for all bloggers, I hope my insights can help you understand why bloggers do some of the things they do.

blogging behind the scenes

Today’s post is about the blog itself – the format, the template, and how you readers access it.

Why Do Bloggers  Make me Click to Read More?

As blogs grow in popularity and improve their layouts and templates (often replicating those of magazines), more and more are choosing to truncate their posts, offering a link to read a post in its entirety. There’s a few reasons why bloggers do this:

  • Front Page Organization. Many bloggers, especially those with long posts or lots of photos choose to truncate their posts to keep the main page of their blog clean and organized. Having a single photo and a bit of text gives enough for readers to decide if they wish to read more. Many bloggers choose to have their most recent post in its entirety on the main page, and then truncate any old ones to save space. Blogs that are clean and well organized do better in regards to gaining readers and also gaining brand partnerships/making money.
  • Faster Loading. If a blogger chooses to use a ton of big high-resolution photos in a post, it can slow down the load time for a blog. By having each load on its own page, it speeds up load time. Honestly, I think this is a dated reason; with bloggers self-hosting and having access to user-friendly (and free) tools like PicMonkey to reduce the file size of photos without losing size or quality, it really shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
  • Content, not Current. If a blogger doesn’t post with regularity, having an “old school” layout of full posts in chronological order can quickly show that their site is not recently updated. Choosing to have all posts truncated without visible dates encourages a visitor to choose to read based upon content, not what is newest. This is also used by bloggers who have phenomenal content that isn’t current; by being able to bring it up front it gets a second life and a new audience.
  • Pageviews. When a brand or company approaches you to do a partnership, they always ask how many pageviews (how many times a month a page on your blog has been opened/viewed) you receive. When you sell adspace on your blog, you figure out the price by CPM (cost per mille/thousand). Pageviews matter, and there’s a lot of ways we bloggers try to get more pageviews. I often link to previous posts in my posts, I have the widget at the bottom of posts that suggests other content you may wish to peruse, and many use the “click to continue” to increase pageviews.

Why Do Bloggers Change their Layout? I Can’t Find Anything!

While you hate the new layout, newer blog readers love it. They like to be able to just read beauty posts or articles on home décor and want to bypass the book reviews or posts about motherhood. They want to know the life behind the blogger and want to easily find their social media accounts.

Creating a magazine-like layout is good for the person who wants to grow from blogger to editor of a website or web magazine. If you build it, they will come. New visitors will be impressed because even if there’s only 500 pageviews a month it LOOKS as though it’s big and important. But also there’s room to add columnists and new topics and whatever new-fangled trend hits the blogosphere without affecting the look and functions of the site.

I recommend readers pipe up when they don’t like something new on a site. We bloggers don’t know unless you tell us, analytics only show part of the picture. We don’t want you to stop visiting because it’s hard to navigate or hard on the eyes. In turn, please also let us know what you do like so we can be sure to keep it up!

Why Can I Only Read Part of a Blog Post on Feedly/by Email?

You find a blog you adore. You choose to subscribe to the blog via an RSS reader like Feedly, or even subscribe by email. You go to read the first post through your subscription tool and the text cuts off before the first paragraph is finished. There’s two reasons for this:

  • Scrapers. Back in the day, weird blogs would pop up that would steal content from bloggers. You could tell by the formatting that they were scraping the RSS feed and dropping it right in their site. They’d do this to make money off adspace, text links, and other weird things I never ever got. It happened to me quite often, and for a while I truncated my RSS feed to prevent it. However, Google has gotten smart and ad revenue isn’t what it used to be so these blogs hardly exist anymore. Truncating your feed to prevent scrapers in 2015 is the equivalent of still having the blog-standard comment tool of a hard-to-read captcha and moderating comments just to prevent possible spam. While it still will happen from time to time, it doesn’t make sense to inconvenience your actual readers for the chance of an issue.
  • The Full Experience. While it’s fine and good to have a bunch of subscribers (brands and PR folks do ask for those numbers), blogging success comes down to the actual blog. Here is where people are more likely to click on links, here is where people can comment and be part of the community, here is where the reader can truly see how the blogger wants the content to look and be laid out. Visiting the site gives the reader the full experience.
  • Pageviews.  For some it’s just about increasing those pageviews to impress brands and advertisers.

Why Do Bloggers Have Newsletters?

Google Reader disappeared. Facebook has changed their algorithms so you may not see posts from your favorite blog. Who knows in a few years which social media sites will still be in existence (hello Friendster). Creating an email list means the blogger can stay connected even if Blogger or WordPress or Tumblr is no longer, if Facebook and Twitter become the next MySpace, if BlogLovin decides to move onto greener web-based pastures. It’s a security measure to ensure they can keep in touch with you.

Another reason is why I started one – there’s more content than what I can put on this blog. I need to consider that while I have many long-time readers, each day I get new ones. Each new post is my calling card for a minimum of 24 hours, the way someone will judge my site. The newsletter is a place where I can share random thoughts and ideas, reviews and rants and it’s only once a month, and to an audience who has made a decision to subscribe and read it. And in a way I am using it for the same reason as the previous paragraph – I similar types of content on Facebook and Twitter but have seen with the changes in algorithms and increase in popularity of these tools that engagement has dropped drastically. I think my blabbering gets lost in the crowd. A newsletter is just to those who care about my blabbering, and I am not competing with Upworthy or Buzzfeed.

Why is EVERY SINGLE LINK an Affiliate Link?

On my blog, if I link to merchandise, more often than not it’s an affiliate link. That means if you click on the link and buy something, I make a commission. Some bloggers (including me when I am contractually obligated to), use a tool that lets you monetize your Instagram photos; you can sign up for a newsletter and get links to all the merchandise seen in the photos. And some bloggers (me included) use affiliate links when discussing merchandise on Twitter and Facebook.

Magazines aren’t free. Books aren’t free. Blogs technically are free, but it takes a lot of time and yes, money to make quality blogs run. Ad revenue is hardly anything these days so it’s all about affiliate income. The money I make from those links make it so I can continue to run Wardrobe Oxygen and justify the time and money spent on it. I regularly feature merchandise that doesn’t have an affiliate link because I like it and want to share it with you. But if I can make money off a link without sacrificing the quality of the content, I am going to and I don’t blame any person who does the same.

You however, are the one in charge. You can choose whether or not to click on those links. If a blogger features an item and doesn’t share where it’s from and won’t answer your request for information and just tells you to click the link, you have the choice to click the link or Google that image until you find the information yourself. There are many bloggers who choose not to monetize their sites, if it makes you uncomfortable to know your blogger is making money from the entertainment, inspiration, or advice she is offering you there are plenty of other bloggers in the Internet sea.

Why Do Some Bloggers Have the Same Photo Twice in Posts?

This usually happens when they have a WordPress blog, set an image as the “Featured Image” but because they don’t see it in their editor, they add the photo again. Also some themes with a slideshow or featured image widget on the main page cause this issue.  Often this duplicate only shows in the RSS feed/email so the blogger may not even know about this issue. Don’t be afraid to send a friendly email to tip her off!

Why Do Bloggers Have Ten Photos of Practically the Same Thing?

While the photo of the blogger looking off into the sunset may resonate with some, the photo of the blogger smiling right into the camera may resonate with others. A blogger wants to have photos that nicely feature all the items worn in the post plus full-length photos to show the entire look. On top of this, if brands have gifted merchandise or paid for the post to be written, they will want a certain number of photos featuring their merchandise. Finally, Pinterest. Yes, your favorite time-suck is a big reason why bloggers have photos a certain size, have ten of the same photo, images with the title on them, etc. Pinterest is a fantastic way to reach a new audience, and just as the looking off into the sunset photo may resonate best with a reader, it may be just the photo to be liked, repinned, added to a popular board, or introduce a new reader to the blog.

Why Do Blogs Have that Floating Bar at the Top of the Page?

If you’re reading this post on my actual blog, as you scroll down the page a white bar will appear at the top of the blog. There’s a mini version of my logo, a couple links to different places on the blog or my social media channels, and a search field. Many blogs and websites have this, be it like mine, a request to sign up for their newsletter, or some other call to action. I chose to add it to my site because I find it very useful when on other blogs. I visit a new blog and really like what I see; without having to scroll back to the top of the page I can click and follow the blogger on Instagram or Twitter, subscribe to her email, or visit her ‘About’ page. If I click on a link to a specific post and am scrolling down and want to see more of this blog, I don’t have to scroll up – I can just click ‘Home’ or the logo and bounce right back to the front page. And you wouldn’t believe how many emails I’d get before having it asking what the link was to my social media channels, or how to subscribe to the blog. Once I added the floating menu, I never received another email of that sort. And finally, it’s great marketing. While you’re reading you’re always seeing the logo or name of the site. You’re consistently seeing links to get the newsletter or follow on Facebook. There’s a better chance you’re going to click on that link or remember that blog’s name.

Have a Blogging Behind the Scenes question? Leave it in the comments and I may answer it in a future post!

Cool New Blog…

One of the coolest things about blogging is making new friends all over the world. I have been blogging since early 2005 and have made friends that I have met, that I have gotten to know on a personal level, and that have helped me become a better blogger.

One of these friends is Melissa Street, a very talented professional makeup artist. I don’t know who found whom first, but we have communicated via blog comments, email and social networking for quite a while. I have learned so much from her – cosmetic brands to try out, products that have changed my life, etc. And just wait until Emerson is big enough to sport the adorable “Gucci Gucci Goo!” tee shirt Melissa got for her! 🙂

Anyway, Melissa has a new blog entitled, “In My Professional Opinion” and I adore it. Melissa has over 20 years in the TV and film industry, so has a great idea of what beauty products can really work for special events or every day wear. Her blog isn’t just high-end lines; Melissa will mix drugstore with higher end brands.

I have learned a lot from Melissa Street; I hope you will check out her blog and enjoy it as much as I have! 🙂

True Fashionista: Sheila

I hate the idea of changing your style or love of fashion because you’ve hit some age milestone. It’s utterly ridiculous, we don’t lose our personalities at certain ages, why should our style disappear? As I get closer and closer to 40, I’ve been more and more inspired by women in the blogosphere who have amazing, inspiring personal style and show that age is but a number. One of those women is Sheila from the blog Ephemera, and that is why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

I’ve actually been a fan of Sheila for many years; I can’t recall how I found her blog but it has been on my reader a while and I continue to be inspired and excited by her outfits. Sheila rocks color, print, unique cuts and silhouettes. She is a thrifting queen and creates the most unusual pairings. Her personal life is infused into her outfits – a bit of steampunk, accessories with sentimental value, garments she has swapped with other bloggers. And speaking of which, Sheila is one who truly loves the community created with style blogging – she has made many friends, has met many of them, and even trades clothing with them.

Sheila is proof that you don’t need to spend a million bucks to look like a million bucks. She thrifts and cosigns, she keeps things for years and brings them back into rotation when they fit current trends or her current personal style. She isn’t hesitant to get rid of something that isn’t a wise choice (and I love how she asks the opinions of her readers), and is always adding new secondhand scores to update the wardrobe.

Sheila’s blog Ephemera makes me feel as though I’m hanging out in her bedroom with a glass of wine, watching her try on clothes in her closet. She shares multiple views of the clothing (as you can see from my collages I adore her reclining on the stairs pose), her reasoning behind the garments and ensembles, and a peek into her life and where she wore the outfits.

Sheila’s style is creative, unique, yet extremely wearable. She is proof that one can still have fun with fashion (and life!) and look polished when over 40. She’s fun, inspiring, intelligent, and has amazing personal style. As with every True Fashionista, I asked Sheila to answer the same five questions; her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
Um…crazy lady chic? Classic with a twist? Eclectic? Eccentric? All those kind ways to say, “Sheila’s a little “out there” with her clothes.” I love colour, pattern, texture, shine – even better if it’s all in one item! I’m a bit of a crow that way. I don’t like to look like everyone else; I want to stand out, especially the older I get (I’m 45). I refuse to disappear into drabness in my middle age – I have more confidence now about my body and myself in general than I did 10/15/20+ years ago, and I make a statement with how I feel by how I wear my clothes. I’m a supporter of Patti’sVisible Mondays” at Not Dead Yet Style, because it’s helping women feel better about themselves, no matter what age they are!

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I grew up surrounded by creativity – my mom is an artist, so I learned about colour very early in my life. I don’t remember ever not wanting to wear bright colours. My grandmother also dyed her hair bright red (I’m a blonde right now, but I’ve been a box-dye redhead for a good portion of my life) and wore bold jewelry, which was also inspiring. When I was 14, I met my great-aunt Ann – she must have been in her 60s, but she was wearing a flowered mini-skirt, hot pink heels, and a fitted top. Her black hair was scraped back and she had pink lipstick and bold make-up. I remember thinking, “I want to be her when I grow up!”

In my teens and experimenting with fashion, my mom gave me some excellent advice that I’ve never forgotten: “Never wear the same thing twice. Always keep them guessing.” She didn’t want me to get locked into a look/stereotyped and encouraged me to try on different personas through clothing. I looted clothing from her, from my dad, and shopped vintage and loved playing with people’s perception of who I was.

I struggled with my weight and my self-esteem in my twenties and thirties. It wasn’t until I lost 50 lbs 6-7 years ago that I finally felt like I was getting my life under control. I work hard to maintain my weight, and I am proud of my shape. I want to show it off!

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Oh, gosh, everywhere! Afraid to mix colours? Look at nature for inspiration: irises for blue and yellow, cherry trees in bloom for pink and burgundy and brown. I love seeing what other people wear, both in the blogoverse and in real life. I always notice what people are wearing, especially if they’ve put some thought into it and are pushing the creative envelope. I like to look at fashion magazines to see what’s coming, and then I either shop my closet (I have a large closet and a big wardrobe!) or keep an eye out for it in thrift stores and consignment stores.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
I think fashion is inspiration and style is perspiration – you have to work at style! You can be a slave to fashion and end up looking good, even great, but constantly chasing the next new thing – fashion is ever-changing, fleeting and ephemeral (which is where I got the name for my blog, by the way). Style is taking what you like and what suits your personality and body type and creating an expression of yourself. When I really feel like “me” in an outfit, I know that I’ve hit my personal style just right. Style is always experimenting and trying something new, even if it fails – you’ll never grow if you don’t at least try! Style also changes, sometimes due to time and aging, or a change in circumstance (my job allows me to be fairly creative in my sartorial choices), or just through one’s own personal growth, but it has a timeless quality that never looks stale or dated like trendy fashions eventually do.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Don’t be afraid to try something different; don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Embrace who you are – right now! – and wear what you love, and to hell with what other people think! Be yourself and enjoy your clothes!


The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

True Fashionista: Jentine

Sometimes I look at blogs and wonder what in the world that woman does for a living that she can get away with such style. It’s funny, when I came across Jentine’s blog, My Edit I thought, hey someone who really loves fashion, has a good time with it, and makes it appropriate for some office environments! And then I realized… Jentine is a landscaper. When I found that out, it made me love Yen and the blog even more, and made me truly respect her sense of style. Jentine knows how to dress her frame, is the most skilled thriftier, and makes fashion fun and for that, I consider her a True Fashionista.

Yen (I feel I can use her nickname because she signs her emails to me like that, LOL) is gorgeous and has a great body, so it could be simple for her to throw on a mall chain frock and call it a day. But what makes her blog My Edit different is that you can really see the effort she puts into her personal style. She budgets, she thrifts, she fiddles, she plays with belts and gathering and turning pieces backwards to see if she gets a better effect. I think a lot of people just put clothes on and go without really looking at how they work with or against their body, it’s clear that Yen knows and understands her body and how her wardrobe works with it.

Jentine also wears what she enjoys and what makes her feel good. Be it a cape that her brother jokes about being a blanket, sequins during the day, or a toque to cover up a bad hair day.  She’ll often discuss what she thrifted that week and the thought process behind it, showing how there’s no random willy-nilly additions to her wardrobe, though many purchases are emotionally-based.

Not only does Jentine share her style on the blog, but she also uses it for good. She recently partnered with Musana Jewelry and designed a necklace. Musana Jewelry’s goal is, “To connect women around the world through a social business that employs, trains and empowers Ugandan women to break the cycle of poverty and secure greater prosperity for themselves, their families, and their communities.” Musana Jewelry is based in Lugazi, Uganda and employs local women to provide them with financial stability and education. All Musana’s supplies are locally sourced and the profits are all put back into the community.

Yen shows that you can achieve current trends, high fashion, and stick to your personal style and still shop on a budget.  She inspires me to give pieces in my wardrobe a new life with a belt, unexpected pairing, or even turn it backwards.  She also reminds me that it’s worth the time to pick the right pieces for your wardrobe and not just buy out of stress/frustration/boredom.  I was thrilled to have Yen be part of my True Fashionista series.  I asked her the same five questions answered by every woman in this series; here are her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
Evolving. I would like to have some impossibly chic uniform that included a Rick Owens leather jacket and the perfectly beat up pair of biker boots but I would get bored. And I can’t afford Rick Owens.

I’m definitely partial to vintage dresses, sequins and brown leather anything but I love trying new looks and taking chances. One day I’ll wear a sharp red suit. The next day I’ll wear mustard cords and a hand knit blue sweater. That’s the best part of fashion, you get to change it up.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I’m not really sure. I mean my parents have always been into antique hunting at flea markets and garage sales so I certainly learned about pretty things from a young age. Though, on the other hand, my mom is the most down to earth, no fuss lady ever and I was raised in the same way. When I’m putting on make-up and agonizing over what to wear, we always chuckle over how different we really are. We do both cry over sad animal stories. That unites us.

I also know I spent much of my childhood staring at what people were wearing. And I wasn’t good at hiding my staring, so that made for some awkward moments…

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
The usual; blogs and magazines. I am curbing my magazine addiction a bit; those glossy pages are addictive. I also try to be inspired by my own closet, there is plenty of crazy in there and it’s fun to play around. 

What is the difference between fashion and style?
I think ‘fashion’ is the umbrella term for the whole industry and whatever relates to it. Style is a more personal term, it’s how you make fashion work for yourself.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Just have fun.

I mean there is lots of important stuff to say about colour, fit, fabric and financial investment but that all comes second to enjoying your wardrobe.

I’ve been blogging for almost four years and I am still discovering my style. I think (I hope) I am better at editing and listening to my own style voice than I was four years ago, but my archives certainly have a fair share of bad outfits. I’ve made plenty of style mistakes. The only thing I consistently do right, is that I have fun getting dressed. 

I get that everyone has very different lives and that ‘having fun’ can mean completely different things. It’s fun for me to wear sequins to pick up Diet Coke and beef jerky from the grocery store. For my mom, it’s fun to wear a tiny mouse pin and a cat pin on the same lapel. A clever detail that often goes unnoticed but something she enjoys enough to text me a picture of. Sidenote- I’m talking about my mom a lot… 

It sounds a little simplistic but if you are trying to find your personal style, it makes sense to discover what you really like. Not everybody is going to like what you wear (trust me… if I had a nickel for every time someone carefully says ‘Um… I would never wear that but…’) and you are going to make mistakes but you might as well have fun.  🙂

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Long Time, No Blog!

I’m baaaaaack!!!!

My arm surgery May 22nd went great. The arm had rebroken so my doctor had to put in a new bigger plate, a bone graft, and an implanted bone stimulator that will be removed in a few months. For two weeks I was just in a splint to let the sutures heal and swelling subside, this past Friday I got a cast (and if you follow me on Instagram you know it’s bold and bright and has become my summer signature color!) and Monday I returned to work at 100%.

Writing is slow going with my right hand (and yep I’m right-handed) in a cast, Dragon Software is great for text but not for the formatting and linking needed for posts, so blogging will continue but not on a daily basis… more like 2-3 times a week. I’m much faster on my phone, so be sure to check me out on Facebook and Twitter!

And if you’re visiting the actual site you’ll see it looks a bit different. I meant to have this change take place early spring but… well arms take priority! I’ll write a separate post about it soon, but after NINE YEARS (this month is my blogoversary!) I finally made the jump from Blogger to self hosted on WordPress. There’s still some quirks (you may notice a bunch of comments missing from recent posts, they’ll return soon, if you don’t see a link to comment click on the title of this post and you’ll get to the area), if you find anything weird or frustrating do let me know. But the hope is with this change, once I have both arms at 100% I can make this site easier to navigate, search, and view on different devices. Let me know what you think!

If you’re reading this, thank you so much for sticking around. It has been a crazy year so far, but I can just feel the positivity for the rest of 2014. Would never think a second arm surgery would brighten my outlook, but it gave me a chance to really stop and think about the blessings in my life. And I do feel blessed, and one reason is you. Gosh I love you guys, and I love this blog, and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things!