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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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True Fashionista: Catherine

While I like reading blogs of women with similar personal styles as mine, I find the most inspiration from those who do not dress like me on a regular basis. It’s easy to follow a blogger and see how they styled the same blouse you own, or how they fit in a brand you have been considering, but bloggers with different personal styles can force you to think outside your sartorial box, encourage you to try new things, and refine your own look. A blogger who has a clear vision but sometimes shares an outfit that is not my personal cup of tea inspires me to think about WHY, to analyze my feelings on certain styles and trends and how that fits into my personal style. This is how I feel about Catherine of the fab blog Not Dressed as Lamb, and that is one of the reasons I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

When I first found Not Dressed as Lamb, I found Catherine’s color and print combinations to occasionally be jarring, but as I read her blog I understood WHY she made such sartorial choices and grew to admire and adore them. Gosh, she even calls herself “Queen of Clash.” You can also see in the past year how I have made bolder choices in pattern and color mixing and I would have to say blogs like Not Dressed as Lamb gave me that confidence. I would bet that Catherine’s blog gives many women a boost of confidence. She regularly shares musings about age, the media, and her thoughts about fashion that make one think about society’s expectations for women dependent on their age.

Catherine is inspiring because she shows that current trends and fun with fashion doesn’t have to be limited to those under 30; she rocks the milkmaid braids, pattern mixing, neon pops, and shoe trends with finesse. Catherine doesn’t just share her personal style and thoughts on fashion, she’s also a blogger’s blogger offering photography tips and how to improve your blog. She writes these tutorials in a manner that a blogger of any level can understand, and usually has access to the tools suggested.

Catherine shows that fashion can be fun, and that fun isn’t limited to a certain age demographic. That color and patterns and play with lengths and silhouettes can be educational and inspiring. That the best way to rock your age is to dress for the woman within, not the date on your driver’s license. As with every other True Fashionista I asked Catherine to answer the same five questions; here are her answers.

How would you describe your personal style?
I’d describe my style as eclectic, but veering towards preppy with a twist. I also can’t get enough of pattern mixing and bright colour.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I think by having much older sisters, I always wanted to emulate their music, their clothes, lifestyles, etc. I was ten when one sister was a stylish and beautiful 19 year old and I first noticed that she wore “fashionable” clothes, and, in my eyes, I didn’t. I always loved dressing up and role play; her beautiful clothes sparked my interest in fashion, so it seemed a natural progression from the dressing up box! Also my best friend at school from the age of 11 was also really into magazines and fashion, so the two of us spent our teenage years obsessed with clothes and make up.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
My number one inspiration is other bloggers’ style. I used to physically cut out images from magazines and keep a scrapbook for inspiration, but now of course there’s Pinterest to do that online for me! Most of my looks can be traced back to an outfit I’ve seen on a blog as inspiration, from the whole outfit to just the way a shirt’s been tucked in. The bloggers whose style I love the most are Kim of Eat.Sleep.Wear, Krystal of This Time Tomorrow and Sheree of It’s Not That Deep.

When I was a teenager I used to copy looks I’d seen in movies, for example Ali McGraw in Love Story, Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan, and Molly Ringwald in Pretty In Pink. In fact I watched Pretty In Pink not long ago, and I thought how I’d wear a lot of the clothes that she wore in that film now ;)

What is the difference between fashion and style?
I recently read a quote along the lines of Fashion is what you buy, Style is what you do with it – I wish I’d written that because I think that is the perfect way to describe it! But I always maintain that what is stylish to one person won’t be stylish to another: we should all embrace our uniqueness. And rather than trying to be someone else, take inspiration and work with what you’ve got. I think someone who’s put loads of effort into a crazy-ass (and arguably uncoordinated) outfit is, in my opinion, extremely stylish – much more so than someone who’s made no effort at all in sweats and unwashed hair, or someone who’s wearing all the current trends by copying a store or designer’s look from head to toe with no personality added to it.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Draw inspiration from what you see around you and in the media, online, on blogs, etc. Don’t be afraid to try unexpected combinations or try on clothes you wouldn’t normally touch with a bargepole. As mentioned above, work with what you’ve got: once you’ve accepted that you can’t make your legs longer or your boobs smaller for example, move on and highlight your best bits! Make a note of compliments you receive about any part of your body and make sure you draw attention to that area. And my best piece of advice for finding and perfecting your own style comes in two parts:

  1. Buy a full length mirror. It’s truly impossible to dress yourself properly without one.
  2. Photograph your outfits and upload the photos to study objectively on a monitor screen (don’t just zoom in on the camera). I guarantee you’ll see the outfit totally differently, and you’ll be able to get a feel for what suits you and what doesn’t very quickly. That’s how to develop your own style, because you’re not dressing anyone other than yourself.
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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!

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