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This is a long one, but this was a long year. 2017 was intense in many ways, in this post I recap one of the biggest whirlwinds of my life, taking this blog from passion to profession and hopes for the New Year. I wish all of you a 2018 full of hope, health and happiness!
January is always a whirlwind. It’s Emerson’s birthday, then my mom’s birthday, then my sister’s birthday, then my own birthday. This January was even more of a whirlwind with a new administration and a need to stand up to the patriarchy. My blog assistant Jessica had the suggestion that I write a post on what to wear to a protest march and the post went viral. Typical DC weather, what we thought would be a chilly day ended up being mild and drizzly, but I’d like to think I helped many be better prepared to use their democratic right to protest. My sister and I participated in the DC March and it was such an inspiring day that gave me the confidence to speak my mind politically on social media and this blog throughout the year.
2017 I decided to do little things to improve my quality of life, to spend less on clothes and more on me. January I got LASIK after wearing glasses since 6th grade and contacts since 2003. SUCH a good decision, though I think I may need reading glasses in 2018.
We celebrated my birthday with an amazing weekend at the AC Hotel at the National Harbor. It was romantic and chill and a good way to rest up after such an intense month.
February continued to be busy with Emerson’s school activities, taxes, and helping my mom move into her new house. Karl and I took a quick weekend getaway to the Lehigh Valley part of Pennsylvania to see Tanya Tagaq in concert. I also went to the dentist and got fitted for trays to gently bleach my teeth. February is usually a month where we just try to catch up on sleep and all the life chores missed in January.
For the past couple of years, I was invited to the rewardStyle conference but never attended. Blogging friends told me it was not fun if you weren’t part of the clique, and could be downright demoralizing. I never realized until this year that they invite their top 200 bloggers in January and then as those say no they invite more. I was invited early in January, and dammit I was going to go to celebrate such an achievement and I was going to make it as great of an experience as possible. To prepare, I hired a personal stylist to help me figure out what to wear and I set up an Instagram DM group of fellow women over 40 who were also attending the conference. Both benefited me beyond the conference – hiring a personal stylist saved me time and stress and helped me better see my personal style. Connecting with these successful bloggers over 40 made me feel less alone and reminded me that I am only competing against other bloggers if I choose to. This business is unique to each person, with different goals, audiences, and strategies. That we can help one other without hindering our own success. March also was the first time I ever did a Facebook live, which was with the plus size subscription box company Dia&Co.
April I attended the rewardStyle conference and it wasn’t horrible. While I don’t see much benefit to attending every single year, I learned a lot, met a lot of amazing people, and cultivated some great friendships with fellow bloggers. Cathy from Bay Area Fashionista was my partner in stylish crime the entire conference; we had a blast together and I treasure our friendship. I had been virtual friends with Beth from Style at a Certain Age and Susan from Une Femme D'un Certain Age for a long while and finally met them (and both are even more amazing in person). I met other over 40 blogging powerhouses like Deborah at Fabulous After 40, Jennifer from A Well Styled Life, Cathy from The Middle Page, and Maria from Looking Stylish who confirmed the fact that blogging isn’t just for the young. After this conference, I really started musing about going part-time at my day job and eventually turning the blog into my career. In April I also hosted an Instagram takeover with Dia&Co.
May felt like a gamechanging month. I was invited to be part of the Strong Women in Fashion event in DC, the first time I walked in a fashion show, the first time I really participated in any DC event. Gwynnie Bee brought me up to NYC to get a tour of their offices and host a happy hour in their pop-up shop. The following weekend, they came down to me in DC where they took me and my family for brunch and photographed in me in their clothes at various places around the city. I began pitching to brands instead of waiting around hoping they’d somehow come across me in the sea of millions of bloggers. I had the opportunity to interview Joan Juliet Buck. I increased my sponsored post rate… and got it. I really started to feel like this blog could be a career… right when my day job started getting more intense.
June is the month we got married, and this year Karl and I celebrated 13 years together. However, since I was treating this blog as a business the day after our anniversary I hopped on an early plane to LA for an incredibly inspiring event with cabi. At this event was the first time I said out loud to anyone other than Karl that I was thinking I may go part-time or quit my job to focus more on this blog. Cabi Conversations was amazing, and like the rewardStyle Conference, made me realize I was underestimating this blog, its success, and its potential. At this event I met the inspiring people being the brand, and also connected with phenomenal female online entrepreneurs like Cheryl from Oh to Be a Muse, Jenna and Lisa from Savvy Sassy Moms, Elise from My Cupcake Addiction, and Nicole from MomTrends.
To start figuring out if I really could make this blog a career, I hired a business consultant. She had worked with other local entrepreneurs I knew and respected, and also consulted for large businesses. Our meetings and my homework made me think smart about this blog – the partnerships I chose, how I handle the money, and thinking about the future. Some of the best money I spent all summer.
June I began attending local events for bloggers and influencers. I rarely attended events in the past because I couldn’t justify the time, but now I saw some events as opportunities to build partnerships and network. I went to an event with FreshDirect that was so cool, attended by some of the coolest women in DC, and it was a great way to network and I ended up creating a relationship with the brand, one I really respect. I also did my second Facebook Live with a brand, this time with Gwynnie Bee.
One of my personal goals was to do more public speaking and I achieved it in July. I was invited to cabi’s biannual conference The Scoop and was chosen to be their featured blogger to film the opening to their online fashion show! It was such an honor, and so cool to be at that event with thousands of women who have been positively impacted by the company. It was also cool to reconnect with Lisa and Jenna from Savvy Sassy Moms and also meet Lisa from Stilettos and Diaper Bags and Carly from Lipgloss and Crayons. Also in July I went to Atlanta with my sister and attended the TCFStyle Expo, speaking on a panel with Georgette of Grown and Curvy Woman, Jeniese of The The Je ne sais quoi, Darlene from Suit, Heels, & Curves, and ShaKera from The Real Sample Size to discuss being a blogger over 35.
As a family, we didn’t plan a big vacation like the previous year, but started a new family tradition of taking Emerson to a concert with us. Our favorite band is My Morning Jacket, so it seemed fitting that her first show was to see them. Looking at their tour schedule, I chose a Sunday show in Raleigh, North Carolina. It wouldn’t be a lot of time off work, the road trip wouldn’t be too long, and it’s a city I was familiar with after attending the Hopscotch Festival there the year prior. It was an awesome time for all and I hope we can continue this tradition each summer, seeing great music and exploring a new city!
Karl and I started getting more creative with locations for outfit shoots, which I think really elevated the posts and the look of the blog. Treating this more like a business, I wanted to provide a better product to brands who chose to partner with me.
Continuing with participating in events in the DC area, my sister and I went to Diner en Blanc, a pop up dinner where everyone wears all white. Going outside my comfort zone, I asked ELOQUII if they would gift me a dress for the event and not only did they provide one to me, but also one for my sister! It felt really good to have a brand want to do that for us, and it be a brand that I really loved, you all love, and is run by a bunch of really great people.
I was invited to be a guest of L’Occitane at CJU, a conference for those who use the affiliate company CJ as a publisher (blogger, website) or a brand. The event was in Santa Barbara, they covered my flight, my stay in a beautiful hotel right across the beach, and my meals. This was a surreal event for me. In the fashion blogging world, most have only heard of rewardStyle or ShopStyle Collective for affiliates, but CJ is one of the OG affiliate programs and partners with thousands and thousands of brands across the globe. I may have been one of the top 200 bloggers with rewardStyle but with CJ I was a nobody. But at the conference I met several other bloggers from across the globe in all sorts of niches – beauty, fashion, travel, baby, lifestyle, fitness, and more. Because we were all small fish in a very large affiliate ocean we bonded and I made friendships with some great people like Patrice from Afrobella, Candy from Travel Pockets, Abby from The Glitter Guide, Bethaney from Flashpacker Family, and Sabrina from The Beauty Look Book. I also had the chance to meet brands in person and found them to be so personable and it increased my confidence in pitching and reaching out to brands.
This conference also was one of the last straws on my back for work. The event took place during a very busy time and my supervisor was awesome to let me even go to the event considering all that was going on. When I wasn’t at a seminar or event at the conference, I was sitting in my hotel on my computer working for my day job. When I was at the conference, I was constantly checking my email to see if all was well back at the office. I feel I was given an awesome experience and I missed it because I was over extended.
The end of the month was Karl’s birthday. He said all he wanted was a weekend without any tasks, and a hotel room with a balcony. I reached out to the Kimpton Madera and with my new-found confidence and pitching skills they accepted. We had such an awesome weekend where we did a whole lot of nothing and it was glorious. A perk was finding on the coffee table of our hotel room a cover of Where DC that had an article featuring me. Things like this are surreal, make me realize this blog is bigger than a little hobby I write to a few folks!
Fullbeauty Brands invited me to join several other online influencers to shoot their fall campaign. They brought me up to NYC, put me up in the cutest AirBnB with my friend Dani, and we spent a day at a horse farm and apple orchard playing dress up. Though I wasn’t feeling well, it was such a cool experience and I got to meet some amazing women like Shay, Carine, Alex, and Clem.
In October, one of my team mates at my job got promoted to a new department starting November 1st. I was so thrilled for her, the promotion was much deserved but it was another straw on my back thinking of work without her. I got back to my desk, unlocked my laptop and felt a migraine coming on. I took two Excedrin and texted Karl. He texted back, “Quit your job.” When I got home, we discussed how this month we had a major event taking place the 19th. I had to see it through, and maybe I’d put in my notice the day after, with my final day being the Friday before Thanksgiving. But then I was having my weekly check-in with my supervisor, we were discussing a restructuring at the company that affected a coworker who was leaving the company at the end of the month. She had just left her old company to come to this job at the beginning of the year and said she felt jobs had an expiration date. It was good to leave a job, to learn new things, to grow. And I blurted out, “I agree, and my time is now.” She took it really well, I gave a month’s notice, and the event on the 19th went great.
My last day of work was November 3rd, but the whole month of November felt pretty much the same as it did when I had two jobs, just with more leggings and less makeup. I had so many dreams of what I would do when I was a full-time blogger, I felt that I had to do all the things all at once. At the same time I was dealing with insurance, setting up my business, and fulfilling all of the sponsored posts that I had agreed to that all seemed to happen at once. Oh, and my blog started falling apart from the inside out. I was exhausted, not sleeping well, and got a pinched nerve that had electric pain radiating from behind my left ear down my arm to my fingers. I think the pinched nerve was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to slow down and get rest.
We also lost our dog, Cindy this month. She was very old and it had been a year of often wondering if we’d wake to find her gone and then the next day she acting like a puppy. She got a limpoma on her leg, the doctor said she was too old for surgery and it shouldn’t pose an issue. However, one day it burst. There wasn’t much we could do for her other than keep it clean and let it dry out. She could hardly get around, she started being incontinent, and living 24/7 in a cone of shame isn’t really living. The week after I quit, a mobile doctor came to the house and put Cindy down. She was such a great dog, writing this is making me tear up again. It’s so hard to make this kind of decision, but we think it was the right one, the one she would ask for if she could speak. She lived a long, vibrant life and left this world being pet, fawned over, and eating bacon.
At the beginning of the month, Rosana from DC Style Factory and I headed to Texas for a weekend to conduct two seminars for women running for political office. It was thrilling to be able to use our fashion skills for the good of the country, and we hope we can do more of these seminars in the new year. When I got back I was invited to be on the local CBS and FOX channels to model ELOQUII holiday style and then the following week I hosted the holiday party at ELOQUII's DC's brick and mortar shop.
The previous month, I was photographed to be part of a campaign for local jewelry maker and artist, Denisa Piatti and the campaign went live this month.
After all this, I felt completely wiped out mentally and physically. I never gave myself a break after leaving the job. I realized it had been months since I did something to improve me so when I learned about Elite Technique, a personal training company down the street in Beltsville I signed up for five mornings a week for at least three months. I found them through Instagram, yes social media is valuable marketing! I needed to do something, quitting my job wasn’t enough to provide any mental or physical benefit. The first week was utter torture, but it was the best decision I’ve made in a long while. I feel better, I have less desire to drown my misery in carbs at 11pm, but best of all it gave me a routine. Wake at 6am, have breakfast, open up the house, head to the gym, get home in time to take Emerson to school. I started fitting in my blog stuff on the computer and phone between that and when Emerson got home, with outfit and product shoots occasionally afterwards before it got dark. Working out helped with my sleep and often I’d go straight to bed right after Emerson.
As the holidays drew near, I became more relaxed with the blog. I didn’t freak out if there was a day without content. I made lists, prioritized, and was realistic with what could be accomplished in a day. I didn’t get done as much as I hoped this year with this blog, but I ended the year on a positive note, finally taking care of myself.
And now it’s the end of the month, 2018 right around the corner. I have some ideas, but I’m going slow into January. The first two months of a year are usually the slowest in blogging (that is unless you write what to wear to a protest march at the beginning of 2017). My goals for this blog:
- Increase the community aspect.
- I changed the commenting per your requests and am still working with my admin support to fix it so it’s not instant moderation, comments are threaded, and comments from old blog posts show up.
- I let Facebook fall by the wayside at the end of the year and that’s a shame because it’s super fun over there. I plan to have more content, thinking about the occasional Facebook live, and since the summer have been toying with creating a closed group on there for Wardrobe Oxygen readers. What do you think?
- I had my admin support create a cool form for the blog that I will be sharing first thing next year. You all are so amazing, I’m looking forward to sharing your amazingness with others.
- I relaunched my newsletter making it a weekly one with content different from what you can find on the blog or Facebook. It seems you all like it, but I’d love feedback on ways to improve it.
- I have a treat for you all in February to thank you for your support this year.
- Quality not quantity with content and sponsorships.
- This was the first year where I said no more than yes and it felt amazing. I said no to awesome brands who expected too much, didn’t pay enough, or didn’t give me enough creative control. I counteroffered and it was very often well received. It made me realize I can make the same money with fewer partnerships, which gives me more time make each partnership the best it can be.
- I’m going to be gentler on me with my editorial calendar. I had it in my head that if this is my full-time job I should have a blog post seven days a week, my weekly newsletter, at least two posts on Facebook every day, two Instagram photos every day, and at least three InstaStories. No idea where I got these numbers, just what I set for myself. But what’s the point of any of this content if it’s not valuable? Quality, not quantity.
- Better photos.
- I’m trying to do fewer stock photos and more product photos. Karl has gotten super creative with locations for shoots and offering more feedback on poses. We get all nerded out on ideas, often lying in bed before the alarm goes off and it’s super fun to make those ideas a reality. As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, I think the photography is going to get even more awesome.
- I haven’t wanted to do video. I did two videos that were part of contracts and they weren’t fun to do or fun to watch. But I know the future has video in it so I need to get comfortable with this medium and find ways to have it work with what I already built here. I’m thinking the occasional filmed or live video on Facebook to start, and then maybe will start using my YouTube channel as a supplement and not replacement for the blog. Ugh, I wanted to delete this paragraph many times but I think writing it and putting it out there will be the only way I will make this happen.
- Have fun.
- I had a choice, and I chose this blog. Well dammit I better have fun with it! It’s easy to get caught up in contracts and conference call and competing with strangers but I’m going to do everything in my power to fight it and see the joy in this exciting endeavor. But I may need your help, so if you see things getting too canned or corporate on here give it to me straight. Because this blog is nothing without you. And I am so grateful you’re here and looking forward to 2018 being awesome!
I would definitely join a Wardrobe Oxygen FB group, partly because the odds seem high your readership would be a bunch of fabulous women. As for video, I personally don’t need more videos from the blogs I love because there are so many times (like now) that I’m catching up on blog reading when I couldn’t be watching a video–because there are other people around, because I’m at work, because my kids are watching a show, or because I’m listening to music. So while I know the future seems to be video, please feel free to stay true to your “quality not quantity” approach here too!
Alison Gary says
See I’m exactly the same! I don’t have the time or location to watch videos (or long InstaStories with audio, or Facebook Lives). But it seems like we’re the minority? Ugh! And the FB group is LIVE!
I don’t get in to videos, either…
I love this post, what a great recap of such an incredible year! And yes please to the closed FB group. Happy New Year!
I love your blog and your authenticity! Congratulations, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings for all of us!
Long time reader and infrequent commenter (though, I think I once sent you an email which you very nicely responded, too!). Just wanted to say this post blew me away and made me think about trusting myself and my inner voice to achieve my dreams. Thanks for being an inspiration and providing such great ideas for us, cusp ladies out there!
Best wishes for 2018!
Alison Gary says
Oh that is fantastic Devon! Do it! There’s no time like the present!
Chris Ribeiro says
What a great recap! It was fascinating to see the big picture! Best wishes for a spectacular 2018!
Alison Gary says
And to you too!
Loved this post. I love a thoughtful review of the past year, and there is no way to make that short! I really enjoy your blog, and have for 4+ years now. I admire your optimistic decision to make your passion your profession. I support both your politics and your choice to touch on social issues when appropriate. Your blog is about and for women, and all thoughtful women must weigh in on the direction #45 is taking this country. I left Facebook during the election because the tone was not productive or respectful. I would only go back for a private group where comments are kept positive and moderated. I have noticed and appreciate your creativity with photos. I follow Beth of Style at a Certain Age and it’s always fun to see her photographic choices. Keep up the good work. You too, Karl! Have a great 2018. I look forward to seeing where you take us on the journey!
Alison Gary says
Thank you so much Ramona!
Happy New Year! I read this post while doing some baking for NYE and NYD. Let me just say two things …I am, as a long time reader, so proud of you, and you are truly an inspiration. I follow only a handful of blogs faithfully, which is not to say I am not open to adding one to my consistant reading repertoire. You linked to a few bloggers early in the post. They were readable, but you stand out with your diversity, your honesty, your “relateability”, and your openess. Which is why I am loyal❤️
Alison Gary says
Wow thank you so much Melissa!
Krista Alexander says
What a year it has been! Thanks for being authentic even when it’s not easy. I look forward to your posts/stories/etc. Cheers to a new year and finding your new adventure.
Alison Gary says
What an amazing year!! I am so thrilled to have met you in person in April, it was so much fun hanging out with you at the conference 🙂 I’m really excited about you going full-time, and can’t wait to see what you have in store for next year!! Happy New Year!!
Alison Gary says
Meeting you was a highlight of 2017 Cathy! Here’s to a great New Year!
I can’t tell you how much your last sentence resonates with me too, Alison!! Even though I’d like to make my blog somewhat profitable, it’s also so important to have fun. Life is so short and enjoying it is key!!
So sorry about your dog. I feel like that’s one of the hardest parts of life, yet having them makes us better people (in my opinion!)
Here’s to a great 2018!!
Alison Gary says
Thanks so much Jodie!
Allie, I’m really excited for your 2018, and I appreciate how specific your goals are. Even though your style is almost completely different from my own, I continue to read your blog because your voice is so authentic. I hope it’s not too weird for me to say that I feel so proud for what you have accomplished this year, and I am rooting for all the best for you in 2018! You are an inspiration.
Alison Gary says
Wow thank you so much Nikki!
I am not a huge fan of Facebook, but I am a huge fan of this blog, so I think I would join a private WO FB group, although I might not post much. Best wishes for continued success in 2018!
Alison Gary says
Well the group is live though I don’t have everything figured out yet! 🙂 Come on over to https://www.facebook.com/groups/WO2community/
Argh, Facebook Groups! I love them/hate them!! I join too many of them. But I’ll take a look at this one. There is a great group for Group admins, by the way. “Facebook Power Admins”. It seems to be admin-ed by Facebook staff. Lots of good tips and info. They let me join and I’m not even admining a big group anymore.
I loved this update post, as I always enjoy a look at the business of blogging.
Happy New Year! I loved seeing you grow into full time blogging and look forward to all the fun in 2018! You’re always inspiring, honest and down to earth – thank you for all you do!
Alison Gary says
Thank you so much Ginger!
There’s nothing more inspiring to me than seeing people change gears, bust out of the norm, and pursue joy! Thanks for doing this with us
Alison Gary says
Aww thanks so much!
Happy New Year Alison! Just reading this made me so excited for you as you continue this as your full time job. It’s already so very good & will just get better & better! Reading through this reminded me all over again why you’re my favorite blogger. You’re a “real” woman who doesn’t try to pretend that everything in life is 100% perfect & easy. I love how you talk about your ups & downs with us, the behind-the-scenes of blogging, etc. As a wife, mom, full time worker, and as a woman in my 40’s, I relate to so much of what you’re going through. It helps to know we’re all dealing with challenges at times. I wish you continued success with Wardrobe Oxygen and I truly wish you & your family a wonderful 2018!
Alison Gary says
Oh wow thank you so much Lee! Happy New Year!
Linda B says
Wow, Alison! This was really fun to read through–and inspiring. You have amazing talent, commitment and energy. Following one’s dreams takes all that and more. You are a beautiful person, inside and out. Thank you for being such an inspiration to us all! May 2018 be both more relaxed for you, and ever more successful!
I love your blog, and I check it every morning like clockwork. One request– can you please return to a political neutral stance? I find your blog to be an escape from reality, and if I wanted to read about politics, there are plenty of other places to do so. There are many reasons why people choose their political affiliations, and many people feel alienated by today’s media…..
Alison Gary says
Hi Beth, I hear you and you’re not the only one who has asked that from me… but I have never had a politically neutral stance. Go through my archives and you’ll see I’ve discussed politics and women’s issues since the very beginning. This is a personal blog, I write about a lot other than just fashion plus I feel a stylish woman is an informed and caring one. There has never been a time in my life more than now where I think it’s paramount to be involved in politics. I think this has been a terrifying year. While a lot of the changes may not affect me personally, I still need to speak up when I see things are wrong. And when I look at my affiliate revenue and know it is based upon the purchases of you readers, I can’t NOT speak about different charities and organizations hoping a few dollars won’t go towards a pair of shoes and may instead go to help others. To not be concerned is to not really see the world outside our bubble. I know my audience is extremely varied, not just across this country but the whole globe. For each post that upsets a few because they don’t have the same political beliefs, there’s tens more who let me know they didn’t know about the issue, are glad I brought it up, and are going to call their representatives or make a donation or share the information with their loved ones. I’m honored you read my blog and so regularly. It makes me proud, and I am so glad you spoke up. I don’t want to alienate you, but I can’t stop fighting what I feel is wrong in the best way I know how.