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I’ve been blogging for 13 years. THIRTEEN YEARS. In this day and age, few people keep jobs or relationships for that long.
The name has changed (raise your hand if you remember the uber-catchy original title What Every Woman Needs in Her Wardrobe?), the look has changed (it’s fun to use Wayback Machine to see all the logos and site designs I’ve had), and the purpose has changed.
When I started, I was at a new job. I was hired for a specific contract and the contract hadn’t yet started. I was asked to “look busy” until we got the work. I had seen something on a news show, maybe it was 60 Minutes about blogging and it seemed like the perfect solution. I looked busy in my cubicle typing away in Microsoft Word; I was actually crafting blog posts. I had worked for many years in apparel retail and learned a lot about dressing women. It was 2005, the heyday of style advice books and I knew I could write one better than most at Barnes & Noble, but who would buy a book from a nobody in a cubicle in suburban Maryland? The blog let me live out my fantasy of writing a bestseller.
A couple of months later once I started traveling for the job I began a second blog: My Wardrobe Today. A client in Alabama made a comment about me wearing the same suit twice to meet her (she used “bless your heart” so you know it wasn't a compliment) and I began journaling what I wore when to prevent that from happening again. The content was high-quality mirror selfies, sometimes with the flash still on and every single garment, cosmetic, and hair product I was wearing that day.
My first gifted merchandise came from Suave, the haircare company. It was a year later, my blog had grown a tiny audience thanks to that tab at the top of Blogger blogs that let you find random new sites to visit. I had readers who became friends from across the globe. Suave had their Professionals line and asked if they could send me some. What’s the catch? No catch they said, just if you like it mention it on your blog. I so felt it was a scam, I gave them my office address and misspelled my name just enough to not be traceable but not so much that the mailroom at work had no idea who the package would be for. A few days later I received a large FedEx box filled with bottles and cans and tubes of the haircare line. I. Was. PSYCHED. I never thought that my random musings about fashion and sharing mirror selfies of my work clothes could get me free stuff!
About a year later, I found out that people made money from blogging. When I was planning my wedding I became a member of The Knot, and after that The Nest and frequented their message boards. On one board I visited, a lot of the women had “hate reads;” blogs they visited and then came back to the message board to make fun of or criticize. There was a thread where they shared that one of these “hate reads” wrote a post about how she made $1,000.00 the previous month thanks to her haters giving her site views. I had never visited her blog before but had to go read and find out how. Come to find out, she made money off of ads on her site through BlogHer. I signed up for BlogHer that same day.
After that, I began visiting blogs in all sorts of niches to see what they were doing. I remember Blair from Atlantic-Pacific had ads through a company named Burst so I applied (that eventually was bought by a company that became TapInfluence). I saw a mommy blog had posts sponsored by IZEA so I joined IZEA. I read a blogger’s post about being an Amazon affiliate so I joined their program. I learned about Google AdSense and added that to my site. Essentially, any free program to monetize my site I joined. I even created a separate blog for sponsored posts so I didn’t clutter up my content.
However, all of this was essentially beer money. I’d make $15 one month, maybe $75 another, the next three months only $3. I didn’t rely on it, most of it sat around in my PayPal account and was used for random Etsy purchases.
What was more exciting than the dollars coming in was I was teaching myself this whole new world. I was learning HTML, contracts, SEO, and other blogging skills. I went from being someone in 2001 who needed her best friend to format her resume to someone her coworkers came to for formatting web pages, PowerPoints, and yes even resumes. Blogging gave me skills and the confidence to get a better job with a company that was a better fit. At that new job (my last company) I excelled in my position and received promotions because of what I learned from blogging.
My daughter was born in 2009 and the blog went from being a fun hobby to something that added stress and self-doubt. I can look back now and see I dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety but at the time I felt it was normal to wake up at 3 am in a panic about what I’d wear the next day and whether I needed to change the font of my blog template fior the eighth time that month. I was overextended and miserable and thinking of closing shop. A friend suggested I merge my blogs into one to still be able to do what I love but in a more manageable size. I was so in deep I couldn’t see such a simple solution and to this day thank her for helping me get through and sticking with blogging.
When I decided to stick with it I decided to stop treating it like a hobby and more like a business. If I was going to spend time away from my family and friends, it had to be worth it. I decided I had to make the same or more money from the blog than I would from a part-time hourly job at the local coffee shop and not work more hours than I would at a part-time job. I joined ShopStyle, a program that would let me turn all my fashion suggestions into affiliate links where I could make a couple pennies per click. I read articles on how to increase traffic and looked for ways to improve my photos and graphics without more expenses or time. And for the first time, I included my husband into this blog.
Yes, I was married to a professional photographer (whose father was also a photographer and lived only a block away) and not until after Emerson was born did I have him take my photos.
At midnight, the first minute of 2014 I made a resolution to take Wardrobe Oxygen to the next level. I believed in my content, I had built relationships with brands, and I was consistently making more each month from the blog than I would be from a 15-hour a week gig at Starbucks. In one year it would be 10 years blogging and I decided to challenge myself and see if I really put in my all, could I make this a thing? Could I possibly quit my job and be a professional blogger?
A few weeks later, Valentine’s Day weekend. My husband and I went to a party in our neighborhood for a friend who turned 40. It had snowed, warmed up, got cold again. I wore my long-sleeved maxi dress with tall boots to stay warm and have flat shoes to navigate the snow and ice. We had a great time. There was a live band and all our friends. We had an overnight babysitter so we left the party before midnight so we could go home and have some time together as a couple. Neither of us drank much, one or two beers. We drove home, parked in our space in the lot, I got out and went to walk around the car to meet my husband and enter our house and I slipped on black ice, shattering my right radius and leaving me in a cast, splint, or brace on and off for over a year.
The weekend I broke my arm was also the date of when I “made it” on GOMI. I obsessed about my thread on GOMI, it was the first thing I read when I woke up and the last thing I saw before I went to bed. Friends and family were O-V-E-R me discussing it but I couldn’t help it. It put me in a funk… and then it put a fire under me. I reached out to a friend who was a WordPress developer and asked for her help in moving my site off of Blogger so I could improve my stats, my appearance, and my monetization. rewardStyle reached out promising I’d make more money from them than ShopStyle so I made the switch. Even with one arm out of commission, I was going to make this work, and I was going to use that criticism to my benefit.
So many say ignore your haters and never read the comments but the thing is, some of those trolls are actually people who used to be your fans and now feel burned. It’s easy to get swept up in all the compliments, the likes, the free swag, the paychecks, the press. It can cloud your vision but you can’t forget those who helped you get where you are today.
I was so driven to make this blog work I was working as many hours on it as I was at my job. I’d get in early and leave late, spending about 30% of the time at my desk working on Wardrobe Oxygen. The blog was exciting to me, it was a challenge and I was pushing myself and seeing results. On the other hand, my job of nine years felt as though it had run its course. I let my boss know how I felt, and when my dream position in social media and marketing opened up at the beginning of 2017, he gave me his blessing and I went for it.
The new job was amazing. I was being challenged every day, learning new skills and putting my blog skills to work. I was on a team of talented hardworking women I loved collaborating with. It would have been the dream job… if I didn’t have the blog. I felt guilty. I had this phenomenal opportunity, a position people would kill to have but my heart wasn’t really in it. My heart belonged to Wardrobe Oxygen. I told myself being a full-time blogger was stupid. The blogging bubble is going to pop. There are thousands of bloggers more successful than I. I am not enough of anything to stand out in a crowd. My broken arm showed me how important it is to have insurance and company benefits like disability. I tried really hard to put my job first and treat the blog like a part-time gig at Starbucks but I couldn’t.
So when the company began restructuring, I decided to quit. If this was the stupidest decision I ever made, I had enough saved up to survive one year. I left on good terms with contacts at my job and plenty of other companies. I had a year, if I failed, I could go back to what I used to do. At least I tried. I wouldn’t be decades from now in a nursing home muttering over what could have been.
This past year has only intensified my love affair with blogging. And I don’t care what the experts say, I don’t think blogging is dead. I don’t believe Instagram will completely replace the blog, in fact, I think people are becoming disillusioned with that platform just as they did with Facebook and MySpace and hey anyone remember Friendster? I know I’m sick of seeing curated perfection after curated perfection and generic quippy captions. I crave long-form content, words from the heart, creative and intelligent sponsored content, and what initially drew me to blogging – the connection with like-minded individuals all across the globe.
And I know I’m not the only one.
Wardrobe Oxygen started as a hobby and a vanity project. It was about my thoughts, my opinions, and my outfits. I started it feeling as though I was an expert, but just a few years in I learned how very little I knew. Connecting with women across the globe expanded my outlook and my heart. It helped me understand the purpose of Wardrobe Oxygen. This site isn’t to tell you how to dress or encourage you to buy a lot of clothes. It’s to build a community of grown-ass badass women who deserve stylish lives on their terms. We’re here for tips to make that happen and friends who will cheer us on but also give it to us straight. The teacher became the student and I learn from all of you every day and want to thank you and give back with the best damn content and little nook of the Internet I can possibly create.
Wardrobe Oxygen isn’t what it used to be and that’s a darn good thing. As Ben Franklin said, when you're finished changing, you're finished. And I’m nowhere near finished. I thank you for being on this journey with me, and I hope you will continue to be part of this community and provide feedback to help it continually grow, change, and improve.
Christy J. says
Hi Alison, I have been reading your blogs from about the beginning, I think. You have taught me a lot about style but I also enjoy your articles on travel, culture, music, and people. I am now 66, grown-ass, for sure, but still a badass inside. Thank you for being you.
Alison Gary says
Thank you so much, Christy!
Congratulations on 13 years blogging!
I didn’t realize how long I’ve been following you until you mentioned the broken arm incident! I remember your frustrations trying to type out posts, but you persisted and I am grateful. I’ve learned a lot about style and life from you. Most recently, you’ve inspired me to start taking better care of my health. I’ve joined Weight Watchers and just this week I signed up for Pilates classes. What’s different is that now I’m enjoying the journey and the non-scale victories more than the numbers on the scale and am happier than I have been in a very long time! Thank you
Congrats! Love getting the backstory. I found you about 3 years ago when I was transitioning from a part-time job back to career track. You helped me feel confident with this,body thatvwas so different than the one I’d had when I had last focused on my career 8 years pruor to that. I love sharing Wardrobe Oxygen with friends and co-workets.
Alison Gary says
I am so honored that I could help with that career transition, and so honored you’re part of this community, Alison!
What a great post! I just found you today. I am enjoying my third day of retirement at age 55. I look forward to reading more on WO both forward and backward as I leave the educator wardrobe behind. I need a new style! I prefer blog posts with genuine content as well. I am finding your voice refreshing and compelling! Thank you.
Alison Gary says
Congratulations on your retirement, Susan! That is so exciting! I am so glad to have you here!
Congrats on 13 years and on this marvellous evolution that only keeps getting better. I remember all of those headers, I think i’ve been following for at least 9 years- Cheers for more years to come!
Alison Gary says
Thank you so much Lorena!
Yes, I agree that Instagram and Pinterest offer a different perspective on fashion trends, I still enjoy a good read with input from a real woman in real time that includes the good, the bad and the ugly side of fashion. I’ve been a fan for many years now and still enjoy reading your blog from start to finish. You keep us interested and have a loyal fan base which includes readers like me.
Alison Gary says
Thank you so much Sonia!
Loved reading about your blog history and hope you continue to be successful for a long time. I’m also 65 and retired, but I learn from your blog regularly. Thanks for being there and keep up the good work!
Alison Gary says
Thank you so much Laurel!
Linda B says
Having a little trouble with posting a comment for some reason but I’ll try again, as I am sure it was operator error!
What I want to say is simple—Allison, you, rock. Look how many people you have inspired by all you’ve done, including me!
Many thanks for sharing your journey now and always.
Alison Gary says
Thank you so much Linda! <3
Linda B says
Bravo, Alison! Bravo!!!
Much love and respect,
I’ve been reading your posts for nearly a year now having come through pintrest. Just like you I had my daughter in 2009 and my body had changed in so many ways I needed help to learn to dress myself again. It was so depressing being too plus for petites, not quite tall enough for average and too small for proper plus sizes and don’t get me started on all the ‘What is your body type?’ pages on pintrest. Aargh! Then I found your site and saw someone just like me! It gave me hope and for the first time in a long time I smiled and spent a few glorious hours playing dress up with my wardrobe stuffed full of clothes. I felt grown up (at 44yo) if not quite badass. So thankyou for all your hard work and here’s hoping you continue to evolve for many years to come. Alison from Australia.
Alison Gary says
I love your name! <3 I am so glad to read this and am so happy you've found my blog helpful! Thank you Alison!
I also have a younger sister named Debra (Debbie) spooky, eh?
Alison Gary says
Oh that’s funny! Similar lives across the globe!
Congrats on 13 years! Keep following your dreams and happiness will follow you always.
Alison Gary says
Thank you Connie!
So awesome Alison, I have followed you on just about every possible forum including your blog since I pinned one of your wardrobe capsules on pinterest many years ago. I have enjoyed reading and following your post. I love your honesty and your your down to earth quality that connects you to so many of your followers! Keep up your passion Alison your the best!
Alison Gary says
Thank you so much Sharon! <3
Congrats on 13 years of blogging. Great post too!
Alison Gary says
Thank you so much!
I just found your blog this week, and I’m so glad I did!
Alison Gary says
Glad to have you here, Jodi!
Congrats Alison on 13 years! You are one of the most genuine people and bloggers I have ever met. An authentic voice like yours is definitely needed and appreciated in the fashion blogging world. Looking forward to seeing where Wardrobe Oxygen goes over the course of the next 13 years!
Marti Lew says
Great read! I love your style of writing and your honesty. I did try Instagram but never really “got” it. Keep blogging and I’ll keep reading!
L H Carter says
Congratulations on persevering for yourself, your family, and us. I am a daily WO reader. I enjoy reading your advice and perspective on every thing you post. Looking forward to more changes and good writing from WO as you progress into the future.
What a great post! I loved reading your history. Yours is the second blog I ever followed (referred from Already Pretty), and I have read every one of your posts since then. I too “crave long-form content, words from the heart, creative and intelligent sponsored content, and … the connection with like-minded individuals all across the globe.” And that’s what you give your readers. BTW, I am 68, live in Canada, and can’t be bothered with Instagram, although lord knows, I’ve tried!
I have been with you practically since the beginning, Allie. I have loved many many posts. I have been disappointed in a rare few. And in my humble opinion, you are definitely right. Many of us are tired of perfection, curated, “don’t you want to be me”, Instagram life faux people. Your content has always been real, you are not afraid to be who you are, your content is quality and I imagine I will be here as long as you are here.❤️
Nicole K says
Another great post. As with others here, I am so happy you stuck with it. I just found you this last year! I agree with your assessment of disillusion with platforms. I quit FB a year ago and don’t miss it. I am on Insta, but feel that is starting to feel stale. I look forward to EVERY blog post from the people I follow: Wardrobe Oxygen, Une femme d’un Certain Age, That’s Not My Age, Midlife Chic (in the UK). But I think you are my fave. I’m old enough to be your mom, but we’ve all had the struggles with jobs, parenting, dressing changing bodies, health, friends and CLOTHES. Your writing is wonderful, your commitment to kindness and action are admirable and your family is adorable. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.
Love your blog, Allie, but whoever you are using for ads is making it impossible to read right now. There’s one for sprint on the right sidebar that is really distracting and one on the bottom that covers half your content.
Alison Gary says
Is this always or today? Because I have a ticket into them because I too had an issue with a credit union ad that was covering content. There’s a conflict with some old ad code that never got deleted from my site and it’s making ads more annoying than usual. If you find any that cover images, have audio or video let me know and don’t be afraid to click report ad. I do not permit those on this site. Thank you for letting me know.
Good lord, imagine the pettiness that lives in someone’s soul if they have to comment on someone wearing the same outfit more than once. I’m glad that Alabama client’s comment helped kick-start your career path but I’m boggled that anyone thinks it’s vaguely appropriate to comment on that sort of stuff in the first place.
(Team Men Wear The Same Thing All The Time & Get Revered As Visionaries, So Why Not Women?)
I am so glad you persisted! I much prefer blogs to other social media – for all the reasons you name. You have bolstered my wardrobe as my self esteem. Many thanks and keep it up!
I guess I started reading sometime right before your arm break; that doesn’t feel very long ago! I really appreciate your blog for being one of the few real people among so many fashion bloggers who are all about ‘buy this shiny perfect thing from my shiny perfect photos’ (which is also how Instagram seems to me). Sally McGraw at Already Pretty was one of my other faves for the same reason, & you’ve filled the void she left in my daily reads.
13 years is an amazing run! Keep on keepin’ on 🙂 Congrats!
SO glad you kept on blogging! I found you before the arm break but that’s something I remember quite well. I was always impressed with your ability to manage a “real” job, your blog, your family, etc., all while dealing with what seemed to be a never-ending medical issue. You had to have been so stressed out but you kept on going. I also remember buying a dress for myself that I thought was so cute and then having no idea what to wear with it (a red & white stripe J Crew Factory dress). So, I emailed you and you answered me!! And, not only that, you made a whole blog post about it. I was flabbergasted and thrilled. To me, that really cemented to me that you are a real person who wants to help real women out here—not just a fake blogger/instagramer type who is only trying to make things “look” pretty. And, the GOMI thing–oh my gosh, I discovered GOMI by accident while searching for another blog. I’ll admit, I got sucked in by the forum on another blogger who I’m not crazy about (I’m only a reader, never comment!). I’ve seen WO mentioned a few times and it makes me mad—how dare they talk about my Ali! But I see what you mean about taking criticism and using it to make the blog better. Just know, WO is such a great blog and it’s always the one I look forward to the most. Blogs have become magazines for me and I really don’t think think they are dying out. Thanks for sharing this insider story with us!
Emily R says
Have read and loved your blog for years. So glad you stuck to blogging through everything! I’ve learned so much about fashion and beauty products from you. Congratulations on 13 years of blogging! 🙂
I have read this blog for years and I love it. You are a very kind person, I asked a question in the comments about a jewelry chest years ago and you took the time to give a very detailed answer. Congratulations on your great blog, I always look forward to read your posts!
You will forever have my heart! You’re still one of the most genuine people that I have ever met and your family is exactly the same. It is an honor to know you and a joy to be able to call you a friend. I love you! xo
I need to go back in the Wayback machine and read some of your Dilly Dilly posts. You honestly dressed me for my first jobs AND introduced me to merino wool, which is one of the great loves of my life. I also remember one time that I was feeling super down one day with financial stuff and you had written something about overdrafting your bank account. The way you wrote about it–with appreciation for what happened but also humor and levity–made me your fan 4 lyfe. Thanks for always putting yourself out there and for all the good advice over the years. You are the only blog I’ve kept up with for the extent of my working life.
Marlene Rizzo says
I am so glad you are still doing this blog after so many years! There will always be people who prefer a blog to simply browsing Instagram. Sharing your life online with others takes courage and I believe you have it in spades. Keep up the good work!
I love this post. I see so much of my journey blogging in this post too. I remember signing up for EVERY monetiziation angle under the sun too. I have changed blog names merged blogs. I have had years where I felt like I was killing it blogging, even got mentioned on GOMI once. You deserve your success and I see you as more relatable in your blogging journey than all the 20 somethings that barely had to work an office job before going pro.
And that, my dear, is why you are my favorite blogger! All the good vibes and continued success coming your way!
I’m 65 and retired and have been reading your blog for a few years. You are so right, its not about the clothes or the age, its about the attitude! Congratulations on your 13 years of blogging and thank you for sharing your life!