Dramatic much? Maybe slightly hypocritical, as I’m in peak ‘perceived’ blogger mode: aka the pj situation, glasses, messy half-up do, because ease and comfort (and also my hair is now too short again to go full on messy bun). I’ve swapped heels for slipper boots and fluffy socks and yet here I am, wanting to talk about personal style.
That descriptor that identifies our uniforms of daily life as distinctly us.
I regularly find my thoughts revisiting that Vogue article, the way that bloggers – especially fashion bloggers – are perceived in the global fashion sphere, general facets that have been involved in the (continued) rise of ‘the influencer’, and why print media is still so short towards us even in publications that champion progress of this relatively fledgling industry.
When US Vogue’s editors declared the fashion bloggers ‘The Death of Style’, I was (still am) angered. Yelling ‘you don’t get to decide what is and isn’t style’ at the epitome of ‘Fashion Bible’ might seem a bit like yelling at the sea for being wet, but I stand by my words, by my blog, defiantly, on the side of the blogger in this widening chasm that’s being forged between the digital world and that of print media. The death of style, if you want to know, is writing favourable reviews of designer shows that are tired, uninspired, or plain ridiculous, whilst shunning the new blood that is trying so damned hard.
I think what they might have meant to say is: fashion bloggers may very well be heralding the death of personal style.
And even then, it isn’t entirely our own fault.
If you google ‘definition of personal style’ you get a swathe of articles detailing how to find your own. Most of it is fashion related, but it is a concept that applies to any artistic or predominantly creative endeavour. It’s a way that makes an image, a sound, a piece of writing, distinctly you.
Not ‘you, with a hint of Elgar and a dash of Tchaikovsky’ or ‘you, with a pinch of Dali blitzed with Mehretu’ or ‘you, with notes of Sainsbury and Lindbergh’. It’s you, without the stabilisers of the influences you have used to hone your craft, a rawness that becomes the defining factor, the telltale whisper that crescendos through the portfolio of your work until it’s a loud, proud shout in everything you do.
For fashion it’s harder. Everything you wear – unless you make your own clothes – is someone else’s vision and someone else’s voice. You’re trying to fit yourself into someone else’s ideal, and the trick to personal style is to wear those items as if they were made for you.
It reads like it’s just an issue of confidence, that the key is to fill your wardrobe with items that fit you like a glove, that make you feel bomb af… and I wish that honestly, that was the answer.
grey suede & shearling coat: hongdae/korea // grey sweater: taobao // tartan skirt with buttons and raw edge: chuu // boots: new look // satchel bag: edae; korea
But it isn’t. We live in a whirlwind of ‘trend led’ style, fast fashion / high street outlets receive multiple delivers of new lines each week – Forever21 and H&M have new lines added daily, TopShop were reported to have 400 new items per week in 2014, and Zara is notorious for its supersonic speed of product turnaround – we’re not talking stock top-ups here, we’re talking full on new designs. The speed the industry moves is whiplash inducing, quite frankly.
For the fashion blogger (and I say this as someone who treads the line, because my fashion content is somewhat sparse at the moment, sorry) staying ‘on trend’ is a battle. It’s an internal battle about whether it really truly matters about having the latest ‘it’ thing, or ‘season staple’, or ‘hot item you absolutely have to have’. It’s a battle because people (may) look to you for fashion or styling inspiration of that must-have-piece that everyone else is wearing. It’s a battle with the bank account, unless you’re in a position where there are brands queuing up to gift you this season’s hottest looks (good for you if that’s you!! well done!). It’s a battle because, inevitably, three weeks down the line (or less) something new hits the scene and the whole rigmarole starts again, and you’re left with overflowing wardrobes and potential lambasting if anyone tries to shift it on depop or ebay.
It’s a battle because trend led fashion isn’t personal style. It’s a mixture of celebrity fashion, watered down catwalks, and that one surprise piece that’s then everywhere. Trend led fashion is the same style, the same silhouette, the same fabrics in each store that’s easily accessible to the general public, just at different price points. And most of the time, it’s all styled the same way.
It’s another iteration of the teen at fashion week – in their high waisted joni jeans, ripped at the knee, long sleeved (bardot) crop top, choker, messy bun, and stan smiths – standing ‘nonchalantly’, trying to get snapped for street style shots; we all know it’s not going to happen because there’s nothing new about that look. You can walk through any city in the country and see the exact same thing hundreds if not thousands of times over.
But this iteration of trend-led style comes with an instagram following and ‘based on photos you’ve liked’ or ‘similar to accounts you follow’ and hundreds of thousands of pounds of effective advertising. I can scroll instagram and see the same outfit copy-pasted onto different girls/boys, who all look fab individually (like, seriously fab) but morph into a bit of a clone army. I’m not blaming the bloggers here, not at all, because 1) if that’s their preferred look or true to their personal style then more power to them and 2) if it isn’t it’s not their fault. It’s a response to the brands promoting similarly styled content (to the point of very little variation at all) to fit the aesthetic they’re currently selling. It’s natural to conform to have that chance of boosted exposure to both the brands target audience, and the brand themselves.
That aesthetic generally come from a shift in what’s trending in pop culture (or that brands preferred niche, considering this happens in pretty much every substyle or subculture I keep tabs on, not just western mainstream fashion) – the promotion of the ‘instagram models’ or the ‘fash pack’ celebs by esteemed publications raises their profile, their choices in fashion, the social platform. It gives everything a boost – brands offer the look for less, magazines respond with the best places to find x/y style, and suddenly everywhere is stocking it because someone wore it that one time. Bloggers respond. Their following responds, and suddenly everyone looks the same.
It’s cyclical. And generally the bloggers – especially fashion bloggers, and most especially lesser established fashion bloggers – get the brunt of the blame for whatever issue is currently trending (be it the death of style, ruining the self esteem of young people, being horrific social media addicts, doing nothing all day, ruining the credibility of journalism, lather, rinse, repeat) because we seem to have neon signs that mark us as easy targets.
There are things we can do, though, as bloggers, to fend off this ‘death of the individual, personal, style’. Perhaps even restore it to something that Vogue US might not snub so much; but not back to how it used to be, because if we’re talking trends (and we’re definitely talking trends), bloggers are the largest one to hit the media industry, and we’re here to stay.
I’ve never been one to tell people how to dress, and I’m not about to start doing so, though I do think being more conscious about why we’re purchasing current trends and how they fit into our own personal style is something that needs to be focused on more. Or, which items from brand deals we get really fit with our own looks rather than what is suggested. It’s a matter of taking back autonomy so people can’t use it against us, painting the blogger as the problem, the baby industry as the straw that broke the fashion camels’ back.
I’m glad that most of the bloggers that I follow, or that inspire me on a regular basis to continuously work on my personal style, are individuals that incorporate ‘seasons must have’ into their wardrobes seamlessly. They don’t let the trends drive their purchases, and, often, they don’t even follow them.
But I see, increasingly, the more individual the style, the less likely we are to see it – unless the person is incredibly high profile. As much as the internet has opened doors for representation, and united people in movements and subcultures, it’s also created this system of conformity. A sense of ‘once you’ve become ‘successful’ doing this, then you get to do your own thing’.
Tis the season of the aviator jacket. This is probably the most expensive coat purchase of my life (I think it was near enough £100 that it almost made me cry), but I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s suede with shearling lining, and leather accent detailing. I got it in one of the little Hongdae boutiques after I saw so many being worn (lol at that peer pressured buying though) out and about. Plus Korean winters are legitimately freezing so there was a practical aspect too. I originally wanted – and still do really want – the same design but in black, but they didn’t have any so I got the grey instead. I’m quite glad I did because it’s a little bit different, and grey’s a fab colour. Also, with it being the Korean style, you can fasten it up all the way to basically eye level, so you keep your nose warm. Magic.
The sweater was a Taobao find, cozy, warm, and it’s already made it’s blog debut, but it’s pretty much a staple in my winter wardrobe. For a couple of pounds it was one of my favourite Taobao purchases. It has two shallow side-splits in the back, so tucking it into skirts at the front means you don’t get a mass of unnecessary bulk.
One of my current obsessions is anything check or tartan. Gimme gimme gimmeeee. In the Great Wardrobe Purge, one of my green check tartan skirts didn’t make the grade, so this was the replacement. I love the detailing, the buttons down the side and the frayed hem are really cute, and it’s a thicker wool material, fully lined, so that it’s suitable to wear in the cold.
boots – new look, bag – Korea ]
Ah. I dunno. I’m still trying to sort my thoughts out on this particular point, really, and getting them down is the first part of organising them.
I’d love to hear your take on this – whether you’ve noticed a lean to conforming rather than individuality, or if it’s skipped over the circles you run in. Or if you agree with me at all?!
photos by Kirstie @ behind the scent (apart from one which was taken by my dad)