The light is best in the early evenings, pink and soft, so Taghrid Chaaban, 21, prefers to take her photos after work. Three or four nights a week, when she has time or when she is wearing an outfit she considers especially successful, she’ll come home and coerce her 14-year-old sister into playing photographer while she poses.
Sometimes she sets herself against a dusky sky, or in front of a brick wall, or along the curve of a road. The photos are artful in an Urban Outfitters catalog kind of way -- Chaaban’s long brown hair catching the fading sunlight, a gauzy top floating in the wind, her sky-high stripper heels (a trademark) working in contrast with the delicate, femininity of the rest of her wardrobe. Then she’ll upload the pictures to her blog, Taghrid.cc, carefully credit every item she is wearing and write text like: “I’m cheating on all my dresses with my new found love for jumpsuits.”
Chaaban has been blogging for only a year, but she’s quickly found an appreciative audience. The “press” section of her site includes links to stories about her blog in Vogue Girl Korea, Teen Vogue, Nylon and WWD. She said she doesn’t follow her traffic too closely, but according to Google Analytics, her blog got 46,000 page views in May, and her posts frequently receive 50-plus comments.
“As far as styling an outfit and publishing it, I don’t think what I do is that different than what the magazines do. I am on a much lower budget, and it is more about what I want than what sells,” Chaaban said recently, speaking from her home in the San Fernando Valley. “We are all inspired by the magazines and those super-hot models, but we kind of turn it and make it our own.”
The “we” Chaaban is referring to are the tens of thousands of (mostly) young, (mostly) female style bloggers who obsessively chronicle what and who they’re wearing every day. Yuri Lee, the co-founder of Lookbook.nu, a popular personal style website where many style bloggers post photos and links to their blogs, said 85% of her users are between 15 and 25, 75% are women, and 50% are in the U.S. Still, this is a global community with contributions from Poland, Argentina, France, Australia and just about everywhere else that young people care about clothes.
“A lot of my favorite bloggers are Swedish or from Norway,” Chaaban said. “Sometimes I can’t read it, but I know I like what she is wearing.”
Unlike famous street fashion blogs like the Sartorialist or Garance Doré, these personal style bloggers keep the focus almost entirely on themselves. Even when they aren’t posting photos of their latest ensembles they offer up personal responses to runway shows or editorial fashion spreads, present DIY projects such as make-your-own gradient tights, or simply post images -- their take on the designer’s inspiration board.
Their posts almost always catalog each item of clothing they’re wearing and where it was purchased -- usually an affordable mix of H&M;, Forever 21, American Apparel and “thrifted” pieces, plus an occasional designer accessory. They link obsessively to each other and leave comments like, “Insane jumpsuit! Those shoes are perfect chunkiness.”
For the curious and open-minded reader, the best of these blogs are a real-life fulfillment of the promise Lucky magazine once made to its readers: that the editors would vet the wide world of shopping and help the average female sort out where to splurge and how to find great clothes on the cheap. “Vogue, Bazaar or Elle, they put together an outfit and the four pieces together total $4,000. Then they put it on a willowy anorexic 14-year-old and the underlying message is, ‘You aren’t pretty enough, you aren’t thin enough and you aren’t rich enough,”’ said Judy Aldridge, the 46-year-old style blogger behind Atlantis Home. “But the blogs say, ‘You can go to the thrift stores, or you can buy Christian Louboutin, and this is how you wear it.’ ”
Kelly Framel, a 25-year-old stylist in New York who started up her blog the Glamourai in September and says she gets about 4,000 hits a day, says that she doesn’t write about her work in the high-end fashion world because “it is not something that translates to people my own age.” Instead, she says, “I write about the more personal relationship I have with fashion.”
When she finds palazzo pants at Forever 21 (noting, “I can’t get enough of these -- they make me feel like Talitha Getty!”) her readers cheer her on and maybe run out to buy the same pair for themselves. And in a world where not enough people respect those pants (and how difficult they can be to style) or admire the skill it takes to wear a black tutu and make it look almost normal (as a 19-year-old blogger recently did), it is satisfying to find an appreciative audience.
“It sounds really stupid to say it, but it is a lot of work to get dressed in the morning,” Chaaban said.
The issue of vanity that might inform the obsessive chronicling of one’s wardrobe does come up with some of the bloggers (the adults more than the teens). Speaking from her home in London, personal fashion blogging pioneer Susie Lau, 25, said it’s something she’s thought about since she started her blog Style Bubble in 2006.
“It is to a degree a little bit vain, but I don’t think I could get my point across any better” than taking photos of my outfit, says Lau, who once created a pie chart to document the percentage of her clothes that were vintage, designer, handmade, young designer. “If I wasn’t talking about personal style and only talking about fashion as a third-person subject, it would take away what the blog is really all about -- my personal relationship to fashion.
Aldridge is more succinct. “I’m totally in touch with my narcissism,” she said.
But Agnes Rocamora, a senior research fellow and senior lecturer of cultural and historical studies at the London College of Fashion who has just started to research the fashion blogs, thinks it’s too easy to dismiss these websites as a self-serving exercise. “Fashion is an everyday performance of the self, so is it narcissistic to chronicle it? In a way, but so what?” she says, adding that “these are people who are creative about fashion, and the bottom line is the blogs are about exchanging ideas.”
Traditionally, the personal style blogs have been produced and consumed by people who are solidly outside of the fashion industry, but that is starting to change.
For his fall 2008 line, Marc Jacobs named a bag after fashion blogging phenomenon Bryan Boy, and L.A. designers Rodarte sent a pair of their netted tights to a 12-year-old fashion blogger (you read that right), causing a stir in the fashion-style blogosphere. During this past Paris Fashion Week, Rumi Neely, the popular San Diego-based blogger behind Fashion Toast, was flown to the Ungaro show after a picture from her site wound up on designer Esteban Cortazar’s inspiration board. She was given a dress to wear to his show and sat in the front row.
The entire experience, of course, is documented on her blog.