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February 3, 2014 • Fashion

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We talk about fashion and race and gender in very broad terms, I think — even on The Style Con, even in our own homes. We talk about fashion and casting, we talk about cultural appropriation, we talk about how the industry at large stigmatizes and sexualizes bodies and cultures. But I think one of the reasons this conversation has been moving very slowly — painfully slowly, even — is because we’re afraid to bring up these topics in the context of our own lives. We’re afraid to bring up these topics in the contexts of our own blogs. I’m speaking right now straight up as a fashion blogger: or as one may flatter themselves, a “fashion anthropologist.” I guess I am that, in the context of my own closet, in the context of my own favorite labels. Ask me anything about the history of the leather jackets I own. Ask me about my method of sniping scooter dresses on Ebay: this is my history class, I learned through desire. But I digress, because I’m scared and I want you to know it.

It comes to this: fashion bloggers, a lot of us, are a bunch of sell-outs. This not because we’re not aware of implications of race and class and fashion in our own lives, but because internet culture is such that if fashion bloggers implicitly talk about race and politics on their blogs, they’re definitely going to lose money over it. Blogging is a business, and that money pays the rent more and more often. The fashion blogosphere as a democracy? Hardly: there are pied pipers and they’ve rolled out the contracts. Note the predominance of white, thin bloggers gaining the most traction with brand collaborations. Note, even, the number of them with legitimate modeling contracts as a result of their blogs. Fashion as a democracy is funny, because even if it started off very punk, very d.i.y, readership habits have valorized blogs that mimic and adopt the framework of the fashion system that kept bloggers at bay for years. Bloggers are on the industry payroll now, and it benefits us to keep quiet about things. I’d like to hope this is common knowledge, but perhaps it’s not.

Regardless, anyone who visits a prominent fashion blog nowadays doesn’t need to consider themselves a cultural anthropologist to recognize key moments: the most successful fashion blogs look like fashion magazines. They’ve got money, honey. And money keeps you mum. The feminist blogosphere and the fashion blogosphere are pretty neatly separated, maybe because the risks involved. Fashion bloggers might get hate comments for being inaccessible because they were gifted a nice, expensive handbag. Feminist bloggers get rape threats because they point out misogyny. You don’t want to sign up for that kind of environment when you really want to frolic in nice clothes. I get it. I’ve been on both sides. The thing is though, not talking about fashion and body politics in a real, tangible context doesn’t help us solve the bigger problems that we’re obsessing over. We need to see more discussion about body politics on fashion blogs. I’d love to see the reasons why someone decided to wear an outfit that day, instead of just an outfit. We can see that sponsored bag on a dozen other girls. I want to know what you have to say to yourself to walk the streets at night alone, I want to know how you survive and feel strong and awesome in your clothes. I want to see someone call out the fact that Lookbook.nu’s most hyped looks look like living mannequins of thin white people in plaid shirts from 2008, every day, all the time. You don’t think that’s a little bit to do with race and body politics? It sure doesn’t have to do with edgy, innovative looks.

Straight up: we can point fingers (and well deserved) to designers and casting directors that perpetuate white runways. But how do we relate fashion to racial politics in our own lives? We’re constantly calling out brands and the industry at large to talk more about race, about class, in their fashion: but what about us? How are we approaching the subject in our own communities and our own economic decisions? Fashion is a big, big thing — but it also comes down to a blog, a reader, and your own credit card, your own vote on Lookbook (do people still even use that)? Fashion is a process we’re all complicit in, and we need to recognize our part in the process. We point a lot of fingers, and rightly so. But tell me: how can we change things from our own homes?

  • Jamie James

    I’ve (somewhat creepily) followed your blog for a long time, and I’ve noticed you becoming far more political and outspoken about issues like these-have you noticed a difference in the way that people on the more corporate side of fashion engage with you?

    Personally, I’ve given up on frequenting fashion blogs as much and I tend to stick to a core group of people on Tumblr who cover both fashion and the politics of it. At some point I just couldn’t look at the same designs and similar photos a hundred times over. It’s cynical but I don’t think that in our lifetime enough people will make the move to try and rectify the situation because it all comes down to money. The amount of money that gets channeled into the homogeneous blogs will never be channeled into the kinds that discuss the intersectionality between fashion, race and politics. Until the people who do care can create some sort of alternative system to tap-dancing for the larger companies I don’t think much will change. I do think that we need to keep talking about it however, and maybe through talking and engaging with each other we can eventually create a group of people large enough to take some steps in the right direction.

    • Arabelle Sicardi

      Honestly,it’s strange, but the more outspoken I become, the more opportunities I’ve been given to work with brands or magazines etc. There’s not really any dialogue about these subjects happening ON blogs even if bloggers on the DL acknowledge them when we’re all shooting the shit at some event. I’m at a point where fashion blogging has taken me where I want to be already so there’s no point in keeping silent.

      Obviously,there have also been things I’ve been passed up for because i don’t fit, i’m too much of a risk. but there are also brands and editors who totally feel me on all this, and they’re my family.

  • I strongly agree with this. I really love how opinionated you are on these issues because these are seriously stigmas in the “blogosphere”! There is definetly that “look” that everyone currently aspires or looks for in a blog to follow and regard as trendy and cool but there are a lot more blogs that are very meaningful and state/write in depth of the posts/outfits or whatever they post and it may not look the best in terms of presentation of the website look (since everything should look like a magazine to be presentable) but they’re even better in terms of quality (maybe not in terms of quantity in their pockets) and should deserve a lot more recognition. It’s a shame because y’know with the opportunities you can now get with blogging, I guess not a lot of bloggers try as much as their audiences wants them to, especially if they already have such a large amount because that specific audience already accepted them for the image they thought was “in”. You’re definitely one of the few that really and constantly relates with their audience. Rad.

  • The Lingerie Lesbian

    I think this is a really important issue and I definitely feel strongly about incorporating social commentary with fashion issues because in many ways that’s what keeps me continuously engaged. At the same time, there are certain things about fashion (and specifically lingerie) that I appreciate because of the ability to escape the serious political issues that make me remember why the world sucks. Sometimes just talking about how something is pretty lets me turn my brain off from all the bad stuff.

  • Christina Martinez

    What’s worse is they way bloggers who DON’T make money emulate the capitalist modes of those who do—we internalize the expectations of brands and ‘fashion’ at large even when we’re not personally beholden to them. I’m currently writing a book on fashion blogging that explores a lot of these themes; yes, through some theory but also through my own personal experience because as participants we are all implicated. You might like this post I wrote on how the language of fashion inhibits actual though http://www.kzspygv.com/2014/05/relatable-me.html

    Looking good, Ararbelle… I like what you’re doing on this site.

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