“Everyone’s a fashion critic”

During our second year Fashion Communication module, we ask our students to set up and maintain blogs for the semester. Some of them already have blogs but for most of them this is new. Many choose to continue blogging after the module is completed and some have done so very successfully, tying this in with their existing social media. Some examples are: Nicola Claire and Electric Sunrise but there are many more!

In today’s highly competitive fashion industry, blogging is becoming highly necessary for fashion graduates to stand out to employers as somewhere they can showcase their skills in a very visual and enterprising way – design, photography, styling, buying, modelling, writing, or whatever these may be!

There’s certainly no denying that the fashion blog has revolutionised the industry and presented us with a new army of self governed fashion critics! Robin Givhan discusses this in Harper’s Bazaar (2007) stating:

The rise of the fashion blogger was inevitable. Fashion has evolved from an autocratic business dominated by omnipotent designers into a democratic one in which everyone has access to stylish clothes, anyone can start a trend, and the definition of designer — Donald Trump! — has become astonishingly malleable.

Her ending note; if you can’t beat them, join them!

“Digital Dressing Up”

When I began scoping my research (almost two years ago now!) my supervisor recommended a number of relevant journal articles, one of which was Chittenden’s “Digital Dressing Up” (2010). Although this study is a little more specific in terms of target audience (teenage, female, fashion bloggers) it is really relevant in that it links the three main strands of my literature review – fashion, identity, and online.

Chittenden (2010, p. 505) discusses “digital dressing up” and the idea that digital media (blogs, social media, etc) are reshaping “self expression and identity building” and where the fashion blog has become a “space for play” (p. 513). She suggests that the way in which fashion bloggers model themselves online might begin to influence their offline identity. They may use their online identity to experiment with new styles and, if/ when these are deemed acceptable by followers, these will permeate to the blogger’s offline identity.

 The discursive spaces formed through the interaction of bloggers and their followers (i.e. the people who regularly read and post comments to a blog) facilitate a process of exchange, whereby teens can exploit their fashion tastes to increase the value of their social capital, (Chittenden, 2010, p. 506).

Another interesting observation from Chittenden (in line with earlier research by Bourdieu) is that blogs challenge the traditional, hierarchical relationship between consumers, producers and products resulting in a “prosumer” hybrid where bloggers can post their own designs and opinions.

Reference

Chittenden, T. (2010). Digital dressing up: modelling female teen identity in the discursive spaces of the fashion blogosphere. Journal of Youth Studies. 13(4). Pp. 505-520.

What I wear, what I mean

Fashion has transformed from something similar to literature, where every scene has a message, into art, where the very image, deprived of a message, stands for itself; from symbols and metaphors into abstract visuality (College Fashion, 2014).

I discovered a thought provoking article on College Fashion earlier today which discusses the language of fashion and the construction of an identity through fashion, where “consistency is key” and “details are essential”. It is seen to be all about who we want to be rather than who we actually are; “borrow from everyone, yet steal no one’s image”.

Interestingly this article deals with the concept of reinvention where, in order to be original, one must strive to “confuse” to avoid becoming too predictable. “Be light-headed and reckless in your fashion identity. Be postmodern; it’s in vogue”.

Reference

College Fashion, 2014. What I wear, what I mean. [Online]. Available at: http://www.collegefashion.net/fashion-news/what-i-wear-what-i-mean-fashion-and-identity/. [Accessed: 14th October 2014].

Returning to work

I was asked by a friend to provide a piece on returning to work for our local NCT (National Childbirth Trust) newsletter which I thought I’d share with you…

My daughter, Romy, just turned eight months earlier this month. She’s at such a special age! Not yet moving but sitting up and playing, laughing, trying to talk – talking in fact (If “dadadadada” counts which I absolutely think it should)! It’s crazy to think how quickly the months have gone by and that I’ll be returning to work in ten weeks time!

I’ve always been very career minded and just before going off on maternity leave, I was lucky enough to secure my dream job – lecturer in fashion management at Robert Gordon University. Well, I suppose it was a combination of good luck and hard work (after all completing a masters degree whilst working full time is no mean feat).

I’m lucky my job is flexible with opportunities to consolidate working hours and work at home around my teaching commitments. My partner works shifts and so Romy will only be in nursery two days a week.

But still it is with mixed emotions that I’ll return to work.

First, there’s guilt. Will I miss out on key milestones? Will Romy grow to resent me for not being there every day? After all we’ve pretty much spent 24 hours a day together since she was born. What if she misses me? Or, worse still, what if she doesn’t miss me?!

At times it seems I’m surrounded by mothers who are either staying at home or returning to work part-time; is it just my imagination that some of them look at me with a shocked expression when I say I’ll be returning full-time before my baby’s a year old?

Next, there’s worry. Will I be able to continue breastfeeding? What if she doesn’t eat enough? What if she won’t nap?

Stress. Because there just isn’t enough hours in the day. How will I fit everything in?

However there’s also excitement. Excitement at getting a little bit of my old life back, going back to a job I love, taking on new challenges, seeing more of my work colleagues and friends, finishing a coffee before it gets cold! Does this make me a bad mother?

I don’t think any mum returns to work without feeling guilt and sadness. Standard maternity leave is nine months and so our babies are just turning into little people when suddenly we have to leave them! And it probably doesn’t matter when you do it, it’s always going to be hard! Without sounding too cliché, it’s like leaving a huge part of your heart at home when you walk out the door.

But I’ve decided that my returning to work will be good for Romy. She’ll learn valuable communication skills at nursery and enjoy spending some quality one-on-one time with her dad! I’ve decided to take her swimming every week on one of my three days off and the other days we’ll visit friends and family and plan other fun activities. After all, my own mum returned to work when I was a few months old and I have never resented her for it! We have a great relationship and – as she said to me during one of my weaker more tearful moments – it’s quality, not quantity, that counts!

Back to blogging

It’s been far too long (almost a year) since I last posted on my blog… This is entirely due to the happy event of my daughter Romy’s arrival in January! Needless to say I’m over the moon and head-over-heels in love with her! I’ve really enjoyed spending the last nine months at home with my little lady but as it’s almost time for me to return to work, it’s time to start getting back into my research.

Whilst all may have been quiet on the blogging front, the same can’t be said for my other social media. If you’d like to see photos of the world’s cutest baby (even if I do say so myself!) please follow me on Instagram and Twitter…

Since becoming a mum, I’ve definitely branched out in terms of the information I seek and the people and companies I follow on social media and I now find myself drawn to things that epitomise my changing lifestyle such as The Honest Company and those fashion retailers I feel most closely reflect my taste in baby clothes (Baby Gap, Next, the Little White Company, Joules… I could go on… And on… And on… Yes Romy and I love shopping!) I’m also drawn to “mummy blogs” where new mums like me are providing commentary on their experiences of motherhood so far. We’re going through some of the same things and I find myself genuinely interested and able to relate to them on a personal level.

Some of these blogs are completely aspirational. My favourite, currently, is Romy and the Bunnies. (Yes this is where I got the inspiration for my daughter’s name!) Julia (who founded the blog/ company) describes it as “a place for new and expectant mothers to find inspiring stories of family, always with an eye toward style, beauty, and joy”; the latter part of the description describes perfectly all that I seek in a blog.

Interestingly, one of the beauty bloggers I followed before I became pregnant, Liparazzi, had a baby boy a couple of months after me and I now enjoy her blog even more, dipping into it much more regularly than I did previously! Laura, the author, has stayed true to her beauty blogger roots but is also branching into other areas of fashion commentary, posting about motherhood, healthy eating and pre/ post pregnancy fashion.

More traditional means of fashion commentary (magazines for example) are less dynamic, in that their readership is, to some extent, constantly changing; when one moves on from Glamour don’t they graduate to Vogue? Whereas with a blog there is more of a sense of your audience growing with you because of that personal touch. Generally speaking, a fashion journalist can’t just decide to start interjecting aspects of her life into her work as this could alienate readers.

Over the next few years (as part of my PhD study) I’ll explore the concept of the changing identity of the fashion blogger, where a blogger has experienced a change in lifestyle  (e.g. having a baby, moving to another country, getting married, buying their first home, etc) and the impact on their blogging identity. I’ll examine the perspectives of the bloggers themselves and that of their followers.

So expect more posts from me. And expect some lifestyle related posts too because, as mentioned above, I believe that a key feature of fashion commentary today is that, as our lifestyles change, so do our musings!