Above and below are a couple of photos from my fashion blog. Sharing them here is unnerving because I work quite diligently to keep my art writing and fashion blogging practices separate, but as the line between personal / professional and online /offline is increasingly blurred, I think such dileneations will become increasingly untenable. I started this project because, in the course of tyring to describe fashion blogging to others, its various tenets, minor celebrities, and petty etiquettes, I became aware how oddly this thing touches on so many themes I encounter in the course of writing about art—self-construction through image making, the nature of a portrait, bodies as commodity, class performance. As this hobby of mine has grown, for some, into a viable career opportunity, I want to outline the codes common among successful / highly visible fashion blogs and explore the myths behind the images we create.
Fashion blogs are an online community of mostly young women who share photos of themselves, documenting day-to-day outfits. It's a large and rather insular world, but participation necessarily involves a routine of publicly performing photo shoots to create "outfit images" or "outfit posts". Even though these images are always ostensibly of our selves, we never refer to them as portraits, because their main purpose is to document clothes, not subjects. It's also standard practice to accompany outfit images with an itemized list of the items worn, and if possible, create links to sites where those items may be purchased. I'll be the first to admit it's a strange intersection of shared personal hobby and commodity exchange; but in this way it's a kind of secondary fashion world where anyone with a computer and a camera may participate. The fashion blog is a place for self-expression, but there is a paradoxical flattening of our own subjectivity that occurs, even as the blog represents a version of ourselves as we would like to be seen - the ideal is the real.
The fashion blogosphere as a new Democracy of Style is a myth, generated by the infusion of capital—social, cultural, and plain ol' cash— into the practice. Style blogging combines visibility of style with an anonymity of personhood through abstraction, portraying the body as a collection of commodities. These, oddly enough, are privileges, limited to those whose bodies at least somewhat fall in line with conventional standards of attractiveness, as visibility is tightly wound up with desireability. As a white (Mexican, but always taken for white), straight-sized cisfemale, the abstraction of my body through fashion photography is easier than it might be for say, a person of color, or a plus-sized person. There's a real paradox here, in that my ability to keep my blogging practice fun, light, and apolitical is the result of certain socio-political privileges (participation is certainly subject to economic privilege as well, even though many blogs—mine included—place emphasis on the merits of secondhand, thrift, and sustainable clothing).
Bill T. Jones' Ghostcatching, 1999, "is a digital art installation that fuses dance, drawing, and computer compostion." In it, Jones' body is expressed through multiple dancing, twirling figures resembling wispy chalk sketches come to life, drawing lines in space as an extension of their limbs. The piece is very poetic, but Jones was criticized by some of his contemporaries for "erasing" his race and gender through the abstraction of the piece. I wonder, in the world of fashion blogging—where people of color, queer, and/or non straight-sized people who might simply want to share a common interest are subtly pressured into becoming spokespersons for their race or weight—if that sort of erasure would be a kind of relief.
It's difficult to keep up with style blogging without a photo assistant (another category of concern unto itself), but I hope to share more images and writing as I explore in depth some of the issues mentioned here upon here.