On fa(t)shion blogging, dead conversations, and the potential for transformation

Window display at my favorite jewelry store in Boston, So Good.

I recently came across a great piece by Arij Riahi at The Closet Feminist, Fashion blogging is not dead: our conversations are.

Arij analyzes the critiques of fa(t)shion blogging, which fall into two camps: elitists who look back fondly on the days when fashion was less accessible, and those who are dismayed by the increasing commercialization and depoliticization of the fashion blogging world. (See Natalie Perkins’ critique of fatshion blogging and the conversations it started.)

They note a similar evolution in the world of DIY blogs, including bloggers who sell DIY kits that cost as much as the item itself, and make an important point:

I question…how an idea that grew out of a rejection of mainstream capitalist consumerism could turn so easily into mainstream capitalist consumerism.

Capitalism co-opts everything it touches.

Including resistance to itself.

It’s pervasive and insidious, and incredibly hard to fight.

Arij continues:

I do find that there are a lot of larger, political issues in fashion– I like your camouflage coat, but I’d also like a conversation about the ethics of wearing military apparel. I don’t mind your luxury items, but I want to find out if it is craft(hu)manship or branding. I prefer a full tutorial, because I enjoy the agency that comes with wearing my own skirt. I have questions about second-hand clothing and the effect it has on African textile markets. I want to have these conversations, but I can’t find many spaces for them online.

I think that by narrowing down our fashion conversations, we miss the opportunity of reclaiming the body -the individual and the collective one- and highlighting how its presence, movement, and adornment is as an act of political resistance– not a commodity.

I agree 200%. I’ve found a few blogs that take on the ethics and politics of fashion, but not enough. I want more of these conversations. I’m thankful Arij is starting one.

I also I wonder if the commercialization of blogging is partly a symptom of our post-employment economy: people are trying to make ends meet however they can, including monetizing things like blogs that used to be non-commercial. And professional blogging can seem like a glamorous alternative to dead-end jobs, although it’s ultimately unsustainable for all but a small minority.

Of course, this commercialization is driven by corporations–but maybe they’d be less successful at co-opting everything if people had better job options. Maybe more people would be content to use their blogs for personal reflections if they could rely on well-paying, secure jobs to pay their rent.

And so the system replicates itself.

How do we break the cycle? How do we keep these important conversations going in a system that wants to co-opt and neutralize them? How can we, as fa(t)shion bloggers, get back to our radical roots?

I don’t know exactly how we can do it, but I hope we are on the brink of a transformation, a tiny part of the Great Turning that’s gathering steam throughout the world.

I’ll be right here, waving my sparkly pom-poms for the revolution.

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5 thoughts on “On fa(t)shion blogging, dead conversations, and the potential for transformation

  1. I wonder if the commercialization of blogging is partly a symptom of our post-employment economy: people are trying to make ends meet however they can, including by monetizing things like blogs that used to be non-commercial.

    Oh, it totally is!

    I know I’m tempted to put a “Donate” button on my blog, because any money that comes in that way is better than the nothing I have now …

    (I also made an Etsy store to sell the handmade jewelry that in the past would’ve been made just for me, or as gifts for jewelry-loving friends.)

    • I hear you on that! I’ve been tempted to put up a donate button as well, and I also started an Etsy store for some of my photography and doodle art a while back, although none of it sold so I stopped updating the shop after a while.

  2. Thanks for the love!

    About co-optation. I agree to some extent. However, I don’t understand capitalism – as a general framework of power structures/relations – as an external entity. Like a giant living on the hill side. In other words, I think the system is all of us, in all of us. The work we have to do is the shock that default. Many different ways to do that, but the point would be that if there is co optation by the system, it seems we are doing/accepting/legitimizing that co optation. And that in turns means that WE have to do something about it. Is it about holding some bloggers more accountable? Leaving more interesting comments? Provoking conversations on Twitter? Whatever it is, WE have to do it. With sparkly pom-poms.

    • You’re welcome!

      I don’t exactly see capitalism as an external entity, but I do see it as a set of structures that’s bigger than individual people–especially since individuals have nowhere near the amount of political or social power that corporations have. At the same time, I agree that it’s in all of us, and someone’s got to challenge it, so it might as well be us.

      When it comes to doing/accepting/legitimizing co-optation, I guess it depends on how you define “we”. Does “we” mean just you and me? All fa(t)shion bloggers? All bloggers? I don’t feel like I personally have the power to singlehandedly stop corporations from co-opting fatshion blogging, let alone all fashion blogging, let alone blogging in general…and I think there’s a fine line between taking responsibility for our complicity in systems of oppression and victim-blaming.

      As for ways to shock the system: I agree with leaving more interesting comments and provoking conversations on Twitter. I’m not so sure about holding other bloggers accountable, though–I’m not comfortable with going into other people’s spaces and telling them that they should be more political. I’m really, really wary of the kind of more-radical-than-thou activism that involves going around telling people what to do. I’d rather be the change I want to see in the blog-o-sphere, right here in my own space.

      I’m also thinking about starting a blog network of critical fashion bloggers (or whatever is a better term that describes people who write about the politics and ethics of style)–I think it would be a good way for us to find each other and start conversations.

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