Are fashion blogs really just making us worse human beings? A quick glance at some recent headlines (“What You Need Right Now: 11 Black Tie Jumpsuits”, “Kim Kardashian: The Style Icon We Never Knew We Wanted”, “Kate Middleton Got a New Pair of Shoes”, “In Defense of Ripped Jeans”, “Purple Is The Best Lip Color Of All Time,” etc.), suggests that not only are we not getting any smarter by reading some of the most heavily visited fashion blogs, we are becoming more self-absorbed, more materialistic and all-around shallower than we already are. But the good news: We can’t take all the blame. After all, we are just the readers. What about the people who are actually writing these mind-numbingly inconsequential articles?
It may seem like I’m being excessively harsh and maybe I am, but what do we gain from articles that are: 1) Largely written without any greater sense of context, actual commentary, or utility (other than how you can “Look Hot After Work Without Going Home and Changing”), 2) Sponsored aka just glorified press releases, and/or 3) All about truly superficial topics posing as “news” (save for “How Orange Lipstick Can Lift Your Mood” pieces because that arguably has psychological benefits … maybe)? Before you label me a total downer, don’t you ever long for substance?
Now, I get it. I do. These are fashion blogs and not the Economist, but guess what: It is 2014, and fashion is increasingly shedding its stigma as an industry full of over-dressed, under-educated girls. There are many, many exceptions to this rule (Hey, Áslaug Magnúsdóttir, Angela Ahrendts, Vanessa Friedman, Christina Binkley, Maureen Chiquet, Caroline Issa, Sara Ziff, etc.). Fashion and brainpower shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, and yet, it seems in the blogosphere, they largely are.
This sentiment reminds me of a piece that Rachel Seville (hey, Rachel!) penned for menswear site, Four Pins, a couple of years ago, in which she wrote: “When I get on the internet as an intelligent woman who loves fashion, there isn’t much for me to do.” Other worthwhile excerpts include: Sites “lack depth, because these sites just don’t seem to be giving us what we want,” They “feel and look progressive on the face of it, [but] they still seem tied to the adage that the only things women want are to have better sex and a thinner body (or at least better nail art)”, “Sites just seem too willing to meet everyone at a low common denominator, rather than entertain and steer them towards something more interesting, more intelligent”, “It’s not enough to just say, ‘It’s a trend!!!’ or, ‘but it’s in a bunch of stores!!!!’ or, perhaps worse, ‘but these are all photos of celebrities!!!!’” … You get where I am going with this.
Seville touches on something important. You can be smart AND be interested in fashion. You wouldn’t necessarily be able to formulate this from the content of the mainstream fashion blogs (which seem to cater to die-hard Kim K fans, fast fashion shoppers and individuals who equate entertainment news with substantive news), but it is true. At the end of the day, fashion is more than just clothing. Fashion is a business and a massive one, both in terms of reach and in terms of revenue. It is New York’s second biggest industry after finance. In case that’s not enough, fashion is also a burgeoning field in law (even though the practice of law in connection with the fashion industry has existed for quite awhile now, its “Fashion Law” title is relatively new). Similarly, fashion design, in itself, is a complex and thought-provoking endeavor. Maybe not for all (think: celebrity clothing lines and fast fashion retailers), but for quite a few (think: legitimate designers), it is a beautiful process that includes historical references, delicate handiwork, cuts and construction that are the result of training and talent, and the list of ways in which fashion is a worthwhile, legitimate endeavor goes on. It seems, however, that we have synonymized fashion with fast fashion, celebrity and “new age journalism” aka blogging, when they should arguably be distinct.
It appears that the vast majority of people out there want to read about the Kardashians’ latest family drama or Justin Beiber’s biggest fashion mistakes (which doesn’t count as an article with #context just because the singer was recently arrested) or “how to wear leather pants without looking like a car seat” (that is actually the title of a recent article). However, there is hope. A few sites have arisen over the past several years that offer readers a look at fashion but from an informed and intelligent perspective, and hopefully there will be more. Until then, “Miley Cyrus Skipped The Grammys To Play Guitar Hero.”
*This article was initially publish on January 29, 2014