I Am Not A Sample Size: Fashion and Web 2.0

We talk a lot in the feminist blogosphere about fashion, its hyper-Photoshopped size 0 models and their influence on women’s negative image of, and relationship to, their own bodies. And we talk a lot with good reason.

With that in mind, I would like to make a very bold suggestion: The fashion industry is in a state of revolution.

Sure, maybe it’s not a revolution set to transform Vogue‘s almost exclusive taste for white (and sometimes black-face), super-thin/airbrushed models overnight, but the wheels of change are in motion. And who’s at the helm of this revolution? Fashion bloggers and Web 2.0 technology.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I am the author and editor of a fashion blog. I started my blog, threequartersleeve, in March of this year. With the tagline “Style for the Broke and Beautiful,” my blog aims to share the thrift shopping knowledge I’ve amassed over years of having absolutely no money and a strong desire for beautiful things. I wanted to push back against the pressures I felt every time I opened Vogue and thought there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t afford those delicious, olive-green $1,500 Christian Louboutin pumps. I had a serious talk with myself and realized I would probably never be able to afford those shoes and that it didn’t matter. And so I began my quest to prove it was possible to have great style, spend little money and not bend to every consumerist whim.

It’s been almost nine months now, and my blog grows, shrinks, bends, swirls and changes every day. Sometimes Google Analytics and its peaks-and-valleys viewer count defines my self worth, but I shrug it off. This blog is my sweetheart, after all, and I’ve got to treat it right.

There are a huge variety of fashion blogs, but I would say there are two main types–the street-style blog and the personal-style blog. Street-style bloggers roam big cities and photograph everyday people who have great style. Personal-style blogs (of which threequartersleeve is one) focus on the blogger’s individual aesthetic. You’ll mostly find “outfit posts,” where bloggers act as their own models, photograph themselves in an an excellent outfit, then write up a description of what they’re wearing or where they wore it. I always finish my outfit posts by pricing out my garments (to buttress my bold claim about style on a budget). You can often find me in a sunlit Los Angeles alleyway, searching for a dumpster to prop my crappy digital camera on, then running a few steps away to pose before the 10-second self-timer goes off. It’s a glamorous business.

But the amazing thing about personal-style blogging is the ownership over fashion that being your own model provides. You’re no longer subject to doctored images of women with whom very, very few of us can identify–you become your own model, and thus your own ideal. It may sound a little self-indulgent, but it’s incredibly liberating. If you are your own model, you can inject reality into the highly-processed world of fashion.

As far as representation is concerned, the world of fashion blogging offers a huge array of faces, races, bodies and personalities. Some bloggers fall into a category I call “The Declaration,” because through their blog titles they make their position in the industry very clear. The Curvy Fashionista and The Chocolate Fashion Blog fall into this category, both proudly declaring their identities up front. This bravely lets any potential haters know the attitude–so what?–with which their criticisms will be received.

Then there are the “I Am Not a Sample Size” blogs (like mine), which may not take a declarative position but definitely push back against the fashion industry’s thin/white hegemony. These blogs, written by women who are “not a sample size” and act as their own models, generate traffic, influence the industry and are redefining and expanding fashion’s definition of “beautiful.”

Whether the impact is large-scale–say, if Calvin Klein were to feature a size eight model (gasp!)–or small-scale (individual women comfortably viewing and enjoying their own bodies), the idea that women can proudly write about, photograph and showcase their personal aesthetic and have it reach a wide audience is meaningful. Seeing beauty defined diversely changes the way we see ourselves.

Photo of two LA style bloggers’ fabulous feet from threequartersleeve.



Stephanie hails from Toronto, Canada. She is a Ms. writer, a master of journalism candidate and a hip hop dancer/instructor/choreographer. She got her start in feminist journalism at the age of 16 when she was a member of the first editorial collective at Shameless magazine—and she has never looked back.