Image via weheartit.com
You may have noticed that I’ve been refraining from posting my outfit photos lately. There are a few reasons behind it, and I still don’t have my feelings straight on the matter do decide if I will continue or not.
This whole dilemma began when I read this piece on Forever21′s business practices on Jezebel and Businessweek. Of course, I knew in my subconsciousness that their practices had to be somewhat unethical, given just how cheap their clothes are, but I hadn’t bothered to read up on it. (If you’re interested in reading about manufacturing practices of big brands, this is a great resource that grades many companies’ business policies and practices in terms of ethics) The hazy backstory I knew of the company was a positive one of Korean immigrants Jin Sook and Do Won Chang making it big in America. Of course, that story is basically true. But when explored deeper, the Changs’ saga carries sinister undertones of becoming rich on the backs of underpaid and unethical labour, copied designs that lead to incredibly cheap prices, fueling the quantity over quality mentality of North American capitalism. I am a good example of this (though I have tried to curb my enthusiasm over buying needlessly). Every season, I end up donating at least one garbage bag full of items that I bought on a whim (thrifted and new) to a clothing swap or charity. Isn’t that incredible?
Then I started thinking about why I feel this itch to go get some new clothes every couple of weeks, why I read fashion blogs daily and think about whether things those women are wearing would look good on me, and finally – why I post pictures of myself online. And increasingly, I found that I was enjoying the more gratuitous side of it – i.e., people giving me compliments on the internet. Because hey, I’m human, and it feels good when other people say you look good. Is that why fashion blogging is so popular – because it gives us what we want all the time, almost instantaneously – a validation that we look great?
I also noticed that my pageviews went up almost instantly when I posted an outfit photo, more so than with my words. Part of me wanted to take advantage of the internet crowd’s short attention span and keep going. But it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like I was doing it because I felt nobody else was talking about it, and I felt convinced the issue had to be discussed. It felt like I was doing this because…well, I wanted more compliments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that blogging in itself is a bit of a selfish endeavour, no matter how I spin it. But this outfit blogging felt especially selfish, with little merit to the outside world and mostly for self-gratification.
Then there’s the consumerist aspect. Why do we feel compelled to reveal where we got things from? It seems that many times, when fashion bloggers reveal where they purchased certain items, certain readers (and other bloggers) would feel compelled to buy the same things for themselves (and possibly blog wearing the same item). Is fashion/outfit/style blogging just another channel that feeds the capitalist machine? Reading about Forever 21′s business model and then looking at pretty photos of a Forever21 dress on a fashion blogger created a cognitive dissonance in myself that I could not reconcile.
So what’s left for me to do? Show off my thrift or garage sale finds? But there are so many bloggers who are doing it already, and much better than I ever could. I’m not a sewer or a seamstress so I can’t even teach people about how to make your own clothes to opt out of the sweatshop-driven garment economy.
And therein lies my conflict with sharing my outfits with the world. I’m not a perfect consumer. It’s odd – I am not a perfect feminist nor a perfect critic either, but writing about my outfits gave me more pause and anxiety than writing about pop culture and feminist issues ever did.
So I’m giving myself a break from documenting my outfits to figure it all out. But don’t worry, blogging in general will continue. In the meantime – feminist bloggers: how do you deal with this dilemma? If you ever felt conflicted, did it get better as you continued to blog about fashion and outfits?