I began blogging when I was fourteen, prompted by several friends. The first, Lettice, introduced me to Style Bubble and Sea of Shoes. We’d spend our maths lessons eagerly seeking updates and discussing outfit posts; our useless teacher’s inability to set work leading to thrice-weekly slots of internet surfing rather than graph plotting or algebra. Luckily he moved on, and the following term we returned to our equations. The interest in style blogs remained though. I made my own in June 2009, using photos taken by Flo to kick-start it.
My sapling interest in style was growing. I’d signed to a model agency the previous year, and my stack of second hand Vogues piled ever taller. I began by buying them from charity shops for 20p apiece, selecting the choicest photos to adorn my door and pin-boards before discarding the rest. Then I started reading them. Names of designers became familiar. I switched to getting new copies, an occasional treat supplemented by an Elle Collections or, (having gone beyond Mizz and Shout) Sugar magazine. The presence of all these publications was fitting, the realm of teen ‘cringes’ and ‘true life’ stories facing off adult articles on catwalks, work and artsy things.
It was a strange time of innocence, excitement and unhappiness. I was miserable at school and struggled socially, but found myself enthralled by the worlds of books, style, vintage clothing, film and photography. I discovered Beyond Retro, watched the Red Shoes and My Fair Lady, read The Bell Jar, listened to Marina and the Diamonds and tried to teach myself the rudiments of fashion illustration and design (usually faltering before I reached the sewing machine).
At home I experimented with my mum’s fifties skirts and vintage jackets, snaffling up items where I could. She used to have two clear plastic boxes hidden in the back of a cupboard, each filled with tissue paper and pieces she’d kept since her teens and twenties. They’re still there now, but hugely depleted. Much of the former contents now rest in my room, most of it stolen away in the first year or so of blogging.
It was the playful freedom that I loved best. With a blog I had reason to put together fantastical outfits to tramp around forests and (occasionally) jump into rivers. It gave me the impetus to buy seventies orange dresses and vintage Jaeger blazers. I could trawl eBay and jumble sales with heightened zeal. My dressing up box grew, and so did my confidence.
Blogging was a much smaller world back then. Of course I was experiencing it at a different age with different aspirations. It was my hobby, done for the love of interesting clothing and newfound connections with like-minded people. The sense of community and creative opportunity was still fresh. There were fewer of us, the fashion industry still in the early stages of picking up on the power of bloggers. But there was Tavi, Jane, Rumi, Susie, Karla – the first wave of success surged.
Blogging has changed in the last four and a half years. Of course. Like any modern medium it’s undergoing a kind of continued metamorphosis, in step with lives rapidly altered by technology. The internet is almost unrecognizable from what it was in my early teens. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse now.
My first LFW was in February 2011. The comparison between that and February 2013 (my last full season) is pretty astonishing. In the former the street style movement was well established but limited. In the latter it was a cacophony of cameras, shutter-clicks, photographers and bright outfits. Somerset House had become a realm of tweeting, live-streaming, instant updates, guest lists on iPads, Vine catwalk clips, instagram snaps. iPhones had replaced Blackberries and the front row was awash with smartphone flashes.
In line with this super-charged, super-speedy approach to fashion, the role of blogging has shifted too. Its increased commerciality (such as advertising) is something I occasionally benefit from - a fair reward, I feel, for the input of time and hard work. But, for me at least, it’s an added bonus to the main creative focus. It’s still the thought of delicious sixties' mini-dresses and swing coats that drives me. The writing has also become more integral as my aspirations swung from the sketched lines of clothing designs to typed lines of text.
Many of the blogs I used to read have vanished altogether. Lives change and move on. Some remain. Perhaps I’m bothered by a spectre wearing rose-tinted spectacles, but I recall a crisp novelty that has since dwindled. When I started it was less about quantifiable numbers – page-views, Twitter followers, Facebook likes – and more about the thrill of doing something imaginative.
Now, the homegrown democracy that encouraged me, fed by the idea that anyone could start a blog, regardless of age, looks or geographical location, has been replaced with a homogeneity of sorts. Not in all the blogs themselves, of course (see for example Mel, Vix, Desiree and Bella for a fabulous set of women with even more fabulous wardrobes), but in the types of blogs that are celebrated. Where once there were outsiders, now the media direct readers towards a formula already approved by the fashion industry – trend-led, brand-focused, model-proportioned, slickly-photographed individuals.
Some have been given unprecedented opportunity through their blogging, achieving well-deserved recognition in the process. Others are doing it for the fun of the communities and connections they’ve made, or the passion they’ve sustained. I guess I blog because I still get excited about dressing up and running around fields and writing essays. I blog because it’s the most brilliant platform to combine words and images, because it gives me a reason to think up photography projects and unpack ideas. But sometimes I have to remind myself that that is where the true joy lies – not in the number of people who click a post, but in the act of creation.
These reflections were spurred by the fact that this is my 300th blog post. Over those four and a half years a huge number of clothes, locations and words have skittered across its pages. The images above are a handful of my favourites from beginning to end (it was such fun returning to the archives and remembering various exploits and outfits). It's quite extraordinary to have a visual document of how I've grown and changed in that time period.
Thanks to each and every lovely reader, commenter and casual passer-by. You're all the best.