In an age where personal style bloggers are raking in millions, and social media is making us more self-centered, the prospect of fashion blogging has become quite attractive to a lot of people. Attending fashion week and rubbing shoulders with celebrities and editors, preening for photographers outside Lincoln Center and Milk Studios -- it all sounds so glamorous and fun.
But that’s not the reason I got into fashion blogging.
I can be a bit of a lazy dresser. It’s not I’m not that into dressing up, or I don’t know how to put an outfit together. It’s just that most days, I would rather hold on to a few more precious minutes of sleep, than wake up earlier, put together a look, and do my own hair and makeup (or pay someone to do it).
My daily uniform for work is pretty much a J.Crew button down, jeans (or a skirt and stockings), and boots in the winter, and a breezy printed dress in the summer with my Dolce Vita sandals or Pour La Victoire flats. Oh, and when the temperature’s a right, a moto jacket -- ALWAYS a moto jacket! Easy peasy, decidedly more pulled together than what I wear to do my blogging at home during the day (underwear), and best of all easy on my feet.
My appearance is usually not an issue for most of the publications I write for. I go to an event, get my sound bites, and then go home and work on my story. But when I’m asked to go to an event for one particular site, that’s when things get a little hairy. I write for a celebrity style-focused blog, and the editor likes to take pictures for social media purposes and sometimes do staff shoots.
These shoots are very daunting for me. The fear of having my picture taken started last year when my editor was being honored at an event. I was tasked with covering the red carpet. I had spent the entire day in the office at my then-day job, and I was dressed as I would dress any other day.
I had on a pair of jeans, extremely comfy zip-up black booties, a really cool oxblood blouse with leather sleeves, and a blue sweatshirt with gold spikes on the shoulders. The night’s honorees were naturally more dressed up than much of the crowd. I assumed I wouldn’t be in any photographs, and dressed accordingly.
Little did I know, that would not be the case. After getting all my sound bites, and before leaving to start putting together my stories, my editor asked myself and a few staff members to pose for a picture. I thought nothing of it. Until the next day it was published to the site. I got ripped apart by the readers:
“I really want to see Jihan step it up just once at one of these things. Some makeup, a to-die-for outfit. Something!”
“Where the heck did jihan think she was going? To the mall???”
Actually, I thought I was going to work, and thought it would be nice to be comfortable for once on the red carpet, which always seems to be a thousand degrees. Besides, it wasn’t my night -- it was my editor’s and I was just there to support, and like many other attendees, I kept it comfortable and casual. Oh well.
I let the mean comments roll off my back. After all, the readers don’t know my life, or how I dress every day, so really, they couldn’t make an informed judgment about me. I didn’t really run into any mean spiritedness again until the middle of last year, when I was attending a conference at which my editor was speaking. I showed up to support, and I figured I’d come a little more dressed up just in case a photo was taken.
I put on a cute pair of printed pants, white pumps (which were very uncomfortable!) and a silk Equipment blouse that made me feel like a baroness. I thought it would be a cute ensemble. Boy, was I wrong. It was extremely hot that day, and I wanted to wear my hair out (readers in the past had complained about my hair when I pull it back), but it was being stubborn. I pinned part of it back and left the rest out.
Again, it was hot as balls outside and I NEVER wear makeup when it is so hot, but I went with a natural look that day so that no one could say I looked like shit.
Boy, did that backfire! While the comments on Instagram were very nice, once the snap hit the website, It was a free-for all. Ya’ll, I got roasted. I will give you a sampling of some of the reactions to my outfit.
- “Jihan’s personal style just doesn’t echo hip and chic “fashion editor,” more shy Vogue-reading librarian.” (P.S. I’ve since co-opted “Vogue-reading librarian" as a descriptor for my personal taste. It wasn’t meant to be a compliment, but I just love it!)
- “I do expect a fashion writer to look fashionable. That doesn’t mean expensive by any means but on the industry pulse-which Jihan never really does.”
- “I do think it’s time for you to “fashion up” your personal style. You cannot be a fashion critic, judging celebs’s style while dressed like a middle school teacher. Add some vavavoom and edge to your hair, make-up and outfit. With your pretty face and fashion knowledge, your style would give so much more credilility.”
- “Jihan I think you would truly benefit from a different hairstyle!”
Normally, I don’t let what other people say about my outfits bother me, but for some reason I was feeling a little hurt. No one ever in my life has told me I’m not fashionable. Like, literally ever.
I always wore what I wanted and what I felt comfortable and confident in, and I usually get complimented on what I wear by friends, family, and random people in the New York City streets. The fact that the readers were saying that they didn’t think I was legit, in spite of my résumé and experience, was a hard pill to swallow. I started to think maybe it was time for me to start thinking more about the way I look.
Needless to say, I was feeling pretty bad about myself that week. I wouldn’t stop fiddling with my hair; I kept looking through my wardrobe to figure out what was so wrong with my style. During one of these soul-searching moments, a friend of mine rang me and I told her my issue. She sounded confused. “Uh, I think you look great all the time, Jihan. And I don’t even share your taste in clothes.”
What my homegirl said really got me thinking. Were a couple mean words from phantom Internet commenters really going to change my personal style? Absolutely not.
When I walk into a store, I’m still going to be drawn to embellished button-downs, whimsical prints, and flouncy dresses. When I go to the hair salon, I’m still going to ask the lady to blow out my hair in the style of Daria Werbowy in Céline’s Spring 2014 ads (still my favorite hairdo to date), I’m still going to wear my makeup in the way I always do. Nothing about who I am was going to change, and most of all, I didn’t want it to.
I like my style, and to the core of me, I actually don’t give a damn if anyone else does. I decided from then on: forget these rando people trying to read me for filth on the World Wide Web. I’m going to do me, wear whatever I want, and succeed in the industry that I love.
I didn’t get into fashion to be a street style star. I got into fashion writing because I fell in love with it as a child watching my mother make clothes, and because I love to write (and, maybe a little, because I love gift bags). And if anyone has a question about my credibility, they can check my clips.