Oscar Wilde once said, "It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible." In today's Facebook generation where visibility is paramount, the "mystery of the world" has become ingrained in our everyday lives. Appearance has become one of the main ways in which individuals communicate their identity, as evidenced by the surge in popularity of personal style blogs that rely mainly on visual images of the fashioned self. One cannot discuss notions of appearance without mentioning fashion, as fashion is intimately linked to appearance and influences a large part of what constitutes identity.
|Justyna B. of chameleonic.co|
The notion of fashion as a tool for individualism is a relatively modern invention. In the past, the concept of "identity" did not exist in the same context as it does today. Instead, the construction of self was largely dictated and guided by family relations, social position, religious affiliation and one's role in the labour force. However, as traditional forms of identification are less relied upon, identity is now largely established through the consumption of goods, particularly dress. Sociologist Fred Davis argues that, today, fashion has become a visual metaphor for identity: "Through clothing people communicate things about their persons and at the collective level this results in locating them symbolically in some structured universe." Thus, fashion not only communicates social status and aesthetic tastes but it also allows one to construct a sense of self that is both public and intimate at the same time. One of the most obvious spaces where this kind of negotiation occurs is in the realm of the personal style blog.
Recently, style bloggers such as The Glamourai, Man Repeller and Fashion Toast, among a sea of others, have been sitting front row at international fashion shows, serving as muses for design houses and inspiring people who are looking to amp up their wardrobes. But why are these bloggers interesting to both the fashion industry and to everyday people? The reason could simply be that they are "regular" people representing the masses. But perhaps there is a more complex explanation for their popularity.
In contemporary society, the body has become the main site for the negotiation of and establishment of identity, which is usually achieved through fashion and reflected through appearance. French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu observed that the body is seen as a communicative vessel of status, individuality and authenticity. However, identity is also marked with a sense of ambiguity and ambivalence because it is in constant flux. In this sense, fashion (along with fashion images) can provide stabilising symbols that provide individuals with uniqueness and separate them from the masses. Davis asserts that, "in a very large part, our identities - our sense of who we are and what we are - take shape in terms of how we balance and attempt to resolve the ambivalences to our natures, our times, and our culture." At the same time, fashion enables membership with specific social groups which provides a sense of belonging. Fashion theorist Elizabeth Wilson notes that images of fashion do double-duty through bridging the "loneliness of 'mass man' by connecting us with our social group." It is the style bloggers of this generation that can connect us and become part of "our social group" through their appearance as well as their fashion inspiration.
Style bloggers provide a visual reference for one's fashion desires and, in turn, aid in the establishment of one's identity. Before the birth of style blogs, fashion models and celebrities took on this role; however, the main difference between these stylistas and the models that grace the covers of magazines is that many bloggers are ordinary individuals who reflect part of their identity through fashion. Simply put: we can relate. Style blogger, Julie of popchampagneblog.com states: "I love the freedom of celebrating self expression through clothes and how everyone can freely express their opinions on style and fashion (in fashion blogs). Unlike fashion magazines, I find style blogs more relatable as they contain more 'wearable' and affordable outfits on a daily basis."
|Julie L. of popchampagneblog.com|
According to ancient Greek mythology, Narcissus was a boy so beautiful and so vain that his conceit eventually caused his demise (he fell into a pond and drowned after being consumed by his reflection). In today's image-driven society, where the search for sense of self is mitigated by appearances, it would be interesting to see if Narcissus' vanity would be met with the same fate. Perhaps he would be rewarded with front-row seats at the most coveted fashion shows, hundreds of Facebook friends, a plethora of followers lookbook.nu and thousands of hits on his personal style blog.
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