Body Image & Diversity in Fashion Blogging – Is it an American Problem?

Most of the blogosphere will be aware by now of the whole debate going on about body image and fashion blogging. The controversial IFB post put this topic to the forefront. The wording of the article may have been handled badly but this is a debate that needed to be had. It’s definitely true that there needs to be more diversity in the world of fashion blogging. After all the audience of these blogs is wide ranging and diverse. the need for a wide range of shapes, sizes and races is a given but I’m not going to examine the why’s and how’s of this situation in this particular post.

I want to examine whether the top tier of UK Fashion blogs offers more diversity than it’s American counterparts? When you look at the top fashion blogs in America you see a flood of young, thin and mostly blonde model types, dressed head to toe in high end brands. Of course there is the odd exception but it’s rare. You’ll be lucky to see an average shaped fashion blogger in the top tier of the blogging elite, let alone someone plus size or non-caucasian.

Contrast that with the UK fashion blogging community. It is dominated by different races and different sizes. Style Slicker, Susie Bubble, Disney Roller Girl, Nadia of Frou Frouu and Park ‘n’ Cube are all non-caucasian but hugely successful fashion bloggers with massive audiences and regular collaborations with some of the biggest brands and magazines out there. Their race hasn’t hindered their blogging ascension and of course many of them are popular on both sides of the atlantic.

Liberty London Girl, Alex Loves and Mademoiselle Robot are also hugely popular and although two of them are blonde, they’re also all shaped like the average woman. I am finding it hard to think of one top-tier blogger that fits into the blonde, thin, model type bracket that seems to dominate the american fashion blogging community.

Are we more accepting of diversity in the UK? What is it about our community that seems to accept diversity in a way that isn’t present in the States?

There also seems to be an absence of US fashion bloggers that wear outfits that most of us could afford. The top tier bloggers consist of clothes that are unattainable for the most of us. Whereas here in the UK, we have bloggers like Lily Melrose & Zozeebo who dress pretty much head to toe in highly accessible high street brands and have huge readerships.

Why is there such a big difference between the UK and the UK in terms of diversity and realism?

Of course that’s not to say that the UK doesn’t have its own problems. I cannot think of even one hugely successful plus size blogger and there aren’t any top tier black bloggers that I can think of either. So we have got some way to go before we have full diversity here but we are well on the way to getting there and we are certainly a lot closer to full diversity than in the states.

Thoughts? Opinions?

 

 

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Comments

  1. The UK is a diverse place and we also don’t have as much of a history involving racism and race inequality as the USA does and that’s why I think we have some successful non-Caucasian bloggers. Another one I think is Tala Samman from Myfashdiary who is of Arab descent and I think is even Muslim yet she’s a sucessful blogger who has worked with brands like Galaxy and Sephora. I’ve also seen many black fashion bloggers in the UK who are quite successful.

    Magazines have barely catered to the ‘other’ but bloggers ARE the ‘other’ therefore bloggers show us a real person, a personality and really demonstrate that race, shape, sexuality or whatever else is not a problem for us and it’s just who we are.

  2. Really interesting post babes – there is definitely more diversity within the UK fashion blogging community than in the US – at least in terms of big blogs. However, when you compare how small the big UK blogs are to the US ones and then look at an international level, you’ll see that the biggest of them all, that attract readers from all over the world are white, blonde, skinny model figures.

    However you do have a point – our UK bloggers do advocate affordable(ish) fashion a lot more – but then again, those things that we consider pricey in the US are dirt cheap!

    • I agree to a point. Susie Bubble and Liberty London Girl are both hugely popular both here and internationally with pageviews in the millions and neither fit the thin/young/blonde model looks stereotype :)

      • Yup, correct. Didn’t say there weren’t any non-model bloggers internationally popular. I spoke of the majority of the international creme de la creme of fashion blogging x

        • I find it interesting though that I have trouble thinking of one top tier American fashion blogger that doesn’t look like a model. It’s kinda sad especially in a country that has substantially more fashion bloggers than the UK does.

  3. Here in Canada, there are a good number of top tier or near top tier bloggers who are of East Asian descent. In fact, that’s probably the only “diversity” we get – I actually can’t name too many non-East Asian or Caucasian bloggers who seem to get higher profile press (i.e. beyond the typical free pass/invite and maybe swag). I think part of it has to do with class. I think a lot of style bloggers come from upper middle class families and have some support from the parentals in addition to the money they make from their jobs. But that’s just my feeling…

    Here are the ladies from Fashion Magazine’s “style panel.” There are about 20 of them, and six are East Asian (one black panelist and she is also plus sized)

    http://www.fashionmagazine.com/blogs/style-panel/

    Other higher profile Canadian blogs I read include backseatstylers.com and styleblog.ca. The former was recently a “real person” model at a major fashion show at Toronto Fashion Week – despite not meeting the height requirement of 5’6″ (yeah…. so people who are short aren’t “real” – whatevs).

  4. Hey – I read the article on IFB and even though some bits were written in a clumsy way, I think the point it made rang very true… when it comes to US blogs. As you said, here in the UK, I feel that the blogging community is much more diverse and the blogs featured in the media are also very diverse. However, even the biggest UK blogs have very small readerships compared to the US counterparts as you said in your post, which is due to the territory but also maybe to the fact that us UK bloggers don’t “fit” within that very American beauty ideal, which is a great thing because it means we bring something different to the table.

    I look at a lot of French and Swedish blogs, some of them probably qualify as top tier, and even when the girls are beautiful, model like and post beautiful pics, I don’t think their traffic gets even near to the big US blogs. I am sort of digressing here, but basically what I wanted to say is this is something I have been thinking about a lot, how certain MASSIVE blogs seem to be more successful because the blogger fits within a certain idea of beauty that’s more widely accepted in the fashion industry… but as you said this seems to only be the case in the US. I am not sure where I was getting at now, apart from agreeing with your post :) Sorry it is getting late and my brain is working in slow mo.

    I just think it is a shame body shape issues are even issues, it seems we are all making ourselves miserable over something that shouldn’t even enter our realm of consciousness. Blogging is fun, clothes are fun, there is a great community and a place for everyone to do whatever they want to do. Blogging is most of all about enjoying yourself, whether half of the world reads your blog or nobody. Which is why I think these issues shouldn’t even be issues. I think there is a pretty good diversity in the UK blogosphere in general – it doesn’t matter whether the blog numbers are big or not, I think what matters is that all sorts of different women are blogging. That means more and more people will be able to find blogs they can relate to directly, and look at other blogs as they would look at magazines. I know I like to read a bit of both: blogs written by women who look like me for direct inspiration and magazines or blogs with highly aspirational images to dream a little!

    That was much longer than I intended, sorry about that!
    xxx

  5. Great post, Faye. Successful fashion bloggers in the UK, notably the fab ones that you’ve mentioned, have a lot of personality and that’s what keeps our interest over here. In the UK, we don’t tend to search blogs for perfection, it’s more about having interesting personal style and real opinions, not just a Celine clotheshorse.

    There’s diversity in the sense that people of all different races, sizes, walks of life are bloggers, however, many that ‘make it big’, are ones that have something that readers want or aspire to. It could be access to designer clothes (either bought or great PR connections), good looks or being creative with style, photography or DIY. Perhaps in the US, certain attributes are more valued than others?? In an industry where success can be measured by brand collaborations and ambassadorship, perhaps it has something to do with the kind of blogger image that brands want to be affiliated with. I’m totally rambling here, but hopefully this makes sense…

    Have to say, I’m not totally clued up on the big American fashion blogs, but I do thank the US for Tavi!!

  6. What I great perspective on this blogging and body image issue raised by IFB’s articles this week. I’m so glad Vahni from G&G shared this on Facebook, otherwise I wouldn’t have found it!

    As someone who is from the US I find it so interesting and refreshing to see that the top tier bloggers in the UK are very diverse and then I’m disheartened because it isn’t the same here. It all comes down to the prevailing industry standard that white and thin is beautiful and this industry standard is just a reflection of our deep seeded history that we as Americans still have to shake. In the global scheme of things we are a young country and we have yet to fully embrace on the main stream level that all types of women (and people) are beautiful. However, it isn’t an excuse not to do anything or to keep perpetuating this narrow view of things.

    Bloggers period have made the industry take notice and worked our way into being recognized as credible sources of commentary on fashion. What we don’t need to do is fall into their narrow standard of what’s beautiful and fashionable – we (and IFB especially) are in a position to develop a more universal and inclusive standard.

  7. a few things I was thinking as I read this thought-provoking post:

    As an ex-magazine editor, and one who was a bookings editor for three years, (that’s the editor who books the models for editorial & covers), one of the things I ADORE about the blogging community is its diversity. I love that cream rises in UK blogging: talent (most of the time*) is evident in the blogs that are successful, and looking like a model isn’t the key to success.

    Fashion taste is more diverse in the UK: I can speak with authority having been a fashion director on a magazine in NYC. Sure we love our labels here, but I do think we dress in a more intelligent and realistic way over here. We don;t generally see High Street as a step on the way to designer, but as a something equally important and great in its own right.

    Gifting high end loot to bloggers is more common in the US, so you get more labels on personal style blogs.

    Some (British) b*tch called me overweight for no reason WHATSOEVER on Twitter last week. Jesus. I’m a size 14 (granted I have an outsize – real – GG bust) and reckon I reflect the shape of the average woman pretty well. It’s just not necessary to be a twiglet (although clearly nothing wrong with that either) in order to succeed in any facet of the fashion industry, be it editorial or blogging. You only have to look around at the shows to see that most fashion editors, buyers & stylists look pretty normal. There has always been this ridiculous trope that you have to be skinny to succeed in the fashion industry. It’s abslute bollocks. (I give you Glenda Bailey for a start). My last job was as executive fashion editor on The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ mag. So I am living proof that you don;t need to be thin to win.

    When I spoke at IFB last year, there was real disbelief in the room at the idea that a fashion blog could any thing other than a personal style blog. I reckon 85% of the girls in the room when I asked them, said that you had to have photos of yourself to succeed. Well, I’ve proved that maxim wrong, but I think it is a difference between the UK & the US, that we care as much about what someone has to say , as how they look.

    *(That being said there are some UK blogs where it is clear that the only reason for their popularity is the prettiness/rocking body of the blogger whose every entry features photos where the camera lasciviously roams over their body. (Can you tell I don’t much like or approve of them?))

  8. oops! Pressed send too early: the most important part: the thing that I am most proud of about UK blogging IS its diversity. Fat, thin, tall, short, black, pink, white, orange, red: we come in all shapes, sizes, colours & hues. And none of the above characteristics seem to influence a blog’s readers one bit. And I love British blogging for that. LLGxx

  9. Great post Faye. I also saw the IFB post and the controversy around it, which I admit, I feel has been a little blown-up. I think that if you do take a long hard look at some of the most successful fashion blogs in the US (and thus, internationally) they are one type of blogger and photos and outfits even. They obviously work as they are hugely popular – and sure, it is nice to see pretty photos. But here in the UK, as other commenters have said before, I think we look for a story too. We’re not so interested in only the photos but also how those photos came to be.

    With regards to high street vs high end dressing – I think that in the UK we simply have a better and more diverse high street.

    I don’t think anyone, skinny, plus-sized or anywhere in between should be made to feel bad for how they look and I think that the blogging community – in the UK at any rate – has come a long way to removing such judgements from fashion.

    There is obviously still a long way to go but I think that this time around, there’s a lot the US could learn from the UK.

    (PS would it be ok to include this in my weekly Lovely Links please?)

  10. I’m not a fashion blogger and I have only read snippets of the original IFB article (it has since been edited) but I have to tell you, they raised some good points but my goodness, the language used is outrageous. Anyway…

    Anybody who buys into the notion that the USA is about diversity is delusional and as unexpected as it may be, these fashion blogs only serve to back up my opinion. Granted, I don’t know all of the fashion blogs but the top tier ones all look the same. They look great – pretty, beautiful hair, stunning designer wardrobes etc. Glamorous and gorgeous but everybody looks the same! The UK is not perfect, we have many problems here but there is nowhere as diverse as this country, particularly London.

    I think fashion bloggers have so much potential to influence and inspire. Brands are wisely picking up on that and as mentioned in Cherie City’s comment, I think that’s why many brands choose a certain type of blogger – someone who aligns with their target audience. Unfortunately, those who don’t fit that mould (based on their weight, ethnicity, style etc) often get left behind.

    When Karl Lagerfeld said of Adele “Elle est un peu trop grosse mais a une voix divine” (she’s a little fat but has a divine voice), why didn’t everybody boycott Chanel? When British Vogue put yet another cover of Adele’s face on the cover, nobody said anything. By continuing to support these companies and brands, we not only endorse their behaviour but also say that it is okay for us to be judged on our dress size. It is not. Something to think about. Going back to body shape and blogging, I don’t know why this is even a question. Reading LLG’s comments about her experience go to show that if you have a brain, a plan and are willing to put in the work, why should it matter what you look like. We need to spend less time doing what everybody expects and more time focussing on our own life goals and happiness. The very idea that society can dictate how I should look is unacceptable to me. I don’t care what hair style/colour/shoe style etc is à la mode. I’m doing my own thing and if people don’t like it, c’est la vie! Wear what makes you happy, dress in clothes that make you feel good, do what works for you. Fashion isn’t about fitting in, it’s about expressing who you are. I’ve digressed slightly but I hope that all makes sense…

  11. This is a really interesting take on the whole thing Faye! I thought IFB handled the whole thing extremely badly, not so much the author of the original post as she has apologised quite a few times, but the ‘open letter’ thing. I think also lots of people had been irritated with IFB for a while and this pushed them over the age to say something.

    The examples you give are really interesting. I love a lot of the examples you mentioned, especially Susie Bubble, the quality of her writing is head and shoulders above most bloggers, including me. And I’m quite proud of the UK bloggers and our loyalty to the accessible high street. It does feel worrying when the most visible US bloggers are thin and blonde and, mostly, rich.

  12. I agree with Lou (at the top) about British history (in the UK) being less racist as opposed to America, who still have racism deep rooted in some (more of the deep south) states. And it wasn’t until the 1960s that equality started to be addressed in the US, whereas the UK began addressing the issue much earlier. Our being part of the EU I believe has also greatly helped address race issues in the UK. However in your article you also address size. I don’t know much about this issue in regards to blogging, however personally I don’t follow a blog for what the person looks like at all, more how they write their blog, how they take their photographs and what they write about.
    I don’t believe I agree with the way you worded the fourth paragraph down ‘Liberty London Girl, Alex Loves and Mademoiselle Robot are also hugely popular and although two of them are blonde, they’re also all shaped like the average woman.’ It implies you don’t think blonde model like bloggers should be popular just because they fit into the stereotype. Their blog could be just as good as the next blonde Caucasian model look-a-like, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be popular just because they aren’t a certain race considered ‘diverse’, or plus size. I agree diversity should be addressed perhaps more in the US than here- in regards to this topic. But it comes down to merit not looks for me; if someone has a good blog; I’ll read it. Simple as
    Daniella

    http://daniella-r.blogspot.co.uk/

    • I’m not saying blonde as a bad thing – i’m saying it in relation to the fact that most hugely successful American bloggers are blonde and thin. Hence the statement about them being of average size. But basically i’m saying that apart from being blonde they don’t fit the American ‘type’ that’s successful

  13. Casee Marie says:

    I love where you took this, Faye! Very interesting observations, and spot on. Diversity is very poorly represented in the US – primarily by our media outlets, and I’ve thought for a long time that those have an all too immediate position in our society. I will say that when fashion blogging first gained notoriety here it was an exciting thing, because in many ways it started for a lot of us with Tavi Gevinson, who was so far from the sort of girl we all saw in magazines and fashion ads (even if she had a lot of those attributes, she had a brilliant way of not mirroring them). She was this wonderfully weird breath of fresh air, and I remember thinking that blogging was going to open a door for that sort of self-expression and uniqueness. Looking at it now, that somehow didn’t happen. A lot changed, and the blogging platform feels more like a magazine, with all of its stereotypes. It’s unfair to blame the tall, thin, white American girls for their success, though, which makes you look beyond them to how they’re successful: the number of readers? The brands they work with? And which one came first? Is society so wrapped up in perfection that they gravitate to these blogs, or do the brands do that while society is so wrapped up in materialism that they follow along? It boggles the mind a bit, and it makes you wonder if the problem will ever be fixed if you can’t find the root of it. But it makes you a bit hopeful to think that if conversations like these happen enough that enough people will be motivated to make a change, and that eventually we’ll see some kind of difference. (:

    • I wonder if the media is the problem. I find that diversity is embraced by the media here and the bloggers that appear in mags represent this but I think that the US media tends to feature only those bloggers with ‘model’ looks.

      • Casee Marie says:

        This is why I’m an Anglophile. ;) I definitely agree; it’s weird because I know a lot of American bloggers who thought, even in the last few years, that people were gravitating towards fashion blogs over fashion magazines because of the diversity represented, because it was a woman’s voice and point of view rather than a manufactured ideal. But now it seems like the “ideal” has gotten tied up in blogging too, and what seemed like an exciting solution has now somehow gotten to be part of the problem? It’s a sucky business.

  14. Another interesting point might be that while a lot of the more racially diverse bloggers are based in the UK, a huge amount of their traffic is possibly coming from overseas. I’m thinking here specifically of Style Slicker, Susie Bubble, Park & Cube, Alex Loves and Mademoiselle Robot, all of whom are probably getting a lot of traffic from other European or Asian countries. It would be interesting to know a country-by-country breakdown of readership for each of the ‘big blogs’ around the world. We might even find that US audiences are reading blogs written by non-white, average-sized women, and that it’s just the fashion/print industry there that is pushing the blonde model blogger on us. Maybe lots of British people prefer the American stereotypical blogs? Or maybe not.

    This is also making me think about the male bloggers out there. The ones which are really big (I’m only judging this based on numbers of Twitter followers/comments on blog posts) also tend to be slim to skinny, or have ripped abs which they don’t mind whipping out in every blog post.

  15. The comments on the IFB post has gone all Pete Tong and out of context.

    This is a great article Faye and this puts us into perspective, however, I really don’t think diversity has anything to do with success, as Nelly (Cherity City) have mentioned it’s about the content and personality of the author that keep us coming back for more…I do follow US blogs out of curiosity. I have no problems with diversity – size, skin colour, nationality, race, religion, sexuality etc I read them all, oh what about age? A few of us here are 3o and plus (and me), it’s not an issue for me.

    What are the attributes of a successful blogger? I have no clue, it’s the reader’s choice.

    • I actually didn’t realise you were in your thirties (like me). I agree that diversity doesn’t have anything to do with success but I also think that when a community is truly diverse then the top tier of bloggers will also reflect this. What I love about the UK is though that nowadays you can open most magazines (not Vogue, Elle etc but the likes of More, Company, Grazia) and see a blogger featured who doesn’t necessarily look like a model whereas in the states I don’t think this is so much the case. The UK is a multicultural and diverse country and I love that our blogging community reflects this.

  16. I’m cagey about my age but I’m def over thirty too! LLGxx

  17. Late to this but my tuppenceworth. When a lot of us started blogging, it was all about creating an online persona and some of us didn’t show our faces at all (namely me and LLG but also the much-missed Mrs Fashion). I didn’t think about it at the time but it meant that our readers were purely responding to our tastes/opinions than what we looked like. The age issue is particularly interesting as I personally don’t like being defined by age. It’s just another bloody box to put people in and drives me nuts! If you’re a teenager, you get put in the ‘quirky Tavi’ box and if you’re over 40, you get put in the ‘over-forties-doesn’t-mean-over-the-hill’ box. When really, I loved the fact that as an anony-blogger and still now, I have readers of all ages who respond to my posts and no-one has a clue how old I am. It simply doesn’t matter. Maybe in this country, the content of our fashion blogs is generally more diverse. Some are what-I-wore blogs, others are newsy, others are opinion/taste-makers. As Sasha/Libertylondongirl has said before, when she spoke at IFB once, the attendees couldn’t get their head around a fashion blog that didn’t do outfit posts. Perhaps this is the main reason that the bloggers are more diverse; because the blogs themselves are more diverse too?

    • I remember the glory days of the Great Anonyblogger Trifecta with a lot of fondness, Mrs Fashion was wonderful and is sorely missed (I had hopes when she briefly unlocked and started up her blog again, but then she locked it permanently :()

      I just want to let you guys – you and Sasha in particular – know that your commentary and insights are much appreciated, after all like she said ‘fashion blogging’ =/= ‘personal style blogging only!

  18. There is a myriad of UK-based plus-size bloggers, although I’m not sure if not as many as in the US. At least they are more regionally based and closer to each other (because Britain is smaller, of course). I can tell you about Lauren from Pocket Rocket Fashion, Messy Carla, Mrs BeBe, Naomi from Diamonds n Pearls, Bethany from Arched Eyebrow; and from people of colour I could talk about Ragini from A Curious Fancy (Indian who lived in England) and Isha Reid from Creative Type Fashion. They are there and I have seen them in a few offline and online publications, including Vogue Italy; but hopefully they are around a lot more. We need representation of all sizes, genders and races, because all sizes, genders and races are beautiful.

  19. Thanks for addressing this topic Faye. You are correct, which is why I started my blog. As a disabled stylish gal living in NY I wanted to inspire not only disabled & able bodied women to get dressed up, but also to make people laugh–as this blog is irreverent, opinionated and humorous. Hopefully we will see more diversity in the American fashion blogging world.
    http://www.PrettyCripple.com

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