Earlier this week I had the opportunity to join members of the media to attend a well-known beauty product launch at a rather swanky hotel. But that’s where the ritzy ended. For starters it was a Monday, it was raining with a vengeance and the event was running two hours late. And it involved reading slides! So inevitably I gave in and scanned social media pages to see what the other fashion bloggers are saying about the event. Lo and behold, the footage they were sharing looked like we were at the event of the year. There was even dancing! What was this witchcraft? Why? Fashionable personae of course.
In the Fashionable Personae: Self-identity and Enactments of Fashion Narratives in Fashion Blogs report, author Monica Titton describes the ‘fashionable persona’ as a “situated, narrative, and performative character developed by bloggers specifically for their blogs that is anchored simultaneously in the blogger’s self-identity and in the enactment of collective cultural narratives”. She explains that they maintain these personas through a three-dimension enactment, namely the conversational construction, the bodily enactment, and the self-actualization of fashion bloggers as economic subjects.
The concept of living life through the screen was already being highlighted in 1995 by Sherry Turkle in her eponymous book where she stated, “The Internet has become a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life. In its virtual reality, we self-fashion and self-create.”
“In its [the internet’s] virtual reality, we self-fashion and self-create.”
This fashionable personae is modelled subjectively on fragments of the blogger’s pre-existing personal narratives in fashion but leaves adjustment room for metamorphosis that comes through interaction with the readers and members of the fashion industry. So even though they have this individual they put out there for your consumption, they also tend to punctuate their fashion blog posts with personal stories that reveal true things about themselves so their readers are regularly getting to know new things about them.
Put all those titbits together and you have a portrait of who the blogger is, creating a sense of familiarity. For example Fashion blogger Lucia Musau has always open up her blog post with a personal anecdote or reflection that reveals anything from her business savvy side and past outfit regrets, to her love for the Christmas holidays and what’s new with her family.
Now, you can’t have a conversation about identity construction without the idea of gender popping up. Both empowering and disempowering forces come into play when it comes to the depiction and development of femininity. While fashion blogs done by both men and women put in tremendous amount of work, women bloggers will have the additional thought of look presentation and the sexiness factor. In Personal Fashion Blogs: Screens and Mirrors in a Digital Self-portraits, the study’s author, Agnès Rocamor, argues that the men have been in control of image production, hence the objectification of women for the masculine gaze benefit. “The product of a patriarchal society, this objectification, which lodges a woman’s identity in the surface of the body, has been internalized by women as a way of relating to themselves.” With that in mind, she argues then that makeup and dress become tools to facilitate self-accomplishment of femininity, while the blog acts as a mirror for the necessary affirmation of her identity.
Simone de Beauvoir, in her seminal Le Deuxième Sexe, also indicates that gender relates differently when analysing their self-perception, “Male beauty is an indicator of transcendence as he does not recognise himself in his fixed image; it has no attraction for him since man’s body does not appear to him as an object of desire.” Women on the other hand have the passivity of immanence: she is made to arrest the gaze because her worth is embedded in her appearance. Another avenue that the Rocamor argues women bloggers will search for identity confirmation is in the commentary section of their blog. She even references the evil queen in snow white who refers to her magical mirror frequently for affirmation that she’s still the fairest of them all.
If owning a fashion blog impacts the blogger in the ways listed about, what about the readers who follow them as opinion leaders? According to the report entitled ‘The Influence of Fashion Blogs on Consumers’, virtual communities made up of the active and passive readers of the blog promote self-comparison to build your identity.
In order to maintain their social identities, readers involved in the report would visit numerous sites to ensure they were making the right fashion choices.
In order to maintain their social identities, readers involved in the report would visit numerous sites to ensure they were making the right fashion choices. “Some of the participants also felt confident to purchase certain items once they saw others wearing it, hence highlighting how the product diffusion process begins,” highlights the report. By those findings, readers are not only coming to the blogs for information but also to compare themselves to other readers and to gauge their level of personal social acceptance. This is especially seen when it comes to clothes, since the trends are constantly changing, increasing the risk of social catastrophe. Readers will turn to the blogs to help preserve their self-concept by sussing out what trends they need to avoid. Making the right move at this stage is what makes the difference between a negative or positive self-conception for most readers.
As flattering as personal fashion blogs are, it pays to self-evaluate the opinions and attitudes surrounding the blog. Figuring out the boundaries and learning to read the signs to prevent things such as relying on the virtual community to determine your self-worth. So if it’s a rainy Monday presentation your Fashionable personae doesn’t have to bow to the pressure of always having to be the life of the party or the sexy siren.