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The Fashademic: PhD Candidate Rosie Findlay on Personal Style Blogs



18 March 2013

Rosie Findlay, PhD candidate from the Department of Performance Studies, is shining an academic spotlight on personal style blogs, and discovering that this growing area of the fashion industry is worth taking seriously.

"To the untrained eye, style blogs, like fashion, can be seen as purely superficial," she says.

"Yet the opportunity they present to bloggers to engage with fashion at a personal level, to share, perform and express their style before a curious readership is unprecedented."

Rosie first considered fashion as a mode of performance while undertaking a thesis in her honors year, for which she did a case study on Australian Fashion Week.

"There's a theorist called John MacAloon who talks about spectacle, and I began thinking about how fashion week could be seen as spectacle. I was reading style blogs at the time and there was no academic literature on it. I thought this could be really exciting," says Rosie.

Not one to research from a distance, Rosie has truly immersed herself in her topic by taking a methodological approach and creating her own personal style blog, aptly named Fashademic.

On the blog, in addition to publishing her research findings, the self-confessed 'fashion nerd' outlines some of the filters through which she analyses these relatively new blogs.

"I'm interested in the blur between fashion and expressions of selfhood online, as well as the outflowing consequences of style blogging on communication of fashion knowledge, notions of publics and privacy, and the increasing commodification of individuals' identities," says Rosie.

But in keeping with the format of style blogs, a medium she explains as being "a particular kind of fashion-based web blog, concerned with the personal style and interest in fashion which is practiced in an individual's life," Rosie also uploads 'outfit posts' of her own fashion journey; a practice which brings into play the interceptions of public and private life.

"Style blogging is a particular sharing of your private life for a public forum," she says, "At the same time, there's a particular audience, a particular purpose; it's not supposed to be a journal so certain aspects of their lives are kept private.

"As a viewer you feel a sense of intimacy, but you don't have an intimate relationship with them. When you meet someone in the blogosphere there's a funny duality," says Rosie.

Findlay says this communality amongst bloggers is often taken offline, with meet-ups and conferences designed to help them improve their blogs, both visually and with a mind for commercialisation.

"It's not always a hobby, it's about how you can monetise your blog, how you can be a professional blogger, build your audience and target the brands you want to work with. It's now becoming about blogging as a business."

In an industry dominated by women, "This is an exciting thing", says Rosie. "It fits in with feminist theory as well," she states, "particularly theories of representation.

"This is one of the first times in history girls as a demographic have had a means to self-publish their thoughts, opinions and ideas in public, where no one is representing them or editing them in any way," she says.

Rosie sees style blogging as taking a different role to the more traditional media of fashion magazines, and points out that there are trends proliferating through the style blogosphere that are not apparent in mainstream fashion media.

"The companies whose goods are key to these trends do really well out of it."

And it seems the bloggers can turn a profit too. In addition to making money through advertising, some earn 'perks' such as being sent clothes, invited to industry parties, and even invited to attend international fashion events such as New York Fashion Week. With incentives like those, it's no wonder the style blogosphere is growing rapidly.

"That so many people have started one of their own speaks to the importance of personal style blogs as a cultural phenomenon," says Rosie.

Rosie recently wrote on the showdown between fashion journalists and bloggers on Vogue.com.au.

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