the echo chamber?

So, did I just make you want a Charvet shirt?

I keep coming across comments about how blogging and reading blogs for some seems to have fed their desire to shop and consume more (indigoalison just gave her take), and have been thinking about whether I was honestly affected by this.

When I started blogging, whenever I saw something cool on someone else’s blog, I would instantly start a round of online shopping to see where I might find something like it. Only my dislike for online shopping held me back from doing real damage to my bank account.

My thirst for shopping grew when I started working and had more money to spend on clothes, and also when I decided I wanted to move on to better-made clothing. I was also transiting to the demands of dressing for work, and suddenly, it seemed like I had new things every week. Building up a foundation of basics, upgrading to better-quality clothing, and figuring out what works best on me – it was a never-ending whirl of shopping, with misfires galore.

Blogging and reading blogs provided me with inspiration and an idea of how “real people” dressed and shopped. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about what people were buying, what labels they were wearing, what editorials they posted – I saw it as educational. I tentatively posted shots of my outfits, sometimes just so that I can go back to them and understand what worked and what didn’t. I posted endless pictures of stuff I coveted as an outlet to let off shopping-lust steam. I wrote about designers I admired and celebrities who dressed well. I talked about new things I bought.

Along the way, I read about shopping bans on the now-defunct Observation Mode (she was one of the first), marveled the joys of a small wardrobe and other thoughts on consuming by Editor, understood the connection between inspiration and real-life dressing on Pret a Porter P (Star Wars chic, it’s possible!) and, as an aside, delighted in the threads on building a wardrobe on The Fashion Spot.

My blog wasn't scintillating stuff (nope, not the next Susie Bubble then), but it was all a great exercise in understanding what I like and how I want to look, and how I want to consume. I rarely got comments on blogs and I wrote for me and no one else, but increasingly it became gratifying to come across other blogs and like-minded bloggers. It was interesting to share and discuss things that, in my non-virtual world, barely gets 5 minutes of my time.

My blog may have started as pretty much a “this is gorgeous, I want!” or “look what I bought!” or “look what I wore today” sort of affair, but I think as I sought to become more thoughtful and considered about what I want from clothes, the blog has evolved as well. Blogging became part of policing the mind – forcing myself to write about why I want something became part of being more disciplined about shopping. Writing about what I love and exploring the connections I have to clothes that’s beyond material, allowed me to appreciate what I have more.

So, with all this navel-gazing about dressing and finding personal style, I’m not surprised if it seems like all this has become an echo chamber of sorts, amplifying the process of getting dressed into disproportionate significance. All this going back and forth between blogs about building the perfect wardrobe, is it actually blowing all this out of proportion and feeding a desire to shop? Even worse, has everyone come to develop the same “good, classic taste” as a result of some items becoming incredibly popular on blogs and seeming desired by everyone?

I supposed there is something to be said for blogging breaks (from reading blogs and blogging) but personally I haven’t felt the need. I believe many bloggers, don’t actually think about this stuff every hour of the day – we work, study, take care of our families, fight with enemies, empathise with friends, read, exercise, watch television programmes, films, travel, cook, volunteer at non-profits, worry about the state of the world, save for a rainy day, sleep.

My life does not revolve around wardrobe planning, and I’ve always assumed that about the blogs I read, so that’s always contextualised things for me.

What do you think? Do you think blogging and reading blogs makes you want more more more?

Picture from self service magazine #34


S said…
I love this post, thanks for all your insight. I think for me, it's not really the blogging or reading of blogs itself to drove my own consumption ... it was more the friendships that resulted from it. Kind of the idea that some people shop to impress other people ... for me, it wasn't about the people in my offline life but my online life. It sounds so silly to put it that way! As for your comment about everyone developing the same classic style, I do believe people with similar taste gravitate towards each other. Seeing the same La Garconne sweater may make one buy that version instead of another version, but the style and tastes of that person is still true to themselves, I would think.
Anonymous said…
In me actually have the opposite effect, blogs made me realize that I did have to many things I wasn't actually using because they were impulse purchases. I was at home bored and I went to Zara or H&M to buy something. I returned most of the things but even so I kept too many things I didn't use. Reading blogs showed me that I should think before I buy, this would help my style and my wallet : ). I learnt this from the mistakes that over expending bloggers made and also from the bloggers that have the less is more approach to shopping. I worked my conclusions and I think I got something positive...
Amanda said…
I saw an ad for The Kooples yesterday talking about how the French contemporary fashion is now the "hottest trend" and I thought, "Jeez, I don't want to be part of that, even though everyone looks EXACTLY the same in that ad". And similarly, I think that there's an unconscious tendency for bloggers to have a herd mentality - we want what other people with similar likes have because we feel it reflects what we should be. I don't know if that made sense but people go on blogs that tend to that be mirror images of themselves or to be purveyors of a certain kind aesthetic. I know for me at least, visiting blogs that cater to my aesthetics and having someone "recommend" something has been my greatest downfall.
Lapin de Lune said…
It's funny, because this post caught me right at the point where I had been musing over similar things....and the words 'navel gazing' have occurred to me rather a few times this week, although I am not exactly sure why. I have actually been reassessing exactly why I created a specific fashion blog, and what I am inadvertently contributing to.

I tend not to feel the urge to buy more as a result of reading fashion blogs, but I do find myself becoming a tad more self critical than I might like (about the items I possess). But this isn't strictly about fashion, there are other areas which have a similar effect: home, food, beauty, etc. I think that it can create a certain tension, causing a tendency to perhaps over think things, to highlight financial shortcomings. Not sure I can explain this very well!

I also work from home, so spend rather a huge amount of time online, which often feels stifling - both work and play combine and can occasionally create confusion. I have actually been considering closing my fashion blog and simply combining my sartorial musings with my regular, art based blog, which used to feature many of my interests but has been sadly neglected since beginning LapindeLune. Not sure yet!

But yes, there are these weird negatives that I can't put my finger on. No matter how far we run from the hight street we are still somehow caught in this web of consumerism, and even though I can occasionally afford to spend on luxury items I do feel odd promoting this route considering there are so many people who are not so fortunate. It's a sort of privilege isn't it? And it can often seem a little bit elitist whether intentional or not.

Anyway, I am merely pondering, and as always perhaps a tad too much!
Anonymous said…
My father almost died last year, and during all those hours spent by his side at the hospital, I thought about clothes, and blogs, and wardrobe editing, and navy blue cashmere cardigans, and brown desert boots.... And those thoughts kept me sane. Fashion is a small part of my life - but I've no doubt that it's a good one.
Pret a Porter P said…
Blogs don’t have a significant influence in my shopping habits. I read a wide variety of blogs, many with tastes very different to mine. I’ve had a love of fashion since childhood—I would get up at 6 am on Saturday mornings to watch Fashion File, Video Fashion, Fashion Television before X-Men and Batman cartoons came on. What I wear naturally has shifted throughout the years—but not my overall aesthetic if that makes sense. Everything I like today in someway can be traced back to my childhood. I started PPP with the idea of a “behind the scenes” look of WHY I dress the way I do whether it was inspired by Star Wars ;), Alfred Hitchcock, 90’s Madonna, etc…

But I can see how reading blogs for some people makes them want more. But I think a “keeping up with the joneses” mentality stems further back than blog reading.
Alex said…
I love this post as well! I really like that you have been blogging since 2006, I've been reading your blog since the beginning of 2010 (although hardly ever commenting) and its been really inspiring to see how its evolved : ) I don't think blogs have really changed my spending that much, but rather just offer another perspective that has an influence on my style. I recently found one of my old diaries from 7 years ago (when I was 13) and it was funny to see that I was making obsessive wardrobe planning lists even then. So I guess my interest in 'fashion'/style is something I seem to indulge in regardless of whether or not I read blogs. From time to time I do start liking something because I see it on a bunch of bogs, but for me its no different to liking something because I see it a magazine. I just have to make sure I stick to my taste and don't buy something just because a lot of bloggers have it. However, I do agree with Lapin de Lune's comment about being more self critical. Sometimes reading blogs makes me wish I wish I had a bigger budget for clothes. But then I realise that everyone has different personal circumstances. There is no point in comparing myself (full time uni student, living away from home) to bloggers who are probably 5-10 years older than me and working full time, or my age and still living home (not paying rent).
Anonymous said…
I have been reading your blog for awhile, but I don't think I have ever commented.
I think that we tend to flock to blogs written by those that share either a similar taste/viewpoint as our own or those which have a taste/lifestyle to which we aspire.

My sister (who shares my taste) will sometimes buy the same items I do--so it would make sense that people who are online friends or who have similar taste start to resemble each other after a while.

I began reading fashion blogs because I went through a lot of changes (including having a baby) in a short period of time. I lost my anchor and didn't know how to build a wardrobe from scratch for my new body--I had never had to think about it before!
In the beginning, there was much experimentation (no one buys exactly what you would buy, and as a result I was exposed to a lot of new brands) but eventually I came to remember what I liked, and why I liked it.
Occasionally, the "want monster" would grab hold of me and I would be seized with desire for something someone on a blog raved about-but then I realized:
1) We all have items that "do it" for us and specific reasons why they do. To each their own, I say.
2) Getting the item in person never gave me the same enjoyment as it did for that person.
3)Online shopping (necessary for brands not readily available to me) generally isn't for me. Never enough of the information I want about an item and I enjoy using my senses when I shop.
Ammu said…
Great, thoughtful post. I think certain blogs definitely fuel desire more than others, i.e. If all they do is post outfit photos showing new items every day. It's one of the reasons I gravitated away from these blogs to blogs that are more text heavy. Getting older has also helped ;) I find that I feel less and less an urge to shop as I get older, I feel like I don't really need so much stuff. It's a paradox but I feel like thinking a lot about shopping and fashion has actually helped curb my desire to indulge in it all the time. I can appreciate a beautiful item from afar now, without feeling the need to buy it.
Kate said…
Reading blogs has encouraged me to think about my style - about what I actually enjoy wearing and feel good in, and a lot of things I was buying didn't fit into that at all. Yes, blogs do make me covetous, but only for things that I know are truly me and really perfect. As for writing my blog, it's really to be part of a community that I admire and to give me somewhere to drivel on about fashion without bothering my family and friends.
Camille said…
I really enjoyed this post, Lin, since it resonates with many things that have been on my mind lately. I have come to the conclusion that reading some fashion blogs has desensitised me to my own taste in a way, making everything potentially covetable. This does not mean I buy clothes that are not my style, or that I necessarily buy more things, but I do shop more online (without buying) and I think of clothes and blurbs I have read about clothes more often than I used to. All in all, while blogs do not influence me as much as they could (although I am not denying they do influence me), spending much time reading them distracts me from learning more interesting things; they keep my mind busy, but with unimportant things.

I have been having trouble blogging lately because I am unsure how my posts will be read. It takes me more time to put together a short post about a book I have read or a film I have seen than to write about beautiful things I can purchase, but I try to keep a balance between both. I am often tempted to post about my outfits, or things I have purchased or would like to purchase, but I don’t want to hold responsibility for making others covet more. But that’s a problem I have to figure out myself, since thousands of other bloggers don’t censure themselves for that sake, and that I personally enjoy reading fashion blogs.

Clearly, I have no definite answer haha.
Jennifer said…
Fashion is as much about escape as it is about participation. Focussing on the superficial enables us to tune out bigger, worse, real(er) concerns and thoughts. If I am looking at blogs for distraction and find a well-proposed item, promoted as something of value, I will happily allow myself to be absorbed by the item and, like you, will seek it out to consider further...consideration of it. It's all part of the game of feeding the brain something to get lost in.

Investing in our appearance and self expression also bonds us to our community, either as individuals, or part of the pack. It simply is not a simple thing.

Therefore blogging about it is not simple. When we blog, we are creating dialog, community, and voice. Same as when we get dressed really.

Because I dread wasteful consumption (of my own doing, or fostering it in others), I've taken a huge break from initiating fashion discussion. When I blogged about my own clothes, what I wore, reader response was high. People like to connect over fashion. Focussing now instead on small, slow thoughts does not attract the numbers I would if I just took a picture of my daily outfit. It's interesting.

I suppose I am not providing a sufficient escape through my 2 active blogging projects. But for me, they are my escape...along with clothes, etc. ;)

Right now I am having a small crisis (go to my animated blog on Monday for a hint) and you can betcha I am filling my weekend with drawing... and hunting for clothes. Not even clothes to necessarily buy, but at least clothes to want. That satisfying distraction. Something to look forward to. Creating that lust/desire for an object recreates the anticipation we have as children for holidays or birthdays. Anticipated surprises, if you will. They are, to be a bit dramatic, life affirming. Planning for a future acquisition is planning for a future. And making it a pretty picture to boot!

So go ahead and keep distracting/tempting me. I'm a responsible audience, I've identified your aesthetic as compatible to my own, and though my wardrobe is holding steady at 31 items, it is a fun game to buy something new and figure out what must go. And something always has to go, because 31 is still too much for me. Plus it extends the distraction of fashion.
Florina said…
Excellent post and very thoughtful! I feel like fashion generally should be taken with a grain of salt, some things you can only admire from the distance and some things you don't truly need. Plus, even when you have the finanacial means to afford being a mindless consumer, what joy does it bring to have 5 chanel bags, 4 pairs of louboutins and 6 burberry coats for instance like some bloggers do? You tend to find "stuff" to be trivial and take it for granted, when actually every single item should be an investment that you questioned over and over again in your mind before buying and that you appreciate as such.
yanqin said…
Thanks everyone for your comments, here's a few of my responses first, more to come!

S: Thanks...there are many trains of thoughts I felt like digressing into. About people developing similar styles, I suppose while some people are true to that particular style, there are others just jumping on the latest fad, so it becomes a little exasperating. I guess I'm a bit torn between enjoying encountering bloggers who like the same things, but also a little weary and dismayed when it becomes trendy.

lunaday: Same here! Some of the blogs I mentioned played a role it helping me reach that realisation. I also love all the "less is more" blogs espousing quality shopping but in a way they sometimes spurred me to shop because I felt like I had to "upgrade" my clothes, and sometimes it quite unnecessary - I've become less of a fan of the Gap over the years but it doesn't mean I need to remove all its traces from my closet if some of them are genuinely good buys.

Amanda: It's fine to gravitate to a particular style tribe, but I'm always a little conflicted about when the line is crossed and it just becomes "overdone" - especially when I'm perfectly guilty of doing so.

Interestingly, I found "contemporay french fashion" quite refreshing when I first came across it - simple, classic clothing. But they all seem to aiming to be somewhere between Isabel Marant and Phoebe Philo for Celine. How can so many labels look the same? What's the point?

Lapin de Lune: I do notice that sometimes I have plenty to blog about and other times it's more like a passing thought - so I've decided it's ok to navel-gaze occasionally, haha.

Like I mentioned above, sometimes the "buy quality rather than quality" can inadvertently drive me to spend - because I need a Joseph shirt in a nicer cotton rather than an ASOS one, even though the ASOS one is perfectly fine. So yes, definitely need to avoid the trap of consumerism in there.

I'm more about "buying the best I can afford", if I want or need something. Part of the good thing about contemporary fashion is that style is more accessible and democratic so mass market labels in their own way stand for something important. I only wished they were produced with more heart and also of better quality and ethics - but I also wish that of deisgner labels too, so that isn't an issue limited to cheaper brands.

Anon: I like that fashion offers escapism in a few ways - from the feel of a nice sweater to a fantastic editorial in magazine.
yanqin said…

Pret a Porter P: "I think a “keeping up with the joneses” mentality stems further back than blog reading" -- agree! Blogging might encourage that but it's probably not the cause.

I think it's important to share inspiration (even if the aesthetics are very different from mine, as you pointed out) because it makes you slow down and appreciate getting dressed each day. You treasure your things more when you understand the thinking behind them.

Alex: Sometimes I read my posts from 2006, and it's like seeing my younger self brought to life (not always flattering!), haha.

I agree about circumstances, and I guess we often forget the financial context when we look at a blog.

Missone: "Online shopping (necessary for brands not readily available to me) generally isn't for me. Never enough of the information I want about an item and I enjoy using my senses when I shop." >>> 100% agree with this. The bonus is that sometimes you meet a knowledgeable sales assistant and you actually learn something about what you buy and love it more.

Ammu: Getting older has helped me admire things from afar too! I realised that I always knew this - it's why I can love couture by Christobal Balenciaga days without ever wanting to own a stitch, or admire a Hitchcock heroine without feeling like I need to change my look.

Kate: I agree, I never actually discuss the stuff I write about with my friends.

Camille: Thanks! About outfit posts responsible for making people covet more, I think Pret a Porter P made a good point when she commented that "keeping up with the Joneses" is something that existed in people even before blogs, and you can't really change that. I enjoy such posts without feeling I need to shop after, and I'm sure many people do. I think cases like that Anthropolgie incident are extreme and not that norm..

It's a just a sad if we can't take little pleasures in sharing what we've bought and are really enjoying. For my part, I try to blog about new purchases after I've been wearing them for some time - at least a few weeks - because I have more to share about what I like about it and how well it's integrating into my wardrobe.

editor: "When we blog, we are creating dialog, community, and voice. Same as when we get dressed really." >>> I never thought about that, but I like this thought.

I do find myself doing that: looking for things to want. It doesn't actually translate into acquiring something most of the time, but I like the idea that a beautifully designed and made thing exists - it makes me see things in general more positively.

31 items! I should go do a count, I would probably be surprised.

Florina: Thanks! I remember I had this feeling when I was checking out a particular blog and I was a bit shocked by her never ending array of It bags. I didn't feel her love for her things, which felt a bit sad. Some bloggers have lots of things but you feel their passion and with some bloggers it just feels a bit hollow.

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts on this - I'm still mulling over some of them...
Anonymous said…
Dear Lin, I am late to the party and I enjoyed reading everyone's comments!
I have been following your blog for a couple of months now (though I only started commenting recently) and if anything, it has made me more conscious and be more eco-friendly in my consumption habits. Your thoughful posts (on style and shopping) are a friendly reminder to love what I already have.
Reading blogs in generally has led me to labels outside of Singapore and I am thankful for the exposure to brands like A.P.C which I have come to love.
Some of the labels like Isabel Marant and Acne seem popular too and I enjoy seeing them on bloggers but somehow, they don't entice me enough to want to order it online and have it shipped all the way here without first trying. The IM boucle jackets reminds me of Chanel tweed jacket and at the price it is being sold, I'd rather save for a Chanel. Chanel’s jackets are beautifully lined and the workmanship is exquisite. Friends who own them tell me that they can be altered a size up/down if necessary. This is a thinker and genius at work in the making of a garment.

I think at the end of the day, one needs a firm understanding of what suits her body and lifestyle and I am amazed that most of bloggers I have come across are mindful of that.
indigo16 said…
Your thoughtful post has generated some really interesting feedback; I have noticed that many style blogs generate a very large specific readership, often requiring 15 seconds of instant gratification.
I much prefer blogs that wander a little, and as someone who has only once seen her statistics by accident I tend to write solely for myself, but love it when a thread is picked up and taken so much further as it was here.
It is funny that I am not the only one who feels that to paint makes me worthy but to shop makes me superficial. But I like the comment that the anticipation shopping creates gives us a positive high, I will very much hold onto that though next time I visit COS. An outfit a day keeps the doctor away!!
yanqin said…
justeileen: I agree, I find that blog reading has informed me about consumption, and look at shopping from a less Singapore-centric perspective.

I agree, I like APC a lot more than Isabel Marant or Acne - APC has a stronger brand identity, that I identify with and I really like the workmanship of their shirts.

indigo16: About shopping being superficial, I've always thought that while it's a pleasurable thing to indulge in, aesthetics-wise, I've taken it more "seriously" over the years because I feel like it has impact on the environment, it's a business that affects livelihoods, it's part of a consumerist culture, and somehow my feelings about all those has made me think more carefully before I buy something. It doesn't make shopping less fun though - it just makes it more rewarding whenever I actually bring something home.

I realised only last month that blogger has a "statistics" tab on the dashboard that lets you see numbers! They don't quite make sense to me though haha. I've always written for myself as well and it always feels like an honour to find comments and have a dialogue going...
Alice said…
I know im late to this post, but i really enjoyed reading. I'm having internal struggles with both my wardrobe and my life. Currently, most of the clothes I'm used to wearing and I consider somewhat well edited are in a storage unit from when I was in school. I haven't touched it since May for various reasons and I put what I call my "personal style" in the items in that storage unit, but its been so long and Ive just been wearing random things from around the house that I don't know how I would react to having all of my clothes back now. Is it possible for your style to change when you're not even wearing anything? I'm just wearing the first things in front of me now and I pretty much hate my style. I just started blogging a week or so ago because I'm hoping that writing about it more will also help me figure myself out.

sorry for the long comment, but this post and all of your reader's comments really resonated with me.

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