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Internet Style Icons: Uncovering the new wave of Chicago celebrity
As fashion editors and industry icons sit front row, dressed in head-to-toe designer outfits, during Fashion Week, fashion-minded bloggers around the world wait patiently by their computers dressed in pajamas.
Both groups await the same high-fashion models sporting haute couture runway looks, and while only the elite can afford to mimic them, both demographics can write about them. This has made bloggers the newest wave of celebrity Internet style icons.
With widespread accessibility and multigenerational appeal, the Internet has undoubtedly minimized the gap between fashion elitists and everyday enthusiasts, causing a generation to gradually move away from older, intangible sources of inspiration to seek influence from online
Although the virtual voguers’ cultural significance is gaining momentum, a divide still remains between them and the world of high fashion.
American fashion stylist Sally Lyndley suggests that those in the upper echelons of the industry are resisting or outright ignoring the blogger movement. She said she has witnessed this attitude firsthand by working alongside the biggest names in fashion at major publications like POP
“I think fashion has tried to ignore [fashion bloggers] for the most part,” Lyndley said. “[The fashion industry] is so inside their celebrity and model-driven world that they’ve always been in.”
While the traditional industry may be ignoring the trend, many have taken notice. Allison Sheriff, a junior fashion studies major, said the more approachable online influences give young fashionistas like her a starting point. She said youth culture needs guidance, and the fashion bloggers understand that better than high-fashion editors.
“[Bloggers] promote this sense of confidence that you can’t get from high fashion and mainstream fashion,” Sheriff said. “This is what young people are looking for in the city of Chicago.”
In contrast to the glossy pages of Vogue, Sheriff said the Internet has become an important platform for these online icons to teach readers how to incorporate fashion into a realistic lifestyle.
Molly Soda, Tumblr celebrity and blogger, insists that her interests don’t lie in fashion. But her blog, MollySoda.Tumblr.com, has had a tremendous influence on youth style locally and internationally, receiving thousands of online hits
Soda said she’s an active part of the ’90s nostalgia rebirth, taking cues from old New York City underground club imagery and style. Platform boots, neon mesh cropped shirts, provocative makeup and brightly-dyed hair are all part of the now famous look Soda embodies.
Her Tumblr parallels this psychedelic edge, rejecting the slick appeal of modern, mainstream fashion. It features a background of repeated images with broken links, lo-fi throwback references to pop culture and ironic sexual imagery.
Soda said she inspires a very specific group of people who crave an alternative lifestyle.
“It’s hard to gauge how big your presence is on the Internet because it’s like this vast, crazy world,” said Soda, who has attracted more than 29,000 devoted followers since starting her blog in December 2009.
While the numbers suggest Soda’s look is influential, Lyndley said it is simply a watered-down version of pop culture’s bigger names.
Lyndley said there are three big names in fashion—Nicolas Ghesquiere, Marc Jacobs and Miuccia Prada—who ultimately decide which trends eventually make their way to the mainstream market, even impacting alternative icons like Soda.
“I find that bloggers are still following [trends] even if they don’t know it,” Lyndley said. “They’re still in the old trends that we in high fashion have already moved on from because they’re shopping in the mass market.”
Although their style may appear to be one-of-a-kind, Lyndley said online style icons are still inside the confines of fashion.
As an example, Lyndley cited an image Soda posted on her Tumblr in which she is flaunting a peace sign and sporting a knit magenta top with matching eyebrows.
“It’s a complete ’70s sleeve that she’s wearing,” Lyndley said. “And really, that’s Marc Jacobs two seasons ago when he did the ’70s collection that looked like Helmut Newton’s photos of Grace Coddington.”
Another Chicago fashion blogger, Meagan Fredette of LatterStyle.com, echoes Soda’s passion for Internet fashion and argues that her role is more important to youth culture than that of major designers. Although she doesn’t claim to showcase the most cutting-edge fashions in her posts, her look still impacts the style of a wide demographic.
According to her, the online community embraced Fredette’s posts featuring fashion-focused self-portraits. She said blogs have been a powerful outlet for her to positively connect with others, regardless of distance.
“Dreamy music” is Fredette’s sonic inspiration, which greatly influences the visuals on her blog posts, she said. Her mix of eclectic vintage prints with voluminous silhouettes create looks that juxtapose past and present.
A recent post features Fredette in a whimsically embroidered sheer dress layered over a printed T-shirt and shorts. Paired with her staple royal blue frames and an oversized coat, the look exemplifies Fredette’s playful approach to fashion.
“I’m really inspired by the idea of romanticism and everything being very grand and outsized,” Fredette said.
Fredette said she started her blog because she felt most fashion blogs ignored a certain demographic, one she believes LatterStyle addresses.
“I didn’t feel like any of them really spoke to me as a person,” Fredette said. “They all seemed to be written by people with too much money, so I wanted to add my own voice.”
Fredette said she made the blog an outlet for her to express her feminist ideology and reject mainstream fashion standards.
Soda attributes the success of blogs such as her own and Fredette’s to the relatability factor.
“Most of us don’t have a lot of money, so we’re wearing things that we find at the thrift store or things that we’ve made or things that aren’t so inaccessible,” Soda said.
Lyndley said she recalls a humble time in her early life when high fashion seemed out of reach.
“It’s more interesting to look at a girl like Molly Soda who has pink eyebrows and crazy dyed hair,” Lyndley said. “She’s a real girl’s size, so it gives you that ‘real’ factor that you don’t see with these other models. I think people always relate to that.”
Fredette upholds the same sentiment about the power of Internet icons, adding that her website showcases what avant-garde fashion looks like on a “real” person rather than a fashion model.
“I would only want to foster a community where people can feel happy about the way they look, regardless of who they are or the size they’re wearing,” Fredette said.
Despite sparking creative liberation among youth, Fredette said the most challenging part of being a fashion blogger is competing with big names in the industry. She said she always recalls Pulp, a ‘90s English band that didn’t gain notoriety until 15 years after its formation.
“I like to joke that you have your Top 40 bands, and you have your Pitchfork bands. I guess I’d be a Pitchfork band,” Fredette said.
Lyndley, who arguably rolls with the “Top 40” of fashion, said while “Pitchfork” online fashion figures might be influential to a certain demographic, they fail to influence high-fashion designs.
Dylan Larson, a junior fashion studies major, said he disagrees with Lyndley’s argument because he thinks bloggers have the power to influence what runway models wear.
“I don’t necessarily think Molly Soda is making pages in Vogue, but I think that the bloggers are definitely changing the industry [in terms of] how they think and what they’re selling,” Larson said. “I think that their opinions and how they dress are impacting designers.”
Soda said the Internet is the best source of uncovering what is trendy among youth at any given moment. While she said not all Internet icons are a source of inspiration, they do provide designers a proper preview of what will sell.
Regardless of their impact on big-name designers, these everyday style icons offer an interesting perspective that deviates from the elusive fashion environment society has previously embraced, Lyndley said.
“Fashion just has kind of a glossy, almost too elitist edge to it sometimes,” Lyndley said. “I think these street-style people and bloggers who are becoming style inspirations to real people are putting it in a more palatable way.”
Before the Internet, fashion enthusiasts would see pictures of designer shows months after their runway premiere, according to Larson. Now, images are posted online immediately after the presentation ends.
“I feel like [the Internet] has made fashion so much less exclusive,” Larson said. “It means that high fashion designers have to be more innovative and more creative at a faster rate.”
Though fashion elitists may try to ignore the presence of bloggers like Soda and Fredette, Sheriff and Larson agree that their influence on other Internet style icons is ever-present.
Despite resistance from within the high-fashion community, Lyndley acknowledged a possible change in the future.
“The old guard is definitely threatened by the new guard of street-style kids,” Lyndley said. “I think [Internet style icons] are an important part of youth culture, and I think that youth culture always influences fashion eventually.”