Stylish Chicago not a fashion wasteland

By Brianna Wellen

Monica Dimperio knew when she started her own street-style blog, The MidWasteland, that this was a market controlled by lovers of European fashion. In 2008, when her Chicago-based blog was listed in the New York Times among street style blogs from around the world, she said she knew the market had shifted in her favor. The MidWasteland had gained celebrity status.

The Web site was created in 2007 as a simple creative outlet, a place Dimperio could post photos that she took online of the fashions she loved. Within the first three months, she gathered a fan base reaching as far as Australia. By 2008 the blog had become a full fledged URL,

“It kind of spiraled into a different vision after I saw how many people liked it,” Dimperio said.

Now she runs a site with images of street-style, a blog, social event listings and an online clothes shop. Though she does have some contributing bloggers, the editing of blog content and maintenance of the site are solely her responsibilities.

As a Midwest native and Chicago resident, Dimperio wanted to show that just because others don’t always look to the Midwest for fashion inspiration, there is a lot to be uncovered.

“It’s funny how people look at the Midwest and think it’s out of style, but really, under the bubble there’s a really cool place,” Dimperio said.

Kate Schaefer, a fashion retail and management faculty member at Columbia, said it’s important to have street- style and fashion blogs like The MidWasteland for specific areas all over the world, not just in Europe.

According to Schaefer, sites like this allow each city to gain exposure in the fashion world and The MidWasteland brings awareness to styles and designers specific to Chicago.

“I think that Chicago is kind of looked at as a stepsister to Los Angeles and New York City,” Schaefer said. “Overall, the city has a lot to offer as far as trends moving forward.”

Dimperio said she wanted to be sure cities across the Midwest were represented, so the next step was bringing contributing bloggers onto the site. Through fan mail and common acquaintances, a team of contributors easily came together, each member with their own expertise in the world of beauty, fashion and entertainment.

Diana Tran became involved with the site a year and a half ago, when she joined as an intern in an attempt to try something completely different with her life. Her love for street-style Web sites drew her in to the project. After spending time with Dimperio and sharing her vision, Tran stayed on as a fashion writer, covering fall and spring collections on the runway.

“Monica is a great boss; she knows what she’s doing,” Tran said. “Our meetings are supposed to be a couple hours and they last forever because we just have so much fun.”

Even as the Web site gains national and international credibility and fame, Dimperio likes the idea of it being a well-kept secret and letting it unfold on its own. While the site is working to get more advertisers with a possibility to expand, it’s hard for her to say from one day to the next what exactly the site’s future looks like.

Dimperio is going to continue channeling her love for writing, photography, vintage clothing and going to parties with her own creative interpretation. It is important for her that even in the wake of its success, she doesn’t take the Web site too seriously.

“I think the more you try to make it into something, the less likely it will become something,” Dimperio said. “At this point, I don’t really have a vision; I just want to keep it fun.”