Let’s rewind back to 2009, shall we?
The financial crisis, the worst in seven decades, had just hit. Michael Jackson died in June. And Barack Obama was new to office and pushing for health care reform.
And for the sake of today’s focus, blogging in the format we know it, was in its initial stages of infancy. Of course, there were predecessors — LiveJournal, Blogger and Xanga had been around for well over 10 years at that point with robust and active communities of their own. And the idea of a blogger, for better or for worse, called to mind someone who sat in their PJs all day, typing behind a computer screen in their mother’s basement. Heck, perhaps that’s still a common misconception. But that’s another story for another day.
For fashion specifically, Lookbook.nu, Chictopia, Weardrobe and even photo hub sites like Flickr became hot spots for finding, discovering and connecting with other like minded style enthusiasts. Scott Schuman was The Sartorialist. Emily Schuman (no relation) was Cupcakes & Cashmere. And Jane was in her Sea of Shoes. There was no Instagram. No Pinterest. Twitter had started back in 2006, but most accounts (mine included) still had the default egg as their profile photo. There was Facebook and MySpace’s flame was slowly dying out.
I started this very blog back in April of 2009. My first post is here. I’ll give you a minute to hop over there and marvel at what once was — or just to have a good laugh. Up to you.
For the better part of that first year, I took my own photos with a tripod and a self timer. I posed like this. And I stayed up SUPER late each night going down the rabbit hole of flipping through Weardrobe and all the new-to-me blogs I was discovering, leaving comments left and right. I was getting all these outfit ideas from girls I had never met and suddenly felt a kinship with them — girls with similar budgets, body types and, from what I could tell from their writing, similar personalities. I designed my own header, which I managed to track down thanks to this handy internet time machine, and my blog roll was a mile long with all my new internet crushes (50 in total!). If you had told me then I’d be able to make a living off my blog, I would have promptly a.) looked at you like you were crazy and b.) laughed. Hard.
It was the wild, wild west.
And you know what? It was SO FUN.
Where is this all going? Well, I’ve been thinking about 2009 a lot lately. Not necessarily in the “good ol’ days” sense, but more so because I just like seeing how things evolve and boy, has this space evolved quite a bit, myself included. I recently asked on Insta Stories the other day what you all missed, if anything, about blogs and the blogging community circa 5 or more years ago. It was an interesting exercise (I always love insight from you guys!) and a lot of themes started to crop up. I figured I would share them here today, in hopes it sparks some conversations about this community in general, how we treat it and how we foster it. So without further adieu, here’s a “now & then” look at blogging.
The community: Now, before you start to assume I’m going to say we don’t have a sense of community anymore, I’m going to stop you right there. We most certainly have community in today’s blogging space. It just feels, well, different compared to 2009. And different isn’t always bad. It’s just different.
A lot of you mentioned that you missed the days of when bloggers, especially more established ones at the time, would consistently feature smaller, up and coming bloggers, which made for an excellent discovery element. Personally, that moment happened for me when Jessica of What I Wore (now Stars & Field) featured me on her blog the day after I won a community contest on Weardrobe. I remember the night before she was going live with her post, I was literally freaking out that someone so well known, living in New York City, was going to link to my little ol’ blog in Reno, Nevada.
I saw the traffic roll in that day and knew, at some point, I wanted to pay it forward. I even wrote up a few features of my own here and here, and while my traffic boost was no where compared to Jessica’s, I loved how reciprocal it all felt. Sure, we were all working in our own silos behind our own computer screens, but I felt like I was gaining all these new and wonderful friendships along the way. We’d comment back and forth to each other, not because it helped gain us favor with an algorithm or exposed us to certain brands, but because we just genuinely wanted to talk to each other.
OUTFIT DETAILS: Kenneth Cole jacket, gifted // Sezane sweater (gifted, sold out, similar style here) // Tibi skirt (old, available in black) // Chanel slingbacks // Cafune bag, gifted // Celine sunglasses
Fast forward to today, and I’d say a lot has stayed the same and some has shifted. I have so many wonderful friendships that I’ve formed over the years back then and new ones I’ve made today — amazing, awesome girls who I look up to in so many ways, whose success I root for all the time. But I’d say there’s a lot less selfless promotion of others these days in general — which I’m guilty of as well. It’s not a negative shift, but perhaps an inevitable shift in the onset of how lucrative this space has become. It’s not just a community of like-minded style enthusiasts sharing outfit ideas anymore — it’s a community of like-minded style enthusiasts with businesses to run. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re all pitted against each other because I refuse to see it that way, there’s just a slew of other objectives on the table now, not just the social community aspect. This is because the following of that blog now translates to the person’s livelihood and income. So more often than not you’ll find blog writers/business owners will look to growth tools for their various social media platforms like this service from Twesocial.com for example, to increase their Twitter follower count and therefore the number of people that could interact with their products and blog.
Design elements; blog rolls, self-designed headers and the rawness of it all: This is what I initially was dwelling on when I was thinking about writing this post: I MISSED MY BLOG ROLL. I would literally sit down, each morning with a cup of coffee and click through my blog roll to read all the new posts for the day. A lot of you mentioned Google Reader and Bloglovin as your tools for doing this same activity — the idea is the same. It was dedicated ME time to sit down and read — not to mention a great traffic source back and forth between blogs. Blog rolls have gone by the wayside in most redesigns of bloggers’ sites (this one included) and perhaps that’s partially due to the reasons listed in the above bullet point about community. But there was something so genuine about it that I miss to this day.
As for self-designed headers and the rawness of initial blog designs, well this is probably due to the fact the internet has done a lot of growing and maturing in this time frame, making beautiful custom design much easier and more accessible. When I was starting out on Blogger those many moons ago, I slapped together my own header in Photoshop and remembered feeling so proud when I uploaded that image myself. The template was straightforward, no fancy widgets or complicated navigation. It was endearingly scrappy.
Now, blogs are designed and produced, some thanks to the advent of sites like Square Space and Word Press which empower the creator to make their own, or thanks to dedicated design teams who partner with bloggers to create something custom. It’s easier than ever now for bloggers to find good web hosting uk providers to make their blogs run smoothly. There’s times I catch myself landing on someone’s recently redesigned site and I stop to think, “How am I supposed to navigate this? Where is the newest post? What do these many widgets and side bars do?” Perhaps I’m showing my age here, and that’s fine, and I’m by no means trying to sound like I’m upset about any of this. It’s a very saturated market, with a lot of people building their personal brands as a business, so it only makes sense the platforms would need to evolve to match in caliber. It’s just interesting to me to compare side by side.
Focus on the blog vs. focus on other social platforms: This one has bubbled up quite a bit recently with some of you guys. A lot has changed in the blogging space as far as available platforms to promote yourself, even to the point, you don’t necessarily need a blog of your own to be considered a content creator anymore. There are many folks who are killing it at just Instagram alone. And that’s AMAZING. All the more power to anyone who can make a business out of whatever platform they damn well feel like. There are even some people who are moving to their own web hosting services, for example like HostiServer which is something that is more accessible nowadays.
But, unsurprisingly, there’s been an inevitable shift overall in how content gets consumed these days — people read less, they scroll faster and unless it comes in a Buzzfeed “listacle” format, it’s likely it won’t get any traction. There’s a lot of chatter about whether or not blogs are outdated, especially if tools like Like To Know it make it that much easier to get outfit information sent to your inbox, as opposed to clicking over to a website. Suddenly, the focus seemed to shift over to the visual and the easy to consume in one image, then actually reading a full blog post essay.
As someone who started this very site with the intention to WRITE, I suppose this bit leaves me feeling deflated. And considering I’ve been on Instagram for years now, amassing close to 120K followers, no small feat mind you and one that I’m thankful for every day, I can also recognize there are others who have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers and counting. I will never be the most popular or most liked Instagrammer out there — there are plenty of other folks who are amazing at that — and I’m OK with it. That’s not my goal.
It just makes me focus that much more on this site, a platform I own from end to end, with no other business objectives or algorithms to answer to, other than my own. And I find myself hungry for more blogs who follow suit — I think my good friends, Grace of The Stripe, Naty of NatyMichele and Keiko of KeikoLynn all do a fantastic job of not only producing beautiful imagery, but also consistent meaty rich content, that keeps me coming back for more to read — they share their good sides and their flaws in a way that make them feel relatable and human and not just another pretty face on the internet, which brings us to our next point.
Relatable vs. aspirational: This was the most common sentiment that got brought up via DMs on Insta Stories: bloggers don’t seem relatable anymore, myself included as some of you pointed out. Let’s rewind to 2009. As I mentioned, I took all my photos myself, with a tripod and a self timer. I posed pretty much the same way each time, which is to say, kinda awkwardly, with my feet turned in on each other, and I wore a lot of the same items over and over in different ways, because that was my college student budget at the time.
Fast forward to today, and my shoots are a lot more produced, with a hired photographer, Lightroom presets and a backlog of gifted items from brands that I’m being paid to work with. Does this mean I don’t buy my own clothes and re wear them? Of course not! I have plenty of outfits, some that get shared on here, and some that don’t, that I’ve purchased with my own money that I love just as much. But over the course of this business of blogging evolution, for myself and for others in this space, the content you see becomes a lot more produced with teams of people along the way, sometimes at the risk of seeming out of touch. Again, we talked about this in my Reader Survey post here, which is why I made it a goal to share more every day outfits, with remixed pieces, sprinkled in with my more editorial style shoots.
Essentially, in 2009, bloggers felt more like these friends on the internet, representing real women who weren’t being shown perhaps in the pages of magazines. In 2018, bloggers grace the pages of magazines and major runways (which is awesome!), with many top ones looking almost indistinguishable from their model counterparts. There’s good and bad that comes with that, the most blatant perhaps being the lack of diversity in this top blogger group, but again, that’s another topic for another day.
As a disclaimer, I don’t bring up this point to shame anyone in this community for stepping up their production value nor do I bring it up to proclaim I’m going back to my tripod and self timer days either (yikes!), it’s just something I like reflecting on in hopes that I can help ground my content here at This Time Tomorrow — to make it more focused and relatable for you guys in the end. I love shooting a really moody editorial with a professional photographer, especially while traveling, but there’s a balance that needs to be struck there. And it’s a balance I’m trying to figure out.
It also encourages me to share more of the not so perfect moments with you, because I think all too often, Instagram makes lives seem dreamlike, where hairstyles are never out of place, you never get a horrible zit and your relationship is the definition of #couplegoals. I’ll be the first to admit, I have plenty of bad hair days, I still suffer from hormonal acne and I’ve made some BAD relationship decisions. My life, while it may not always look that way visually, is FAR from perfect and I want you to remember that about me and pretty much everyone you follow online.
Outfit inspiration vs. shopping inspiration: Lastly, this topic came up when Nora and I were sitting down for our ritual Sweetgreen salad. For context, Nora is a hired employee at This Time Tomorrow, my managing editor, but she’s also a longtime reader here — she remembers me from my Reno days! And she recalls a time when she would sit down to read my site or others at the time, and get ideas for how to put outfits together. She’d take cues from proportions, colors, textures and patterns used to make her own version of the outfit. Now, I don’t know about about you guys, but there seems to have been a shift along the way, from outfit inspiration to shopping inspiration — that being, instead of focusing on the HOW CAN I GET THIS LOOK? it’s more about WHERE CAN I GET THIS LOOK? Again, this isn’t necessarily negative and I think affiliate networks have opened up amazing opportunities for influencers to make money off the sales they were undeniably generating.
But I started to notice it came at a cost, too. There’d be many times I would catch myself or other influencers say they didn’t have anything NEW or CURRENTLY for sale to shoot and that they needed to buy something for the sake of a post. As someone with a strict, self-employed budget, and even stricter space limitations (I live in a studio with basically no closet space), this seemed problematic, not to mention, just not sustainable. Of course, there’s the avenue of borrowing pieces from different PR showrooms here in the city, which I’ll always note in the outfit details, but I can also recognize that’s not relatable either and doesn’t help you, the reader, understand if that’s something you should spend your own money on, if I didn’t fork over a single red cent for it. This isn’t to say that I would wear something that I wouldn’t spend my money on anyway, but I can also see how it’s hard to believe that statement in this very saturated, advertorial-driven market sometimes. As a reader, I can really empathize how you guys would feel this way — it’s a tricky catch-22 narrative that leads to many questions of: does that blogger ACTUALLY wear that outfit? Or is it being worn for an hour for the sake of that shoot and it’s back to a different outfit?
Personally, I’m a self-proclaimed overdresser. Always have been and likely always will be. I like to the act of putting outfits together and will take any opportunity to do so, even if it’s just to walk Elvis. But as I mentioned before, I think there’s a relatable way of doing this, that doesn’t involve a brand new dress. Every. Single. Time.
So I’m going to end this very long, rambling essay on two notes: I hope none of the above comes across as resentful of how this industry has changed and evolved — quite the opposite! I think it’s made for an amazing platform for so many women (and men) to blaze their own entrepreneurial paths and I, for one, will always be supportive of movements like that. Heck, it’s helped ME blaze my own path so I can do this every day and keep the lights on and rent paid. I do think this exercise has made me more mindful of how I want to craft my space with in it — keeping my sights set on progress but also my roots.
And secondly, this outfit is a great example of finding a look online, which involved many brand new designer pieces, that I simply recreated with items I already had, focusing on proportions. Some of the items are gifted and some items I saved up for and have been in my closet for years now. We snapped less than 10 frames or so before Nora’s memory card was full and I opted to not worry about it and instead, assume we probably had enough to work with. It’s certainly not my tripod days, but man, it feels nice to not overproduce a simple, “here’s what I wore today” look.
What do you guys think? Anything I missed above? Would love to hear your thoughts!
Photos by Nora Varcho