In terms of what people on the internet want to see, you can tell nothing has changed simply by looking at the highest-rated photos on Lookbook or any similar site. Despite some variation in ethnicity what you end up with is a very uniform collection of extremely young, thin people with the same features, the same hairstyles and the same 'look'. They're the 'most popular'. The 'highest rated'. What hope for everyone else? I feel over the hill just looking at those pictures - and I'm only 25. I know that a lot of other people feel downhearted when they see this sort of thing for other reasons - they see nothing which represents their style, their size, their shape. I've seen people say as much in discussions online and witnessed people commenting back with no offence, but they 'don't want to see pictures of fat and ugly people on fashion blogs' (how on earth can this be a case of no offence, but?). Clearly this attitude comes through strongly when people decide what they want out of a blog.
Obviously there are plenty of bloggers and fashionistas out there who are challenging the status quo and gaining recognition despite not fitting in with the industry-approved image and many of them have to deal with a hell of a lot of criticism because of it. But when high-profile bloggers are seen at huge fashion events, or start modelling, or design their own collections, or get courted by of-the-moment designers, they become the 'ones to watch' and inspire young women who are just starting up blogs of their own. And because these are invariably the well-connected, catwalk-thin, conventionally-attractive bloggers, it remains that there's a sadly small range of people being seen as 'inspirational' - hence the seemingly identikit host of blogs about at the moment. A couple of days ago I started a discussion about this online and got some interesting responses - the definite feeling was that a lot of bloggers who make it big stop being 'one of us' and become something 'unobtainable', with the ideals of the fashion industry and magazines still being the ones which young bloggers want to aspire to. Many of the young women who commented on the discussion expressed a desire to see more popular bloggers who were 'like them', or otherwise more daring and outspoken - women who are defining fashion on their own terms rather than sticking to magazine-approved 'looks' to 'flatter' their figures and 'disguise' their 'bad bits'. One even talked about how she'd been heavily into style blogging and Lookbook but decided to stop because she didn't like the way it made her feel about herself and the way she felt towards others. Another said she didn't like the fact that (on fashion communities on Livejournal) 'as long as you're white, thin and wearing something designer, your outfit will ALWAYS be applauded'.
Part of the problem is undoubtedly the fact that designers are still very reluctant to embrace your average person on the street, with their average body types, heights and facial features. In the past week alone, the news that a stylist walked out on designer Mark Fast over his decision to use size 12 and 14 models at London Fashion Week has generated a lot of debate. And that's size 12 and 14 - still smaller than the average woman. It's been recognised that sample size clothing has got so small that models have trouble fitting into it - and although many professionals are calling for a more realistic standard to become the norm, many others in the industry are resisting. As long as this mindset is in place, I don't think the internet will have the democratising effect on fashion that there is such potential for and challenge current beauty standards as much as it could. Privilege always wins and people still idolise the catwalk, the classic 'model' physique and expensive clothes. It doesn't challenge us, but people go for it every time.
As part of my discussion, I asked people to come up with their favourite style blogs or the ones they find most inspiring. Here are a few of them:
Feel free to comment with more inspirational finds!