Philly fashion blogs by and for the common woman

Danielle Audain, who makes selfies regularly on the streets of Fishtown and Northern Liberties, blogs about her every outfit and accessory.
Danielle Audain, who makes selfies regularly on the streets of Fishtown and Northern Liberties, blogs about her every outfit and accessory. (IndieElectronicAlternative.com)
Posted: January 16, 2014

By now, 2013 has been widely eulogized as the year of the selfie - the year when, it appears, our collective vanity finally surpassed our sense of shame.

But for Danielle Audain, who regularly hits the streets of Fishtown and Northern Liberties armed with a camera, tripod, and remote, selfies are just a practical necessity.

That's because Audain runs a personal-style blog, a genre devoted to showcasing, through several photo shoots per week, her every outfit and accessory itemized. The blog, IndieElectronicAlternative.com, is part tutorial, part sartorial kaffeeklatsch for the masses.

And while passersby may stop and gawk, Audain is on to something. As top personal-style bloggers are making the transition from Internet fame to mainstream celebrity - landing TV gigs, like Filipino blogger Bryanboy on America's Next Top Model, and book deals, like "Man Repeller" Leandra Medine, who published a memoir in September - more Philadelphians are following their lead.

The long tail of personal-style blogs, as seen in this city, now encompasses all sizes, ages, colors, faiths, and fashion proclivities.

"You'd think that, in order to do this, you'd have to be a certain type of person: be in the fashion industry or have connections. And it's totally opposite. I think that's why so many people are creating blogs," said Audain, who's 31 and a pharmaceutical sales representative. "It doesn't matter who you are, what you look like, or what you do."

According to Minh-Ha T. Pham, a Cornell University professor who's writing a book about Asian personal-style bloggers, such sites are born from a basic impulse: "People generally want to be recognized as individuals."

The advent of Facebook, Instagram, and self-facing smartphone cameras has made satisfying that impulse easier than ever.

But more than that, she added, "these technologies have helped people forge taste communities. Personal-style blogging is a conversation - not a monologue."

In other words, what might appear as the ultimate in narcissism is actually an exchange of ideas about fashion, bodies, and consumerism.

That exchange is what inspires Risa Page, 31, to continue blogging at ReallyRisa.com. She never intended it to be a fashion blog, but readers responded to her outfit posts, so she kept adding more.

Page said she still hasn't gotten used to it. Her husband, Chris Page, takes the pictures against the backdrop of South Philadelphia's picturesque alleyways and graffitied walls.

"It has been a fun bonding experience for us, but it's also kind of embarrassing," she said. "I'm not a model, so to pretend that I am with people walking by can be really, really awkward."

Yet, Page said, through fashion, she has made connections with readers around the world - as well as with other local bloggers, some of whom have banded together to form a network called Philly Blog Love.

While many successful style bloggers tend to be rather modelesque - Audain, for one, parlayed her blog into a modeling contract - Page is petite, measuring 4-foot-11. Also, last year, she was pregnant. She noticed that her readership seemed to grow in direct correlation to her baby bump.

Page thinks her appeal is grounded in the fact that she's a lot of things your average fashion model isn't. "I'm wearing things that normal women can wear, as opposed to maybe really expensive items that most of us can't afford, or high-fashion pieces that are hard for anybody to incorporate into an outfit," she said. "It's approachable in a way that a lot of high-fashion blogs aren't."

Likewise, other local bloggers also appeal to readers looking for fashion role models who look and dress more like they do.

Keziah Ridgeway, of West Oak Lane, blogs at PHKIdaily.com (that's short for Philly Hijabis Killing It), a site where the history teacher and devout Muslim shows how a hijab can be chic.

Georgette Niles, 41, of Overbrook Park, runs a blog called Grown and Curvy Woman - which, as its title suggests, targets readers who are both older and more generously proportioned than your typical fashion blogger.

"I wanted to chronicle my journey into self-acceptance," said Niles, who started the blog at age 40. "We're told, 'When you hit a certain age, style isn't for you.' I wanted to use the blog as a platform to show women that that's not true."

A social worker who takes her selfies in the morning before work, Niles said she has heard from women around the world who have connected with her message. "This is something that can unite people."

Media companies are taking notice of the combined clout of this army of amateur fashionistas, developing blogger networks that supply a steady stream of content.

Ian Michael Crumm's eponymous blog is part of Conde Nast's Details blogger network. Crumm, 21, a Drexel student who allows himself only one pair of sweatpants (a slim-fit version by 3.1 Phillip Lim for Target), said that, as Philly's nascent menswear scene improved, more male bloggers were following.

His challenge, then, is creating something unique. "With so many people broadcasting what they're doing with their lives and what they're wearing," he said, "there's content overload."

Get enough traffic, though, and the perks can be significant.

For example, Chrisi Lydon, 26, a Manayunk hair stylist and jewelry maker, said that since she began blogging at OhHeyChrisi.com, new opportunities have opened up for her.

A year and a half in, the King of Prussia mall has recruited her for styling work, and a few boutiques have picked up her jewelry.

Audain, meanwhile, has made a couple of trips to New York Fashion Week and been pictured in magazines such as Marie Claire.

With about 2,500 monthly visitors, she gets a steady stream of inquiries from companies that want to send her free clothes or pay her to showcase their products. She also works with a service that allows her to embed a type of code called an affiliate link. If a reader clicks through and buys what she's promoting, she gets a commission.

Audain said she had shown only products she liked; recent partnerships include Minnetonka Moccasins and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Even so, lately, the blog has become a small business, though not an entirely profitable one.

"I was hoping that I would cover the amount I spend on clothing," she said. "I'm totally not at that point yet."


smelamed@phillynews.com

215-854-5053 @samanthamelamed

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