What’s Wrong with Fashion Blogs?

Photo courtesy of The Styleograph

I write a fashion blog. What’s more, I read lots of blogs about fashion, personal style, street style and beauty. I like discovering the formerly unheard voices of women who wear the clothes the apparel companies manufacture and the magazines glamorize. I like the critique, the stories, and the often complete superficiality of what someone wears on any given day. I like the style advice even if I don’t agree with it. And street style photography? I love it! How else will I ever know what the cool kids are wearing in Milan, New York and Paris? Beauty blogs are their own niche but I love them too and read several. I was not an early adopter of all the internet had to offer, but now that I’m into it I am really, really, into it.

The internet has empowered me. I am no longer tied to what the fashion magazines want to show me. I can go out and find it myself without ever leaving my home, and I thank the fashion bloggers for that. But there are plenty of people who don’t agree with me. There is as much criticism out there as there is love for this medium that I have embraced. Every so often it seems like it’s hip to dish fashion blogs, and although I’ve found articles criticizing fashion blogs going back as far as 2010, recently there’s been another wave. Now, I can’t disagree with all of it but much of the criticism seems to stem from people disliking the way fashion blogs have evolved. Here is a smattering of the complaints and rebuttals I’ve found on the internet.

What’s Wrong with Fashion Blogs?

Thoughts from fashion writers and fellow bloggers.

  1. Susy Menkes’ now blogosphere-famous article, The Circus of Fashion, is a nostalgic rant on how much better and cooler everything was back in the day, before all these silly bloggers in their equally silly outfits hit the scene.
  2. Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller apologizes for being silly and making some money while doing it in Blog is a dirty word.
  3. In Criticism/Uncensored: Why Fashion Bloggers Are Not Journalists, and How They Killed Their Credibility Batty mamzelle points out that fashion bloggers are critics, not journalists, and she doesn’t read any of that stuff anymore anyway.
  4. A L’Allure Garcinniere sees fashion blogs repeat “…the same derivative formula, over and over again.” in Fashion Blogging Culture: Demanding Substance Over Style
  5. Beta Beat asks “What happens when the marketers come knocking?” and responds with the well researched Fatshion Police: How Plus-Size Blogging Left Its Radical Roots Behind. It seems fashion bloggers have sold out.
  6. Oh, but it gets better! Not only have some bloggers sold out, some are paying good money to look like they’re selling out. Check out the lying and cheating revealed by Beautifully Invisible in The Dark Side of Blogging. It isn’t all Glitter and Gold.
  7. Although Running in Heels is still a “…firm believer in the fashion blog” she is concerned about the numbers of bloggers who “…have fallen prey to the ‘sponsored post’…” Read more in Have style bloggers sold out to the lure of big fashion brands?
  8. Style Sizzle talks about sponsors and why fashion bloggers need them in the unapologetic A Word about Sponsors.
  9. Wardrobe Oxygen chimes in on the pitfalls of sponsorship in It Happened to Me: I Sold My Soul for a Haircut.
  10.  Final Fashion wakes from the style blog dream and wonders if regular people can make it with a fashion blog these days.

Selling out or sustainability?

One thing almost everyone criticizes is that bloggers have “sold out” to companies by taking money for advertorial posts and wearing free, a.k.a.gifted, clothing but when I hear that someone has managed to make their blog into a sustainable business I am happy for them. When photographers single out a pretty young woman in an over-the-top outfit it brings a smile to my face. When I hear about bloggers being invited to sit in the front row at fashion shows and asked to fabulous parties and events I think it’s great. Good for them!

Disclosure: Lets be clear here

Obviously, some bloggers are better at disclosing when they’ve received money, vacations and beautiful clothes from a brand. I try to be as transparent as possible. Not only is it unethical not to disclose when I’ve been paid for a post, it’s also illegal. Deciding which sponsored posts to allow on my blog is often difficult. These are the posts that pay, but often the sponsors want the post to appear as if I came up with it on my own. The language I use to explain that a post has been paid for by a company is becoming more obtuse as my clients request vague disclosures. “Brought to you by…” is popular this month.

Free stuff

Personally, I really love receiving apparel to wear and review for the blog. Most of the companies that contact me are small businesses, independent designers or internet start-ups . I get a new something to wear, the brand gets some exposure. It’s a win-win situation. So far I haven’t accepted anything I dislike. Why would I? Often the piece I receive isn’t something I would go out and purchase myself, but this allows me to check out a style I might not normally try.

Creativity vs. making a living

I would love for The Style Confessions to be purely a creative outlet, but the reality of our current economy is bleak. This blog is a work of love, dedication and time. I would like to see it grow into something that can help sustain me and my family while at the same time continue as a creative space and a relevant source of inspiration and entertainment for my readers. I create this blog from personal passion, but the ad at the bottom of this post is there so I can pay to keep going.

Do you think it’s possible for a blogger to make money and create something worthwhile?

(Many thanks to The Styleograph for allowing me to use his photo on my blog!)

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39 Responses to What’s Wrong with Fashion Blogs?

    March 11, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    I think bloggers CAN balance revenue generation and quality content. Some do it better than others. What irritates me are the blogs that host giveaways for anything and everything…I often laugh knowing I got the very same pitch. In my opinion, if you have more than maybe one giveaway post a month, you’re overdoing it. 12 giveaways in a year still seems like a lot for readers who are hoping to see more of you, and less blatant commercialism.

    I do have some sponsored content on my blog, but I won’t take on anything I wouldn’t personally wear or use myself, and I turn down more than I accept, that’s for sure. With the market so saturated, I’d also never even consider trying to blog full-time. That would be a TON of pressure, and I can’t imagine blogging would be very fun anymore if I did that to myself.
    GRIT & GLAMOUR recently posted..WVW: Half a Dress*My Profile

    • anne the SpyGirl
      March 11, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      I completely agree with you about the blogging full time thing. WAY too much pressure!

      Do you think more than 1 giveaway is too much if you’re giving away your own stuff? Just wondering…
      anne the SpyGirl recently posted..Figuring It Out As I GoMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

      I agree with you Vahni I also believe bloggers can balance revenue generation with quality content, and I have always held your blog in high esteem because you do that so well. I think the best thing is to pick and choose and then tweak what you’re given so it is still authentic and interesting.

      As for giveaways I rarely do them but I’m thinking about doing one a month from now on. I love it when someone comes to me with a great product like the earring give away I’m hosting right now. But I agree, more than once a month is a bit much, though I do know bloggers who do a bunch at one time for an anniversary and I think that works really well too.

      Personally I can see blogging full time if it paid well, but as a creative outlet, no, it would be too much. At some point the creative outlet would turn into crazy unpaid work and that would be no fun, but if one was being paid… well, I think that would be pretty great.

  2. Annette March 11, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Thank you for bringing this important subject up.
    With my blog I am a newbie in the blogosphere and don’t have personal experience with sponsored posts yet. However, just a couple of days ago I have been contacted by a company which I have seen on a couple of other blogs already. I didn’t accept as I would like to gain more insight on this topic first and then very carefully select the products and companies I would like to cooperate with.

    Not clearly mentioning a paid post is a no-go, not only legally but also morally – it is cheating and lying. And most of the times it is so obvious anyway when someone suddenly starts praising a certain skin cream or sunglasses and goes into details as if it was copied from the company’s advert…

    Lady of Style
    Annette recently posted..Orange & JeansMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 11, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

      In the USA bloggers are legally obliged to disclose when we are paid for a post, thank goodness! There’s no way around it, but I’ve been pressured to post something without any disclosure to my readers anyway. I always hold firm because there is no way I’m breaking the law, but still, it’s upsetting. One of the reasons I love reading blogs is because I believe the content is original to the author. If the author loves a lipstick, then I truly believe they do and it’s not just something they’re paid to say. So when that gets murky it’s hard to believe all bloggers, whether they’re ethical or not.

  3. anne the SpyGirl
    March 11, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    My blog is so small (and eccentric) that I don’t get too many requests for sponsored posts. Maybe I should be grateful!

    Heather, I hope you can figure out ways to (gracefully) monetize The Style Confessions.
    It is always interesting watching your journey here!

    Meanwhile, THINK BLACK! Hahahaha.
    anne the SpyGirl recently posted..Figuring It Out As I GoMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 11, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      Thank you for your support, as always, Anne. I hope to gracefully monetize. It’s looking like that or Starbucks! It’s crazy being freelance: One days EVERYONE is calling, the next you seem to be forgotten…

  4. nofearoffashion March 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    I have just started my blog and have not even got the time to let it mature. So it is completely amateur land for me. But even I have had offers. So far, like Annette, the Lady of Style, I let them pass and concentrate on presenting the best I can on my blog.

    And I am also with you when you say “good on them, when they sit front row or can make a business out of it”. What is more fun than making your hobby your work? Then it would never feel like work (OK sometimes it would haha).

    All these people that criticize the blogs probably have a chip on their shoulder. Or a hidden agenda. Nobody forces anybody to either start or visit a blog. So harmless. Let it be.
    Mentioning what you are paid for, is the clever thing to do if you want to keep your audience. Because, once they find out you are not to be trusted they will not return anymore. So big risk.
    nofearoffashion recently posted..Red short jacket and black & white skirtMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

      I agree with you Greetje. Even if a blogger does “sell out” it’s really harmless. What are they doing that’s so bad really? Just move on! But I think people are disappointed with where fashion blogs are headed. The idea that you can follow someone who’s style you love and who’s voice they admire, but then they start writing about things that don’s seem authentic and wearing outfits that aren’t “them”. For me, I’ve never followed anyone like this, but I can see where it would be upsetting.

  5. Arash Mazinani
    March 11, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    I agree with V, you can make money and still create great content and keep it original. If you can tell it’s a sponsored post then sometimes it gets a bit boring in my opinion. Some blogs are starting to become like magazines in that if you open up a copy of vogue you have to scroll through 5 pages of adverts before you get to any written content.

    You may get 4 posts where one is hard hitting the others a bit meh and just showcasing the latest item they’ve been gifted.

    I understand people have to eat and I’m not against anyone making money from blogging, I just think when it’s overtly in your face on a blog that’s when it becomes off putting.

    I really like it when bloggers make money from not so typical streams of revenue, so they may sell prints or something my make or theme designs. As it’s essentially an extension of themselves and their blogs.
    Arash Mazinani recently posted..#FABBBloggers Leeds EventMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 11, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

      I have read over and over again that to make money from a blog you MUST sell something original that works with your blog. Perhaps the day of the celebrity blogger is truly over and just selling yourself is no longer enough. It’s something I’ve thought about and struggled with, but certainly if one had a product they were selling it would be much easier to be honest and open about the income stream. I love that Garance Dore is selling her illustrations for instance, but I don’t think she makes a lot of money off of them.

      • Arash Mazinani
        March 17, 2013 at 6:07 am #

        Yeah I love that she sells them too, I just think that the blogosphere is SO saturated it’s supremely difficult to make enough cash to live off purely off normal means. Everybody and their mother has a fashion blog nowadays, at a recent blog meet up there was about 40 people that turned up in my city alone. Yet there are probably 100’s of others in my city that weren’t there. When you think of the numbers on an international level it must be insane.

        Having said that a lot will give up and I wonder if this boom will remain or tail off in the future? I was checking my bloglovin list the other day (not logged in for about 3 years!) and almost half haven’t updated with a post since 2011!
        Arash Mazinani recently posted..5 Tips To Instantly Boost Your Personal BrandMy Profile

        • Heather Fonseca March 17, 2013 at 8:51 am #

          Arash I think you’re right! I really do. And I do wonder if blogging will continue to be a big trend or if it will fade away like most trends eventually do.

  6. Alexis Grace March 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Confession: I make some (albeit minimal) money off my blog – via affiliate programs. However, I do not promote products that I didn’t previously promote (that is- before said affiliate program) and when I am gifted pieces, I am clear about it. I never write about things I don’t actually wear myself.

    Also, every giveaway I’ve hosted has been sponsored. But once again, I only work with brands that I wear anyways (eg Puma, Toywatch…) and anything I give away I try out myself first.

    This isn’t because I sold out! It is because fashion is a form of consumerism. I don’t share things to only say “isn’t that pretty” I share them because I have an interest in including them in my own wardrobe, or want to suggest them to others. I am not ashamed of this.

    The key is to be transparent about this and most of all it is important to be authentic. I don’t promote just anything- just as I wouldn’t wear just anything. I try and talk about things that I have an interest in in my real life— after all, the blog is just an extension of that….
    Alexis Grace recently posted..Moving On…My Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 11, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      You have always remained consistent and I’ve never felt you tried to sell your readers anything that you wouldn’t recommend yourself, but I wonder about the bloggers who are accused of this. Are they so bad? Without seeing just who they are I can’t tell what’s not OK and what is OK. Is it subjective? I wonder.

  7. Lia ~ Smart n Snazzy
    March 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    Heather this is such a well-written, informative, and fabulously articulated post. I think that we all need to stay transparent so as not to feed the evils, so to speak. While I cannot speak for everyone, I do believe that most of us started our blogs as creative outlets, as a way of inspiring others, sharing our voice, etc. So long as we remember where we came from, why we started, and stay true to ourselves, we’ll be okay. There’s nothing wrong with the added ‘perks’ of blogging! Again, so long as transparency is paramount, and our content remains as original as it’s always been 🙂


    Lia ~ Smart n Snazzy recently posted..
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    • Heather Fonseca March 11, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      I hear you Lia! I think there is a fine line between a sponsored post that is still authentic and those that are not. Clearly there are pitfalls, and I hope to avoid them.

  8. Spencer March 11, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Great article! Very thought provoking. I personally think sponsored posts are good if it adds value to your blog and the readers experience of it.

    • Heather Fonseca March 14, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Thanks Spencer. I’m glad you like the post. Personally I think a sponsored post can add a great deal of value, and I don’t think any of my readers really dislike the sponsored posts I place on my blog, but it’s pretty obvious that a lot of people don’t like it. Like my husband said to me earlier “people don’t want just another commercial”.

  9. Alison
    March 12, 2013 at 5:54 am #

    Great post, and a topic that I have obviously been dealing with lately. The longer I blog, the more opportunities that come my way and it’s super easy to justify a sponsored post or gifted item for the good of the blog/informing readers. But as V mentioned, the bigger a blog gets, the more pressure there is and the less fun it can be. Balancing profit with passion, not forgetting the original point of having the blog, and still caring about and connecting with readers… easier than it sounds but worth it to constantly keep your ego and purpose in check.
    Alison recently posted..Monday: MilkmaidMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

      I can only imagine how difficult it must get as a blog gets bigger, especially if you do want to make some money off of your blog. Already I get quite a few requests, and my blog isn’t nearly as large as yours. I’m getting the idea from all these great comments that having a really clear vision for one’s blog is very, very important when working with potential clients and sponsors.

  10. Spashionista (Alicia)
    March 12, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Heather, I agree with you. As long as people have opinions there will be others ready to criticize them. Constructive criticism has value and can only serve to improve a blogger’s perspective. Destructive criticism – which is in abundance – should be ignored.

    I make it very clear on my blog that I don’t “sell out”. I’d love it if my efforts yielded some profit, but it’s more important to me to be a voice for disabled women who care about their appearance. If I stay true to my vision my blog will evolve as it should.

    Spashionista (Alicia)
    Spashionista (Alicia) recently posted..Goodnight MoonMy Profile

    March 12, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    Yes, I too believe that bloggers can balance making profit from sponsored content and being original. I do sponsored content every now and then, but like being creative with it, and of course only work with brands that I’d wear or use anyway. Since, living in the States mostly now, as a blogger I do see the difference in the approach that some bloggers take, but I think it’s purely important to just be honest and up front about whatever is sponsored, or product received anyway. I also agree with what you said about being empowered by the internet. Perhaps also if people knew how many opportunities some bloggers didn’t take it might help to understand those who do go the route of trying to make the most from their blog content, etc. Good post and comments!

    • Heather Fonseca March 14, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      I agree with you. It’s really important to be honest about sponsored posts. My personal problem is that most of the companies that want to pay me for a post don’t want me to disclose that the post was sponsored, EVEN when I tell them it’s ILLEGAL for me not to disclose. The companies that send me items to review or host giveaways with are always much more upfront and are happy to be called sponsors, which is why I’m preferring that kind of collaboration these days.

  12. Fenn
    March 12, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    I think my problem is when I blog becomes ONLY sponsored posts or shopping lists…or very much seems like it. Because, I am not reading a blog for a catalogue. My other issue is when a blogger tries to act as if she is not making that much money from her blog. Because A) I can do the math based on your monthly sponsors and published prices and 2) Wardrobe IS INCOME…most of us have to buy that shit, so if you’re getting it for free, it’s fucking income.

    I’ve just found a lot of really obtuse bloggers out there. I’m not as interested in the really popular, fashion only blogs, because I like more than pretty pictures and skinny girls. I guess my issues fall more with lifestyle bloggers, because their blog is supposedly about their life, and it tends to become about something else.

    As I’ve said, I just want some reality in my reading.

    • Heather Fonseca March 14, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

      I’ve read a lot of complaints about the lack of reality in the blogging world. With fashion blogs the complaints are usually something along the lines of “Did she REALLY wear that faux fur jacket on an 80 degree day?” and they are very much to the point.

      I hadn’t really thought about the gifted items as being income, but you’re right, they are. I don’t read many lifestyle blogs but I only read fashion blogs that feel real, or if they are fantasy are quite open about it.

  13. Sylvia
    March 12, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    Great roundup of articles Heather. I read a few of them and have a whole lot to say about this topic. Perhaps in future I will write about it myself. The bottom line is that I find the slamming down of bloggers rather ridiculous. If you want to make a business out of your blog (and you can by the way) then advertising can be a large part of your income. Unlike many of the magazines (who only partly disclose when they feature something that is advertised) most bloggers will disclose. It’s rather ridiculous that magazines and ‘journalists’ are walking the so called high ground while featuring lots of advertising on their publications (and giving editorials to advertisers) and bloggers are ‘selling out’. Of course not all bloggers are equally ethical but neither are all journalists. As for the peacocking, if a blogger wants to promote her blog by photographing or being photographed, why not?

    I DO run my blog as a business. It’s there to entertain, educate and inspire. Luckily the feedback I receive confirms that in large part I succeed in doing that. The only way I can provide my blog /magazine (whatever you want to call it) is by being business savvy. Right now it relies heavily on advertising for its income and affiliate programs, but I’m soon launching a product too.

    Perhaps it’s time we get more kudos for what we do. I built a blog in less than 1,5 year from 0 – 100,000 visitors each month. Without any capital or advertising. I do the writing, the research, the design, the networking, the promotion, the book publishing, etc. etc. It’s a lot of work and it provides value to a lot of women.

    Like others, I will now rarely feature brands that contact me if I don’t get paid a fair amount for it. The same goes with giveaways. Brands and everyone else need to realise that what we have created takes time, commitment and a lot of work. If they want to be part of that, then either pitch me really well with something that could REALLY benefit both our businesses or pay for coverage.
    Sylvia recently posted..Design your own shoes: here are some of the best sitesMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 14, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

      Sylvia thank you so much for your well thought out reply. I really admire what you’ve done with your blog and how you intertwine advertising and articles designed to help and inspire women with their clothing choices. Honestly I have never felt the “hard sell” on your blog, or felt like you wandered off into some weird direction for no reason. Clearly you know what you’re doing! The thing is you’ve always been very clear that your blog is more than a creative outlet. 40 plus style has a PURPOSE, and you’ve always been clear about that. I think that a lot of the unhappiness with fashion bloggers is with those that started out with a little fun side hobby blog, and then found they could make money off of it, and then changed the blog to make money.

      • Sylvia
        March 16, 2013 at 9:33 am #

        Thanks Heather. We will see where it goes. I’m soon going to launch my first ‘product’. No idea how well that will go down with the readers. But I think it’s important that I continue to develop and move the business forward…
        I think it’s very important that you stay true to your audience and only do what feels right both for you and your readers.
        Sylvia recently posted..Keeping up with 40PlusStyle through rss and emailMy Profile

        • Heather Fonseca March 17, 2013 at 8:54 am #

          That inner compass rarely lets us down, it’s true. I look forward to seeing what your first product will be!

  14. Marlene March 14, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, I find it alarming but then again, I shouldn’t be overly surprised. Anything that spreads like wildfire will be subjected to a lot of criticisms. That includes bloggers. It’s a balancing act to promote and yet not too much that it becomes a nuisance. I guess if you stay true to yourself, treat others as you want to be treated, produce good materials….

    • Heather Fonseca March 14, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

      I totally agree Marlene. It is a balancing act, especially if you want to make some money off the time and energy put into making a good blog.

  15. J.
    March 16, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    First of all, this is an absolutely amazing post, and you linked to some interesting things to read as well, so thank you for that! 🙂
    Personally, I do think you can make money and create good content at the same time, I see people doing it, and like you, I hope more bloggers will be able to in the future. And I don’t understand why people who are bothered by the fact that some bloggers choose to work with fashion companies do not “vote with their feet” more. I rarely stop reading a blog because of ads, but it has happened that a blog has turned so commercial (meaning with so little content that is not an ad in between ads) that it has started bothering me, and then I just choose not to read it anymore.
    So if a particular blog and it’s ads really bothers people, they can stop boosting that blog’s page views by simply reading something else, but people do not seem to realize that. Instead, what happens is that people actually read the blogs that annoy them even more, just to see “how bad they have gotten” or something, which definitely only strengthens that blog.

    I think bloggers who balance this well will be rewarded, by having a lot of readers for a long time, and people who start getting lazy because they make money now, will lose readers, so it will all balance itself out in the end anyway. At least that’s what I hope 🙂
    J. recently posted..What Spring/Summer 2013 trends I am loving right nowMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 17, 2013 at 8:59 am #

      OH that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about people returning to a blog just to be annoyed by the adds. I think people find someone or something they like and don’t like when it changes. I know I feel that way a lot. But like you I vote with my feet, or I continue to go back and just click through if I don’t like the content at the moment.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment too! I hope to see you around so more.

  16. anne the SpyGirl
    March 17, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    I’m enjoying reading all the discussion this post has generated! Haven’t had time to followup on your links yet (some I’ve already read). Have pinned this, so now easily found!

    Gotta give Suzy some props for getting good conversations going on the subject, no matter how “old school” her opinion is.
    Then again, after my recent fashion event fiasco, she just might have a point about wearing all black when “working” at a show.
    anne the SpyGirl recently posted..EPIC LA Eco Fashion Show. part 2My Profile

    • Heather Fonseca March 17, 2013 at 8:45 am #

      It’s been a good discussion I agree! I’m starting to think that REALLY making money off of a blog just isn’t that possible anymore, so maybe I won’t even try. It’s more fun as a creative outlet anyway, and I can always keep the advertisements up in my sidebar. One thing that no one even mentions is side bar ads. I don’t like the way they look most of the time, but they don’t seem to bother people as much as the sponsored posts.

      And yeah, I think Suzy might be on to something. Maybe black is the new black!


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