(Un)Feminist Guilty Pleasure: Street fashion blogs

Most of the time when we write about photographing people on the street, we’re talking about dudes who are cat-callers and harassers. But part of my daily internet consumption — in between the New York Times and feminist blogs and everything I read for my job — is a healthy dose of street fashion blogs. From Monterey to Minneapolis, Tokyo to Helsinki, many major cities (and some smaller towns) have a dedicated street photographer who sets out every day to document the local style. (Perhaps the most well-known street-fashion blog is the Sartorialist — not my personal fave, but a classic. For an overview of lots of cities, check out Street Peeper.)
I like that these are fashion photographs featuring people who are not bone-thin, Photoshopped, or posed like marionettes. For someone like me with a weakness for fashion, street-style blogs seem like a lesser evil to the glossy fashion magazines, which always intersperse articles about clothes with articles trying to convince me that five almonds and an espresso is the breakfast of emaciated champions. While every street-fashion photographer is an editor — in that s/he chooses which people to snap on the street — I like to think that it’s a bit more unmediated than Vogue‘s fashion spreads, which only highlight clothes from the latest absurdly expensive designer collections.

Street-fashion blogs indulge the voyeurist in me, and allow me to examine the finer points of how people present themselves to the world. (I especially love how the Scandinavian street-fashionistas play with androgyny.) Plus, I like getting my superficial style fix from real people — people on a budget, people who don’t look perfect in every photo, people who are their own personal stylist. I especially like seeing women with real bodies — with bow legs and freckles and little boobs and frizzy hair and round bellies and all manner of tiny quirks — being portrayed as fashionable and awesome.
Of course, there’s a reason this is a guilty pleasure. If I’m totally honest, most of these blogs don’t really live up to the ideal I just laid out. Yes, they feature real people, not Photoshopped models. But it’s still about fashion. Which, even if it’s purchased in a thrift store rather than a designer boutique, is a superficial thing. These blogs still manage to almost exclusively portray the stylish residents of their cities who are young, white, able-bodied, and class-privileged. It’s a real stretch to say that any of the New York street-fashion blogs, for example, even kind of manage to capture a diverse cross-section of style in the city. These are not sites that seek out types of style and beauty that run counter to the images we get in the glossies. What the blogs portray is really just a twist on the mainstream.
As Miriam wrote in her intro to this series, “We at Feministing believe there are ways to maintain a critical eye towards these (un)feminist things while still enjoying them.” So I suppose that’s my mantra here. And in the meantime, if someone out there knows of (or wants to start!) a street-fashion blog that actually makes a concerted effort to highlight the awesome style of non-white, non-skinny, non-able-bodied fashionistas, let me know about it! I’d love to add it to my daily reading, guilt-free.

Join the Conversation