The emergence of the blogosphere as a considerable force needs no introduction. It used to be the question, how to be a better person, that philosophers such as Epictetus, Balthasar Gracian and Marcus Aurelis would meditate upon-- a contemplation that remains even more relevant today. Hyperfragmentation in post-modernity, however, dictates that separate, distinct pigeonholes of categorisations, and guides on how to be a better (insert title) abound. And so it is for fashion bloggers in this week's Friend Friday, focusing on the blogging process and evolution, best encapsulated as 'Baby Steps to Better Blogging-- Graduating to New Heights!'
1. How has your blog changed over the months/years you've been blogging?It's been 2.5 months since I started Devilishly Pleasurable one evening. In micro-retrospect, it has changed quite a bit, design-wise notwithstanding. I started out with just photographs and perhaps a few lines, but somehow felt this inexplicable lacuna. I love to muse and to ramble, and I love words, so pictures alone do not cut it for me on my own foxhole. Gradually, I began to ramble more and write more. . and as I discovered a community of very interesting and diverse women, the friendships became cultivated over a combination of words on our entries and comments exchanged. In this sense, the blog has become very personal to me-- something fulfilling and interactive even. I'm making it a point to start returning comments on my blog itself, rather than to simply stop by commenters' sites; also, I can foresee new changes to the blog, for instance in discussing beauty, food and life in general. A huge part of blogging, as I have discovered, is a peek into another's world. It's a little exhibitionistic and voyeuristic, but I suppose many erstwhile 'boundaries' regarding these have been torn down with the proliferation of social media and internet 2.0. Some bloggers may attempt to create a world and portray certain 'brands', 'values' or 'images' that continually fascinate the readers-- which is what I intended to do in the beginning, but realised I prefer diversity and the freedom to push fault-lines; in some sense, that's how the evolution sets in. You give it free rein to evolve, and it does, or perhaps that's how the creative process works for me. So for me, the community I've started to establish ties with seem to enjoy the 'realness'. . candour, honesty, and even in musing about the ups and downs of life. Beyond these, I realise I have a tendency for bumper-posts. There are many things that interest me and that I seek to cover, and hence. . I guess, the more the merrier!
2. What was one thing you did wrong in the beginning and how have you changed that?Letting the photographs do the talking. I think my personality comes through better in words than in photographs. And I love to muse about clothes too, be it their origin, the stories they carry, or however I whipped the outfit out. So I guess, that was my biggest initial mistake. . or so I hope it was!
3. When you visit a blog what's the greatest turn off? The thing that makes you close the tab?Music. Or pages that load uber-slowly. Or narratives that sound so contrived and holier-than-thou. Somehow, it just seeps through digitally and remotely.
4. How did you find your voice?I once set up two fashion blogs rather half-heartedly, and contemplating upon their short-lived existences of 1-2 months, I realised it was the lack of 'me'. In personal blogs and diaries that I keep, I like to ramble and muse, which makes the foxhole my castle. So finding my voice on Devilishly Pleasurable wasn't very difficult, as words and expression are pretty much my forte. All I really needed was the courage to start talking. Hell, even setting up the site itself required some amount of bravado, ditto posting links on Facebook!
5. If you had three pieces of advice to give to a new blogger what would those be?a. Your own content.These can be your own outfits, your take on beauty products or reviews of some piece of clothing you just bought, otherwise, even your reviews on a latest fashion show/week/campaign. Make it YOUR take, something you, something original, something fresh that you have to offer. And don't worry about sounding stupid, or weird, or (insert self-conscious adjective). You've taken the leap, you've started the blog. . so, go ahead and showcase what you have to offer.
b. Design.Recently, some of us over at the FF group have been circulating emails and an idea for reviewing each other's sites and providing constructive criticism sparked. And it struck me how most of us gravitate towards a minimalist, white-background design which seems to be somewhat of a 'template' if you see some of the leading and extremely successful fashion blogs (e.g. Fashion Toast, Childhood Flames, The Glamourai to name a few). Personally, I always gravitate towards implementing a white-background design (even if I hate white walls, rather ironically!), but there are some who work well with colourful backgrounds, textured ones, or even dark backgrounds-- all I can say is that I am not aesthetically-talented enough to make that work for me yet. So, a minimalist design isn't de rigeur, but a design that works with you and showcases your personality is important. I think one problem that most bloggers (especially we who do not hire pro designers and do not have those skills ourselves) face is implementing or even manifesting the designs flashing about in our heads. The restricted range of templates for non-self-hosted sites also means some of us feel a little 'stuck' with what we have got. Whilst I am no expert on design, I am quite proud of how Devilishly Pleasurable looks, having tweaked it and done it up all on my own-- my labour of love. Some important tips I've learnt to maximise what you can get would be:
- Start an inspiration folder with screenshots of the blogs with designs you dig.- Sketch out with pencil and paper how you'd like your blog to look like. Plan how many 'sections', 'pages' and what you'd like.- Stick to a colour palette for a 'unified colour experience'.- Don't be scared of playing with the HTML configurations. Google things like 'how to change layout, Wordpress' or 'how to remove border around images, Blogger', and a wealth of information abounds. And always click 'Preview', before you save your changes, if you're worried about screwing up your site. Alternatively, back up and download copies of your code.- 'Empty space' in your layout irking you? Use HTML to configure, again.- Keep tweaking, adjusting and playing around with the parameters. It is the same as dressing, where you throw on something, remove another, and put yet some other on. Open a new tab/window where you can keep refreshing your page to see how each step of change goes-- that is your analogous 'mirror' during the dressing process. Ask yourself, 'Do I like what I see?', 'Can someone viewing this understand/see?', 'Is my font too small? What is the optimum font size for *my* site' . it helps to have some time at your disposal when you're doing this, and to put yourself in an anally-retentive mode during Operation Dressing My Blog.- Your own banner. It can be just typeface, a collage of photos, or whatsoever. Download new fonts to play around with. . Keep experimenting!- Your own 'buttons'. . these give a unified aesthetic identity. Apart from that, you are free to be as schizophrenic, multiple personality-ed as you like in your tone, your outfits, your daily experimentations, etcetera.- If you use AdSense or whatsoever affiliates, try to place them in positives that are as unobtrusive as possible so they don't interfere with your blog's aesthetics.- Good photographs. Most of us don't have DSLRs or semi-pros, and I, for one, pray everyday that my 3-year-old digital camera doesn't die on me suddenly. There are many tips for outfit photography (such as here and here) and if you can, use some editing software such as Picasa, Picnik, or iPhoto, to make little changes that go a long way. For instance, colour balance, contrast or saturation-- you'd be surprised how some photographs that you thought were destroyed would look good in monochrome!-- or to remove a zit or two. If you're good at photo-editing, Photoshop is a good option (and if you are/know a student in Singapore, you can get the entire Adobe CS5 suite for SGD$119 here!), also perfect for designing your banners and what-nots.- Unified picture widths. I think it makes the look cleaner, but then again, that's my preference.c. Community, monitoring and self-reflection.I guess most of us starting blogs like fashion/beauty blogs obviously have an audience in mind, and do want traffic, readers, and perhaps even to monetise. A community is important-- loyal readers who continue to return and interact actively, inspiring you further. You could do it through Chictopia, Hypeed, or Lookbook.nu, otherwise Independent Fashion Bloggers, Vintage Network Worldwide, or 20-something Bloggers-- look for the community that you like most. Visit fellow fashion bloggers and say hello, leave them a comment (but a sincere one!), and if you get inspired by someone, acknowledge them. Register with Google Analytics to track your site, otherwise install widgets that keep an eye on the stats for you. Also, beyond quantitative measures, always ask yourself, 'what's going wrong' and 'what's going right'. For instance, I've learnt not to post two posts at the same time if I'm seeking comments on both-- although people still read the 'second' post (as seen via trackers for stats). Check, edit, re-check, re-read your posts. . re-configure your pictures and your fonts, if need be. Creating a blog post takes more time than '5 quick minutes'. . so make sure you have the heart (and stamina) for it! More importantly, take time to ask yourself if you're becoming a 'brand' (good if that's what you started out to be), becoming 'pigeonholed', or are you still enjoying yourself loads. And that's all I have to say re Baby Steps to Better Blogging. . perhaps in six months' time I will have new/deeper/contradicting insight! :)
In a nutshell, Rome wasn't built in a day, so will your blog evolve! And, more importantly, there are no hard and fast rules, we are always learning, and having to unlearn what we have learnt.
To join the FriendFriday group, pop a mail to Katy Rose of ModlyChic!
And on the topic of Graduating to New Heights, I got a letter yesterday confirming that I have passed my Masters course, and will be going back to Cambridge for my graduation next weekend. In the meantime, here are some great shots of my friend Kris' (whom I mentioned here) graduation taken a few months' back!
I'd just popped in the first draft of my dissertation the night before, whilst laughing with Kris as she jokingly told me not to be too dressed up and steal the show. "I'm sure you can wear samsui woman clothes and still look good", she quipped. "Well, if I were to wear that, I'd *really* steal the limelight then, being Live Historical Specimen Blast From The Past" I typed into Skype, doubling over with laughter. The day arrived well and bright, and I decided on a classic polka-dotted 50s-style dress-- how could I not get dressed for my friend's big day!-- before making my way to her college, which is a five minutes' walk from mine. Her college, where I'd always go to for dinner, because my college serves the suckiest food in Cambridge history. It's also where Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew from my country was educated in, since whenever you mention Singapore everybody will go, "Oh LKY was from Fitz!". I found my way to her room, and there she was fretting away like a bride on her wedding day, whilst I got all upset with her for not having any makeup-- she told me later I spent the whole day telling her I'd kill her for this and that and then laments that when she does her PhD in LA no one will tell kill for contravening all sorts of style rules. (I miss chatting with her so much!) In walked Janice, a fellow Singaporean, who was the other guest at Kris' graduation. We chatted whilst Kris was changing, and then I was so relieved when J produced an SLR (or something like that), because I was a little worried the night before should the responsibility of good-quality photographs rest on me. You know how important graduation is, and I have a tendency to screw up photographs. Kris ended up laughing at me when I exclaimed my relief out loud. And we spent the day laughing away, as always.
Most photographs of the event from J's camera were via Facebook, and hence were rather small for the blog. . which I've frantically/desperately tried to blow up and duplicate layers via Photoshop. Most of what I have here are from my own camera, with the exception of the first and third-- which I thought were rather memorable. The third one (i.e. above) was one where I was the 'car watcher' whilst K was on the road taking photographs under the Fitzwilliam College flag. For anyone who wonders what the hell all these colleges are, and if you were as befuddled as I was before I came over, basically the Oxbridge system dictates that you are members of the University, and a college (there are many!) is where you receive pastoral services (e.g. living, eating, and sometimes lessons), but you learn in some Institute or Department. Trivia Of The Day over.
We left Kris to assemble with her fellow Graduands, whilst we went back to our own places to grab umbrellas and jackets because it was getting cold. And then we queued up for the Senate House, where the strange ceremony would be held. Essentially, loads of Latin and solemn lines are chanted, and you have to kneel in front of the Chancellor (or the main presiding individual) who chants something in Latin that goes something along the lines of "In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I confer this degree upon you". A little arcane, even, with a Harry Potter-ish twist. Quite an experience, I would say. Anyway, cameras were prohibited in the Senate House, which was a little annoying. Because there are loads of great things to photograph! (And also because then you would have no choice but to pay £££ to get your official photograph-- the only one of you receiving your degree). Nevertheless, leveraging on my SpyGirl days (I used to be a private investigator when I was 18) I managed to capture a few secret shots that got K all happy. Now I'm just wondering how I can get D and Denise to take secret shots of me too. Maybe I shalt give them some quick lessons in Surreptitious Spying.
- vintage polka-dotted 50s-style dress from Ebay for a slightly classic yet whimsical look
- a face showing only 3 hours of sleep
- leather corset belt from Ms Selfridge I buckled haphazardly. Love that effect, paired with matching brown Roccobaracco bag worn as clutch.
- Forever 21 pearl necklace doing double duty as bracelet, with large Diva flower cocktail ring
- continuing on the pearl theme, a pearl brooch given by Lulu's mother for college dinners, in my botched attempt at modesty
- as for the white theme beyond pearls, white feather earrings from Diva for an airy, ethereal feel; white small flower ring from Diva; off-white Christina Louboutin Deva boots. Mad fringes!
Also, Devilishly Pleasurable had 187 hits yesterday! Was a little shocked but extremely psyched. Thank you all! Will answer your questions soon (mail me at devilishlypleasurable(at)gmail(dot)com if you have any enquiries) and do keep coming back. Thanks for all the lovely comments on The Devilishly Pleasurable Lair too! And do spare a little time to vote for me at British Style Bloggers! Px