Student blogs highlight interests in food, fashion

By KAYLEIGH BUTLER ’14

Contributing Writer 

Leslie Stephens '14, student blogger Photo by Yu Zhou '16 Staff Photographer

Leslie Stephens ’14, student blogger
by Yu Zhou ’16
Staff Photographer

These days, if you aren’t a blogger yourself, you probably follow at least one blog on a regular basis. Don’t roll your eyes—Tumblr pages count too. And for those of you who perceive the management of a blog as uninvolved (post a picture, write a blurb, hit “publish”), know that ownership proves to be much more like falling down a rabbit hole. Owners must derive their intent, decide upon a unique topic, consider appearance and think about how to reach and entertain a target audience. This process can be both exciting and overwhelming. The latter probably explains my own volatility as a blog owner.

When I tried to describe the evolution of my hobby-turned-passion to a friend, I realized the influential role that blogging has played in my college experience. While the managerial task of maintaining a blog undoubtedly requires time and effort, my greatest challenges have been defining my intent and determining the relationship between my blog and my aspirations.

Returning to Wellesley as a senior, and having settled into my longest running blog yet (“According to Klee”—Reviews & How-To’s among cheeky thought pieces and honest anecdotes), I began to consider the bigger picture: What role does my blog play in my life and the lives of others? And, most nerve-wrackingly, how will I integrate my blogging experience into my future? Although historically my response to these formidable questions was to cower and hit “delete,” I decided instead to man up and seek the input of other senior bloggers on campus.

Entering the blogosphere, I found myself captivated by a classic, minimalistic layout and large, high-quality images of a chic twenty-something modeling the latest trends. The model, Chelsea Kim ’14, is the owner of “United States of Chelsea,” which she appropriately describes as “mostly fashion- and outfit-based,” with less focus on lifestyle content. She told me that she started her blog after being inspired by other fashion bloggers and enjoying the creative aspects of dressing up in everyday life.

“At this point, my blog is mostly for myself and my friends and family to document my outfits. It’s a creative outlet for me, like a hobby on the side that gives me a place to express myself,” she said.

In particular, Kim—and, interestingly, all other interviewees—mentions the blog “Cupcakes and Cashmere” as a source of inspiration.

“The author, Emily Schumann, went to a liberal arts school, too, so I thought that was interesting because I also don’t have any experience taking classes specifically in fashion,” Kim said.

She has more than education in common with Schumann, as she hopes to apply blogging directly to her career.

“Hopefully my blog can serve as an inspiration for myself, as I hope to work in either marketing or styling, though the ultimate goal would be to blog professionally. Also, writing about fashion was a little challenging at first, but I’ve been trying to do it more because being able to write is such an important skill today,” Kim said.

Staying in the realm of fashion, I met with Charmaine Charmant ’14, owner of “The Voluptuoussdoll,” which she describes as a personal style blog where she showcases her outfits, reviews different retail companies and collections and provides “Looks for Less.” Similar to Kim, Charmant was inspired by the outfit-building process, having received ample attention from friends for her personal style. Both Kim and Charmant focus on trends and affordable alternatives, but Kim approaches her blog as a creative outlet while Charmant finds her niche by providing a representation of a “real woman” wearing the latest trends.

“I feel like I’m in the threshold that isn’t represented in retail; in the fashion industry, you never see an ‘average’ girl; it’s always either a skinny girl or a plus-sized girl, so when I write my posts I always try to incorporate that aspect somehow,” Charmant said.

In doing so, she has indeed tapped into her target fanbase—“The Voluptuoussdoll” Facebook page has to date over 1,400 likes. And this month Charmant attended the Teen Vogue Fashion University seminar. Charmant estimates spending 12 hours per week updating and publicizing, but maintenance isn’t the greatest difficulty.

“I think the hardest thing was figuring out what people want to see; it’s not only about what I want, but it’s about what I can provide for my readers, what they can get out of the posts, and adapting my blog to that,” she said.

Charmant, who aspires to be a fashion buyer, also hopes to apply blogging to her career. “I think that for a buyer, those are things you need to be cognizant of, what’s in, what’s out, what people are going to want to purchase, and having the blog definitely keeps me aware of those things and able to talk about them,” she said.

Not a fashionista? Read on. For my final interview, I spoke with Leslie Stephens ’14, owner of “Yoga then Chocolate,” which she describes as a combination of her two passions: “Exercising and eating,” she said with a laugh. Over dinner, an appropriate setting for a discussion of her blog, Stephens explained, “It’s about making food, celebrating food; it’s a place for me to share the interesting food that I’ve found, trends in food and working out, which sometimes comes secondary.”

Stephens began her blog while living in Los Angeles, where she experimented in her own kitchen  and had access to interesting restaurants. For Stephens, inspiration for her blog stemmed from a desire to share her love of food, paired with her aspiration to become a food magazine editor. “I think that having this blog has really prepared me to do editorial at a food magazine because it has taught me not only how to create content, but how to write content and how to design content, and I think that those are three very marketable skills that are helpful to learn before entering the industry.”

I was relieved to discover that for each blogger, the experience has been one of growth and discovery, involving developing a creative outlet, recognizing the desires of readers and expanding the skills necessary to succeed in a certain field. As an aspiring writer and editor, I, too, attribute much of my personal growth to owning a blog: not only have I developed a voice that I feel represents my writing style, but I have also gained perspective about my career aspirations through my passion for writing.

The effort required in creating and maintaining a blog is undeniably substantial, so before I wrapped up each interview I couldn’t ignore the pressing question of whether ownership has any drawbacks. And how did they respond? Though each author acknowledged the time associated with even minimal upkeep, they were all speechless when asked to come up with significant pitfalls. As Stephens put it, “I think the benefits of owning a blog far outweigh the costs.” I couldn’t agree more.

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