Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Opinion and IBJ Style

STYLE: A N.Y. fashion writer brings her blog back home

August 14, 2010

When I started my own style blog a little over a year ago, I discovered it can easily gobble up 40 hours a week, but it’s yet to evolve from a hobby for me. The concept of a profitable independent style blog is still baffling.

Yes, I’ve heard that there were people out there who quit their day jobs to take pictures of their outfits for a living, but I couldn’t begin to imagine a business plan that could make that lifestyle happen. Plus, an Indiana girl need not apply, right?
 

Style dress Pictured here in a vintage dress, Jessica Schroeder has made a living out of her closet and a tripod. (Photo courtesy Jessica Schroeder)

That’s what I thought before I heard about Jessica Schroeder, author of style blog “What I Wore.” She’s from Fort Wayne, studied at Indiana University, and went to New York, where she became said pro blogger.

Well, maybe that’s possible in New York, but Schroeder plans to keep doing what she’s been doing when she returns to Bloomington, where she and her fiancé are looking for houses.

Impossible? She doesn’t think so.

Schroeder didn’t go to New York five years ago intent on blogging. Rather, she began using her bachelor’s in apparel merchandising from IU as a print and plaid designer for a textiles manufacturer. Drawing plaids sounds fun to me, but Schroeder insists it was mostly grunt work and is representative of what it’s really like to work in the fashion industry.

“Everybody looks at Fashion Week and thinks working in fashion will be so glamorous, but that event is only a very small piece of the pie,” she said.

Boredom at the workplace led Schroeder to start publishing daily “What I Wore” outfit photos online. She quit her job just over a year ago when she discovered she could sustain herself on the blog. Companies such as Shopmamie.com and ModCloth.com advertise on her site and clothing retailers sponsor many of her outfits. And it’s not just the blog readers who have paid attention. Time Out New York included Schroeder on its list of most stylish New Yorkers.

She’s confident her advertisers and sponsors will stick with her even when the Big Apple is no longer her backdrop.

“My blog isn’t the most cutting-edge or editorial. No one’s confusing me for the editor of Vogue,” she said. “There’s a more casual feel in Indiana, but that won’t change what is in my closet or how I dress.”

Jennifer Shirk Mentzer, author of local style blog Indy Fash Bash, writes only as a hobby and prefers it that way.

“I know a lot of bloggers have evolved into motivational speakers and consultants as well as gotten book deals, but I just like to write about shopping—not sure how that could translate,” she said.

She also fears that any kind of sponsorship would begin to dictate what she writes about or, as in Schroeder’s case, what she wears.

“I think if you try to monetize a blog as an incentive, it really loses authenticity, which is what draws readers,” she said.

Schroeder, on the other hand, says she allows only sponsors whose clothes she’d most likely wear, anyway.

“I think readers are attracted to my style because it’s approachable. They read my blog and feel like I’m their friend,” she said.

Emboldened by the attention Schroeder’s friendly, Midwestern style has attracted through the blog, she’s publishing a book. “What I Wore: A Recipe for Style, Day by Day and Season by Season” is due out in spring 2011 from Ballantine Books.

She said she’s targeting women who have a job and a budget and want to look chic at a company picnic or a baseball game.

I’ve intentionally shied away from displaying my outfits on my blog, Haute in the Heartland, mostly because I can’t believe anyone cares what I’m wearing every day. But with Schroeder, people clearly do, about 10,000 every day, in fact. That’s because she understands that fashion is everywhere, not just in places with a large industry for it.•

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If you’d like to share your own style ideas or know anyone who’s making waves in the fashion community, contact Gabrielle at gposhadlo@ibj.com. This column appears monthly.

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