What does fashion blogging mean to you? Perhaps it involves showcasing images of your carefully styled outfits. Maybe you like to dissect the latest (live streamed) catwalk trends. Possibly you like to post inspirational photos you have collated. However, how do you respond when something personal intervenes, that perhaps fills so much of your life that it becomes impossible not to talk about it on your blog?
For me, that ‘something’ was scoliosis – a curvature of the spine that not only twists ones upper body out of proportion but can also lead to serious health problems. Although it is a fairly common affliction, there is a big difference between a mild curvature and a severe one.
When I was first diagnosed, my spine was already at fifty six degrees, meaning my shoulder jutted out sharply and my rib cage was startlingly distorted. I then spent nine months dressing around this not-so-normal body shape, with clever camera angles and very long hair to hide my condition in any photos for my blog. I didn’t specifically choose not to mention this medical condition – it just felt like a part of my life that was easily separated from my ‘blogging persona’.
The concealment was forced to end in October 2010 though, when I was informed that my spine had bent to eighty degrees (I later discovered most surgeons ought to suggest an operation for anyone with half that curvature). I was informed a week in advance that I would be undergoing surgery. Aside from all the obvious questions – such as, ‘How much pain will I be in?’ – I wondered how I would introduce the issue on my blog, as it was now unavoidable. In the end, I did it in the best way I knew – through fashion.
In homage to the late Lee Alexander McQueen, I created a ‘scoliodress’. I attached raw silk ‘vertebrae’ to the back of a plain black dress, fitted exactly to the x-ray shape of my twisted spine. I published photos of the dress on my blog, alongside an explanation.
My hand trembled slightly as I clicked on the ‘post’ button, but it felt extraordinarily cathartic. I hardly had time to read the comments before I was whisked off, with a bag full of comfortable clothing and books, ready to be prepped for surgery.
That first week in hospital was the hardest experience of my life: the leaden pain seething in my back; the lack of mobility that led to a constant feeling of claustrophobia; the complete loss of dignity. However, this was seasoned with special moments, such as knowledge of the incredible support I had received from the blogging community – both in response to my ‘scoliodress’, and to an update that my mum had provided while I was still in a morphine haze. Throughout the arduous process of recovery, my blog remained a constant part of my life, even if the only thing I could do was check comments. Slowly as I rebuilt strength, I started posting again, using images of pre-op outfits.
I am nearly six months post-operative now, and have been back to the normal process of blogging for many months. I even went to London Fashion Week in February. Now the only thing halting me from spending more time writing posts is endless revision for upcoming exams…
In recent months, I have realised that experiences of adversity are mirrored all around in the fashion blogging world. There is both comfort and strength to be drawn from reading about the experiences or reflections that acknowledge that yes, the new season shoes are delicious, but also life is sometimes hard and things are tough. Examples that stood out to me included Pearl’s frank and brave decision to talk about her Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the exquisitely written, moving post dedicated to a late friend by Bella.
The impetus to write about a highly personal experience is always a little nerve wracking. However, I was surprised by the number of blog readers who had some experience of my condition, and could offer both advice and empathy. Writing the post opened up many opportunities to connect with fellow scoliosis sufferers, who could implicitly understand what I was experiencing.
I chose to make a bold statement by externalizing and representing who I was physically via the ‘scoliodress’. However, when I came to the text, it seemed that the only way to approach it was simply and honestly. If you find yourself in the position where you need to disclose something of significance, just take a deep breath and write from the heart.
Also, don’t worry if you feel like you are complaining – although I didn’t keep my readers up to date with every minute detail, I felt that I should explain some of the major things that were happening to me. Writing can help a great deal, and if something is that integral and embedded in your life then it deserves to be expressed. Like grieving though, the writing and sharing process can be different for everyone.
Of course, not everyone feels comfortable opening up. For some, their ‘fashion blogger persona’ is different from their day-to-day self, and they want to keep it that way. If your blog is comprised of the best elements that make up ‘you’, then it can be hard to introduce some very grounding reality. Should the need arise; you might have to explain if there will be a prolonged absence from the internet, but don’t feel that you must share everything. The transparency barometer is your choice.
Some may question the relevance of personal matters on a style blog. But what is fashion? At its best, it is all about self expression, and an extension of who you are as an individual. If that’s the case, and something is affecting you, then it merits being stated. Likewise, clothing choice can also fulfil our inherent tribal instincts, and part of ‘belonging’ is communication – which is essentially what blogging is all about.
image by Esra Dandin