Blogging Against Adversity

by Roz Jana of Clothes, Cameras, and Coffee


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


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37 Responses

  1. Rocquelle

    This was beautifully written! I find a blogger to be more authentic and endearing when they have moments of transparency during a hard time, because we all have them.

  2. Bella Q

    Roz, I am so happy to see that you are a part of IFB. My bloggy worlds are colliding in the best possible way. What a brilliant, well-written post, and I expect no less from you. You are one of my all-time favorite fashion bloggers.

    I agree with so much of what you’ve written. Simple honesty is the best approach, and I personally feel very connected to folks, like Pearl who write from the heart about some serious issues. For me the first post I read that did this was the dear Jill Adams, aka Polka Dot who wrote endlessly on Lee McQueen when he passed. She took photos of the closed store in London, and while other bloggers had moved on, she still wrote from the heart about something I keenly felt as well, our hearts were breaking at this loss. And Jill showed me that you could be a fashion writer/photograher/blogger and still touch topics beyond the latest Jeffrey Campbell shoe.

  3. Madeleine Gallay

    And there’s a world of bloggers that are happy for you and proud of what you’ve done.

    Not a fashion blog but Nile Rogers blog about The Big C whilst living and trying to get past a diagnosis of stage IV prostrate cancer is very moving and insanely happy with the pleasures he continues to have.

  4. cca.

    HI Roz, Thanks for sharing and showing us how we can overcome such challenges. Truly your are an inspiration!

  5. Ashleigh

    Well put! I’ve come across several blogs lately who’ve recently ‘opened up’ in a post and I think it’s incredibly sweet. Taking the first step can be hard but the blogging community is an amazingly supportive group. I often find myself wondering how certain person is doing…’did she get the job’, ‘has her Mom’s cancer spread?’ and am surprised at how much I/others care without ever having met. Regardless of the ‘fashion persona’ I think what makes blogs the most interesting is the people behind them. Like you said, we don’t have to share every detail but we have a struggles, experiences and adventures that make us who we are. I love my magazines but I adore reading blogs because the realness is unmatched in any other media format.

  6. vanessa

    I remember reading all your posts and I really admired how you handled. I loved the dress idea, and how you chose to express your scoliosis with fashion. When I shared that I was a cancer survivor on my blog it felt liberating. It is a big part of me, and everyone ended up being very supportive.

  7. insheepsclothes

    What an inspiring post. My mother and sister suffer from scoliosis, and I’m always blown away by people who are able to marry their passion for fashion with larger issues. Love the dress!

  8. Fashnlvr

    My daughter has scoliosis – but very mild curve, less than 10%. I know sometimes she has felt very alone as none of her friends are dealing with the same thing. I will have to share your post with her as you have written so authentically on dealing and living with it.
    This is a heartfelt post that reached out and “touched” me. Thank you for sharing.

  9. [email protected]ium

    This last paragraph particularly reaches out to me. You write beautifully Roz, and it was been wonderful that you have shared such personal parts of your life so honestly and earnestly with us.

  10. Pearl Westwood

    Well done brave Roz on another insightful and heartfelt post. I have to say I too was dubious as to reaveling my ‘issue’ on the blog but was spurred on by the support of the few fellow bloggers who already knew I was suffering. I am so glad I got it out in the open, as you say when something is effecting your life so profoundly you really cannot be yourself without sharing it. I loved your scoliodress and I know your post gave so many others hope. I have had so many emails from fellow arthritis sufferers and found lots of helpful blogs on the subject. Another thing I love about blogging is that it can be a fantasy world where I can dress up in the highest heels and pretend for a few photos that I dont have a care in the world. For me the beauty of blogging is not just sharing our thoughts on the latest Prada collection but making dear friends and I am proud to say you are one of mine xx

  11. Elle

    Fabulous post Roz- love your honesty and willingness to open up, and it’s something so hard but beautiful to do.

  12. Alexandra Thérèse

    Roz, the thought and care which obviously went into this post really shines through. Having followed your posts from pre-surgery to the present I can honestly say that you have really inspired me just to ‘live’ and to have courage in difficult situations. You really have summed up what blogging is all about – communicating with the rest of the world about things that matter. I really admire the way you chose to express yourself – through fashion and the creation of a very unique dress.

  13. Mode Plus

    Your post lead me to other articles on your post and I so respect you for putting yourself out there: vulnerable and yet so strong. I have respect for how you deal with this transparency.

  14. Fashionistable

    Beautiful written as always Roz. You are an inspirational young woman on so many levels. It is stunning they waited so long to straighten you up again wow. Your approach to what you were going through and then went through showed a wisdom way beyond your years. It was such a treat to meet you and your Mum and photograph you at LFW. It is wonderful that you are well on the mend. I wish that from here on in all the life changing hurdles you have to face are the same as we all have to – like your up coming exams. So happy to know you and have you around. Lots of love Dvora Xxxx

  15. style odyssey

    beautifully and honestly written, roz. you have touched a lot of people with your grace and strength during very challenging circumstances.

  16. Jenny - Monochrome Factory

    Beautifully written – I enjoyed reading this. I can relate to the small extent in that I don’t speak of personal things on the blog, yet the detah of my brother’s best friend compelled me to write a piece of bicycle road safety, yet other matters (such as family being diagnosed with cancer, personal injury etc) do not feel appropriate. x

  17. Laura

    Lovely post here and it touches on so many different points. I have had times where I felt I should share more about myself, you have actually inspired me to write a post about something tragic that happened a few years ago….

  18. The Foolish Aesthete

    This honesty is beautiful. I am learning about this in the blogging world. I love your facing scoliosis with the “Scoliodress”. I told you already I have mild scoliosis — I strengthen myself through ballet — but my mom had surgery and my sister wore a back brace. My mom passed away last year because her scoliosis eventually crushed her lungs. She was the bravest woman I ever knew.

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