The week is almost over, I’m further along with my boutique than I was a week before, and I have a new nephew who just came into the world yesterday afternoon! Not a bad way to go, right?
But of course, we still have Friday to consider.
Name of Blog: Dress With Courage
Date of Founding: December 2010
A Short Description of Your Blog: My blog explores personal style and body image with an emphasis on thrifting and vintage fashion.
How did you find your way into fashion blogging?
Stern: I stumbled into fashion blogging kind of spontaneously. I had recently relocated to the Dallas, Texas area from Des Moines, Iowa, and found myself at home alone with no job nor creative outlet. I’d been reading personal style blogs for years, and maintained a private blog devoted to journaling.
One day, without allowing myself to talk my way out of it, I decided to create my own blog documenting my outfits and thoughts on fashion. I thought this would be a great way to combine my love of writing and thrifting in one place.
What is the story behind the name of your blog?
Stern: While the start of my blog happened without much thought or fanfare, the title did not. I had always believed that the women in the personal style blogs I read were so brave. They put themselves out into the world courageously each day, despite being vulnerable to criticism, spam, and the opinions of others. As a woman in recovery from an eating disorder, I knew that photographing myself and posting those photos on a public blog would be among the most courageous things I could ever do. Thus, Dress With Courage was born.
You recently came out with the book Thrifting 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Thrifting and Vintage. Tell us more about the book, the inspiration behind it, how long it took to write it, who the book is for, et cetera:
Stern: The concept of the book originated from my Thrifting 101 series that’s been running on my blog since March 2011. I had about 30 posts on topics related to thrifting and vintage — including cleaning tips, styling advice, and historical analysis of silhouettes — when my husband mentioned to me that I had the beginnings of a book. I had so much fun writing those posts, and had never even considered writing a book, but I gave it some thought and decided that there was no reason not to compile both those old posts and new chapters into something substantial. The finished manuscript was broken down into approximately one chapter a week of work, with some chapters taking only hours to complete and other days of research and editing.
After two months of careful research, I chose to self-publish rather than shop my book to an agent. Truthfully, the thought of handing over my manuscript to an agent, and giving a publishing company control of my material, was too much for me to bear. I also wanted to be able to sell my book as a library-bound paperback and an e-book on Amazon, as well as through my blog.
In the end, I decided to work through Createspace and self-publish through their service. I outsourced the editing, but completed all of the formatting myself, as well as hired a graphic designer for the cover. Createspace was a dream to work with — their customer service was excellent, and they walked me through the process without a hiccup.
The book is geared towards those new or not-so-new to thrifting and vintage who want to sharpen their skills both as consumers and vintage enthusiasts. I am particularly proud of the chapters focusing on fashion history, as I believe it’s important to understand how styles and trends of the past influence today’s designs.You’re originally from New York, but currently reside in North Dallas, Texas. What brought you from New York, and how do the two cities compare/contrast with each other in regards to culture, fashion et al?
Stern: I am a born and raised New Yorker — I grew up in Queens, and attended the High School of Performing Arts and Mannes College of Music in Manhattan, and SUNY Stony Brook out on Long Island.
Nine years ago, the birth of my daughter led my husband and I to move out-of-state in order to purchase a house and settle in a quieter area. We’ve lived in Plano, Texas; Alpharetta, Georgia; Murphy, Texas; and Des Moines, Iowa before settling here in McKinney. I absolutely love living in Texas, and I have zero desire to live in New York again, though the city will always have a special place in my heart; I just can’t tolerate the cold weather and high cost of living anymore!
Dallas and New York are quite different in their approach to fashion. While Dallasites aren’t inclined to experiment with silhouettes or styles, preferring a more conservative dress, they aren’t afraid to wear color and print. They also aren’t shy about spending money on fashion — Dallas has more retail space per capita than any other city in the country. When I lived in New York, I was consistently inspired by how the women around me put their own stamp on fashion trends. Dallas women, on the other hand, don’t care much about being trendsetters. They seem more concerned with dressing appropriately and tastefully than following trends.
Body image is one of the subjects you explore in your blog. What prompted this exploration, and how has it affected your writing and your life overall?
Stern: My posts on body image came out of my long struggle with anorexia and bulimia, of which I’ve been in recovery from for three years. Part of the process for me towards self-acceptance has been writing those posts. They are deeply personal and emotional, often reflecting whatever issue I am struggling with at the moment — whether it’s my recovery, or body image, or self-care. I choose to share those posts on my recovery both for personal growth and to show that recovery is possible, and worth it. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough blogs that explore the aftermath of an eating disorder. I’d like to change that.
What has been your favorite moment as a fashion blogger?
Stern: My favorite moment as a fashion blogger had to be when I was hired as co-host for the Texas Style Council Conference, speaking on the creative consumerism panel. I had attended the conference just the year before as a newbie blogger, and it was so fulfilling for me to be a panelist.Why do you blog?
Stern: I blog for a variety of reasons. Blogging is, first and foremost, a creative outlet. As a writer, composing posts gives me the chance to sharpen my skills, and learn how to use the written word to impact an audience. Writing is my favorite activity, and really gives me so much joy.
As a personal style blogger, my blog also inspires me to experiment with fashion, and highlight the importance of wearing vintage and thrifted pieces.
If you had to pick one post that says “This is what my blog is all about,” which one would it be?
Stern: That’s tough. I’ve written posts that have really put myself out there in a deeply emotional way. If I had to narrow them down, I would have to say the posts I’ve published regarding my eating disorder recovery have been the most rewarding. However, I’m also inclined to include every post in my Thrifting 101 series, as those best encapsulate my passion for wearing vintage.
What one piece of advice would you offer our readers regarding:
Style: Ignore the rules and wear what gives you joy. I despise any fashion “experts” who feel the need to dictate to women how they should look and what they should wear. Fashion is meant to be fun and personal.
Writing (blogging, journalism et al): Be true to who you are. Ultimately, blogging is about you – your thoughts, your values, your goals and your ideas. Tailoring your blog to suit your readers is only going to make you miserable and unsatisfied. Publish posts that are meaningful to you. They needn’t be passionate diatribes all the time – if the color pink inspires you, post about that!
Life in general: Keep you attention on what makes you happy, and do your best to tailor your life around that end. If that means writing a personal style blog, or going to school for an advanced degree, or eating candy for breakfast, give yourself permission to do it. Ask for what you want; say how you feel; and put your priorities up front.
Who is your blog for?
Stern: My blog is for women who are looking for more than outfit photos and short text. It’s for those that are readers and writers, those who want to learn how to thrift and wear vintage, those who want to question why the standards for appearance in our society are so screwed up. It’s for all women, whether in their 20s or 70s. When I started blogging, I wanted to show that women above the age of 35 can be stylish and experimental with fashion. Now, I want all women to feel encouraged to wear what makes them happy — whether that’s a $4 thrifted coat or vintage sequined blouse.
Any final words?
Stern: Thank you, Cameron, for giving me the opportunity to be featured on your blog. I am so flattered to be included in your Friend Friday series!
Photo credits: Wikipedia (title card) + Elissa Stern.