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The Definitive History of Personal Style Blogs, From BryanBoy to Man Repeller

An exhaustive look at the decade-long phenomenon.

Until the mid-aughts, selfies weren’t a thing—this was pre-Instagram, after all—but blogging platforms made uploading pictures easy; it was only a matter of time before girls (and boys) who loved clothes began documenting their outfits for all to see.

The very first personal style blogs weren’t started as launch pads for fame (in the form of millions of followers) or fortune (lucrative endorsement deals). No, they began quite innocently as creative outlets. Explaining why she started Style Bubble, veteran blogger Susie Lau wrote, "I was at a full-time job that wasn’t fashion-related and wanted to indulge in fashion as a side hobby, something that was just for me and my personal downtime ... It felt like a really joyous hobby to escape to away from the doldrums of work."

A lot has changed in the decade since Style Bubble first emerged. Below, we trace the history of the personal style blog, an internet phenomenon that has both democratized the fashion industry and turned shameless narcissism into a viable career path.


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August 2004

Patricia Handschiegel founds StyleDiary.net, which is widely considered the first personal style blog. She will spend several years documenting her outfits and purchases before eventually introducing supplementary content. In 2007, the blog is sold to social shopping site StyleHive for an undisclosed sum and Handschiegel, no longer a personal style blogger, becomes something of a serial entrepreneur.

BryanBoy with the bag Marc Jacobs named for him. Photo: Trespass Magazine

October 2004

Bryan Yambao, a 24-year-old label-obsessed web developer, starts BryanBoy. It's as much a personal style blog (featuring his much-copied arm-out stance) as a Xanga-inspired diary devoted to his shopping escapades and splashy social life in Manila. He becomes famous—fast—and in 2008, Marc Jacobs names a purse after him. This is just the beginning for Yambao, who continues to sit front row at Fashion Week to this day.

March 2006

Unsatisfied with her full-time job in digital advertising, London-based Susie Lau starts Style Bubble as a place to post her colorful looks. Since she's already a prolific commenter on cult style forum The Fashion Spot, she gains a steady readership almost immediately. Susie’s signature camera-in-the-mirror pose becomes incredibly popular among early personal style bloggers.

September 2007

Jennine Jacob of The Coveted starts Independent Fashion Bloggers, an online community for budding personal style bloggers. Today it has around 30,000 members.

Tavi Gevinson cuts up fashion magazines to make collages for her blog. Photo: Getty Images

April 2008

Eleven-year-old Tavi Gevinson starts Style Rookie. She isn't the first—along with Yambao and Lau, Stephanie of The Fashion Robot, Lauren of Fops & Dandies, and Agathe of Style Bytes are just a few of the OG personal style bloggers who helped pave the way—but hers quickly becomes the most widely-known. Though the novelty of her age certainly piques people's interest, she builds up a devoted following because of her unique take on fashion. In fact, it's so quick-witted and precocious, people initially suggest it's ghostwritten by an adult.

August 2008

USA Today runs a fear-mongering story with the headline, "Young Fashion Bloggers Are Worrisome Trend to Parents." The newspaper talks to a bunch of pearl-clutching internet safety advocates, as well as, awesomely, Tavi Gevinson’s father.

Tavi's dad, Steve Gevinson, wasn't fully aware that she was blogging until she asked for permission to appear in an upcoming New York Times magazine story on the subject. "I may have known, but to me it was a kind of a non-thing to know," Gevinson, a high school English teacher, says from his home in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb. "I didn't look at it. I wasn't terribly interested in seeing it."

Rumi Neely, February 2009. Photo: Fashion Toast

February 2009

Personal style blogs run by teens become the norm. Teen Vogue talks to prominent high school-age bloggers, including Arabelle Sicardi of Fashion Pirate and Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes. Theorizing about the popularity of blogs, Fashion Toast's Rumi Neely—the elder stateswoman of the bunch at 24—tells the magazine, "The fact that bloggers are real girls with normal clothing budgets is probably more inspiring than looking at pictures of celebrities with seemingly endless resources." Oh, how times will change.

April 2009

Months after being the first blogger to land a big-deal modeling contract, Neely gets a gig designing for cool-kid skate brand RVCA. As per CNN:

One of the newest designers for surf and skate label RVCA doesn't have a design degree, many fashion internships on her resume, or even a wealth of sewing experience. What she does have is a little unconventional: a Web site, featuring pictures of her daily outfits, that happens to draw more than a million hits a month.

October 2009

Oddly, the first documented use of the term "personal style blogger" comes years after the first personal style blog surfaced. In a story about Jane Aldridge and her boyfriend Amit, The Cut dubs Aldridge as such. A blogger in his own right, Amit’s website is called Lame Basics. It no longer exists, and neither does the romance between the two.

Jane Aldridge in Chanel couture at the Crillon Ball. Photo: Atlantis Home

November 2009

The ultra-exclusive Crillon Ball extends an invitation to a blogger for the first time ever. Dressed in Chanel haute couture, Texas native Aldridge makes her grand debut among celebrity offspring and literal princesses.

December 2009

The Federal Trade Commission puts forth new guidelines requiring bloggers to disclose if they receive free merchandise or monetary compensation from brands. The fact that rules are put into place goes to show just how far personal style blogging—no longer a hobby, now an all-out industry—has come.

On the heels of this news, New York Times reporter Eric Wilson writes a column about bloggers' front row takeover and the tension it's caused with old-guard fashion editors. PR queen Kelly Cutrone offers him this gem:

"There has been a complete change this year. Do I think, as a publicist, that I now have to have my eye on some kid who’s writing a blog in Oklahoma as much as I do on an editor from Vogue? Absolutely. Because once they write something on the Internet, it’s never coming down. And it’s the first thing a designer is going to see."

Gevinson with John Galliano at the Dior show. Photo: The Independent

January 2010

Gevinson sits front row at the Dior couture show wearing an oversized bow that accidentally obscures the view of those behind her. It isn't the first incident of blogger backlash, but it's definitely the cattiest. An editor from British glossy Grazia complains about her view, setting the internet abuzz by tweeting a pic with the caption, "Dior through Tavi's pesky hat."

August 2010

WWD vet-turned-marketing whiz Karen Robinovitz, Ralph Lauren alum Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, and longtime retail and PR exec Raina Penchansky found Digital Brand Architects, an agency that helps style bloggers broker deals with fashion labels and negotiate with prospective advertisers. This is a big step in turning one-man blogs into sustainable businesses and the pretty girls behind them into full-on celebrities.

September 2010

Gevinson, now 14, is profiled in The New Yorker. Writer Lizzie Widdicombe reveals, among other things, that the eighth-grader has recently hired a publicist and turned down appearances on Oprah, The Tonight Show, and national morning shows ("It’s so cheesy. The Good Morning America audience—I guess that’s just not a crowd whose eyes I want on me").

Amber Venz speaks at a panel at Lucky's annual blogger conference. Photo: Getty Images.

June 2011

Amber Venz, the blogger behind Venz Edits, starts RewardStyle, an invitation-only platform that allows top-tier bloggers to monetize their sites by earning a commission every time a reader clicks through and purchases a product they’ve written about. By 2013, several bloggers are making nearly a million dollars a year off the Dallas-based affiliate program.

September 2011

The era of the creative eccentric taking bedroom selfies is all but over. An onslaught of girls armed with professional photographers, slickly designed websites, and "courtesy of" wardrobes officially marks the tide change. Ad Week sums it up best:

There was a moment after New York’s 2009 Fall Fashion Week when fashion bloggers had officially, as the press likes to call it, "arrived" ... Fast forward two years and fashion’s digerati have shown they actually have no interest in Wintour’s job. They’d rather sit across the table from her, as the faces of the companies whose ads keep publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and W in the black. Bloggers don’t want to be editors, because they’ve built something much more valuable: brands.

Aimee Song at a Coca-Cola event. Photo: Getty Images

June 2012

Women’s Wear Daily publishes a story reporting just how much bloggers make from brand deals. The numbers cited include $20,000 for hosting events and up to $25,000 for Fashion Week projects. Song of Style's Aimee Song, who has teamed up with everyone from Seven for All Mankind to Smart Car, admits to charging one brand $50,000 for a collaboration. The piece goes on to question the journalistic integrity of bloggers.

August 2013

Leandra Medine gives her blog a makeover, relaunching Man Repeller as a full-blown fashion website by ditching the DIY vibe and hiring a staff. And with that, one of the most popular personal style blogs is a personal style blog no more.

September 2014

As bloggers become full-service online personalities who exist on various platforms, many are accused of buying followers on social media by the blog obsessives over at Get Off My Internets. Among the bloggers caught in the crossfire are Song, Jessica Quirk of What I Wore, and Rachel Parcells of Pink Peonies. The use of Photoshop also becomes a hot-button topic in the community around this time.

A photo posted by Pink Peonies (@rachparcell) on

April 2014

Robin Givhan declares the golden era of fashion blogging over, while New York Magazine explores the phenomenon of bloggers enlisting their photographer boyfriends to take photos for their sites. When personal style bloggers first started out, most of their outfit photos were either mirror-reflection snaps or amateur self-timer shots; at some point, bloggers began getting their beaus to take photos (or maybe they collectively sought out budding photographers to date?). One such prominent example is Colin Sokol, who took all of Rumi Neely's photos until they split in 2012. He has since sworn off dating bloggers.

Lucky's blogger cover. Photo: Lucky

January 2015

It's announced that three personal style bloggers, Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad, Zanita Whittington of Zanita, and Nicole Warne of Gary Pepper Girl, will cover Lucky—a first for a major fashion magazine.

February 2015

In early February, Pinterest removes affiliate links, a huge source of revenue for many personal style bloggers. A few weeks later, another blow hits blogs when Condé Nast announces it is shuttering NowManifest, an invite-only blogging platform used by Neely, Susie Lau, and other big names.

May 2015

In a story titled, "The Newest Fashion Bloggers Don't Even Have Blogs," Refinery29 takes a look at the future of personal style bloggers—a future that doesn’t involve blogs at all.

Over the years, style bloggers have traded in point-and-shoot cameras for DSLRs and professional photographers. Their websites have become increasingly polished and photoshopped, often appearing more like magazine editorials than real life. Instagram bloggers showcase the opposite approach, promoting an effortless aesthetic, that—filters aside—seems far less airbrushed than that of today's most popular fashion bloggers.

Editor: Julia Rubin

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