How One Small Town Girl is Making it as a Big City Fashion Blogger
It was my freshman year of college at NYU, I’d just moved to New York City from a small middle-of-nowhere town in southern Florida, and I was floundering to figure out what to do with myself. I was an honors kid my entire life, always kept busy with AP and dual-credit classes, extracurriculars like horseback riding and Model United Nations, and with various measures of a social life.
Let me tell you, college is an equalizing experience — suddenly you go from being the first or second in your class to being amongst hundreds of other kids that were also first and second in their class.
But as a freshman it didn’t feel like an equal playing field at all, rather I felt like a complete outsider. So I found myself searching for other ways to make my way in the world by carving a niche for myself since college was clearly not going to cut it for me.
A bit of background about myself: I focused on photography in high school, attending multiple photo summer programs, and I entered NYU as a photography major. But I was also highly involved with my high school Model United Nations team (we ranked 4th in the nation at the time), so I’d actually never intended to stay in the art school but to transfer into the International Relations (IR) program.
But… I wound up not liking the way the IR program was structured and I struggled with what I was going to do for the rest of my time in college. So I started thinking… in high school I was known as someone who dressed well and people would come to me for style advice or when searching for particular styles and products; yet I’d never even remotely considered myself any sort of authority on style. I followed a few bloggers like Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster and Sarah Vickers of Classy Girls Wear Pearls. I posted what now seem like crude flat lays and mirror selfies of my outfits. I’d always loved fashion, I actively pursued a preppy style, and I read fashion magazines by dog-earring pages so that I could use the inspiration in my own wardrobe.
I don’t remember the exact impetus that drove me to start my blog, but I remember a conversation with my friend Rory in which she (the epitome of a go-getter personality) insisted that I should do it…and so I did. Before any of it could start, though, it needed a name. I spent over a week brainstorming, knowing that I’d like it to incorporate a play off of my nickname, Em, and some reference to NYC. After a late night of Googling idioms and cross referencing that the name wasn’t already taken, I’d found it: (Em)pire Style of Mind. Now that the hard part was over, the fun work could begin.
After some research and a bit of trial and error I decided to use SquareSpace to design and host my site.
For anyone debating what platform (aka content management system aka CMS), this is why I chose SquareSpace: I found it more user-friendly from the design side than WordPress and similar blog sites, I liked that they registered your domain for you when you pay for the account, and they offer a student discount so the price seemed reasonable.
Most of what I knew about blogging was the visual, which considering my background as a photographer made sense. So the early days of my blogging focused on creating stylish outfits and taking high-quality photos of the outfits. I was lucky that my close friend, Lena, a fellow photography major, was willing to take the photos for me, and that between the two of us we maintained a certain quality aesthetic. I still cringe when I see bloggers that are clearly using an iPhone for all of their photos.
As it turns out, fashion blogging is so much fun for me. It’s essentially playing dress-up all the time. I love spending hours planning new outfits, searching for inspiration, editing photos, and writing up new content and ideas. I could spend all day seeking out new photoshoot locations and walking around creating the photos. In fact, I have done just that many times.
Blogging combines so many things that I love and excel at into one great medium: there’s the technical skills of the photography combined with the creative eye for a great shot combined with the excitement of featuring new clothes and trends mixed with the ability to write coherently about what I want to feature. Sprinkle in a bit of a marketing mindset, a melee of organizational skills, a sense of adventure and willingness to explore, and the interest of meeting new and varied people, and voila! You’ve got a blogger!
It’s not quite so simple, though. One thing many people may not realize is just how much time and effort and planning goes into blogging. If you thought blogging was in any way easy, think again. At this point, two years into the blogging world, and it has all but consumed my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally okay with that because it speaks to all aspects of my right-brained personality. But I can’t walk down the street without scoping out good photo spots, I freeze when a plate is set down before me at a restaurant because the likelihood is that I’ll want to take a photo, I know the fashion industry trends more intimately than I know some of my friends, and don’t get me started on the pros and cons of different Instagram filters.
In some ways I think blogging was a natural progression for me. As a photographer I was always scoping for a new shot and I gained the technical background to achieve the level of photography necessary for a professional blog. As an artist, I lov to create a finished, cohesive design, and to brainstorm new ideas for projects. As a Model United Nations member I was always developing and explaining my position on any number of subjects, I became weirdly good at researching obscure topics, and I got increasingly excited to meet new people and branch out my thinking. I love fashion and have a natural eye for aesthetic quality. I’ve always loved to travel and blogging presented a fresh way to share that with the world. In analyzing my interests and personality, blogging really does make an awful lot of sense.