Friday, December 20, 2013

Almost done or 'Gemma Ward, wimples and thesis writing'

Because nothing says Christmas like Gemma wearing a nun's coif ignoring her robot toy collection. 

Actually, interesting aside: I was talking the other day with some colleagues, including my supervisor, and somehow we got onto the topic of nuns. 'When are nuns going to influence fashion?' he joked and I, ever the font of arcane knowledge, piped up- well, nuns were very much in fashion in the 1930s! I found a beautiful picture the other day of Baba Beaton, Cecil's sister, on her wedding day wearing none other than a headpiece inspired by nuns' wimples:

Et voila.

Anyway I did not start this post to wax lyrical about my favourite model nor about nuns' clothes but to reflect on the startling fact that it is now mere days until Christmas and also I am writing my last thesis chapter. The very last one. Right now.

So basically you've noticed that I post less and less frequently on dear old Fashademic but I am no less fond of it nor less grateful for you for sticking with me (us?) all these years of PhDing. And... I don't know... the nearer I get to having the entire thing written and to actually submitting it, the more I find myself reflecting on the entire process and feeling so thankful for the opportunity to do it. Thankful for everyone who has helped and read and encouraged me along the way, thankful to you guys for sharing the process with me and also in a state of some disbelief that I might actually finish the project.

I mean, it's not like I doubted my ability to get it done (except for a few pale-faced moments when yes, I wondered what on earth I had signed myself up for) but more that it's such an enormous undertaking that I just took each small step as it came- read widely, write this chapter, plan and research the next one, give a paper, write another chapter and so on, until somehow I have five chapters fully drafted and another in a promising early state, seeing it all bristle and hang and build around itself.

It's sort of flourished and grown, grown with me, grown around and through me, expanded as the blogosphere changed and turned into this whole other thing than I could have anticipated when I first proposed it. Surely that happens to every PhD student- isn't there a saying that no-one would sign up for a PhD if they knew in advance how difficult it would be? I don't know if that's true but it's certainly what I expected (but better) and also not what I expected (and harder.)

But let me quit the diarising (heck, you can read all that in my Acknowledgements if you want- which, already written! high five) and give you a feel for the overall thing- because I've not told you much about what I'm actually writing about, except in snippets and the odd ramble about what I've been reading.

So... okay. I do all the position-y groundwork (why this study is necessary/important, why I did it in my discipline, what has already been said about style blogs and how my work complements or takes it further or challenges it) and then write a history of style blogs, positioning them within the context of the expansion of the blogosphere, and relation to the emergence of fashion-based blogs. I trace their shape-shifting through two main 'waves' of style blogging (did I just invent some terminology? What PhD would be complete without it, I ask you.)

Then I address the main criticism that style blogging has attracted as 'risky' and 'narcissistic' and argue that while I see how people (who don't understand the genre or who have a vested interest, but I keep this snark quietly to myself) could make that (mis)reading, they're making it on the grounds of ignorance and within a  history of criticism of women's writing. I explore the ways style blogs can be seen as sites of feminine self-representation, storytelling, sociality and agency. I get v. passionate in this chapter. I'm pretty proud of it.

Okay so then we get to chapter four which is the chapter-that-wasn't-supposed-to-be-a-chapter. But then my 5000 word plan sprawled into a 17 000 word behemoth (how am I going to cut it down? wail) on readership- what it feels like to write to an imagined but 'real' readership (hi), what it feels like to read style blogs and then how we can conceptualise the dynamics of style blog readership. It's not a conversation and it's not a community, I argue- it's something else (sorry guys, you'll have to read it to find out the conclusion. Is the suspense killing you? No? Ok.)

Then chapter five which was my biggest wrestle of a chapter- I tied together a million strands of ideas and parallel ideas and fashion stuff and photography stuff and blog theory stuff to write about the performance of style and self on the blogosphere. I still can't believe it's fully drafted. I'm a little afraid to look at it again in case it disappears in a puff of smoke and I have to do it all over again.

And then, finally, chapter six, the chapter I'm currently writing: all about style bloggers and the fashion media. I'm taking up those chestnut ideas that keep rolling back around- is style blogging a kind of fashion criticism? (well... no) What is the basis of the criticism it has attracted from the professional fashion media? (O HAI BOURDIEU) And stuff like that. It sort of rolls together the PR and media angles without going too deep on the implications of the consumptive side of it- there is just too much to say on the latter and I don't have any more room (or time).

So that's it, guys. Almost four years of thinking about personal style blogs almost all written up. The next two months will be a flurry of finishing writing, editing, rewriting, and doing prosaic formatty stuff like writing a glossary and bibliography and stuff. But I have already chosen a font (Cambria, cause it reads nicely and (more importantly?) sounds like the name of a fabric- cambric, duh), so that's the main thing. Right?


  1. Well done Rosie! Can't wait to read your thesis. All the best for the next few months, hope the formatting process goes smoothly for you.

  2. Well, I'm impressed. Bravo!

    My first thought was: Cambrian explosion! It's a happy workhorse of a typeface, although I hope it doesn't read as too dense or black on the page, for thesis-use.

  3. Thanks Melissa's! It is a little dense but I've been writing my chapters in it and doing edits off the printed page and haven't had a problem with it. I also flirted with Garamond but the spacing is too weird, and Times New Roman felt a bit 'done'... yes, I did just say that (ugh!) Am open to alternative suggestions?