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Tumble 'n' Dry 

Local DIY fashion blogs prove anyone's a stylist

click to enlarge SATURDAY BRUNCH Since 2008, Amber Lucas has gotten dressed, taken photos of herself and posted them online. - AMBER'S MOUTHWASH
  • Amber's Mouthwash
  • SATURDAY BRUNCH Since 2008, Amber Lucas has gotten dressed, taken photos of herself and posted them online.

Time was that stylish men and women turned to the styled celebrities of magazines to gather fashion expertise and trend predictions. Times have changed, of course, and nowadays just about everything's online—not just world news but also the ever evolving world of fashion.

Fashion bloggers have taken on the role of critics, stylists and trendsetters, and in many ways have replaced the revered fashion creators of yesterday. While some of the most well-known of them—the Sartorialist, the Blond Salad, Fashion Toast—come to us from outside the North Bay, we have some must-reads in our community that are powered not by Condé Nast but by Tumblr.

In the pre–Web 2.0 days of 2002, fashion blogs were maintained by the stylish few already in the industry. Now more people are contributing their opinions, expert or not. Such blogs showcase photos, narrative and commentary about the world of fashion and, in a classic DIY spin, the lives of their creators. What's especially inspiring is that many local fashion bloggers take inspiration from the runway but create or manipulate their own version at a much more accessible level. If you loved Versace's spring collection, say, you may be able to create a piece or two from it without having to budget for it.

Amber Lucas, author and creator of the Blogspot-powered "Amber's Mouthwash," has been posting about her personal style for the last four years. The uniquely named blog is a reference to "spitting out" one's own interpretation of fashion.

"I see fashion as a form of self expression," says Lucas, "a way to separate yourself from the crowd." Lucas separates herself not only by dressing and styling with an artful eye, but also by writing with her readers in mind.

"I have heard some fashion bloggers say that they shop 'almost everyday' for new clothes for their blog. What everyday girl can afford to do this? It's simply not relatable. I inspire my readers to work with what they already have. When my readers can recognize items of mine and see them styled in several different ways, it inspires them, which is my number one reason for blogging."

In addition to reusing and refreshing the same items, Lucas also takes on the every-gal position by creating looks that often showcase thrift or second-hand pieces, which seems to be a theme of North Bay fashion—mixing old with new, and ultimately "spitting out" something entirely original.

The show-and-tell format of personal style is popular, but some brave fashion enthusiasts are camping out on the street to point out good style sense in others. Olivia Browning, photographer and commentator responsible for "O' SNAP," has been documenting the North Bay's most stylish dressers for a little over a year; her work is dedicated to those "who can actually fucking dress themselves."

The fashion seen on Browning's Tumblr may not be traditional, but her photographs certainly are. Browning swears by her '70s edition Olympus Pen camera, which provides her with interesting half-frame photographs that are just as much part of the fashion as the clothes. "Bravery blended with sensibility" is what Browning seeks in her next fashion muse. "I'm not looking for certain designers or trends; I'm in it for the hunt, honestly."

While some of the posts on "O' SNAP" could be perceived as poking fun at the eclectic dressers of this area, Browning says she is "always honoring them, even if it is a little quirky or off." Browning writes photo and commentary pairings that are funny and sweet but never lack an edge. If she should approach you on the street and ask to take your picture, enjoy the compliment. As her business card says: "Smile, I like your style."

Taking a photo every single day for a year may seem fairly easy, but when coupled with elaborate styling, artful photography and photo editing, you get a Flickr site like that of Leila-Anne Cavé.

Cavé is as passionate about fashion as she is about vegan food, and with over 16,000 photos, Cavé's photostream gives viewers a sneak peek into her life—and her whimsical sense of style. "I love that I can look like a completely different person, just based on a clothing choice," she says. "I could be wearing a beautiful vintage dress or I could be wearing a hockey jersey, and either way, it's a statement."

In 2009, Cavé posted a picture of herself every day for the entire year, putting herself ahead of the curve on the fashion-blog trend. "Project 365" has now become commonplace within the blog world.

Cavé incorporates costume pieces and even creates her own pieces out of things that may not be deemed fashionable by some. While not all of her looks are accessible, she hopes that her viewers take away a sense of joy from her photos. "I try to be super-positive and fun," she says. "I show people that you can wear things that aren't necessarily fashionable on their own, but you can make them fashionable with just a little bit of accessorizing or juxtaposition."

For those in search of even more, Ravina of "Girl Memetic" and Bonita of "The Army of Rabbits" both show a strong sense of fashion and the ability to captivate an audience. Ravina's personal-style blog is eclectic and casual; she makes bold pieces wearable and basic pieces interesting. Bonita's girlish charm is reflected in her style, with her fashion, photos and narrative all posted through rose-colored glasses.

Local DIY fashion blogs allow readers a peek into current trends, and often, these writers act as trend forecasters. When I met with Lucas, she was right on trend with a feminine-floral dress and wedge sandals. However, her look was also a nod to what she believed would be a future trend—structured ladylike pieces, not unlike the peplum dress. Browning also had a foot in the current and future trend world; she wore a pair of classic midwaist gray Levis and a geometric-patterned top, which had a futuristic twist.

Through the discovery of fashion blogs, you might find yourself inspired to start your own, which, it turns out, can create a lucrative career filled with opportunities. Cavé has gotten modeling jobs from her Flickr photostream. Lucas has gotten several jobs from her Blogspot, including becoming a sales representative for designer Kathryn McCarron and partnering with local boutiques. For Browning, her Tumblr has led her to a simple, sometimes forgotten reward: "Just being able to talk to people," she says. "I love an art project that involves community."

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