A Fashion Show Stole My Heart

Last year in San Diego, I grumbled when NY was announced as the site of BlogHer 12. It’s not my favorite venue. (San Diego still wins) I love NYC. I do. It’s just…well…not my favorite hotel. Maybe that’s the problem. I have favorite NYC hotels.

I’ve grumbled a bit all year leading up to BlogHer. I didn’t swoon over the agenda. I didn’t swoon over the speakers. I didn’t swoon over the sponsors. (Ok, there may have been a small swoon over Harley-Davidson) I knew I would go and have fun. After all, there’s the Voices of the Year. There is the fact that year after year it is a big family reunion and I meet new members of my online family. I learn about things I never considered. I remember why I go and why I blog.

But, this year, I was extremely unhappy when the surprise evening Fashion Show was announced. I may have snarked. Screamed. Been incredibly grouchy. I think I stopped myself from tweeting a co-founder and saying “Really? What are you thinking?”

I knew a lot of the bloggers participating. I loved some. Even with the fact that I knew they weren’t traditional supermodel material–I thought BlogHer had forgotten me and women like me-women who don’t care about clothes on a regular basis.

I bought a special pair of shoes for my first BlogHer (06). I bought the famous red dress for the year I did a community keynote. I’ve planned to dress for parties a couple of times, but gave that up in favor of spending more time with people. I go to BlogHer in jeans and a tshirt–just like I go around everywhere.

I don’t buy new clothes until something wears out…and even then it’s usually something picked up in the discount rack. For years, I would laugh and say “Wardrobe by BlogHer” just because during the first years of the conference, t-shirts abounded. I could dress in a different .com tee for a week or more. Every single new not jeans or dockers item of clothing with the exception of the two outfits I have purchased for weddings and one suit I purchased for a business meeting in the past oh…most of my life…has been gifted to me by my mother or my older sister (including the aforementioned red dress and any other dresses I have worn at conference.) Really. Yes, I am almost 43 and my mother still dresses me. Ok, she doesn’t because she is on a very fixed income now and lives with us.

I won’t even…ok, here I go. I will confess: the other issue is that I am not really happy in my skin right now. I’ve gained a lot of weight in the past few months. I’ve got a broken crown and some other dental issues I need to get tended. I am having some other health issues. We’re working to sort those out. But, in the meantime, I’ve lost my drop-dead gorgeous. (For this reason, I considered buying some clothes for BlogHer this year but looking at the racks in my size made me even more blah about the whole current appearance thing.)

So, I expressed anger about the fashion show. BlogHer isn’t about FASHION. How shallow! How ridiculous! It’s to help us meet each other, own our writing, own our power in the world, be visible.

I avoided the sponsor 6PM.com at the Expo. I don’t buy clothes. Leave that for the clothing types of people. I appreciate sharp dressers. (a lot actually) I’ve respected all our sponsors over the years for providing products for the whole range of attendees, but just like I’ve not been in need of baby for years (though now I do have the most beautiful grandson…) fashion other than the cool Lee jeans last year–didn’t grab my attention.

Fashion show night rolled around. Not only did I still have a grudge about the whole thing, but I learned the afternoon before the fashion show that our very first prairie dog Wilma had passed away. I was grieving. Sullen. I didn’t want to go to the FASHION SHOW. Not only would there be froufrou stuff that I would never wear–there would be dogs. Dogs in CLOTHES. (something else I loathe.) I love dogs. I’ve been campaigning for a dog for a long time. But dogs in clothes? Yuck. Beside, PetSmart would just remind me of all the hours I have spent there buying prairie dog supplies. Denise dragged me anyway. I chatted with people. I waited for it to begin. Could we just get this over with? Please?

Then it started. And…immediately I saw something I didn’t expect. I saw real clothes on real women. I saw stories. I knew these women and I also knew that some of these clothes would work for me. I saw something else. For all I can say my jeans and tshirt are comfortable and me…they are the wrong sort of comfort. They are me hiding. I saw those women and remembered twirling in the red dress. I remembered great outfits I’ve had in the past and the power that comes from wearing something that you feel really good in. It isn’t body size or pattern or season or whatever passes as traditionally attractive–it is wearing something that suits you and puts you forward. I saw me in powerful clothes–not schlepping invisibly in my ill-fitting jeans and free/inexpensive t-shirts.

So, yeah, I cried a bit. Not because I knew stories behind those women, stories shared on their blogs, their tweets, their Facebook. The tears were because I was happy for them, yes. I also had tears because hells bells, the stupid BlogHer fashion show really was about women, their stories…and owning our power. (And it wasn’t just a shameless “We’ve got 5000 women and what do women like? Clothes! Make-up! Shoes! Let’s make some money.” So, yes, now I am working out a budget in my head. I am heading to 6PM.com at some point soon because they took a chance on a conference that can be ruthless on things “girly.” I saw things that I could wear.)

Later that night, I apologized to Elisa (Elisa always gets my immediate post-conference rants for some reason–and raves) and told her I had hated the idea. I didn’t tell her why I changed my mind. I just said that it might have been my favorite part. It was…even if I still love the Voices of the Year.

So, watch the fashion show. Consider clothes and power. Consider whether you too are hiding in cheap clothes that don’t suit you because it just seems “easier” and “more appropriate.” (because after all, you have children!) Then remember how you felt in that one outfit…you know…the one. I suspect we can find another “one” now.

(Totally unsponsored post from someone who was bound and determined to hate the fashion show and who has yet to venture quite as far as 6pm.com and so hasn’t even bought something.)

Thank you BlogHer for not messing up the conference with the fashion show. Thank you for not forgetting…me.


  1. Whatba beautiful, honest, vulnerable, wonderful post. Thank you for writing this. The clothes thing was my biggest fear about BlogHer. I almost didn’t go because of it.

    And the day I met the most people and even got complements? The last day. When I ran out of the clothes I brought to be fancy and was wearing my hooded sweatshirt. Finally feeling like myself. Happy. Confident. Being real.

    Great post. Thank you for your courage and willingness to share.

  2. I wanted to HATE the fashion show. I’m not into fashion, or dogs. DOGS. In clothes. Yuck.

    I LOVED it. SO HARD. It was empowering and fun and way more than I ever thought it would be. I loved that there women of all sizes, orientations, colors – handicapped and ill as well.

    And now I desperately want to be in it next year.

  3. Tarrant – you are beautiful as you are. But I totally get what you’re saying because I wasn’t looking forward to the Fashion Show either for the same reasons. I’ve lost that “something special” myself. Maybe we can find it by next year in Chicago? I will try if you do!

  4. I wasn’t sure I would like the fashion show either but sigh, it was a BlogHer fashion show and they GOT. IT.

    (Though, it would be have been nice to see a few more people rocking the flats instead of heels…)

  5. As I was standing behind the curtains in the balcony of the ballroom waiting to walk to the stage I peeked out into the crowd wondering if by Saturday night anyone would actually show up to watch the show. And I saw you sitting in the audience and I knew it was going to be great.

    Thank you for coming, however grudgingly, and thank you for this generous post that might just be making me tear up a bit at my desk.

    I look forward to seeing you in whatever version of your awesome VOTY red dress you rock next.

  6. THANK you… thank you for coming. As one of the fellow jeans/t-shirt gals, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about actually being in the show too, but you are right, it was truly a BLOGHER fashion show. The only attitude coming from that stage was our pride at being part of this amazing event. 🙂

  7. That was a very reflective post. thank you for sharing. What did you think of the Pet Smart fashion show after all?

  8. Awww, I love this post! I came here because BlogHer Publishing tweeted it out, and I had to come and see how a fashion show could steal a heart. I’ll admit, I was expecting tales of supermodels, but this was so much better. Bravo! And yeah, go buy a blouse! You deserve it!

  9. I knew that Erin Vest would be in it and I knew her struggle so I loved it before I saw it. I watched with tears the entire time.

    also, you? Are beautiful. So stop it.

  10. Right, I knew she would be in it too.

    And thanks, I know. I just am struggling right now. (shh…don’t tell my girls who’ve heard me tell them drop-dead gorgeous all their lives.)

  11. Nope, supermodels don’t steal my heart. In fact I have always sort of wondered why they were supermodels, since they weren’t a look I really loved. I remember talking to my mother about it when I was just a kid.

  12. Well, I am still not a fan of dogs in clothes. I do have a new dog though…and PetSmart is on my list for today’s to-do item. Now I wish I had stopped outside to see what the people at the table had to say.

  13. It was fantastic and thank you for being in the show!

  14. Ha-the unpackable red dress. I really ought to bring it next year to BlogHer since it is in Chicago.

  15. Exactly…or you know…really kicking boots.

  16. We shall find it Elizabeth! Besides, you looked great this year!

  17. Hey, you and I should figure out how to pitch ourselves for Fashion Show 2013! Clearly we are women who would rock the runway. (oh wait, I hear there was a lot of timing and skillz taught. Hmmm. YOU can rock the runway. I will try not to trip over my own feet in the audience.)

  18. Ha-you should have bugged me. I’ve long advocated wearing what you are comfortable in at BlogHer. The days are grueling enough without having to deal with new clothes that fit in a way you aren’t used to dealing with on a daily basis.

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