So Long And Thanks For All The Fashion


I remember exactly where I was when I applied to Jezebel. It was January 15, 2008, and I was living unhappily in San Francisco, in a failing relationship, in a failing economy, working a job at which I was failing. Late one desperate night, I wrote an email to [email protected] — and you can still reach us there, tips is a mainline to all the editors’ inboxes — offering my services as some kind of, I don’t know, undercover-model-correspondent. I was so unsure of myself, so wary of coming across as presumptuous, that my subject line ended with a question mark.

I didn’t have an ‘in.’ I didn’t know anyone. I was just a reader of the site, a regular reader since its launch, and I knew I liked Dodai and Moe and Anna, and their highly sophisticated brand of sex joke. The next morning at 6 a.m., I was flying to New York City for the first time, to work fashion week. I agonized over that email while my boyfriend argued with me about money — our problem was simple, we didn’t have any — before he finally went to bed. I stayed up all night packing and avoiding the argument, and just before I left for the airport, I hit send. Five hours later when my plane touched down, my little Nokia buzzed. It was a voicemail from Moe asking to meet. I had no idea to what extent my life was about to change.

I started writing that month. After doing a column for a little over a year, I became a regular contributor — two posts a day, give or take. And six months after that, I was able to give up my day job completely, and start making my living as a freelance writer. Somehow, I’ve now been contributing to this site for five and a half years.

Daily blogging requires a neurotically obsessive level of attention to detail, but the information you must absorb and package is mostly decoupled from any wider context. I always liked this job because it was very challenging — it demands sustained focus and energy, and bloggers are the last people who have time during the day to read blogs — but also because once the day was over and I closed my laptop, I could set it aside entirely, and let my day’s work be washed away by the next wave of posts. Once I punched out, my mind was my own again; of all the thousands of posts I’ve written since 2008, I can count on the fingers of one hand the ones that kept me up at night.

All human communication falls somewhere on a continuum between ephemerality and permanence, and between editability and stasis. Newspapers are ephemeral but static. So are Snapchats. (That is probably my least favorite combination of traits, which is why I don’t Tweet much.) A book is permanent and static, which is better but more daunting. Wikipedia is permanent but editable. Blogs are ephemeral (nobody, actually nobody, reads old posts) and editable (every page is infinitely revisable, tweakable, perfectible — if you believe in perfection as a value). For reasons that are probably particular to my personality, as a writer I found this combination intoxicating. The ephemerality removed the performance anxiety that regularly cripples me in other fields. And the editability meant that almost any flaw in my prose could be buffed out.

I took pride in this job and I tried to approach it with a sense of responsibility to readers and to the truth. Because it takes too long to Google things when you’re writing to a permanent deadline, because when you blog there is no keeper of institutional memory but yourself, no editor pressing for context other than that which you can yourself lightly provide, my memory has become quite crammed with data points whose actual, non-entertainment value I never quite had time to evaluate. Paul Janka. Lori Gottleib. Alexey Vayner. American Apparel’s 2009 losses. A detailed timeline of the incidents that led to John Galliano’s 2011 firing. Kira Plastinina. Zahia Dehar. Every wrongheaded (and every insightful) thing Karl Lagerfeld has said. Terry Richardson. A billion details from background and off-the-record interviews that informed various published stories, the iceberg below the waterline. Media and company minutae. In this job, you absorb, and absorb, and absorb, and you never quite dry out. I guess I will now have some time to wring it all out, and try to see what it means.

I have loved contributing to this site. Next to Dodai Stewart, I think I’m now the longest-serving blogger at Jezebel. I have benefitted from the diligent attention of some enormously talented editors at a variety of publications over the years, but without Anna Holmes and Moe Tkacik having taken a chance on me — a longwinded and extremely green 21-year-old — all those years ago, I doubt I would have been in a position to now be writing Village Voice cover stories and magazine pieces, and I am not sure I would have ever applied to the M.F.A. in nonfiction writing that I will be beginning this fall, at the University of Iowa. I owe this site and all of its staff a tremendous debt of gratitude for enlarging the online conversation about women in ways that it has become trendy (and profitable) to imitate. For insisting that it is possible to cover politics and Angelina Jolie and sexism and Honey Boo Boo and the Pope and all the wrongheaded (and the insightful) things Karl Lagerfeld says, and that maintaining simultaneous interests in these things is not inherently contradictory. For staking the audacious claim that being female is not about being in a pink box of makeup and style tips — but that there is no sin in liking or wanting to write or read about those things, either. Working at Jezebel has taught me that the only sin is condescending to one’s audience.

Among the thousands of posts I’ve authored here over the years, there are many I would as soon never revisit — hasty, thrown-together, fishwrap. But there are some in which I feel a measure of pride. I was glad that Jessica Coen, who is fearless always, encouraged me to write this. I am happy that I broke the story of Marc Jacobs’ non-payment of an underaged “looks” model during fashion week, in apparent violation of labor laws. (The following season, the company quietly resumed paying its looks models, and for the first time began paying its runway models. The model involved has since been hired for several Marc Jacobs campaigns.) I’m proud to have written about fashion, food, and body image. And about Karen Mulder, and coming out. I’m proud to have framed debates about sexual harassment and underaged labor. I’m even proud, in a strange way, to have been plagiarized by journalists whose public profile far exceeds my own. Perhaps most of all, I’m proud of all the work I (and numerous Jezebel interns) have done to quantify and track fashion’s diversity problem. All of these things remind me, in my darker moments, that during my tenure at this site I at least tried to do more good than harm. For me, covering fashion was never about hemlines or which celebrity wore what brand: it was about material culture, labor and who performs it, money and who makes it, and — most of all — it was about women. Fashion is of course just one context for examining these things. But for the past half-dozen years, it was mine.

So I’m moving in a few weeks. And I’m not sure what I’m going to find in Iowa City — other than 20 college freshmen, my first students, who will have Googled me and found this right up top in my list of recent posts, which is great — but I am looking forward to meeting new challenges. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram, and you’ll probably see my byline around these parts from time to time (here’s hoping Jessica entertains my pitches, or lets me continue that DIY column I loved so much). I will dearly miss contributing daily to Jezebel, and I will miss all of my colleagues. I’ve never worked with such a unique and uniformly talented group of people. If I never have another job where my coworkers’ average brilliance is so bright, I will still count myself lucky. But perhaps most of all I will miss all of you who comprise this site’s diverse audience. It’s a rare privilege for a young writer to enjoy such an informed and funny and large readership, and I have been thankful for that every day. (Even on the days when I’ve written something dumb.) I have tried to respect the finitude of your attention by never wasting your time or insulting your intelligence, like so much online media does. Like so much media does. I have tried to act in good faith. I thank you most of all for letting me try.

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