The Untold Story of Keep Calm and Chiffon
For those of you who are Keep Calm and Chiffon fanatics (hi mom), you probably already know the origin story of how this blog came about. But for any relatively new readers out there, I thought it might be nice to share a bit of the backstory of how a summer experiment turned into my passion project, side hustle, or whatever you’d like to call it. When I was in high school there was this platform called Tumblr, that was a place to find and reblog photos and stories from people all over the world. I named mine “Urban Sunshine and Blair Waldorf” five words that under normal circumstances don’t mix but to my teenage mind it was a genius concoction of clauses. When I first started putting my resume together the summer before college started I added my Tumblr to it and referred to it as my blog. I remember asking my dad to look over the resume and I remember him nicely pointing out that my blog was...well, not really a blog. He asked what, if any, of my Tumblr was my own original content. I uploaded a few outfit photos here and there with the occasional description of what I was wearing, but I’d say at least 75% of my account at the time was re-blogging images. There’s nothing wrong with that really, but my dad did have a point. If I was going to be the next Rumi Neely (probably the only blogger I’d heard of at the time) I was going to have to start fresh with a website where the focus was my photos and my words.
I started off by hosting my blog on Blogger, the free platform provided by Google that ends each URL with blogspot.com. I had a blurry header, a cramped sidebar, and more than a few typos, but it was still mine. I felt ownership over what I was doing like I never had before and without even meaning to, I slowly started to develop my both voice and my brand. Keep Calm and Chiffon was actually not the first name that popped into my head when I was first trying to name my blog. I had my heart set on Tulle Shed, but someone else had claimed that blogspot.com URL, shared exactly one post, and then abandoned the domain completely. What a waste of a brilliant blog name! Anyway, in 2012 when I first launched my blog, we were in the heyday of the revival of “Keep Calm and _____.” What I liked about Tulle Shed was that it was a clever name but I also loved the fashion reference. “Keep Calm and _____” just kept coming back to me and finally I realized that chiffon fit pretty seamlessly (hahahaha more fashion jokes) into the phrase as any fabric probably would. Plus, I liked chiffon, even though I probably didn’t have a fully-formed idea of what chiffon was.
So I had a name, and I had an idea: to share my outfit photos every day (or as frequently as I could) for the duration of the summer between high school and college. I assumed when college started, the blog would either slow down or stop completely. Not only did I keep going, but I cranked up the volume. I spent my freshman year at a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania called Muhlenberg. I was a theater major who wasn’t doing any theater. It wasn’t for lack of trying—the first weekend at school I must have auditioned for a total of 50 mainstage shows, student directed plays, improv troupes, and a capella groups. I didn’t get picked for anything. I thought I’d at least have my Intro to Theater class to look forward to, but because it was such a popular major, only last names A-M were able to enroll. I spent most of that first semester hanging out with my friends, loading up on my art history classes, and in my spare time I’d write my blog.
When I found out I got accepted to Barnard College in NYC as a transfer student, it was as if everything finally clicked into place. Armed with my new city girl attitude, a DSLR camera, and New York City, the streets of which made for much more dynamic photo backgrounds than those in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Keep Calm and Chiffon continued to grow. In December 2014, I decided that my blog needed a face lift, so I switched my host site from Blogger to Squarespace because of its user-friendly interface and its simple and beautiful templates. I even designed some fre$h merch. The photos of my first post on Squarespace were taken by my mom in Rockefeller Center, near the Free People flagship I worked at in college and I wore a gold sequin dress. Needless to say I was very proud of my new look.
Even though the blog was looking better from an aesthetic viewpoint, the content was still not where I wanted it to be. At first, the words that accompanied my outfit photos were short, poetic ramblings describing my day, my mood, and my outfit. I know what you’re thinking—you can take the girl off of Tumblr, but apparently you can’t take the Tumblr out of the text! At least not right away. I slowly but surely started testing out posts with more specific headlines, more useful information, and sharing more insight into my personal life. My editorial internship experiences were also changing my writing style. It became more relatable and I learned to get to the point faster. (This post is not a good example of the latter, I know). Last March, I made some major adjustments that have 100% changed my blog for the better. I started making monthly editorial content calendars instead of just trying to remember to shoot every couple of days. I created categories on my blog and started writing stories about topics that extended beyond fashion like beauty, travel, and career. I tweaked headlines so they were appealing without being too clickbait-y and I started to utilize Pinterest, which is now where most of my blog traffic comes from.
Want to know the craziest part? I only started doing this one year ago! I wish I’d made some of these changes sooner, because this has been my favorite year of producing content for Keep Calm and Chiffon. After rolling out a bunch of new features in last March, I also revamped the homepage later that spring to make more categories and recent posts visible on the homepage, rather than the continuous scroll format. Finally, last June, I made the leap to video and launched my YouTube channel. Making videos has definitely been my greatest challenge in the last year, but I’ve also had a blast doing it. I learn something new with each video I film and my editing skills have gotten better and better. Ideally, I’d like to establish a more consistent posting schedule (if you don’t know, right now I post twice a week on my blog and once a week on my YouTube channel but on unspecified days) and be able to continue to expand my social media presence by doing more live videos or talking to more readers one-on-one, as well as launch my newsletter and grow my mailing list. If I were a full-time blogger, I’d have probably hit some of these goals already. But since my blog is not my 9-5 gig, I just have to remind myself that it’ll take a combination of time and hard work to achieve everything I’d like to do. And in many ways, this is still just the beginning.
Top two photos by Jessie Alcheh | Third image by Lynne