Careers In Fashion: Life as a Midwest Fashion Blogger

These days, Fashion Blogging can be big business, but it doesn't come easy. Building a following and proving your influence takes time and a lot of effort. On the outside it might seem all about candid poses and cute outfits, but the time and dedication that goes into a fashion post often goes unnoticed, not to mention the behind the scenes prep, business negotiation and endless social promotion. This job is for those who have a passion for fashion as well as business. Recently, I chatted Sara Sabaliauskas, writer and fashion lover behind Sabby Style, a lifestyle and fashion blog based in Omaha. We talked all things blogging and of course fashion in this latest installment of Careers In Fashion.

Fashion Blogging

Haute Bauble:  First of all, tell me how long you've been blogging, and what prompted you to start a fashion blog?

Sara Sabaliauskas (Sabby Style):  I officially launched my blog, I think it was actually February 28th, of 2014.  Yes. I did a little birthday blog, two year anniversary post, this past year. February of 2014, and what prompted me to start that fashion blog was, it's really crazy actually, how it happened, because I was on my last semester of graduate school, getting my masters in public administration degree, and I was interning. For about seven years prior to that I had been bartending at a local tavern. When I was bartending I would just wear flip flops, and leggings, and t-shirts, not anything that I would care if it got ruined, or dirty, or spilled on, those kinds of things.

HB: Mm-hmm

SS: When I got my internship, it was with the city of Bellevue, and I was working on getting the city certified with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. I of course had to ditch the leggings, and flip flops, and get some cute work clothes, and one day, I think it was my first week or two, I thought I had a cute outfit on, I took a picture on my IPhone, a little mirror selfie, and I posted it to  Instagram. That was the first outfit related thing that I had posted to Instagram, before that it was just pictures of Tony and of our dogs.  At that point, I think my profile was private, and nobody really had even seen me, but I just kept posting pictures of my outfits, and of course they were low quality photos, and it was filters, on filters, on filters. Eventually, I noticed that people were requesting to follow, and things like that, so I made my profile public, and it just took off. Within a year, I think I went from eighty followers to like ten thousand.

HB: That's pretty good!

SS: Yeah. It was crazy. I hadn't started my blog, yet. Basically, I started that job in January of 2013, and then February 2014 is when I started my blog. It took about a year, I knew I wanted to do it, I knew what I wanted to talk about, but it was just a matter trying to figure it out on my own, and I just couldn't quite put the pieces together, and just the stars aligned. My good friend  Michelle helped me start my first WordPress blog, and helped me with some photography, and it just took off.

HB: Cool.

SS: Yeah.

HB: It was sort of like a happy accident, so to speak?

SS: Yeah. Very much so. I mean, I had no intentions of doing anything in fashion or style, or anything of that nature. I mean, my degree is in public administration, I wanted to work for a local city government. I focused on economic development.  There was no, what do you want to be in five years? I would have never, ever, ever, said a fashion blogger. It just naturally happened while I was working full time, and it just kept getting bigger, and bigger, and requiring more time, and attention. That's when I knew, okay, you better give it a try.

HB: Your a full time blogger, now. Right?

SS: Yes. As of June 30th. I am. I'm my own boss.

HB: What has that transition been like? I know it's only been a couple of weeks, but I mean ...

SS: I would say good and bad. Good, because I am able to be more responsive to inquiries, and potential partnerships, that of course speeds up the process of getting those jobs, and of course getting paid for doing those jobs.  That's been awesome. I needed a high paying partnership and I had dreams of doing that one day  I never realized how much value some companies placed on those partnerships. To see not only that they are super excited, and interested, but also a have a hefty budget to use those networks, and influencers, and they understand that time is money, and that there's a tremendous value to that. In terms of the business side of it, really great. Things are good. Then, in terms of personal, I think it's just been difficult, I haven't really found my routine, yet.

HB: Mm-hmm

SS: I think that's tough. I am having that freedom and flexibility to do fun things when people want to do them, and when your family wants to do something. I'm like, "Sure. I can do that," but then it's like, oh, my Gosh. I feel like I'm back to some of my old habits of working at night, really late, and it's like no, I don't like that, it's what I should be doing during the day, not going to the zoo.

HB: Right. 

SS: Yeah. It's just finding your routine, and the balance. That will come, and it's just hard in the summertime, I think, everybody loses a little bit of their daily routine, and you want to be open and flexible for fun, and for family and                 friends ...

HB: Right.

SS: I think that's just kind of the nature of the season, but as summer winds down, and things kind of pass, there's been a lot of things happening, we had fourth of July, and then last week we had a bunch of things going on, and this week is my birthday ...

HB: Happy birthday.

SS: Thank you. It's just been kind of a lot every week, like something to do. I think once we get through this week, things will quite down quite a bit. I can really hone my schedule a bit better.

HB: I feel like, especially in Omaha, and in the Midwest, we all work for the summer.

SS: Yeah.

HB: There's not much fun happening in the winter, and then when summer comes, everyone freaks out.  I tell my husband, "It's okay to take a vacation in the summer, you work all winter to take off ...

SS: Yeah. No. I am totally with you.

HB: When your are working for yourself, it's hard to keep on task.

SS: It is. Then, another thing, too, I found myself, it took me like five hours to write a blog post, because I kept checking my emails, kept responding to Instagram comments. Just stuff like that, I'm like, okay, I need to put a couple dates on my calendar, a couple times, each day where, okay, I'm going to dedicate that hour to emails, and things like that, but then move on to the next task, and finish that task before you move on to the next. I kind of feel like I've had a lot of things up in the air, and it feels really good when I can say, okay, that is done, cross it off.

HB: Mm-hmm. I always kind of felt my goal was to do three posts a week, and I mean, I'm a full time mom, the kids come first ...

SS: Right.

HB: Then I felt like I was writing stuff that was totally mediocre just so that I could check off one post for that time, or whatever. That was so frustrating.

SS: Mm-hmm.

HB: I've definitely learned, sometimes, if you have to put space in between, just to make the post better, than it's worth it.

SS: Yeah. I am totally with you on that. Sometimes I feel like you have to let it breath, and have ...

HB: Right.

SS: It's own life before you slay another one up. You know?  Especially when sharing on social media, and Instagram you want to share the outfit a few times, because you love it, and it's on sale, great photography, blah, blah, blah, but you cannot do it in a one day time span, it has to breath. I feel like when I have fashion related posts, back to back, back to back, I feel like each one doesn't really get to shine as much.

HB: Yeah. I always find myself wanting to put some jewelry on Instagram, I'm always like, well, I have to hold on to that, because the website is not ready, or if any one clicks through they are never going to find it. There is just so many things that have to fall into place before you can actually make the post. I think some people don't realize how much actually goes in to it.

SS: The worst is when you get an item, and by the time you are able to shoot it, your able to get your photos back, write the post, get the content up, link everything, and have it go live, then the item is no longer available. There is ...

HB: Right.

SS: Nothing worse than that.

HB: In my own experience, just some blogging stuff that I had followed, I've had that happen where I like something, click on it, and it's totally sold out.  Such a bummer.

SS2: I know.

HB: That is just how it goes.

SS: Yeah.

Shopping

HB: My next question kind of goes back to what we've been talking about, but maybe you can add to it a little bit. What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of fashion blogging? Other than what we've talked about.

SS: Yeah. I would say just from a personal standpoint finding the balance between being a good blogger, and being an over consumer. Perfect example, the Nordstrom anniversary sale that's just happened not too long ago ...

HB: Yes.

SS: Unless you live under a rock, or you have really no interest in fashion, you most likely through some avenue have heard of that sale.  As a fashion blogger, I feel like it's my duty to make my readers, and followers, and friends aware of great deals, if you want this jacket for fall, now's the time to get it, because it's forty percent off, those kinds of things.

HB: Yeah..

SS: At the same time ... to want to buy those things, because I am just like everybody else, and wants to have new things, and get good deals, and save money when I shop I also know that I have a budget, and I don't follow Valentino handbags, and Valentino shoes, and my designer budget is much different than some other people who also promote the sale, so just kind of finding your niche of who you are, who your readers are, what are they really looking for ...

HB: Sure.

SS: Don't be something that you're not. Do I allow myself a little over spending for this kind of sale? Yes. Again, I also make things come from some of those items, too, insuring them and promoting them via my social media, and Instagram, and those kinds of things. There's always that side of it, too, but I feel like just overall in general trying to be non-materialistic because I'm not, but I also have to be in the know, and be participating.

HB: Right.

SS: In shopping ...

HB: I am sure it is easy to get wrapped up in all of that.

SS: Yeah. I find that I've gotten much better, but I used to be, because I follow people that have great style, and I love their stuff. I'm like, oh, my gosh, I want to buy that. Then I find myself, okay, you're buying too many things, because other people are sharing them with you ...

HB: Right.

SS: Which is great, because it all goes around, comes around we are all sharing with one another, but I felt like I was lacking, being like the innovator on certain things, of, I found this great show, you know, like this great style, great quality, blah, blah, blah. When I'm being reactionary to other people, and not really focusing on my own original content, and being the creator of that, so I feel like that was kind of where I turned my focus from what are people wearing, and ewe, I have to have that verses what do I want to share my readers, first.

Blogging Tips

HB: Right, so, what do you think are, since you're a blogger, and I'm sure you follow other bloggers, what do you think are like the main key elements to having, or starting a good blog?

SS: I think imagery, is really everything. Whether you're wearing a ten dollar t-shirt from Target, twenty dollars shirt from Old Navy, or a five hundred dollar Tory Burch bag, if you don't style it, and photograph it well, so the item can really shine, then it won't matter how expensive the item is.

HB: Right.

SS: I think imagery is really important. You don't need a professional photographer, especially for social media, I take all of my Instagram photos, unless Michelle, has taken them for my blog, but they are all with my iPhone. I think first of all, having really good imagery. Second of all, is just trying not to focus on what other people are doing. Be aware of what is happening, and what are the trends. Of course, again, you have to participate in your field of interest, passion, or your job, but you also have to really, really take a step back and look at how old you are? Who's your audience? Where do you live? Those kinds of attributes, really make you unique, and nobody else can bring a prospective that you can bring, as long as you stay true, and focus on who you are, and what you're doing, and what you bring to the table, because there is enough room for everybody at the table.  Just focus on being authentic, and  genuine. I think that will set you a part no matter how big or small you are, or your aspirations on growing. As long as you are authentic with what you post. How you communicate with your readers. Really be open and as transparent as you are most comfortable being. Some people share a lot some people don't, but as long as you are consistent, and you at least provide some insight into the true person you are rather than just the stuff you are wearing. I think that, that will really shine through, and people will understand that.

HB: Yeah. My next question was going to be, what advice you'd have for fashion bloggers? You kind of covered it really good, but do you have advice for someone who is wanting to start a blog.

SS:  I would say, that's so tough, because I mean truly the market is really saturated.

HB: It is.

SS: Yeah. I mean even, I feel lucky I started two years ago, when I did, because even though it's still a baby, it's still only now, two and a half years old. I was able to establish myself a little bit ...

HB: Mm-hmm.

SS: More than people even started a blog six months or a year, later.

HB: Right.

SS: I don't think that should defeat you, or discourage you from starting a blog, because truly it has to be organic, it has to be natural. Write things that you are interested in, and post  your everyday, and what you wear, and how you wear it, and why you wear it. What makes you feel good. I think just starting there with being just true to yourself, I would say, upfront it would be worth it, now me looking back, if you know what you want out of your blog, in terms of layout, design, color, aesthetic, you kind of feel like you have your brand], then I would, I wouldn't say splurge, but I would take a step up in terms of your blog design. I would create a really cool scene with a template that you can use for free, or I would even hire a web designer ...

HB: Yeah.

SS: Sooner than later.

HB: Yeah. I would agree.

SS: I mean, I didn't, I knew I loved colors, and patterns, and I wore bright colored clothes. I also knew that, probably I would always be that colorful, you want your brand and your blog to grow with you as you grow in your stages of life.

HB: Right.

SS: At the time, I really had no idea of what I saw for myself, like I said, I just got my masters degree, I had no aspirations as doing anything really blog related that would make me an income. Then, when I realized, gosh, I just scratched the surface, but if I had a site that was really easy to use, and navigate, and allowed for a lot of monetization, I bet I could make even more money. Then, that's when I took that next step. It doesn't mean you have to spend five thousand dollars on a website, either.

HB: Right.

SS: There's a happy medium to kind of grow with you as you grow.

HB: That is one of the nice things of blogging too, there are so many different people out there, now, that are designing templates and designs that you can just purchase for even a couple hundred dollars that are really nice, that are easily customized. 

SS: Yes. Definitely. It's way more, I think with the growth of the market, and bloggers, and influencers that those tools are more readily available, now, then they definitely were a year or two ago.

HB: Okay. Let's talk about fashion for a little bit. How would you describe your personal style?

SS: I think that sometimes it varies on the season, but a few things I always feel like ring true for me, are my love of bright colors. I kind of struggle in the fall, actually, because everybody jumps into the neutral zone, and ...

HB: Yeah.

SS: Brown ... oranges, and olives, and while I love that, and I purchase them, they go right back to the store, or I sell them on my Instagram closet.

HB: Yeah.

SS: Because it's just not me. I want it to be me, but it's just not.

HB: Yeah.

SS: I've learned that keeping consistent and true to myself, no matter what season it is important, so I wear a lot of white tops, I like structured jackets, those kinds of things just fit me very well and I feel comfortable and confident in those. definitely I would say bright clothes. Patterns, I love to mix patterns and prints. I love shoes. I have a weakness for shoes, and bags. I think that a lot of people relate to me, because I do wear lower priced items with more investment pieces.  Which I love, because I think that's more relatable and attainable for ninety percent of women ...

HB: Right.

SS: Especially in the Midwest, you may be able to buy a designer bag, for five hundred dollars, once or twice a year, but it's not a purchase that you would make every month, or every other month ...

HB: God. No. I would love it if I got one every two years.

SS: Yeah. We don't have ten Louis Vuitton's sitting in our closets.

HB: Right.

SS: I mean, I wish, but I don't. It's more like, this is an item that I've really wanted for a long time, it's an investment piece, this is why I justified this purchase, this is like my cost per wear, and then wearing it with a thirty dollar pair of jeans. I think that definitely describes my personal style. I also am a big fan of not showing it all. If I wear short, shorts, I always were something with sleeves, or long sleeves, and vice versa, if I'm wearing jeans, then I am more comfortable wearing a shirt that has no sleeves.

HB: Sure.

SS:  I think that definitely is something you recognize in my social media, and my blog post is that I really stick to that rule of thumb.

Trends

HB:  What do you see as some of the trends coming this fall? What's your prediction?

SS: My prediction, definitely fringe is in.

HB: Still. Still the fringe?

SS: Fringe.

HB: I am all for fringe.

SS: Yeah

HB: It feels like it's been that for a long time.

SS: I know. I don't think it's going away.

HB: Okay. I like it. I love fringe, I'm fine with it.

SS: Fringe. Definitely bucket bags. Saddle bags.  That style is definitely here for fall. I would say that jackets are very much in right now. Especially the moto kind of crop jackets, I have three of them. At least they are in for me.

HB: Good. I have a couple of those.

SS: Yeah. I think mixing feminine girly pieces with structured more androgynous pieces Is on trend, and you're always on point, but it's never really trendy. Does that make sense?

HB: Sure.

SS: That's something that I look for when I'm buying something, is it in right now? Yes. Is it a piece that is made well that is going to hold up well, that looks great, then it's always going to be in, in my opinion.

HB: Yeah.

SS: I try not to get caught up too much with the latest trends, because I find that I almost get a little bit of FOMO, fear of missing out ...

HB: Yeah.

SS: When a trend does come down the pipe, and I'm like, I just don't think that's for me, but then I get guilt, I'm like, maybe it should be for me, so then I buy it, and I'm like, no, it's not me. I try not to put too much assumption and focus on trending. Of course being in the know, and being able to provide an option for your readers and your followers, but always, if you know it's not for you, don't be a sell out. Don't buy it.

HB: Yeah. There's been a couple of times, where I felt that I was trying to force something, and then I'd just have to realize this is just not, even though I want it to be me, it's just not.

SS: I follow a lot of different bloggers, and Instagramers who are preppy and as much as I love that, It's not me.

HB: I know.

SS: Maybe a gingham shirt with distressed jeans, and some cute booties, but that's just as far as it goes. When they come out with the new summer and spring items, everybody loves them, but you will never catch me in those items.

HB: I cannot tell you how many times I've tried in the fall or the winter to wear a collared button up shirt underneath a sweater, and every time I put it on, I'm like, this is horrible. This is horrible on me, like I'm just not made to wear layers like that.

SS: I'm totally with you, that is one thing I cannot do. I love good a blazer, like I will wear a blazer over a t-shirt any time          ...

HB: I always see these bloggers that wear these cute little layered things, and I'm like, oh, my gosh, I wish I could wear that, it looks so cute, and then I put it on, and it's just not good.

SS: I know. That's why I like to buy clothes that already have those layered pieces built in, so then it's not so bulky.  If you are bigger chested, too, and I feel like my arms and my chest and like my tummy region are my favorite parts of my body, and when you add layers upon layers, I'm like, this is, I don't feel cute, right now.

HB: No. I know. I kind of have broader shoulders, so like when I add those layers, I just feel like a football player, wearing football pads.

SS: Yeah.

HB: It's just way too much. Too much. Okay. My kind of focus is on jewelry, do you have any insights on what's trending for jewelry this fall?

SS: That's a great question. I think that  dainty pieces are here to stay. I definitely have seen that focus move away from big statement necklaces ...

HB: Oh good.

SS: Bright jewels. Stone necklaces, have definitely kind of been in the forefront, and now dainty pieces,  turquoise pieces very much in ...

HB: I love it.

SS: Right now. You'll see more  stones. Natural looking stones. I feel like, it's kind of been a statement piece, but I guess how I would say is like, less J Crew, bright flowered bead necklace, and more like Kendra Scott in dainty pieces.

Icons

HB: Cool. This is my last question. This is what I've been asking everyone that I've been interviewing during this series. If you could invite someone to lunch, anyone, whether it's to pick your brain about business, or fashion, or whatever, who would it be, and why?

SS: Oh. My gosh. That's such a great question. My gosh. You put me on the spot. I don't know.  I feel like there is so many, I don't know.  I actually would be interested to sit down with a creative director of J Crew (Jenna Lyons).  I think she's really transformed the brand in the past, I would say, three years, two to three years of being traditional a bit, preppy to really exploring fun colors, using more neon's, pastels, and mixing in some higher end pieces like and ...

HB: Sure.

SS: Bringing out probably more higher priced, but really more high quality items verses mediocre, but still a bit pricey items.  There is more of a range, now, and I just feel like I really like their creative direction, and the use of bold prints, and colors.

HB: Mm-hmm.

SS: Making it youthful, and fun, but still very work appropriate without losing that polished feel, but ...

HB: Right. They still kind of have a minimalist kind of aesthetic to a certain point where you can still get plain classic pieces, and now they have like some other, I don't know what you would say ...

SS: Yes.

HB: More statement pieces as well.

SS: Totally. Yeah. I think that their pieces, I just think they work so well together, their lines are so cohesive, with their colors, and their patterns, and it's all in the same family, it's easy to mix prints, and to mix colors, create looks. I just feel that she was really fun, with a lot of the items that they've been rolling out in the past year or two.

HB: Cool. That's a good answer. That was my last question. Anything else that you want to add, that you think that maybe we didn't cover, that you want people to know about you?

SS: Nothing fashion related. I'd say I'm just figuring it out like everybody else.

HB: Yeah. I hear you. Congrats on your new full time job at home. That's got to feel nice.

SS: Thank you. Yes. It does feel really good. I think I will feel more productive as I develop my routine, but in the meantime I'm enjoying the flexibility and freedom, and it's been a fun few weeks.  Thanks so much for thinking of me, and for having me be a part of this.

HB: Yeah. Thanks for doing it. Have a happy birthday.

SS: Thanks. I'll talk to you soon.

SS: Okay. Bye.

For more great style and tips from Sara, check out her blog Sabby Style and give her a look see on Instagram.  For more interviews and fashion stories check out the other great posts from the Careers In Fashion series by Haute Bauble Blog.

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