My hands are covered in gold glitter. It is obviously expensive glitter—softer, shinier, and a much deeper yellow than the stuff I remember from second grade. The source is a pair of short $750 Miu Miu boots. The owner of these boots is twenty-year-old style blogger Jane Aldridge.
“Hello! I’m trying to shoot those. Can you put them down?” she snaps at me. Jane takes a deep breath and runs her fingers through her hair—dyed a comic-book red—as I wipe my palms on my jeans. She picks up her camera, a Nikon D-SLR, and peers through the viewfinder at the boots, Italian ankle shoes the size of desk lamps that also feature pink suede bows. There are many women who love shoes, but Jane’s infatuation with footwear—discernible in her narrowing green eyes, her mean-girl tone, and proprietary bossiness—is intimidating. “Shoes are the only accessible thing in fashion,” she sagely pronounces, with a slight lisp.
It is a February afternoon, and we are in Jane’s bedroom. The room is part of an upstairs suite in the house she grew up in, a traditional two-story in Trophy Club, a small planned community thirty miles west of Dallas. Stacks of nineties magazines and Japanese kids’ books surround us. Nearby are her bed, dotted with plush animals, and a curtained closet full of vintage fur coats. And then there are the shoes: a wall with 88 pairs of kooky convex wedges; clunky clodhopper boots with buckles and superfluous crisscross laces; prissy, pale-pink pumps with vertiginous heels—all with insoles bearing names like Dries Van Noten, Stella McCartney, Proenza Schouler, and Prada. It is here, in her bedroom, that Jane creates the content that, over the past five years, has turned her into a celebrity in the fashion world. Her blog, Sea of Shoes, features daily photos of Jane wearing a wacky-sexy mix of thrift-store designer blouses, tight jeans, and, of course, over-the-top footwear. The captions are brief and girly confessional—“the cutest fitting crackled leather pants ever”—and are read by almost 400,000 people every month.
Jane ranks in the upper echelons of a new breed in the world of high fashion: the outsider armed with an Internet connection, a digital camera, and discriminating taste. In 2008 her blog, which had a handful of followers then—mostly her high school classmates—caught the eye of editors at Teen Vogue , who a year later featured her in the magazine’s pages for her DIY blend of vintage clothing and runway footwear. Soon she was debuting at the Crillon Ball, in Paris, in the company of Saudi princesses and such Hollywood royalty as the daughters of Bruce Willis and Forest Whitaker; being heralded in Vanity Fair as a “bright young thing”; attending private dinners with Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld; and exchanging photographs with Kanye West (“Peep this 16 year olds blog from Texas! Whoooa!!!” he blogged). Jane is now considered to be one of the country’s top five style bloggers. She has worked with Coach’s executive creative director Reed Krakoff on his eponymous label, and when designers such as Nicolas Kirkwood come to Dallas for trunk shows, they first make appointments with her. This spring she is being featured in the Barneys New York catalog alongside legendary sixties supermodel Penelope Tree.
Click-click-click. Jane gets to work. She fluffs a shaggy pillow behind the Miu Mius as a dramatic score by Ennio Morricone blares from desktop speakers. Click. Deep breath. Run fingers through hair again. Check the image. Clench jaw. Click-click. Turn the shoes upside down. Add a plastic dinosaur. Click. No, a glass-top table. Windex the table. Add a bronze ram’s head—no, a wonky-eyed, Ewok-looking animal. Or a bright—“ Aaagh!” Jane screams, then exhales loudly. She stomps barefoot across the room in frustration.
“Mom!” Jane calls, morphing from industry veteran to child in crisis. “Why isn’t this working? The light is always good up here.”
Her mother, Judy, arrives at the top of the staircase, Jane’s laptop in hand. A former model and clothing designer (her nineties Vogue clips hang framed on the wall), the 48-year-old now functions as her daughter’s manager, business partner, confidante, and, as Judy tells it, “partner in crime.” She also runs her own blog, the interiors-focused Atlantis Home. It was Judy who planted the seeds of Jane’s career when, after closing a store in Dallas where she sold high-end designs to become a stay-at-home mom to two girls—Jane has a younger sister, Carol—she packed up her stock and wrote “For Jane” on the cardboard boxes. Jane opened the boxes when she was fourteen; now Judy spends more than forty hours a week answering Jane’s email, fielding interview requests, negotiating collaborations with designers, hunting down props for Jane to use, and taking many of the photos on Sea of Shoes.
In a couple of weeks, Jane will be leaving Trophy Club and moving to her own apartment. It’s a decision that’s been heavily chattered about by her followers; she is, at last, striking out on her own. But for now she is still here, in her childhood bedroom, surrounded by the shoes that have made her the sensation she is. Judy looks at the back of the camera, then looks down at the Miu Mius. “I don’t know,” she soothes. “It’s weird. You know what could be cool? Put them on. What if we got the chair and the mirror and the boots and you lay down—”
“Yeah! I could even be facing the mirror.”
Jane sprawls on the floor in pale jeans, underneath a framed black and white photograph of Grey Gardens ’ Little Edie. Jane wrings her slim torso and maneuvers her long legs through the legs of an ornate, hot-pink chair. “No, no, not that far! Put your legs through—yeah.” Jane seems suddenly reticent. “Come on, Jane,” says Judy. “Be a contortionist. Don’t be such a baby!”
“Mooom! This is retarded.”
There is no arguing that the advent of the personal-style blogger was a game changer in fashion.