fashion blogger Chelsea Lankford opens two weeks
worth of packages of free clothing and accessories
sent to her by different companies inside her
downtown Minneapolis apartment.
— It looked like Christmas morning in Chelsea Lankford’s
Minneapolis brownstone, but it was just another
23-year-old tore into a pile of boxes, made a mountain
of tissue paper and neatly stacked the contents. She was
quick, efficient — as if opening presents filled with
clothes were her job.
a way, it is.
is the creator and star of the popular personal fashion
blog Zipped (www.zipped
blog.com). Her blog, which features daily posts of what
she’s wearing, attracts more than 50,000 page views a
month. It has led to collaborations with local boutiques
and national brands such as Vans, Madewell and
has also turned Lankford into a small-time public figure
— not a comfortable position for this self-described
gotten all of these opportunities just because I started
this website," Lankford said. "People
sometimes recognize me on the street — it’s just
a dedicated online audience — including 42,000
Instagram followers (@truelane) — Lankford is one of
the leading voices in the Twin Cities’ small but
growing style-blogger scene.
their outfit-of-the-day posts, independent style
bloggers like Lankford are becoming bona fide
trendsetters in the fashion and advertising industries.
Brands are quick to capitalize on this phenomenon, said
Madeline Johnson, a project manager at Minneapolis
branding firm Style Architects.
are the innovators and early adapters for style,"
Johnson said. "They set the trends or are the first
to try them, which is a great opportunity for brands to
position their products."
tower of packages inside Lankford’s apartment revealed
kitty cat accessories from Katy Perry’s jewelry
collection, an Isaac Mizrahi laptop case from Best Buy,
plus coats, jeans and five pairs of shoes.
cost to her? Zero. This is only one perk. More recently,
she’s been getting a paycheck for featuring certain
brands on her blog and Instagram.
has a day job, but with every post and Instagram, this
part-time role is becoming a bigger part of her daily
looks like she’s living a perfectly curated dream
(free clothes, good food, a seemingly endless social
calendar) — all in exchange for digitally documenting
her every moment, outfit, thought and meal.
Lankford says she’s an ordinary girl who has struggled
with insecurities about self-image. But you’d never
guess it by the 2,100 Instagram photos Lankford has
posted of herself over the past few years.
so much safety behind the computer screen," she
said. "I like the idea of being in control of my
image. You can say so much about yourself with your
and offline, she tries to balance the aspirational with
the achievable. She features outfits that most people
can put together themselves (no Louboutin shoes or
Birkin handbags). For her followers, that seems to be
nice to get inspiration from a local style blogger
rather than turning to celebrities, where there are
unrealistic expectations financially and
body-wise," said longtime follower Sara Mahan.
style bloggers aren’t runway models. Neither is
Lankford. She’s petite, with a look that is classic
and casual — she’s more comfortable in a pair of
Vans than stilettos. No ruffles, sparkles or dresses.
Instead she has 30 pairs of denim and a sneaker
obsession — her color palette is primarily black,
white and gray. Her hair is thick, wavy and just messy
enough — like what you see in a shampoo commercial.
daily photo shoots take place wherever she is (the
streets of downtown Minneapolis, her favorite
restaurants, her giant "marshmallow" bed), and
they capture whatever she’s doing (drinking coffee,
air-popping popcorn for a "Gilmore Girls"
Netflix marathon, having tea with blogger friends). Some
are shot with her smartphone, others by her
plan all of my activities around good lighting and
pretty food," Lankford said.
supports herself with a full-time position at a major
financial institution. She goes to Fashion Week in New
York, but pays her own way. She has never had a
boyfriend. She has never even been on a date.
perfectly happy on my own," Lankford said.
"Why ruin that?"
everyone in the fashion world has been welcoming to
style bloggers. Some call them attention seekers. Simon
Collins, the dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons,
recently shared his biting thoughts on www.openingceremony.us:
"These people congregate around places where they
think fashion is happening, then desperately posture and
grimace in the hope of being photographed, usually by
admits the nature of style blogging can seem vain.
"People only show the prettiest parts of their
lives online, but I don’t think it’s superficial so
much as it is cultivating your image," she said.
Lankford, her blog’s purpose is simple: "It’s
not just to make people think I’m super awesome,"
she said. "It’s to give others inspiration for
Lankford started Zipped in 2010, she was blogging into a
void. There were no comments, likes or e-mails.
changed rather quickly. As she posted more, the fans
came and the freebies followed. She recently began
charging advertisers a nominal fee in addition to the
products she gets for free.
didn’t even know I could charge people for my
work," Lankford said. "I started this as a
creative outlet and never considered it could be
anything more than that."
grew up an hour north of Seattle, the middle of three
sisters. Like other girls, she gushed over the glossy
images in Teen Vogue and Seventeen. Lankford’s mother
urged her to start a style blog after she graduated from
was consumed with fashion and shopping online,"
said mom Wanda Lankford. "I just felt like she had
what it took."
followed her older sister to Minnesota for college.
After a year, she decided school wasn’t for her and
got a 9-to-5 office job. She spent all her free time
people don’t realize is that blogging is actually hard
work," said fellow Minneapolis blogger Davee Ek.
"You always have to be your own writer, art
director, producer, publicist, photographer, accountant
— (the same) roles that come with owning your own
affiliate links on her blog, social media posts and
appearances, Lankford brings in $500 a month. Most
bloggers make less than $1,000 a year, according to
industry reports. Only 11 percent make more than $30,000
of the comments Lankford gets are glowing, but she’s
no stranger to the downside of sharing your life on the
Web. Lankford once found herself the topic of
conversation on Get Off My Internets, an online
community that tears down popular bloggers. "It was
horrible," she said.
accused Lankford of being boring, standoffish and
hair-obsessed, which she admits was, in some ways, true
(the hair part).
hair was my security blanket," she said. "I
felt like it was the only thing that made me
year, Lankford got the guts to chop off 12 inches —
she cried for two days. Her first haircut photo on
Instagram received 126 comments. Most were positive, but
there was also a "Why, darling?" and "Ohhhhh
time, she’s become thick-skinned and unapologetic.
not going to be everyone’s cup of tea," she said.
"If you think (I’m) boring, it’s simple — don’t
sorting through 10 boxes of clothing and accessories in
her apartment, Lankford pulled together an outfit from
the day’s haul. She picked a black-and-white checkered
jacket, gray denim pants and a T-shirt with the words
"Hola Baby!" on the front. She added a few
curls to her already tousled hair and checked her
reflection in her small bathroom mirror — she might be
the only style blogger who doesn’t own a full-length
her sister, she stepped outside for a quick photo shoot.
I see how they look?" Lankford asked after a few