At 24, Leandra Medine has already created one of the internet’s most-read fashion blogs, the Man Repeller. Her site gets 1.5 million unique hits a month and was named one of Time magazines’ 25 Best Blogs in 2012. She just penned a memoir (Man Repeller: Seeking Love, Finding Overalls, which debuted Sept. 10) and she has collaborated with brands like Superga (hipster cool sneakers) and twice with Dannijo (chunky, bright jewelry by a trendy sister duo) to create Man Repeller lines. The best part? She does it all while maintaining her sense of humor. Here are five lessons I’ve learned from Leandra.
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Leandra dubs the blog “a humorous site about serious fashion.” She (and the Man Repeller team) cover all kinds of topics, ranging from the details of fashion week (of course) to Miley Cyrus to Snapchat to feminism. The posts are relevant, smart and thought-provoking. (Plus, I’m usually laughing out loud as I read.) This isn’t a fashion blog where an I’m-too-sexy-for-my-shirt, model-esque girl flounces around in front of a camera in clothing sent to her at no cost. Leandra does get tons of clothing for free, but she’s pretty honest about it. (More on that in No. 4.) I love how she’ll post a style tip and actually crack open a controversial topic. This post, from last week, was about the merits of going bra-less. (How freeing… and terrifying!) Her mostly-serious post encouraged women to lose their bras and is accompanied by my favorite bit of Leandra-goofballness: this gif. She adds these a lot at the end of her posts. Scroll down to the bottom of the following linked pages to see such hilarious gifs, here and here. (The last one has me dying with laughter.) What’s the message? ‘I can poke fun at myself and look majorly silly, and I’m fine with it.’ To me, that’s encouragement to let my goofy side out more. Plus, not taking ourselves as seriously means we have more fun, feel more confident and we can bounce back from trips and falls and failures much easier.
2. Try new things – even ones that will make you stand out. Leandra’s fashion tips are unique and a little kooky. Who’d have thought to wear a tiny messenger bag purse shorter, so it hangs over your rib cage, rather than at your hip or, uh, that overalls can actually look cool? (Just throw on some arm candy and a bright blazer and you’re good to go.) Trying new things is like a natural high. Adding a different look to your wardrobe is the simplest, cheapest way to flash your stylistic flair - a new pair of earring from H&M, a bright blazer from Forever 21 - they don’t break the bank, but they do freshen up your look and they make you feel gooood when you show them off. Also: Red with pink? It works! Wearing Converse with an elegant skirt? Why not?!
3. Dress for yourself. You may already be a man repeller and not even know it! A man repeller is someone who dresses to be trendy, wearing certain looks that could be deemed over-the-top or generally unsexy. (Leandra’s definition is here.) Man repellers don’t dress for sex appeal - rather for style appeal, to look cool. Have you ever worn something that wasn’t typically “pretty” or maybe even “feminine,” but you liked it so much you didn’t care? Leandra uses the example of harem pants – think MC Hammer – not universally flattering, not something most guys understand or find attractive. If you like it, defy the expectations (yours or others) and wear it anyway.
4. Be (strategically) transparent. Leandra pretty much crosses the line - in the best way possible - for what to divulge and what not to divulge in her book and her blog. She tends to sprinkle cringe-worthy details throughout her blog posts. Her book is wonderfully, just the same: There is a section devoted entirely to her “period panties.” (Each chapter is tied to a different piece of apparel and the significance or impact it had on her.) On her blog she has alluded to the taboo of wearing white when a woman has her period. In one such post, she discusses the woes of “the crimson wave,” and in full defiance of Aunt Flow, dons some kick-ass tight white pants. Divulging those details? Worth it.
She’s also upfront about things like blog posts that are sponsored. Although it’s safe to say the majority of her clothing is given to her for free by amazing designers (what a life!), she makes a point to state when she scores a certain haute couture skirt or top for an awesome price - i.e. 'I still buy (some of) my own clothes!’ Keeping that integrity is so important for her - the whole point of blogging is getting advice from a “real girl.” So even though she is separate from the masses in that she has unique access to top designs and runway shows, keeping it real (with her cringe-worthy details and straightforward nature) is one of her greatest strengths.
Despite her inclination for honesty, she discloses in her book that she was hesitant to tell the readers of her blog a pretty big thing: when she got engaged! Would being married make her less of a man repeller? Or not one at all? To be honest, reading about her undying love for a guy in her book who wasn’t treating her quite right (note/spoiler alert: he’s now her hubby) was pretty upsetting. I thought, how could she be a headstrong “man repeller,” yet be so hung up over this guy, who clearly was taking her for granted? She’s better than that. Well, it all made sense by the end of the book. In fact, it was her infamous harem pants (you can see her wearing them here) that actually led him back to her. Wearing those pants, as unsexy as they may appear, made her feel confidant and happy, which ultimately defines being sexy. Either way, Man Repeller fans embrace her sometimes-gross details about her life. Leandra proves it’s worth taking the risk to bring up “taboo” topics, when you know your audience. It’s also ok to tread carefully and choose how and when (or if), it’s worth telling others about your personal life.
5. You don’t have to look “perfect” to look cool. It’s Leandra who helped me to be okay with having nails that are rarely polished and white shoes that are a little scuffed… That even if some people (ehem, my mother, my sister, etc.) don’t get my occasionally wacky style choices, it’s ok, as long as I’m happy with what I’m wearing. And that’s the most powerful thing that her book and her blog engender: Wear what you want (not just what people or guys expect), because then you’re being true to yourself.
Leandra has brought legions of fashionistas together with the Man Repeller: women who, in one way or another, are more concerned with expressing their flair, than looking sexy.
This doesn’t mean you need to feel pressure to dress trendier or more like Leandra. To me, it’s really about being open to new styles and stepping outside of your comfort zone. So let your freak flag fly and rock those sick harem pants (or high-waisted jeans or super dangly earrings or whatever piece of apparel makes you go, oh!) that you’ve been dying to try.
See the video below for details on how Leandra started the blog and who her fashion inspirations are.