Alice Catherine Alice Catherine

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this post for a little while now. The whole grey area surrounding transparency online has been a hot topic in the blogging industry as of late – causing a lot of mixed feelings, and a lot of debate when it comes to authenticity…

So, you have may have noticed that a lot of bloggers (myself included) have started disclosing any gifted items over on Instagram with #gifted or ‘AD (gifted)’. This is because the industry guidelines have now been updated, meaning that anything that’s been gifted or purchased with store credit (given by a PR company), has to be disclosed to your audience. I’ve noticed that people are doing this in a few different ways, but for me, it makes sense to have a clear distinction between what’s a press gift and what’s an actual paid sponsorship. So for now, I’m sticking with #gifted for pieces sent to me or purchased with store credit, and I’m keeping #AD for strictly paid promotions. There’s even a guideline that states we should be highlighting the pieces we have bought ourselves if it’s from a brand we have collaborated with in the past, ensuring that the breakdown of everything featured in each image is crystal clear for the consumer.

You may also have noticed that beneath a lot of my blog posts, some items listed are marked with ‘c/o’. This means that these items have been sent to me free of charge, or ‘courtesy of’ the brand tagged next to it. This is nothing new on here, and I will always mention when something has been sent to me and whether or not I think it’s worth the price tag. It’s the nature of blogging/marketing to be sent products to try out, and these ‘gifted pieces’ are and aid to the businesses many of us have created. Often content is created with these gifted pieces free of charge, so the return the brand makes is of way greater value than the gifted jumper for example. A lot of us may save money via the gifted clothing pieces, but then spend much more on photographers, website costs, and general admin fees. Yet it seems that many people online aren’t happy about the amount of #gifted images that are now gracing their Instagram feeds…

I’ll be honest, I think the gifting culture that blogging has created can be extremely excessive, and I do find that I have to clear out my wardrobe more than I ever did before I made this a full time career. I used to save up and buy a couple of pieces every few months before now, so I was definitely overwhelmed when brands started to offer pieces free of charge. With this in mind, I can totally understand why people might feel a bit miffed when they see their favourite bloggers using #gifted. On the surface, this is the way Instagram will make everything look – easy and free. However, the reality behind the gifted piece is not so simple. Often people have worked for years in order to reach this point where they are lucky enough to be contacted by brands and offered send outs to create content with.

My suggestion would be to invest in and follow people who you trust. Those that have an authentic journey and those who are transparent about the gifts that come their way. I invest my own money in plenty of pieces I see other bloggers wearing and I’m rarely disappointed. I follow people that I genuinely love and this eradicates any sort of blank space. If someone is leaving a sour taste in your mouth when you scroll past their content, there’s no shame in unfollowing…

I’m also making a conscious effort to be very selective when it comes to accepting gifting – sort of makes me sound like a bit of an arse (oh, so much free styff), but bare with me here…

In my opinion, personal style is sort of disrupted when you become a close horse for the new in section. I want to maintain a balance between styling new pieces for you guys, and also staying true to the stuff in my wardrobe that I wear over and over again. After all, nobody needs an abundance of new clothing each week – it’s just unnecessary. I don’t want to make out as though we all need a constant stream of newness in order to be stylish. Of course, part of my job is to discover new brands I’m excited about and report back to you guys, but it doesn’t mean that I need to be wearing new pieces in every single Insta post or blog image. I want to make sure that the gifted pieces I accept from brands are worn over and over again. If I don’t wear them often, then I’ll obviously tell you guys why – maybe poor quality or surprisingly uncomfortable for instance. This does happen every now and then depending on where I’m shopping/what’s being sent. It’s just the nature of trying new things – they don’t always work out.

Hopefully my blog/Instagram reflects how much I wear the same pieces, but it’s definitely something I want to get better at. There will obviously also be times that I’m wearing pieces you’ve never seen before because it’s either part of a paid sponsorship job, or I just happened to get a few more gifted pieces that week that I loved. If they haven’t been gifted then maybe I just had a little shopping spree – I don’t see the shame in the odd bit of retail therapy and creating outfits is a big part of my job. I’m just conscious of how much newness the blogging industry advocates, and I want to try my best to post responsible content. I’m obviously extremely grateful for any gifted pieces that get sent my way and it’s always an amazing surprise when a brand you admire gets in touch. This is part of the job that I never take for granted as I’m aware it could all disappear tomorrow…

Ultimately, I think these new rules are exposing a lot of peoples shopping habits which has the potential for positive change. It might make influencers stop and consider how much newness they are featuring each week, which could potentially encourage their audiences to slow down their own consumption. On the flip side, it’s a bit sad that the gifting element of the Instagram caption could be overshadowing any meaningful sentiment the individual has written out. I hope it doesn’t stop people reading captions and connecting with people on Instagram because all they see is #gifted and it makes them feel instantly apprehensive in some way. I think we still have a long way to go in terms of creating a fair industry for both bloggers and the impact on their audiences. That’s why I’m always open about the business side on here, but there are days when you feel as though you constantly have to defend being a blogger. It’s a title I’m proud of, but I’m very aware that there are negative connotations that run alongside it… 

Anyway, I’ve only scraped the surface of the new guidelines but I really wanted to explore the #gifted part more than anything else as it’s the main thing that’s become more apparent on our Instagram feeds. As always, let me know if there’s anything you think I could be more transparent about in general when it comes to the behind the scenes of blogging and how the business side works.Whether it’s a night in a hotel that’s complimentary, or a new pair of shoes – I’ll always be straight down the line when it comes to what’s been gifted to me as part of my job. There’s not really much that I haven’t shared with you guys on here, so I’m always happy to keep the conversation open and honest…

Incase you fancy reading up more on the new CMA (Competition & Markets Authority) guidelines, so you can be extra savvy when scrolling through your insta feed – I’ve linked them here for you.

Photographs taken by Catherine Booty 

Cardigan – vintage (similar here), T-shirt – Victoria Beckham, Trousers – Mango, Shoes c/o – Miista, Bag – vintage Céline (similar here)


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  1. Jess says:

    I completely agree with you in this post. If all you wear is the latest releases, you loose your own unique style. Saying that, I’ve picked up some lovely pieces because someone had been gifted bits. It’s all about striking the right balance.

    The Crown Wings | UK Travel & Lifestyle Blog

    1. alicecatherine says:

      Definitely! Balance is key – we shouldn’t feel guilty for having the odd moments of over indulgence, but we also need to be aware of the impact it has on the environment and the people following us too xx

  2. Natalie says:

    Alice one of the reasons I love your blog is because you don’t make people feel like they constantly need to go out and buy a new outfit for every occasion. Am trying to cut back on buying so many clothes because I’m conscious of the effect it has on the environment. That’s not to say I’m not ever going to shop again, but I’m really thinking more about what I buy. So many fashion bloggers out there are still advocating fast fashion / cheaply made clothes and I really hope we see a change. Thank you for being part of that change. I just recently watched the True Cost documentary on Netflix and it made me so sad. Equally it’s important for us not to feel guilty about everything that happens in the world but if we all just do a bit… would be interested to hear you and Sophia talk about the whole fast fashion industry on the podcast when it’s up and running x

    1. alicecatherine says:

      Thank you! I try my best but just like a lot of people who are into clothes – I definitely don’t have a capsule wardrobe. I love building new outfits and collection new pieces, but I’m trying to be more responsible in terms of how I represent my wardrobe online. I don’t buy new pieces nearly as much as I have done in the past, but then I’m lucky enough to be gifted pieces so it’s sort of a catch 22. Something me and Sophia can discuss on the podcast for sure! Great idea 🙂 xx

  3. Flor says:

    I can totally relate to following people you feel connected to and have built a general aura of trust around them. I happen to feel this way about you! And I can see you wearing the same clothes every now and then, and it’s very inspiring to see that there’s bloggers out there who don’t need to be showing new clothes all the time. I also remember that Rebecca, from A Clothes Horse, used to put together posts of outfit pictures of her wearing the same, lets say, pinafore, the same pair of red pants, the same black skirt, as in to show that you can re-utilize clothing and make your outfits look different and new.

    It is indeed a bit discouraging for the whole experience of reading a caption to be presented with the #gifted first though. It’s almost off putting. I wish there was a way to put it in the location instead; I’ve seen the “Paid partnership with BRAND” before, so why wouldn’t it be viable for #gifted as well I wonder? That way it’d be clear it was gifted but it wouldn’t ruin the user experience within the platform. I don’t know… just thinking out loud here ^^;

    Flor |

    1. alicecatherine says:

      That’s such a good idea! I think if Instagram introduced a tagging feature that was separate from the caption area, it would make things a lot more streamline for people. I guess it’s all pretty new so things will keep changing a lot as people figure it out. I sometimes wonder whether Instagram will even be a thing in five years time ha. I definitely see your point though, I agree seeing ‘gift gift gift’ will be massively discouraging for people xx

  4. Lious says:

    I started following your blog last year and I see that you repeat outfits. I like the way you talk about what you love but honestly I don’t feel your fashion is sustainable. There are different companies to shop from tagged on every post. Sometimes i get so overwhelmed and confused because even tho tour outfits are great, there are new clothes to shop! I don’t read other fashion blogs, I only look at outfits on Instagram. I don’t think you should feel bad for getting gifted items, it’s your job. I just feel you should be more into sustainable fashion especially for students like me, following you and who wants to look good on a budget. Really!

    1. alicecatherine says:

      Ahh I’d have to disagree as a lot of sustainable brands are actually very expensive/not budget friendly. I’m far from perfect in terms of sustainability but I wear A LOT of vintage and secondhand (cheaper than a lot of sustainable brands). Plus I wear a lot of the same shoes and accessories. The brands I tag at the bottom are usually for a ‘shop the look’ purpose so that people can find similar pieces if they want to. I never try and push the whole ‘shop shop shop’ thing. I get that a lot of the brands I feature are more on the expensive side, but as I’ve gotten older, I prefer to shop quality over quantity. My shopping habits were totally different as a student so I get it completely – I lived in charity shops, but I don’t want to link fast fashion just for the sake of it. I don’t shop fast fashion if I can help it so I don’t like to advertise it on here. I’d much rather save and buy investment pieces that will last over something cheaper that I’ll have to replace. Sorry if you don’t feel like a lot of my outfits aren’t sustainable but I’m pretty confident that a lot of my wardrobe is now made up of vintage/pieces I’ve had for years. My blog usually represents ‘the best outfits’ so I guess you don’t see a lot what I wear in real life – this is why I mention that I want to get better at portraying ‘real life’ on here but it’s difficult to find the balance…

  5. unefemme says:

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I appreciate the transparency even if it takes away a little bit from the fantasy, which is that the blogger is “just like us.” We’re reading (or scrolling) for that fantasy, too, so it’s complicated.

    I’d like to add that readers like myself who choose to follow fashion or lifestyle bloggers are responsible for ourselves. It definitely makes me want to shop more, but if I realize that and see that I can’t afford new clothes or am just shopping out of boredom, it’s on me to take a break from fashion blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

    1. alicecatherine says:

      Thank you for reading! And I totally agree with you, it’s so complicated and that’s what makes the lines so blurred sometimes. I think there’s a lot of guilt wrapped up in the industry at the moment, and it’s difficult to navigate sometimes. Ultimately, I just try and go with my gut xx

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