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I never thought I'd Instagram a photo of myself sitting in a bush in the middle of New York City eating a piece of watermelon big enough to kill a man. This being New York City, no one cared.
Except, that is, the team of eight people I managed to assemble for the purpose of recreating eight viral Instagram photos taken by some of the platform's biggest stars. My photo shoot ~squad~ included: a design director, a photographer, a videographer, a sound guy, a makeup artist, a hair stylist, a fashion editor, and a fashion intern. Yes, you could argue that the videographer and accompanying sound guy were gratuitous squad members but YOLO. Here's the resulting video to show you just how high-maintenance this shoot was.
As a fashion journalist early in my career, I spent a lot of time thinking about, writing about, and reporting on Internet fashion stars. The Blonde Salads (opens in new tab), Fashion Toasts (opens in new tab), Style Bubbles (opens in new tab), and Sincerely Juleses (opens in new tab) of the world. They became an influential force in the fashion industry when I started blogging for The Cut (opens in new tab), NYMag.com (opens in new tab)'s fashion blog. (You can read more stories about them in my new book, Tales From the Back Row: An Outsider's View From Inside the Fashion Industry (opens in new tab), which you should definitely go buy right now!)
Their photos are immediately addictive. When I discover a well-followed person with amazing personal style, I go into stalker mode and scroll through as many of their pictures as I can before someone Gchats me, or my husband tells me to pay attention to him and put my phone down. I look at their photos and contemplate, Why do the ends of their hair never look stringy? Why is it that I want to be them even if all they're doing is standing in front of a fence? How come when they wear cutoffs and tank tops, they look cool and purposeful, but when I wear cutoffs and a tank top, I look like I'm about to hand-wash my mom's minivan?
In March, when I actually started using the Instagram account (opens in new tab) I had made last year but never updated, my instinct was to try to post photos that looked like a travel magazine meets a fashion photo shoot, like all my favorite people on Instagram. The goal was simple: to be #goals. Ideally with an infinity pool.
But my photos never looked anything like #goals. That's because, as I learned over the course of the day we spent recreating these eight famous photos, I wasn't following the below rules for creating perfect fashion Instagrams.
1. Find a flower and act very serious with it.
White Top (opens in new tab), LISAKAI (Available at Revolve), $75; Denim Shorts (opens in new tab), ONE TEASPOON (Available at Revolve), $108; Leather Belt (opens in new tab), LAUREN RALPH LAUREN (Available at T.J. Maxx), $25; Gold Bangle (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $60; Gold Bangle (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $68; Gold Necklace (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $68; Gold Rings (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $45; Yukon XL Denali (opens in new tab), GMC
Rumi Neely is a friend I've been seeing at fashion shows for years. She is so, so, so good-looking and well-dressed that she is never not in the front row, where all the most important fashion people are assigned to sit. I go to the same show covered in granola crumbs with ill-fitting pants and get a seat in the nosebleed section where I can gaze upon her. (She also has a really hot clothing collection, Are You Am I (opens in new tab), which you should go check out right now.) Somehow, when Rumi clutches a flower to her breast while leaning against a Jeep, it looks normal and cool.
To recreate the image, we had to borrow a white SUV and find the perfect fluffy rose. I also had to go outside in the middle of Manhattan wearing shorts that Cosmopolitan.com's resident stylist and senior style editor Charles Manning called "janties." The man who drove the car we borrowed exited the vehicle and stood on the street with my photo shoot squad and watched as I was instructed to sit on the bumper of the car. The only good part about taking this photo, for me, was that closing my eyes allowed me to block out all the passersby rubbernecking as they passed trying to figure out what the hell I was doing sitting on a car and rubbing a rose on my face.
When I posted this photo, one of my followers realized it was so out of character for me that she just wrote: "whut."
Follow Rumi Neely on Instagram. (opens in new tab)
2. Walk nonchalantly in front of taxis without getting killed by said taxis.
Black Strapless Top (opens in new tab), SUSANA MONACO (Available at Revolve), $74;Black Culottes (opens in new tab), H&M, $60; Gold Bangle (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $68; Gold Rings (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $45; Black Bag (opens in new tab), MARC BY MARC JACOBS (Available at Revolve), $348; Gladiator Sandals (opens in new tab), SCHUTZ, $200
I loved this outfit because, even though I own zero pairs of culottes, today's most fashionable bottoms, they are comfy and offer much way coverage than janties. Thank you, style genius Aimee Song, for turning me onto them. This shot took a lot of me dashing into the street and running back to the curb to avoid dying. Fortunately, flats allow for narrow escapes of death.
Follow Song of Style on Instagram. (opens in new tab)
3. Be photographed with beautiful fruit whenever possible.
Black Button Up (opens in new tab), IRIS & INK (Available at The Outnet)
Please note that the gorgeous Julia Engel's watermelon 'gram has an incredible and jealousy-inducing 20.6k likes. Mine has ... 161. Perhaps owing to my modest outfit and the fact that I was partially obscured by Columbus Circle's shrubbery, no one seemed to notice or care that a 30-year-old woman wearing hair extensions and bronzer was just sitting in the middle of a New York City fountain plaza cradling a quarter watermelon in a dishtowel. Again: YOLO.
Follow Julia Engel on Instagram. (opens in new tab)
4. Go bold with your look. Fringe and large hats automatically take a look from snooze to OOH!
Black Hat (opens in new tab), NASTY GAL; Black Crop Top (opens in new tab), EVIL TWIN (Available at Revolve), $49; Black Skinny Jeans (opens in new tab), A GOLD E (Available at The Outnet); Gold Watch (opens in new tab), NIXON (Available at Revolve), $100; Gold Bangle (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $68; Gold Bangle (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $60; Gold Bangle (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $68
Chiara Ferragni, also known as the Blonde Salad, has an awesome wardrobe that I want to own and wear without looking as ridiculous as I do in this photo. We made these pants by pinning fringe from the craft store to the seam of a pair of black jeans. They were incredibly tight, which made sitting down in them while wearing a crop top feel absolutely horrible. What you can't see in this photo is my squad telling me to bend my knee more and sit up straighter as I attempt to defy all laws of tight pants physics.
Follow Chiara Ferragni on Instagram. (opens in new tab)
5. Sneaker bows on fleek.
Eva Chen, former editor in chief of Lucky magazine and now the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, is famous for the shots she takes of her shoes and bags and fruit snacks from the backseat of a car. I loved taking this picture because I got to put my feet up and Charles, the stylist, tied my shoes for me like I was a toddler. Apparently if I were to tie them myself, the bows would look like shit, said Charles.
Follow Eva Chen on Instagram. (opens in new tab)
Army Jacket (opens in new tab), NLST (Available at Shopbop), $575; Star Tank (opens in new tab), SUNDRY (Available at Shopbop), $78; Denim Culottes (opens in new tab), NASTY GAL, $98; Nude Wedges (opens in new tab), H&M, $15; Gold Necklace (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $68
Leandra Medine became famous by posting photos of her very fashionable and trendy outfits to her site, Man Repeller. She is another impossibly glamorous friend who looks cool in everything, no matter how bizarre, and takes photos of her outfits next to toilets because she has a sense of humor and is a genius. She actually inspired me to start taking all my outfit shots in the bathroom stalls of Cosmopolitan.com. Because nothing says fashion like a toilet. It's no yellow taxi, but at least it can't run you over.
Follow Leandra Medine on Instagram. (opens in new tab)
7. Take shameless mirror selfies.
Gold Bag (opens in new tab), 3.1 PHILLIP LIM (Available at Shopbop), $750; White Crop Top (opens in new tab), TORN BY RONNY KOBO (Available at Shopbop), $148; White Skinny Jeans (opens in new tab), CITIZENS OF HUMANITY, $178; Nude Wedges, H&M, $30; Gold Bangle (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $68; Gold Bangle (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $60; Gold Bangle (opens in new tab), GORJANA, $68
Here I am again in a crop top and extremely tight pair of pants. The wonderful makeup artist from La Voila Beauty tried to double my mouth in size using lip liner and gloss for this photo. I took a bathroom break after she finished, which means I had to leave the safety of my squad and be seen by normal people who probably looked at my lips and thought I was trying to hide a herpes outbreak. Also, I could not for the life of me perfect Kylie's sexy pose. I think when you've spent the past 10 years working at a desk job, your joints only allow your body parts to rotate about a centimeter in any given direction. I posted this photo last over the course of my week of posting these pictures because it's probably the most embarrassing image of me on the entire Internet.
Follow Kylie Jenner on Instagram. (opens in new tab)
8. Copy this Kendall hair shot if you want all the likes.
This look was nice because all I had to do was lie on the floor while people turned my hair into heart shapes. I highly recommend that everyone lie down on the floor and copy this Instagram right now. It is my most-liked photo to date. And I never would have gotten there without my team of eight people, which is why, now that this experiment is over, I will never, ever be an Instagram celebrity.
Photography: Kathleen Kamphausen Styling: Charles Manning Hair: James Milligan (opens in new tab) for La Voila (opens in new tab) Makeup: Kaman Lam (opens in new tab) for La Voila (opens in new tab) Vehicles: Provided by GMC (opens in new tab)
And for more funny fashion experiments, check out Amy Odell's new book, Tales From the Back Row (opens in new tab), available now wherever books are sold!
Amy Odell is the editor of Cosmopolitan.com. Chief amongst her interests are cats and Beyonce. She is a feminist (thank you for asking) and ex-fashion journalist. She is the author of the hilarious book of essays, Tales from the Back Row: An Outsider’s View From Inside the Fashion Industry.
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