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Plaid shirts have sat front and center for many a style movement—grunge, prepsters, and the Americana-obsessed—but chances are none presented a style challenge quite like that of the Five Days x Five Ways blog. Friends and former co-workers Cass Taylor, Jess Rosenthal, and Erin Fucigna launched their fashion project a year ago, each regularly documenting five ways that a single clothing item can be styled over a five day period.
Though the catalyst was a dare for Cass to wear a newly-purchased J.Crew plaid shirt for a week, the trio quickly realized the project had an audience, using their collective marketing backgrounds to collaborate with brands like Ball and Buck, Keds, and M.M. LAFLEUR while offering up daily style inspiration using their own wardrobe obsessions and building blocks. On the heels of their one-year anniversary, we spoke with the "5x5 girls" about fashion bloggers, their 2014 goals, and getting in front of the camera.
So, the whole impetus for the project was a particular shirt?
C: We all had a bit of time on our hands when we were working together at Arnold and all of us are style junkies. We had little items we were obsessed with, and people would joke "Are you going to wash it?" Of course we're going to wash it! It's funny how people always ask that.
Obviously having to style something differently for five days can be challenging, but does it ever make it easier to assemble outfits?
E: I think it's easier because you're a little more constricted in terms of knowing that's one piece you'll wear everyday. I think about my outfits more so than if I'm not doing the challenge that week. The fact that we are taking pictures does put on pressure, so you can't get away with an off-day.
C: And I think you try to make each day distinct. That's where it gets hard.
J: Adding to Cass's point, you kind of put guardrails around it so you don't do the same every day. One day might be my professional casual look, one day will be preppy, another might be my grungy casual look. Doing that helps plan for the week, even with a plain white tee. From fancy to streetwear.
E: The three of us really have distinctive styles. Jess is more preppy, Cass is really eclectic, and they like to call me the rocker. I think it's also funny when we text each other in the morning and say "Cass, I'm wearing such a 'you' outfit right now." We like playing in each other's zones.
Was it weird to start documenting your outfits every day? Are you all comfortable in front of the camera at this point? Were you going into it?
C: I will say for me it doesn't get easier. In the beginning it took a long time to take pictures, but now that we've done it with such frequency we know how to show the item, what the whole look is, and the vanity kind of goes to the side. Like anything, you're putting yourself out there, seeing how other people react to it. I had this outfit the other day that I thought was super cute, but it bombed. It's interesting to see. It ups the ante for the next day.
E: That's how the whole brand kind of started. Cass was posting that plaid shirt on Instagram and as the story goes, Jess and I found our equivalents, and began posting on ours. But we didn't like posting pictures of ourselves on our personal handle every single day, so that was part of the way we created our account all together.
You all met working at Arnold. Are you all still there?
J: I actually left Arnold in November. We've learned a lot from that, even to the point of us not being all together anymore. It's been a tough three months with Cass being on maternity leave, and me leaving Arnold. But it's nice in a way because we've completed separated ourselves from Arnold. It's made it a little bit more legit I think, and from a personal and friend standpoint I think it makes us talk to each other every day.
How does working in a professional environment that encourages wardrobe creativity contribute to your sense of style and what you show on the blog?
C: We do have days where we are "Professional Patty"—a little more buttoned up and a little more conservative. We work with creatives but never get to be the "creative" ones, so for us the creativity comes from our clothes. It's ours to own. As we look at partners, we did an early collaboration with M.M. LAFLEUR and they're dresses that quite frankly we wouldn't wear on a regular basis—quite conservative, beautiful dresses. But it's cool to show a spectrum of how anyone in any industry could adapt that one dress in five different ways. The creativity aspect is something that's so motivating for us.
What do you look for when collaborating with someone, whether a brand or a guest contributor?
J: First we were very much excited to have anyone collaborate with us, but in doing that we've learned when we need someone who has a sense of style. It doesn't have to be a specific type, but someone who knows how to own style and will really play with it and be a true active participant. Same with brands. We want to make sure the brand identifies with who we stand for, or maybe they are a risk or challenge for us. And that they live up to the expectations we have for them.
Example of a shirt worn five ways by Cass, via @fivedaysxfiveways/Instagram
What is the week-to-week flow in posting looks?
C: I would say we're still in beta, in the sense that we're trying things. For example, the Able Made week was a territory people said would be interesting for us. As much as there is the style aspect of things, there is this whole thrifty, do-good place that surrounds being frugal with your clothing. That felt like a different type of area for us. Other weeks, like Keds, push us into a different stratosphere. As the evolution progresses, we need to build out our content calendar and find themes to make distinct weeks.
What do you plan to do more of in 2014?
C: We hope more partnerships. When guys do it, I think it's awesome. It's such a different perspective. People love seeing what guys can do. So more men involved. And testing different themes, or changing the function of clothing—those are the hardest weeks.
Who is taking the pictures generally?
C: Ball and Buck week we had Luke Perkins, a friend of ours, taken them. Other weeks they're a bit more scrappy; we're on the road a lot.
J: Sometimes my fiancé Michelle will take our pictures too. She's trying to get out there and learn it. It gives her an opportunity to play with it.
C: Michelle always takes our press shots.
E: And Luke is an incredibly talented photographer. He works on the New Balance account at Arnold. He shot Heidi Klum, and now he's shooting me. He always says that shooting our pictures is the best part of his day. It's really fun to be surrounded by these creative people and our friends who want to be involved in whatever way they can.
What do you think is the hardest item you've style to date?
E: I feel like you think shoes are easy. But when I did Keds it was hard because they were such a bright patterned shoe.
C: Part of me thinks the maternity week I did in the grey dress was hard. When you're pregnant you want to wear the same thing all the time. And when we wore the M.M. LAFLEUR dresses, challenging ourselves to something we wouldn't typically, the one I wore was really fancy. I would never wear a dress five days to work. We could get away with sweatpants. So that was hard, you really had to dress it up or down.
J: We're three very different people, and I think it adds a nice level of intrigue. We hope we can resonate with such a wide range of people. Erin is the youngest, I'm kind of the middle child, Cass is the oldest. We're in very different life stages with very different styles.
C: I think the other thing for us is that we hope it's really accessible. When you look around at the really popular fashion bloggers of the world—god love them—it's about the fashion and they're wearing incredible clothing. We wear Gap, J.Crew, Old Navy, all usually from the sale rack. We try to take clothes and do the day-to-day, realistic thing for the common person. It's not really about fashion; it's more about style and creativity.
· These Marketing Gals Try to Wear Same Item 5 Days in a Row [Racked Boston]
· Five Days x Five Ways [Official Site]