Blogger gains following by pairing the wearable with the readable
By Olivia Minnier
May 4, 2017
A cool, almost Parisian like confidence seeps from Tracie Pfrogner as she nears the looming stone walls of the Jefferson Market Library in New York City. With her brown, almost auburn hair and black sunglasses perpetually perched atop her head, Pfrogner walks down the spiral staircase and sits down to immerse herself in another world and escape the searing heat of summer.
Barely 22, Pfrogner has a growing number of fans who show interest in her fashion blog, Tracie Marie Please. Though her biggest following is on Instagram, with 1,943 followers and growing, her site TracieMariePlease.com currently has a traction rate of about 100 views a day and up to 1,000 a month.
Compared to others, Pfrogner isn’t quite there yet. Chiara Ferragni, for example, author of a lifestyle blog, The Blonde Salad, which has around 290,000 Instagram followers and graces the cover of magazines such as Glamour. Pfrogner likes to think she’s close.
“I’m right at that sweet spot and it’s so frustrating,” she said.
Pfrogner has no desire to become a brand that is typical. She uses her love for literature as a way to target an audience that hasn’t been courted by other bloggers: Those with an equal love for fashion and novels.
“The main thing about blogging is about finding your niche and what is your unique thing, luckily I’ve just really figured out that is my thing. That’s been really fun to have that be my own hashtag, my own thing.”
Many of her #shoesandbooks posts have garnered Pfrogner lots of attention – not always from the typical sponsorship or approaches for collaboration, but simply admiration and appreciation for the free publicity from authors.
“One of my favorite things about doing those posts is that I’ve gotten a lot of authors attention, they’ll comment on it, ” she said.
Growing up, Pfrogner always had a passion for reading and literature, largely due to her parents, both of whom are retired teachers. The love for literature was instilled within her.
“I was always surrounded by books,” she said.
Though her love for literature has always been one of the mainstays of her interests, fashion has not. Pfrogner said she originally thought she was going to become a musical theater major.
“My dad is actually a professional musician and he has a swing band and was a retired band director, choir director but he’s like a full time musician. That’s his thing. And my mom actually was also a choir director and then she switched to English.. So music has always been a huge part of my family.”
She immersed herself in the world of arts from a young age.
“I did theater starting probably from sixth grade through high school. I was dancing two times a week, singing lessons another two times a week plus rehearsals. I thought that’s what I was going to do.”
Pfrogner became interested in fashion after making the transition from private school, which required uniforms, into a public high school and being able to pick her own outfits.
“I got to really discover fashion and like all of that kind of stuff and develop style and had so much fun with it,” Pfrogner said.
However she never considered fashion as a career until she got turned away from the theater world. Her drama teacher unexpectedly died the night before a performance her junior year of high school. Not long after, her choir director got forced out due to budget cuts within the district.
“I had a new choir director and new drama director my senior year. It was horrible. So all of those experiences kind of made me hate theater, which is really unfortunate.”
Kent State was the only university she even applied to,once she committed to pursuing a degree in fashion, after touring several art and theater schools at a younger age.
“Things just changed,” “I visited Kent and I said ‘this is the place for me.’”
Her deep-rooted love of novels is very apparent on her site. There are detail shots of shoes paired with a novel Pfrogner is reading. Photos of her in a stylish outfit reading a book. Visitors can even find a listing for Pfrogner’s Good Reads account under the “Connect” section, so that they can keep track of what she is reading.
Frequently featuring her cream colored, faux fur rug in her bedroom as the backdrop, her #shoesandbooks posts are as simple as they are meticulous.
For a recent post, she placed a pair of open toed block heels in a cobalt blue suede, one rounded toe pointing towards the book, the other pointing in the opposite direction. The book ‘What We Saw’ by Aaron Hartzler rests perfectly across from the pair. The cover features a black and white photo of an opened door with large script seeming to reveal a blue sky underneath.
Despite cultivating a brand that is outside of the mainstream, she still definitely feels the pressure to post material that she thinks her followers will want to see.
“I know from my engagement rates that my ‘Outfit of the Day’ pics will sometimes get more engagement that my blog post outfits. Which is hard when I’m not able to take an Outfit of the Day picture every day,” Pfrogner said.
Pfrogner expresses pride for the way her brand has grown, after two years. She likes to say she was around before the idea was considered trendy and hopes to inspire others by documenting things she actually wears in real life.
“An issue I had was that a lot of them (bloggers) would wear things that weren’t really wearable,” Pfrogner said. “When I started out, I wanted to do my actual style and be able to document that and inspire others by keeping it very wearable.”
Even early on, she says she never has been able to do it alone. Pfrogner had her father take photos of her outfits for the first year before she could find a photographer.
During a student fashion show, the parents of Dana Rausch, happened to sit beside Pfrogner to watch their daughter model. After chatting and taking a liking to Pfrogner, they explained that Rausch was a transfer student from a regional campus, “Our daughter has no friends,” they told her. “You should be friends with her.”
After deciding on a whim to start taking Pfrogner’s photos while hanging out one day, Rausch became her regular photographer, making suggestions on locations and outfits. Even though they are friends, Rausch says that Pfrogner definitely knows what she wants and is almost a perfectionist.
“I think she’s super driven and super stubborn,” Rausch said.
Rausch said she enjoyed being Pfrogner’s photographer and misses doing it, but that it became all-consuming. “Being her photographer takes a lot of time, but not in a bad way,” Rausch said.
Months later, Rausch graduated and ended up moving to New York City to work at a fashion start-up, leaving Pfrogner to find a new photographer in Ali Bell, a freshman fashion design major. Bell said that their relationship is mostly business related, in contrast to that of Rausch and Pfrogner, because they just met.
Bell added that as a freshman, she felt a sense of honor to shoot for someone like Pfrogner and admires her because blogging is a feat she feels she could not do.
“I like, taking pictures for other people instead of having the focus on me,” she said.
Pfrogner has a system that can become hard to manage, especially for a full-time fashion student. Keeping up with the brand she has cultivated for herself means monitoring her various social media accounts, posting twice a week at minimum on her blog, creating a weekly “Friday Five” and making monthly “Wistful Wish Lists” as well as reading lists for her followers.
“I’m at this point where I’ll be doing homework or studying and I’ll just want to drop everything and give all my energy to my blog. I get really frustrated when I think about how much better my blog could be if I only had more time to focus on it,” she said.
Pfrogner said in the future she hopes to grow her brand into something bigger, but hopes that viewers continue to find her relatable.
“I hope that they can see things that I wear and hopefully get inspired by it because that’s how I originally started out. Or if they want to shop my look, I try to pick things that are affordable.”
As Pfrogner exits the quiet library and re-enters the brash, searing heat of New York City in the summertime, she feels the smell of the pages leave her senses. With a fresh stack of new adventures in tow, Pfrogner leaves this moment, as she has so much of her life, surrounded by books.
Special thank you to journalism student Olivia Minnier for doing this profile on me!