The fusion of Disney and fashion
Leslie Kalbfleisch, creator of popular Tumblr blog DisneyBound, has had an exciting two years since the creation of her blog. From a travel blog to a Disney fashion blog, Kalbfleisch describes the inner workings of running one of Tumblr’s popular blogsites. Cord Arts sat down with Kalbfleisch to discuss the ins and outs of blogging, Disney fashion culture and what it’s been like to become an Internet sensation.
Q: When did you start DisneyBound?
DisneyBound started as a travel blog. I was going to Disney World with one of my best friends, we had been planning this since we were ten and then we were both in our early 20’s which is why we wanted to go on this trip. So we created this Tumblr out of excitement and that was about two years ago. So I started to do these outfits and after the first five outfits [designed] I noticed 1,000 views. Then I was like “holy crap, 1,000?” and then I kept going on from there. That was within a week of going live I didn’t intentionally mean for it to be a fashion blog, it became one.
Q: So “DisneyBound” comes from the act of you and your friend wanting to travel to Disney?
Yes, we were literally ‘Disney bound” and now it’s become a more figurative meaning of being bound to the Disney magic and lifestyle.
Q: You mentioned you got 1,000 views on your first week? What strategies did you use to market your blog in order to get hits and how were you able to track your views?
I was creating the outfits on Polyvore (a collaborative fashion website designed for people to put together outfits) that’s my main resource for when I go and create the outfits for the blog and that gives me a better tracking device. [Polyvore] was able to show me the views and who was clicking on the images. The first day I was sitting at my computer, creating these outfits and I was watching the views go up in front of me.
Q: What was your reaction to that?
I remember going to my mom and saying “Mom, I got 3,000 views this weekend!” and she was like “That’s nuts!”. Since then, 3,000 views is nothing. Polyvore has given me better insight for viewers, Tumblr doesn’t show you page visits.
Q: How many followers do you gain on an average week?
I try not to keep track of it too much but the last time I checked I was getting about 50-100 new followers a day and getting close to 10,000 views about every two weeks or so.
Q: How do you make it consistent?
It’s evolved a lot because it started as a hobby. From there as it started to get shared across the web I realized that I should make these images look a lot better so I put a lot more effort into laying it out and what pieces to choose.
Q: What’s your routine of putting the blog together in depth?
My weekly schedule is that most weeknights I do about seven outfits. I have a list of requests that people want to see and so I’ll go through the list and pick a character and then I start to think ‘What kind of look do I want to do this time? Do I want it to be formal or casual or athletic?’And then I just start to look for the right pieces, so I start off with the shirt and then the pants, or a dress. Accessories are the main thing that really pull everything together. For example when I put together an outfit for the Mad Hatter (from Alice in Wonderland) there’s a hat I incorporate and accessories like a tea-cup ring. And then on Friday I do about ten outfits and Saturday I do about 15. It’s lots of organization that goes with it or else I completely forget what I’m doing.
Q: How long has it taken you to develop a schedule?
DisneyBound has kind of taken over my life but I make sure that I give myself Sundays off. When I started off my outfit posting would vary, I would post 15 outfits a day, three outfits the next. Then I realized that I had a following with people constantly checking in so I had to find a balance with peak hours of when people were logging on which was mostly in the evenings after people got out of school. But I also have a social life so it got to the point where it took over and I felt like I couldn’t go out on a Saturday night because I had so much work to do. So I created my own schedule and I’m my own boss where I’m very strict with making sure I post a specific amount of outfits each night. There are some days where I’d very much rather go to the beach but I have to get my 15 outfits done first (laughs).
Q: We notice that you repost other people’s outfits, do you think that gives a more wholesome view for people to get inspired when searching DisneyBound?
Yes, the whole purpose of DisneyBound is to inspire people to find their own style and create their own ideas. I actually get some people angry with me because I don’t make things that work for them but I can’t make everything based on everyone’s budget and style so the challenge is trying to create an outfit everyone can use. I try to inspire people to do what works for them based on the examples that I give them. You don’t have to go out and splurge money on the shorts that I used for the outfit but you can get an idea and go find something that’s similar and for a cheaper price. I just want them to have fun with it and make it their own.
Q: What knowledge and experience do you use to channel your blog?
I have a background in fashion and it was my go-to hobby during high school. I’m really into fashion, designing and sewing and I graduated from Conestoga College in the marketing program so with that I used my knowledge of social media and marketing to market myself which I think has helped me because I knew the basics of how to market myself and connect with the public.
Q: Looking at your inspirations, you mentioned on your blog that your aunt is one of them. How has she channeled that inspiration with DisneyBound?
She helped me a lot with fashion. I would always go to her place and sew and she taught me a lot of sewing. She was very creative and she would help me with focusing on anything creative. I never got to tell her about DisneyBound but I think if she were here today, she would be very impressed. I think [DisneyBound] would be something she would’ve really liked.
Q: What’s been the most interesting and exciting experience you’ve had with DisneyBound with a fan/follower?
I had done a series with Bob Mackie because a bunch of people from Mackie’s team had reached out to me asking if I would design some of their Barbie Dolls, so I did that in December and Holly Madison tweeted a couple weeks ago that she liked the series. I’m also a Bob Mackie fan so that was really cool from a Hollywood perspective, especially with a celebrity acknowledging what I’ve been doing.
But I did a collaboration with a denim shorts line based in Chicago and so I went to their fashion show. I was standing there talking to someone and I get a tap on the shoulder and this young girl who is about 12 said, “Excuse me are you Leslie from DisneyBound?” and I said, “Yes” and she had tears in her eyes. It made me feel like I was Justin Bieber so that was pretty cool to have someone so excited to see me and want to get a picture with me and have their mom be equally excited.
Q: Why do you think people enjoy dressing up as Disney characters?
I think because we are told that we are supposed to grow up but there’s no point where, bam, you’re an adult. So I think the people who really enjoy Disney and being creative and having a big imagination, they don’t want to let to go of that. So I think they enjoy playing dress up without actually having to [wear a costume]. And I think it helps people with fashion and accessorizing as opposed to looking at a model. It gives them examples to really get into fashion. Looking for inspiration from Disney like Alice in Wonderland is much helpful than looking at a 90 pound model. I think that’s what people have really enjoyed about DisneyBound and dressing up.
Q: What are your immediate go-to places when you design outfits?
There’s a couple ways that I do it. I start with a character and I start with my knowledge in fashion and design and I think of certain aspects and features that are similar to the character. I think of what they would dress like and what pieces would go together and then I go to Polyvore and start designing. I can spend an hour designing an outfit for one character. Either I’m on Polyvore or when I’m shopping online and if I see something, I’ll add it to the design.
Q: Where do you see the future of DisneyBound?
Because it never was a goal to get to this level, it has been a really cool ride. I want to put out my own accessory line in the next year or two and to be recognized by Disney fashion. I do talk with some people there but they’re also a very busy company and it’s difficult to find the right person and the right amount of passion of someone who wants to bring me in. So, my overall goal would be to be with Disney at some aspect.
Q: Do you think of moving out there?
Definitely I want to be in Los Angeles eventually and a lot of my followers think I already live there. I want to take the blog to the next level. It’s great that I get to do this from Waterloo but I think there’s something missing with me not being out there and being able to be near the Disney community.