One look at Tessa Barton’s Insta feed, and it’s hard to imagine that the sartorial ace was once a gangly girl with little penchant for fashion. Her first foray onto the gram took place in college and was more of a diary format — “Throwback photos with my little brother from the first day of school,” she says with a laugh — than a singular, stylish vision. Fast-forward to today and it’s a whole different story. With more than 200K followers, the blogger and musician (check out her soulful performances on YouTube and you won’t need us to convince you she’s a woman of many talents) has made documenting her life her full-time gig.
And when it comes to navigating the reality of being a social media sensation, she’s always happy to offer advice from her own experiences with the goal of inspiring people. “I love to share not just my photos but also my editing process, because figuring out how to make a picture feel like a piece of art is very important,” she explains. Below, Barton opens up about her meteoric rise and what it takes to master the art of a standout shot.
Were you drawn to fashion as a kid, or did that come about later in life?
“I was always a tomboy because I was so tall and didn’t know how to blend in — it was pretty much my only choice. When I got a little bit older, I started sketching, designing, and sewing clothes, and at around age 14, I really started diving into fashion photography. When I was 16, I convinced my parents to let me move to New York City to go to Parsons. My whole family works in the art industry, so a strong sense of aesthetics was always something I was surrounded by. I feel like what I do now is kind of a combination of everything I love.”
How has your Instagram photo strategy evolved over the years?
“I got an iPhone in college and was initially using it just for the photo filters. At first I had two separate accounts — a photography one and a personal one. The personal one was just me documenting my life. I wasn’t trying to do anything big. I started gaining some traction and followers, but in the beginning, I didn’t even really know that was a thing. It was cool because it all grew organically. Now, my husband and I work on it as a team. He helps with the photos and I do the editing. We get to shoot lookbooks with brands and create a ton of content.”
Your feed has such a personal and coherent look to it. What do you think makes your images stand out?
“I have a background as a photographer, so I’m constantly thinking about all the aesthetic aspects — where I’m going to shoot, the pairing of the clothes, and how to make it look unique. I never want to repeat anything on my Instagram, and I never just take a photo against a plain wall. I really like to create little stories.”
“I grew up in the mountains, so I have a bohemian style, but now I live in the city, so it’s a mix. What never changes is that I love texture and over-accessorizing. My philosophy is that you can’t ever have enough. You can’t overdo it. I love boots, tons of necklaces, and great jackets. When it comes to accessories, just load them up!”
Any favorite Instagram-friendly tips for pulling together a fail-safe outfit in a pinch?
“Jackets! I love a statement jacket because you can just throw it on with jeans and a tee to automatically look like you tried.”
From remote beaches to the countryside, your Instagram is chock-full of amazing travel destinations. What are some of your strategies when it comes to packing for a trip where you’ll be shooting a lot?
“I like to take pieces that I can dress up and dress down and that I can wear more than once while making them look different. I don’t like to post the same outfit twice. I need to keep it interesting and mix things up. Posting can get stressful because you want to show all the best content, so I like to knock out some amazing shots in the first couple of days, edit those, and then post as I go, so I can enjoy the rest of my time. It’s about making it seem like it’s not a job — but it is a job!”
What about when you’re not traveling: Do you enjoy incorporating a single piece into various outfits?
“Definitely. I live in New York, so closet space is limited. I will never just wear something once; I like to get use out of my clothes. When I’m shopping for something new, that’s the number one thing I think about — how I can style it in various ways.”
How do you approach accessories? Is there anything you never take off?
“I wear a ring on every single finger pretty much every day. And I love big rings. I have a huge collection. And I own a lot of different bags. I think a bag makes an outfit complete.”
What advice would you give to someone trying to do something fashion-oriented and get themselves out there on Instagram?
“Figure out what makes you different. You don’t ever want to copy anybody. Think about the things your friends ask your advice about or are always coming to you for. And then focus on that, because it’s something you know you’re good at. Build your brand around that. It’s much easier to build a brand around something that you’re already doing well.”
“I definitely have things that I wish I hadn’t put up, but I’ve never deleted anything. I’ve kept every single post since day one because I think it’s hilarious and fun to look back and see how I’ve grown and changed. It’s like a journal for me, so I’m not embarrassed. It’s cool to look back on.”
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