A few weeks ago, a friend sent me the link to a really amazing website that combines two of my favorite things—fashion and reality TV. Started by local stay-at-home-mom Dana Weiss, the site—which tells readers where to find clothes like those worn on their favorite TV shows—was just meant for Dana and her friends. But when fashion meets TV, it turns out the fans just can’t keep away and before Dana had even realized it, she was amassing thousands of hits to her site each week. Now turning a profit while doing what she loves, Dana’s built a thriving empire as the Posessionista. Recently, Dana chatted with me about being a fashionable couch potato, her celebrity obsessions, where she shops and the Posessionista January shopping hangover giveaway.
Oy!Chicago: What is your professional background?
Dana Weiss: I was a journalism major at Indiana University. I worked at CNN and FOX and then I moved over to PR. For years and years, I worked at agencies and my last job, before I became a mom, was the director of PR for Fairmont hotels. I had a lot of opportunities there to watch bad outfits walk in and out of the hotel.
How did you come up with the idea for the
It was an accident, really. I’m just really compulsive. I’d say I’m a fashionable couch potato—I watch a lot of TV. I’d find myself obsessing about what characters I saw [on TV] were wearing, so I would watch these shows and then I would go to Google and I would google and google and google and look for their clothes. If I still couldn’t find the clothes, I would look on Facebook or Twitter and it was taking up a lot of my time. I would talk to my friends about it and eventually I just started posting it on this blog thinking no one would ever look at it. It was just for my three or four friends and just very cathartic for me.
When Jillian Harris was on the Bachelorette, I was obsessed with her. I was following all of her clothes [on my blog] and people started googling her clothes (and no one was really doing this for reality TV at the time). There are a lot of sites out there that track what celebs are wearing, but no one was doing it for reality TV. And people were googling Jillian Harris and they would end up at my site and I was getting thousands and thousands of visitors and I didn’t even know! It was never intended to be anything and if you go back and look at the very beginning of the blog, it is very different than what it is now.
Were you surprised by the massive response you’ve gotten?
Yes! Absolutely! I mean I’m not surprised that people use it [the blog] because I think a lot of women are like that. We watch TV and we see celebs and we want to wear what they are wearing and we google it. I’m surprised at how many people come back. It’s not like a one-time thing. I get emails all the time from people who really feel connected to me and that’s sort of a really amazing feeling, to know that people like my taste and they like the way I write.
Have you been surprised by the response stores have had to your site?
I’m surprised. I’ll tell you the first time I was really surprised was I was doing the movie I Love You Man and I couldn’t find this yellow blouse that Rashida Jones was wearing in it. I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I called the agency that reps Leesa Evans who was the costume designer on the film and she emailed me back directly! I just couldn’t believe that an Academy Award-winning costumer would call me back. Lou Eyrich from Glee texts me every single week. Cary Fetman from the Bachelor and I email back and forth. Mandi Line from Pretty Little Liars and I talk on the phone. When Jillian Harris was done with The Bachelorette, I was the first person she emailed to say how much she liked the blog. I’m doing these 31 days of giveaways in January with 7 for all mankind and Cuba and they want to work with me and I’m always surprised because I feel like I’m just this stay-at-home-mom who is doing this for fun and now everyone wants to be a part of it. It’s really cool.
Who are your fashion icons? Who are your favorite designers?
I mean I love Alice + Olivia and I love Elizabeth + James. You know if I had all the money in the world I would want to wear Louboutin shoes and I would want to wear Prada and I would want to wear Lanvin, but you know, I’m just like a normal girl. I love Current/Elliot Jeans. I love modern vintage boots and I’m obsessed with Jeffrey Cambell shoes and I love things that not everyone is wearing. I love this store arizia that’s Canadian. Its been around but people don’t know about it. I like wearing a really current thing that’s not exactly the same as what everyone is wearing.
I know you are a big fan of Nordstrom, what are your other go-to stores for shopping?
Nordstrom is like, it to me, I cannot get enough of their customer service and their selection. When Nordstrom agreed to be one of my affiliates, it was like the mother ship calling me. I was happy.
I love Urban Outfitters. I think it’s the most underrated store. They have amazing clothes, if you want to be on trend, but don’t want to spend the money. I love Barney’s co-op. I love Cusp. I love the Gap. I mean nobody seems to like going to the Gap, but the Gap has great clothes. Their jeans are awesome right now. I love Forever 21. I’m way too old to be shopping there, but if you have an impulse buy, Forever 21 is the greatest place. They have awesome rock and roll tees and their jewelry is amazing and you don’t care if you break it. If you want to wear one of those big Muppet fur coats, get it at Forever 21 because I promise you, you are not going to wear it next year. It looks good on Rachel Zoe, so if you only drink coffee and smoke cigs all day and all night, then you call pull it off. I have this challenge out there, I don’t believe anyone besides RZ can pull off that fake fur vest look without looking like a ridiculous Muppet and if anyone can send me a pic proving me wrong, I will buy you a venti non-fat latte. I just don’t think in real life a woman would be walking down the street on Michigan Ave wearing one of those vest and looking really good.
We just interviewed Jill Zarin from the RHofNY about her book “Secrets of a Jewish Mother,” who do you think is the best dressed housewife? Which cast is the most fashionable?
Omg, Beverly Hills. The clothes are amazing! I love Kyle Richards! I love her hair— she says she uses Dove or Pantene. Her hair is beautiful. There’s something so approachable about her. If you message her on Twitter, she will respond to you and tell you what she’s wearing. Bethany Frankel is another one who is just an awesome, awesome dresser who gets her body. If you have enough money, you can dress really badly, but you can also dress really beautifully.
What’s your favorite TV show for good fashion finds?
Well, obviously Glee. Lou’s created characters in those clothes. Gossip Girl is amazing. I love that show Pretty Little Liars, Mandi Line is the costumer. She has no budget, so she literally took clothes and ripped them apart and sewed them back together. It’s a really great lesson in reusing and recycling. I love The Bachelorette because these are just normal girls and not celebrities, so the things that they are wearing, if you like them, you can go out and get it that day. They just bought it for that show. Chances are you can go to the mall and get it. There’s something relatable about that. Obvi, Sex and the City. It’s awhile ago, but I think Patricia Fields was the first time that people noticed what the characters were wearing and that clothes became a character themselves.
Being a costume designer is such a thankless job…How many people know name Eric Daman? He is the genius behind it. Blake and Leighton are just wearing the clothes, they didn’t pick them out. Blake Lively is the new face of Chanel and she’s beautiful, but we never stop to think about the people dressing them, the stylists, and the costumers, these are people who are really talented.
What are your future plans for Possessionista? Where do you see the site in five years?
I don’t know. That’s the million dollar question. If you had told me two years ago that I would be talking to Oy!Chicago or that I would have 50,000 weekly readers, I would have said give me your pharmacists number, you are smoking something. I would love to collaborate with a designer. I’m working right now with a jeweler who makes bracelets and we’re going to make a Possessionista bracelet for my readers. I love the partnership that Emily Shuman at Cupcakes and Cashmere got to design a handbag for Coach. I think it’s really cool that designers are taking note of bloggers and bringing their voices to fruition. I would love to work with people like Oy!Chicago and get my writing out there and touch new people and that’s sort of it. Keep writing more places and keep getting my voice out there and collaborating with designers and retailers.
What’s your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago?
I love to go for like deli with my kids. I grew up on the East Coast, so being in Chicago, I like to take my kids for knishes and corn beef and just like tell them about what it was like to go visit my grandmother in Brooklyn and have the NY Jewish deli experience. It’s really fun for me, because it’s my childhood. It’s not so much religious as it is cultural, but the food was definitely a part of my Jewish upbringing and I love sharing it with my kids.
Is there anything else you want to tell or preview to the Oy!Chicago readers?
I’d like to tell them and I think it’s really fun…in January, we all get our credit card bills for our holiday shopping and our holiday gifts and everyone kind of goes, “oh, crap” when it shows up…I call it the shopping hangover. Every day in January, I’m giving away something. It’s the 31 days of giveaways. I have 7 for all Mankind, Paige, True Religion, Smash Box, huge, huge names. Every day one of them is giving something to one reader—so that is a great time to start reading Posessionista, because I’m giving away tons of free stuff. I’ll be like the Oprah of blogging.