When the pandemic hit and lockdown starved us of IRL conversation and community, Instagram seemed suddenly unfit for purpose. Shiny, curated perfection and off-the-cuff opinions blasted out via Stories felt jarring next to our collective suffering of job losses, isolation, ill relatives and worse. As conversation turned to the fact that Instagram isn't pandemic-proof, many found entertainment, comfort and creativity via YouTube instead.
Meg, 28, logged off Instagram in November due to anxiety the app was giving her and found herself turning to vlogs. "I've always trawled through YouTube for live music and viral videos but I started watching vlogs more regularly at the start of the pandemic," she says. "I just have them on in the background now – they soothe me!" Her favourite? "Brittany Bathgate. I really like how mellow her videos are, they're almost like mindfulness for me."
Thanks to an overly curated Instagram's biased algorithms and culture of envy, more and more content creators have been making the jump to YouTube to publish more authentic and intimate portrayals of their lives. Now, YouTube was founded 16 years ago and there are influencers who have been ruling the space for over a decade, but for those who have recently curtailed their time on Instagram yet still want to discover new brands, beauty tips and outfit ideas, the video sharing platform has been a tonic.
Sure, there are comment sections, brand-sponsored videos and an element of perfectionism which, just like Instagram, could cause anxiety, but there's something softer and more calming about a video format. This is particularly true of creators like Bathgate, who films sun-soaked countryside scenes on her morning runs, or Tar Mar, who sets her walks through a bustling Brooklyn to pacifying house music.
In lockdown, when we're all subject to feelings of isolation yet unable to muster up the emotional bandwidth required for back-to-back Zoom calls, vlogs seem to hold the answer. Providing more imperfection, warmth, reality and personality than Instagram's posed and unrealistic grid – plus the sense of being 'with' someone without having to respond – vlogs offer an antidote to lockdown's solitude. They also cater to our voyeuristic tendencies, allowing us to have a nose around someone's renovated flat, bathroom cabinet or wardrobe. It's infinitely more satisfying than a photoshopped image.
For Kristine, 24, who has been watching vlogs for a decade, this is one of the main draws. "Having been a YouTube watcher for so long, I feel like I’ve become very invested in the people I’m subscribed to," she explains. "Watching YouTube videos honestly doesn’t feel too dissimilar to hanging out with a friend and I get a lot of joy out of seeing new uploads in my subscription box. In general I think the content I watch on YouTube feels a lot more real and relatable than Instagram, which can often feel too curated or impersonal."
Her favourites to follow? "Wear I Live is my favourite for all things fashion, shopping and style. I wish I had her wardrobe! She always finds amazing secondhand items and is so creative in how she styles them. I also love TheLineUp and Alyssa Lau – not only for their style but also for the production quality and editing of their videos."
Whether you're looking to enter the world of vlogs for the first time or you're a seasoned pro after some new recommendations, there's a plethora of YouTubers to follow for styling ideas, brand reviews and shopping tips. Below, meet our favourite vloggers to subscribe to, from Norfolk to New York.
London-born, New York-based Karen Blanchard has been documenting her personal style on YouTube since 2008, garnering a loyal following for her seamless mix of vintage, high street and luxury pieces. You'll be drawn in by the sneak peeks into her wardrobe but you'll stay for the pre-pandemic street style series, What Everyone Is Wearing in New York, plus more recent home renovation and interior tips.
From Toast chore jackets to Batsheva prairie dresses via plenty of vintage treasures, we love everything LA-based filmmaker Madelynn De La Rosa spotlights on her YouTube channel. Beyond nifty thrifting tips, Madelynn's dreamy and whimsical videos throw up vegan recipe ideas, recommendations for French cinema and DIY ceramics that'll make you want to join a pottery club.
Content creator, author of An Edited Life and co-host of the At Home With... podcast, Anna Newton isn't new to the scene: her YouTube channel has been going since 2010. Her impeccable capsule wardrobe and knack for editing will appeal to new viewers, though, as we find ourselves living more pared back lives, ready for fresh starts in 2021. From creating 10 outfits with just 10 pieces to giving her wardrobe a spring clean, this is the channel for organised minimalists with a penchant for classic pieces.
Colorado-born, New York-based Jenny Welbourn has been advocating for sustainable fashion since 2011, when she started documenting her thrift hauls and secondhand shopping tips. Her channel now covers more lifestyle, rather than being purely fashion-focused, with videos giving subscribers an insight into her house moves, favourite books and daily grounding routines. Vintage fanatics will love her low-impact style solutions and vintage-hunting tips.
South London-based Patricia Bright is hardly a YouTube secret – she currently has 2.91 million subscribers and has amassed an incredible 341 million views since she joined the platform as a student back in 2009. Though many will follow Bright for her new venture The Break, an accessible space for women to navigate their finances and business, plus its offshoot podcast Caught Off Guard, her YouTube channel offers a warm, funny and authentic take on fashion, from brand reviews to musings on dressing in your 20s vs your 30s.
LA-based Karina Gomez's channel is a real treat. Her hypercreative take on fashion sees her bring her audience along for the ride on multi-store vintage shopping, recreating looks she spots on Pinterest using only thrifted clothes, and translating catwalk trends with affordable eBay finds. From DIY tie-dye to trying a capsule wardrobe for 30 days, her videos are full of playful challenges that remind you why dressing should be about having fun.
Although Brittany has been vlogging on and off for over a year, she began uploading videos more regularly during the pandemic, sharing the same sublime outfits for which many follow her on Instagram. She's found a loyal audience on YouTube thanks to her honesty and relatability, with her content spanning everything from running, relationships and reading to gardening, interiors and investment buys. Artfully shot nature scenes are interwoven with her daily outfits, and the calming nature of her vlogs has made her a cult hit in lockdown.
Born in Cork and currently residing in Brooklyn, Tara has been YouTubing since 2012 and, though her videos are more of a snapshot of New York life, her outfits will appeal to anyone with a penchant for & Other Stories, high-waisted jeans and a cropped cardigan. The perfect channel to subscribe to if you're after some easy everyday styling tips and a dose of transatlantic escapism (you'll have a long list of NYC recommendations when you're done).