“Why’s this so good?”: Geneva Vanderzeil and DIY

imagesizerPost by Mary Callie Gisler. All photos by Geneva Vanderzeil.

Covering a beat like do-it-yourself has introduced me to a much different style of writing than the reporting world might be use to. One of my favorite examples of this is a DIY article written by DIY writer and blogger Geneva Vanderzeil’s in 2012. Her skills were featured on NBC News’ TODAY Show when she recreated a popular fashion accessory from the 2012 Golden Globes red carpet.

This how-to feature is not a traditional news story, nor it is a detail-rich essay from the pages of Vanity Fair.  Instead, Vanderzeil remained true to her blogging roots and produced an educational and highly-visual feature that is not only informational to her audience, but also stirs their creative and teaches them something new.

When it comes to do-it-yourself writing and blogging, a photo really is worth a thousand words. Vanderzeil’s article does lack a substantial amount of copy and quotes. Instead, the author relied on her photography to be a guiding factor between her short introduction and spinets of direction.


The article features seven detailed photos that coincide with each step of the project. For me, the photography enriches the piece and gives Vanderzeil’s words and ideas life. Quality images are one of the most important aspects of do-it-yourself writing and blogs. They are essential for readers to really grasp the project, see the results, and learn something from the post. Based on her photos, Vanderzeil made all of these obvious goals while she was producing and writing her piece.

In addition to her helpful photos, the blogger also broke down each step of her project into easy-to-follow instructions:

“Cut the ribbon to size by measuring it around your head — leaving a 3-inch gap at the back where you will sew the elastic to make it easier to wear. [Then] sew one side of the elastic to the underside of the ribbon.”

With detailed instructions with a photo to match, Vanderzeil has created an educational how-to feature that allows her readers to follow along as they read. It adds to the informational value of the piece and establishes Vanderzeil’s goal of helping her audience create a remarkably easy accessory.

At the end of the piece, Vanderzeil goes further with advice for how to style and wear the DIY accessory:

“To wear the headband, I put it on while my hair is down and then lightly pin my hair in a messy up do after putting it on. This sort of statement accessory can be easily worn during the day with a relaxed outfit of striped top and jeans, or be taken into evening paired with a silk camisole and bright pink wide leg trousers.”

Adding this to the conclusion of her article makes it a fully accessible feature article, from the making of an accessory to actually wearing it in day-to-day life. I found this how-to feature to be thoughtful and complete. As a premier example of do-it-yourself tutorial writing, the author produced a piece to be featured on a notable news source.

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