“Do you remember LiveJournal?” Caitlin Covington asks. The 30-year-old new mother may have made her biggest social-media splash to date in 2019, when she became the face of the Twitter meme “Christian Girl Autumn,” but she has been building her following since 2011, when she started her fashion blog Southern Curls and Pearls. I’m curious just how far back her history on the internet goes, which is why we’re now reminiscing about LiveJournal. 

“I had one of those and then, I think it's called Xanga—I had both of those,” she tells me when we speak over the phone. “No one had a big audience back then. I would just find these girls on the internet and start reading their blogs and they maybe had 10 followers and I maybe had like 10 blog readers at the time. Then we would comment back and forth on each other's blogs. I was immersed in that world and always interested in it from the beginning, before Instagram even came out.”

And then Covington became one of the first influencers on Instagram, too. She had hoped her blog would land her a job in the magazine industry, and she actually ended up working in public relations for a year. But as Instagram became a place for creators, she left her nine-to-five behind. 

“It kind of took me by surprise that I was able to create this whole career for myself,” says Covington, who has leveraged Southern Curls and Pearls into over one million Instagram followers, working with companies like Walmart, Fabletics, Clinique, and pretty much every other brand on the influencer bucket list. 

Travel content is also a big part of Covington’s brand, but she’s been grounded at her longtime home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for the past year due to the pandemic. So she used the pause to launch something new: Her first-ever clothing collection, launching March 5 with Pink Lily

Covington’s aim was to keep the collection affordable and size-inclusive, even if the clothes themselves are still a bit aspirational. Rather than taking the breezy sundresses and belted bathing suits on vacation to Italy or Greece, the creator hopes the collection will help bring the spirit of vacation to your own backyard until it’s safe to show the pieces off to the world. 

The collection is also the first of what may be many clothing and product launches in Covington’s future, as she prepares to transition away from front-facing creator work sometime “down the road.”  

“A brand, a product line, that could last forever,” she says. “But my blog, that only will live as long as I'm willing to put in the work for it.” 

We spoke about the work she’s done in the industry over the past decade, how she translated that into a clothing collection for her followers, and what her life “after” social media could look like.

It’s been almost two years since the “Christian Girl Autumn” meme and I’m curious—how big of a moment was that for you and your brand? 

It's interesting. When the Christian Girl Autumn meme came out, my Instagram following was at 950,000. I really think I had already built an audience. And then when that happened, I think it brought a different audience over to look at my account that maybe would have never seen my account before. So it definitely was great publicity. It got a lot of eyes on my blog and on my Instagram, but I would like to think I had already for nine years been doing a lot of hard work building my audience organically. So it wasn't super pivotal, but I do think it was great publicity and also it was fun. It was a really cool experience to be in a meme. People's creativity just kind of blew me away, like all of this spin-off memes that came up. I thought that was hilarious. 

In January you had your first baby, which is another new chapter. How much do you think it will change your content?

I think my audience has really grown up with me from the beginning. So when I was graduating college and getting my first big-girl job, they were as well. And when I was getting married, a lot of people were in similar situations, planning their weddings and getting married along with me. So now that I was pregnant and had a baby, my audience is right there with me and they really want to see that type of content. I've gotten so many requests for baby stuff or motherhood, also how to be fashionable while you're a mom, how to balance motherhood and being a working mom. So I definitely plan to share that part of my life. I think there's always a balance and you know, not oversharing, but I definitely want to share that with them because they're so interested. It's a huge part of my life now and what I do is just share my life.

Has spending the past 10 years on social media affected how you feel about your daughter being on social media? 

It's something that my husband and I have talked a lot about. We were even debating, Should we show her face? Because I know there's a lot of people out there who are cruel and who are mean, also it can be a privacy issue. But in the end we decided that for my real followers, for people who have been really invested in us and have followed us for a long time, we want them to see our daughter and we want to share her. We want to keep some things private, but I thought my followers have really been there since the beginning, they deserve to see this part of my life as well. So we ultimately decided to show her face and show her in content, but not making her the main part of what I do. Still focusing on me and fashion and my life, but definitely showing her and incorporating her as well. 

Speaking of fashion, you’re launching your first ever clothing collection with Pink Lily on Friday. How did that collaboration come about?

One of my longest dreams has always been to have my own clothing line or my own collection. So it's really been something that I've been thinking about from forever from a really young age. My manager [and I] had just been talking about finding the perfect fit to actually make that come to life and Pink Lily was the perfect retailer for that because they really appeal to all women—they're size-inclusive, their prices are really affordable, they're a pretty small business. Their audience closely resonates with mine. My audience, I do a lot of digging into the numbers and seeing what they like, what they're buying, and [it’s] definitely the $25 to $50 price point. Pink Lily, I don't think they've ever had anything on their site that's over $100.

I wanted to create a line of clothing for spring, for vacation. I think it's especially important since we are still in the pandemic that even if people can't travel to Greece or travel to Italy right now, they can at least wear beautiful clothes and feel like they're dressed for Italy or feel like they're dressed for Greece, even if they're just staying at home or if they're going on a local trip to their beach or to their pool or something. 

Covington in the Mykanos Dress. Photo: Pink Lily

Has fashion always been something you were interested in?

I can remember just being really, really young and being very particular about my outfit. I used to shop at Limited Too when we were growing up. Every Saturday I got to go to pick out one outfit. My dad would take me. And that was just the highlight of my week. I remember events in my life based off of what I was wearing. Someone will be like, “Oh, do you remember when this happened?” And the way my mind works is like, Yes, I remember that because I was wearing a red dress and I had butterfly flips in my hair. 

How hands-on were you in creating the collection?

I put together a bunch of mood boards of the vibe and the feeling that I wanted the collection to have, just all vacation wear and beautiful pieces that really looked high-end and looked gorgeous on a lot of different body types. Then from there we set numbers like, Okay, we're thinking 10 dresses and bathing suits, I really wanted some mix and match pieces, and I wanted some belts—I think belted swimwear is going to be huge for the spring.

I worked closely with the buying team for Pink Lily and they would kind of send me a sample and I would try it on and then I'd have a ton of feedback for them. And some of the pieces that we originally started with looked completely different when they were finally done, because we changed the fabric or we changed the length. So it was a really interesting process. I've never designed anything or had my own collection before, so I learned a lot. I learned really it's tough, and how much work goes into a single piece of clothing to make it exactly perfect. 

And presumably the collection was made with your followers in mind. How would you describe them?

I would say that they are just the girl next door. They want to feel confident in their clothes. They don't have a huge budget. They might only have a hundred dollars to spend and they want to spend it on something that they're gonna wear a lot. They're some of the kindest people out there. Whenever I have a question about the baby or breastfeeding, they are the first ones to send in their advice. They're just a great community of women. 

Covington in the Capri One Shoulder Swimsuit. Photo: Pink Lily

Does having over a million eyes on you at all times present any challenges?

Well, for one thing, I think I've learned to differentiate between constructive criticism and someone who is just hateful or a troll. If if I'm hearing the same message from a lot of people and they're saying it in a nice way, and I can tell that they have my best interests at heart, but they have some constructive criticism for me, then I definitely listen to it and I say, Okay, I need to change how I'm doing things. But if it's just a really hateful message, then I brush that off and I'm able to look past it and I can say, Okay, that person is not having a good day or clearly isn't happy with their life and I don't need to listen to what they're saying. But it is hard. Over the years I've had my share of hateful people, but I've gotten a really thick skin. 

Do you ever think about a future that isn’t so focused on social media?

I would love to have my own clothing line or my own product line or brand. I think influencers aren't going anywhere. I think they're here to stay, but the problem is that with being an influencer, your brand is only around as long as you're willing to keep working and kind of hustle. Down the road, I’d love to have a brand so that I could have a team and build a lasting career without me having to be the face of it. My income comes from me being the one to hop on Stories or me writing the blog posts, versus if I had a product line, a team could be running that and I could step behind the scenes and be a mother or be a wife. Less forward-facing, I guess.

I imagine how quickly social media moves now—all the new apps, the new features—may have contributed to that.

Oh, definitely. When I was first starting out, all of those new things were really fun and exciting and I had the time to dedicate to those. It's kind of like riding a roller coaster, every day there's something new, something to work on. But I've been doing this for so long and now I'm a mother and I don't have the time to dedicate to making a ton of TikTok videos or making a ton of Reels. That's why I think it would be nice to kind of step back.  

Has the pandemic given you that opportunity to step back at all?

I actually think that the pandemic has helped my blog and Instagram. For a while I was traveling almost too much, multiple times a month. I felt like I was rarely home, and it was great ‘cause I was getting to see the world and getting to take beautiful pictures, but it wasn't very relatable. I think when everyone had to quarantine and stay home over the past year, I had to get really creative with content. So more of my pictures were around my house or around my neighborhood. And I also started sharing more recipes and more home content and I got a lot of feedback saying, “This is way more relatable than when you were traveling all the time.” So I think when the world does eventually open back up, I'm going to be a little bit smarter and different about how I proceed.