Back to school season is upon us and even though I’m past that stage in my life, I still feel the itch to go out and snap up armfuls of fabulous fall fashions with the mindset that it somehow fits into the realm of school supplies. Alas, I know I need to stick to a budget, and with the holidays just around the corner, even more so.
Recently, a co-worker and I went on a shopping fast for a month. It was budget motivated, so if we could get it for free (or practically free), it didn’t count. I was surprised at how resourceful I became. I was trading my jewelry-making skills for new items, scouring the Internet for coupons, and stacking discounts and rewards points to get the bottom line as close to zero as possible. I even got a new skirt originally priced at $79.50 for 58 cents. Yes, that includes sales tax and shipping. But while I was impressed with myself for not spending the money, I still know the real challenge is to make better use of my current wardrobe instead of looking for new items every time I feel like I have nothing to wear.
Know Thyself (and Thy Closet)
I know myself well enough. Just like most people: out of sight = out of mind.
To complicate matters, I live in an apartment with a weird-shaped closet. It’s hard to explain, but getting to the back corner of the closet requires a flashlight and maybe some hiking gear, rendering any items stored back there pretty much dead to me. And not being able to see and easily access what you already own can make it tempting to keep buying more and more. But since I can’t build out a fabulous shoe wall or knock down that stupid hunk of drywall that blocks about a third of my closet space from the light of day, it’s time to do an inventory.
Holly Chubb , fashion expert and owner of online clothing boutique Penelope Lane Clothing, suggests starting with a clean(er) slate. “You want to get rid of pieces that don’t work for you anymore; it doesn’t fit, it has a hole or stain, it is missing a button you will never replace, or if you haven’t worn it in the last six months.”
Now, this will vary based on how ambitious you are in terms of mending items and just how many clothing items you have. I definitely have more than a six-month rotation worth of items, and that’s why I’m writing this article, but it’s certainly time for some weeding out. After you have narrowed down your closet to the items that you want to keep, Chubb recommends taking pictures of your wardrobe. “This lets you visually put together new outfits without literally pulling your clothes out of the closet. It’s much easier and much faster.”
My thoughts exactly! I feel like cataloging my wardrobe in a visual way would really help me get the most wear out of what I already have. This, combined with the fact that I am a big online shopper (yes, the mailman knows me by name), really made me think about how I could shift my focus to shopping my own closet online. I’ve used Polyvore to make outfit sets before with items grabbed from retailer websites. It’s not really designed for closet cataloging, but you could rig it to work that way. With a little research, I also found some websites designed for this very purpose and decided to test drive them a bit to decide which one I liked best. There are a number of closet organizing applications for smartphone users as well, but since I still live in the dark ages and don’t have a smartphone, I couldn’t test them out. Even so, I think I prefer the larger screen of a computer for something like this.
Polyvore has been made popular mostly in part by outfit idea posts on Pinterest. It is a clean, easy-to-use interface that basically allows you to be your own magazine editor. It offers great versatility in terms of making clothing sets, where you can mix and match items on a single canvas and then save it to your profile. You can even add text, graphics, and rotate items to suit your own aesthetic taste. You can save clothing and accessory items to your profile, but community users are really mostly adding to a collective pool of items grabbed from retailer websites rather than uploading personal pictures or snapshots of items from their closets.
- Lots of clothes have already been uploaded to the website, which you can easily search based on clothing type, color, price range, etc.
- It’s super easy to grab images from websites with the “Clip to Polyvore” add-on for your browser.
- You can make sets, mixing and matching items on a single canvas, with lots of flexibility in terms of rotating items, adding text, backgrounds, and even some graphics.
- No privacy settings.
- It’s more difficult to upload your own photos. You have to put them on a blog, online photo album, Tumblr page, or something similar before you can “clip” them to Polyvore.
- There is not a good way to categorize your items as far as tracking closet inventory.
Closet Couture’s interface is clean and pretty user friendly, though not as advanced as Polyvore. It is designed as a closet cataloging site, so it is definitely better in terms of letting you upload your own photos and categorize them based on item type. You can then take the items you put into your closet and make outfit sets with them. This capability is much more limited than with Polyvore, but it gets the job done. There is also a calendar feature so you can plan for special occasions and trips. Closet Couture offers the option to make your closet contents and outfit sets completely private, but if you are interested in the social networking aspect of the site, you can invite friends to join. You can then create outfits for each other with items you upload or borrow from each other’s virtual closets.
- You can easily upload your own photos and categorize them based on item type.
- You can make sets, mixing and matching wardrobe pieces on a single canvas.
- You can invite friends and make outfits for each other based on what you have loaded into your virtual wardrobe.
- Privacy settings are customizable.
- Calendar feature helps you track what items you wear most and plan for events and trips.
- You cannot grab photos directly from a website. You have to download the photo to your computer first and then upload it to Closet Couture.
- Set making is rather limited compared to Polyvore.
- Items are only roughly categorized. There is no real way to filter, search, or sort through your virtual wardrobe except based on item type (i.e. skirts).
Go Chic or Go Home has a rather minimalist interface, but is quite user friendly. It is a little Pinterest-esque in that it borrows the idea of boards. They start you out with some, like My Clothes, Outfit Inspiration, and My Outfits, but you can also create your own categories. You can easily upload personal photos from your computer or grab pictures off websites to fill your virtual closet or collect outfit inspiration. You can then name, tag, and categorize the items or photos. These photos can be used to create ensembles. As you can see, this is just a saved group of photos rather than a combined set. Go Chic or Go Home also boasts an active and non-judgmental community with lots of people sharing outfit inspiration photos.
- It is easy to add your own personal photos or grab images directly from some websites.
- It utilizes filters, allowing you to tag an item based on color, season, occasion, etc.
- Has designated boards for inspiration outfits, wish lists, and “liked” items and outfits from the Go Chic or Go Home community.
- You can earn points towards retailer gift cards based on your activity on the site.
- Limited privacy settings.
- Uses ensemble boards instead of sets.
- Had some difficulty grabbing photos directly from retailer websites.
Winner: Go Chic or Go Home
Hands down, the filtering abilities on Go Chic or Go Home won me over, and I got over the idea of not being able to make true sets and letting others (potentially) see the contents of my closet. It’s great to be able to filter based on color, season, or occasion, and I think this will really help me maximize the wardrobe I already own. Also, having a designated place to include outfit inspiration images and photos of your own outfits was a nice touch.
Whether you choose to take the additional step of digitizing your closet or not, having a better sense of what you already own is important. “The key is to reinvent what you have,” says Chubb. And I think there is something creatively freeing about being able to mix and match items in a virtual space. Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s like playing dress up without the hassle of physically changing (or cleaning up)! So whether you are in a rut in terms of what to wear, looking to curb your spending by shopping your own closet, or just want to give all your clothes some equal love, creating an online inventory of your wardrobe could be a worthwhile undertaking.