Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Do you prefer "fashion victim" or "ensembly challenged"?

If you are even close to my age, and female, you probably remember watching Clueless, and thinking "OMG, if only I had Cher's closet!" Recently, I decided I was going to try and digitize my closet. The benefits I was looking to reap from this? One, I would know what I have and be able to access a list/pictures on a mobile device, so I can shop smarter (and be shamed into shopping less by realizing how much I have, lol). Second, I can plan outfits ahead, so that getting ready in the morning is easier. I began investigating my options.

First, I thought, "I'll just go on Polyvore and find items similar to things I have!" But alas, I couldn't find a lot of my items.

I discovered that there are many websites which allow you to upload pictures of your clothes and style outfits a la Polyvore. I tried out Clothia and Closet Couture.

Clothia is similar to Pinterest, in that you can install a button on your brower to "pin" items into your closet, in addition to uploading photos you take of your own items. This is nice because when you purchase a new item online, you can simply use the product image from the site where you purchased it. However, Clothia did not have categories (such as "tops", "pants", etc...) which ultimately made constructing outfits from a large wardrobe cumbersome.

Closet Couture allows you to sort your items into categories, and even remove the backgrounds of your images if you take them carefully against a white background. I had only marginal success with this feature, however. It worked well for dark colored items, but not light colored ones. The uploading was also quite slow, and the website in general loads slowly. My biggest gripe is that you have to reload the "Create Outfit" page every time you start a new outfit, or it only stores your new outfit as "related look" to the previous one you made. The best thing about Closet Couture is this: on the page to create an outfit, you really can select some pants (or a skirt) and have all your tops on a slider above it to see which ones go, exactly like in Clueless!

If you have a Mac, there is a desktop app called "Dress Assistant" which works off-line. I tried the demo version and it seemed pretty good. However, part of what I wanted was the ability to look and see what I have when I am out shopping, so I don't buy things similar to items I already have, and I can try to buy things that go with a lot of my current wardrobe.

Finally, here is what I ended up settling on, which surprised me with its simplicity:

Step 1: Take pictures of all your clothes, shoes, and accessories. This took a long time, but not as long as you might think. I cleaned out my closet while I was at it, and took a hefty amount to Plato's Closet (got $95!) and the rest to Goodwill.

Step 2: Crop out as much of the background as possible on your images, enhance them if desired.

Step 3: Create Folders: I made a large folder called "Virtual Closet" and inside this, folders for "Tops", "Jeans", "Pants", etc...

Step 4: Open Google Drive (formerly Google documents), and hit the upload button, and choose folder.

Step 5: Select your "Virtual Closet" Folder and go get a snack, or watch a movie, while it uploads (depending on the size of your wardrobe!)

Step 6: Give each item a descriptive name (this makes the mobile aspect possible, as the mobile display for google docs will not display the images except one at a time). You do this by right clicking the item and choosing "Rename." I found it faster to do this after uploading than before.

Now you have your virtual closet. Here's a sample of how mine looks:

I used the product image from Old Navy's website for a dress I purchased recently

But of course, the real fun is in making outfits:

Step 7: Make a new Folder in your Google Drive called "Outfits", and go to this folder.

Step 8: Click Create, and choose Drawing. 

Step 9: Add the images of the items you want in your outfit to the drawing...simple as that! It's not quite as pretty as Polyvore, because the backgrounds of the images are not transparent (unless you actually go through and use a photo editing software to make it so, which would take forever), but for me, it does what I want it to do: I know what I have, and I can plan outfits ahead to make getting ready in the morning easier. Here's a screenshot of my "Outfits" folder:

Pretty fun, right? I'm getting more and more convinced that Google Drive is the best set of apps ever, mostly just because I can access my Drive from anywhere on my phone. Other uses:

- Family Binder style planning tools (Budget tracker, bills spreadsheets) My favorite is a spreadsheet with all our bills listed out, so I can check off when I pay them each month. That way I don't forget any!
- I have one document that has meal plans and corresponding grocery lists, with links to recipes. So, if I decide on a whim "its time to grocery shop" I just pull up the document on my phone, pick which set of meals I want that week, and head to the store!