There are those who see fashion as art, who pore over magazine spreads, stalk the racks of their favorite stores, and clad themselves in clothes as if they were performing a sacred ritual.
Then there are the rest of us. We who long to look nice and respectable, hope the striped shirt complements the plaid jacket, and burn with a secret fear that one day friends will recommend we appear on “What Not to Wear.”
Rarely do the two meet. The first dismisses the second as too sartorially challenged to ever understand the beauty of a well-assembled outfit; the second launches an attack on the other’s superficiality.
I know the divide all too well. My mother had only one shopping gene to pass on. My sister got it.
For years, I had two options: Hire a personal shopper or steal my sister’s clothes.
Thankfully, in the name of family healing, the Internet is starting to bridge the gap between the two groups. Social shopping sites designed to attract the fashion-obsessed are offering up solutions for the wayward dressers of the world.
Women who adore fashion have flocked to sites such as Polyvore and Pinterest, which allow people to create the online equivalent of “inspiration boards.” Users can select images found anywhere on the Web. Once a person spots a picture they like, they can virtually “pin it” to their collection, letting their followers check out their taste.
On both sites, users wind up with a montage of layered pictures that represent their ideal look. Debora Rosa of Portugal built “Preppy Girl” on Polyvore, pairing photos of Big Ben with moccasin flats and a shearling coat. On Pinterest, Bethany Jacobson, a self-described “working-from-home, Starbucks-addicted, single momma,” adds bright turquoise dresses and short shorts to her clothes page.
This may all sound like a perfect pastime for the shopping-inclined. As for their counterparts, if we don’t like shopping in the first place, why would we find make-believe wardrobe building fun?
But fun is only half the draw of the sites. All these dedicated fashion fans are curating useful, real-time clothes suggestions for the rest of us. I stopped buying skirts years ago, never able to pair them with the right top. On Polyvore, I can click on the Adam pleated silk skirt, and 21 users have created sets with different ways to wear it.
There’s a bow-tie T-shirt, a yellow sling-back tank, a ruffled pink top. One user suggests a thick roped belt, a combination I would have never imagined but perfectly works. Every piece in the set links to the originating clothing company where the items can be purchased.
The idea is not so far off from what fashion magazines attempt each month with suggested shopping collages, but this is personalized, honed to my tastes and instantly buyable.
Pinterest offers more inspiration, but less ability to buy. The sets do not link to the clothing company sites. Oftentimes, the users do not say where the clothes come from, so it can be hard to track down the exact items. But the idea is the same: real people offering actual style tips.
I may never win any fashion awards, but at least my sister can get her jacket back now.