Confession: I used to write down every outfit I wore in a notebook. I’d put stars next to the really good ones (you know, in case I was experiencing closet freeze and needed help). I would spend hours writing down my planned outfits for summer camp, vacations and trips. And yes, I grew out of this – sort of. However, as someone who cannot stop her face from wincing when faced with too-tight jeans and other fashion faux-paux’s in public, but gets inspired, giddy, and jealous checking out the other girls’ outfits at the party, I totally get why sites like StyleDiary, ShareYourLook, and Shoutfit (still in beta-testing), are a dress-obsessed gal’s dream, and a total online time-sucker of the best kind. An article on Techcrunch started a really interesting dialogue about the value of these sites for women and men with StyleDiary founder Patricia Handschiegel and Kathryn Finney of The Budget Fashionista commenting.
Political philosopher and feminist theorist Iris Marion Young wrote in her 1994 article, “Women Recovering their Clothes,” that “in relating to women through our clothes we do not just exchange; we let or do not let each other into our lives,” and that clothes “do not always tell who is fairest of them all, but [are] the entrance to a wonderland of characters and situations.”
There is something a bit magical for me about communities of people connecting via fashion and dress. Young, who died this past August, would have no doubt been pleased to see how online fashion innovators have focused and utilized technology to create opportunities for this kind of shared experience to exist on an expanded, global level.
In PR, there is always concern over the lack of message control, and these sites take us further step away from traditional PR tactics, particularly media relations, because, as the article notes, “the fashion of the users themselves is the primary content of these networks” and therefore brand reputation and exposure is in the hands of individual consumers – and shouldn’t it be? It might take a leap of faith, but by monitoring these communities and highliting opportunities to communicate directly with target customers – PR has an opportunity to develop more open communication systems that value the individual and his/her power as a brand ambassador rather what may be idealized notions of influence.