Saturday, November 24, 2012

Polyvore Project - Field Notes #3

This project really is proving to be fascinating, but that might just be the fashion nerd in me.  The more I'm on the site the more intrigued I become with it.  Users come from not just all over the US but all over the world.  Some of the people I follow or who follow me are from places like Croatia or Estonia or some other far and foreign land, compared to little old me in Phoenix, Arizona.  And yet we all share a love of fashion and similar style tastes.  Some are young, probably still in high school by the sound of it, others are in college, and some who are working professionals.

One of the people I follow studies comparative literature (according to her profile) so it's nice to know I'm not the only "academic" on the site.  During my time in academics, between my first masters program and now my current masters program, I've had to deal with plenty of people trivializing my research.  It's hard when you're in a Media Arts or English program studying fashion and costume design.  At best, people just don't understand you and you have to explain yourself a little more than someone who's studying one of the "usual" subjects.  At worst, you have to deal with people who think that what you study is irrelevant or unimportant.  Fortunately for me, in my current program I have yet to have anyone respond negatively.  They may not always readily understand my work but they're always intrigued and excited, which makes me thrilled to have found the field of rhetoric.  I feel like I've found my home and my people! :)  It's a good feeling.

This is also how I feel about Polyvore.  People of all ages, all backgrounds, from everywhere around the planet, coming together with a shared love of fashion.  After a long day of studying theory or working on a paper about the theoretical side of fashion it's a nice change to go to a site that lets me just have fun with the creative side about fashion.

So, what's new since my last post?  Not a whole lot but a couple cool things happened that I wanted to write down and share with you all.

1) I got the most lovely comment to a set I made for an outfit to wear for teaching and going to school. One of my "academic" looks.
I don't want to copy the full comment or share the name of the user, since I don't have their permission, but they complimented me on both the style of the outfit, which the user said they would love to wear it to one of their lectures, but also remarked on the pleasant composition of the set.  As a new user who is still trying to figure out the best way to arrange a set it was really gratifying to get such positive feedback on that particular element.

2) The second really cool thing that has happened recently was getting a notification that one of my sets (seen below) made up entirely of products from Ted Baker of London was "liked" by the official Ted Baker profile on Polyvore.  Not too shabby!  I adore and am totally addicTed to Ted Baker so to get any amount of attention from them on Polyvore is pretty darn cool.

3) Just a quick update of the statistics of my profile:
- I'm now being followed by 54 people (and counting)
- I've had 1,722 set views
-114 set likes
-2 collection likes

So now it's time to seriously move forward, compile the data, and get my proposal written up.  Already I can say that my focus has definitely changed.  As I moved forward through this project I thought I was going to focus more broadly on identity creation and the democratization of fashion through Polyvore from an American/Western perspective but now I think I'm going to look at those ideas through the lens of globalization.  What I've noticed is that there is a huge international community on the site, especially from eastern Europe/Baltic states/former Soviet Union.  I'm really interested in looking at how people in those areas (I think I'd like to look specifically at former Soviet Union/communist countries) use Polyvore to 1) create a fashion identity and 2) use Polyvore to create a fashion place/space that is relevant to them and that they have some control over.

In class my classmates and I have been talking about the idea of "social capital" (pg. 82) as described by Nancy Baym in her book Personal Connections in the Digital Age (2010) which I think has a lot of implications to the users of Polyvore.  Baym explains that social capital can be either "bridging" or "bonding" (terms she borrows from R. Putnam, 1995) and that, "bridging capital is exchanged between people who differ from one another and do not share strong relationships. The internet lends itself to and expands the potential for this kind of capital. In contrast, bonding capital is usually exchanged between people in close relationships. . . . Many online groups provide bridging capital, exchanged in relationships that are highly specialized, yet it is also common to find members of online communities and social networks providing one another the the sort of emotional support often found in close relationships" (82).  I've certainly seen preliminary evidence of this type of support and connections on Polyvore, I think a more detailed analysis and survey of the site would turn up more.

I'm also interested in Dan Gilmore's idea of the citizen reporter in We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People (2008).  Though I think Gilmore is referring more to social activist groups and individuals who use grassroots journalism to subvert of circumvent the dominant media system to call attention to certain issues, I feel it has applications to Polyvore as well.  Though the users of Polyvore aren't going to use the site to stage a political coup or topple a tyrannical regime, they are actively making statements to (and sometimes against) the dominant/mainstream fashion media.  This goes back to my ideas of looking at how Polyvore is democratizing the production and dissemination of fashion images and fashion editorials in a way that hasn't been seen before.  Now, more than ever, the power is being placed more and more frequently in the hands of the consumers rather than the fashion elite that run the various fashion houses, brands, and publishing industry.

These ideas and others (ones that are still bouncing around my head) are the more specific direction I think I'm going in.  I shall keep you updated over the next couple weeks as I put the final proposal together.  In the meantime feel free to track my Polyvore progress at my profile.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quick Note: Happy Halloween!

I'm so backed up on the things I need to share with you all, but alas, life is insane right now (still).  But it's Halloween and I thought I'd drop a note to wish you all a safe and Happy Halloween, I hope everyone is having fun.

How am I spending Halloween?

Sitting in my driveway, passing out candy to trick-or-treaters while working on PhD application materials and my thesis on my laptop with the film score to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (the Johnny Depp version) playing on my computer for ambiance.  I just got called out on my multitasking by a teenage trick-or-treater but if anyone asks, my costume is "stressed out and emotionally unstable grad student" so don't mess with me. :)

In reality I wish this was my costume:

Halloween set on my Polyvore profile

Sadly, it is not and I have nowhere that exciting to go to this year.  Oh well, there's always next year, which depending on how my PhD applications go, I could be just about anywhere this time next year!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Polyvore Experiment - Field notes #2

First off let me apologize for the total lack of blogging that's been happening lately.  My only excuse that I can offer is that I am now entering that horrible wonderful(!) part of the semester when classes do a complete life takeover.  Add to that the fact that I am 1) applying to PhD programs, 2) teaching two classes, 3) designing costumes for a musical (yes, I am crazy), 4) co-running programs for the Arizona Costume Institute and serving on both the board and executive committee for the ACI.

So, you know, I have TONS of free time!  Or not.  :/

Anyways, one post that I can not delay any further (lest I want my professor to be severely cross with me) is my update, including research questions, for my Polyvore project/experiment (that I first mentioned here).

I've been playing around on Polyvore for over a month now, seriously marveling at the fact that it counts as homework, and having a ball.  It's such a fun site and I know I'll continue participating in the community and building sets long after this class project is done.

Alright, so here are my observations so far as I fall deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole that is Polyvore:

1) Community

One of the things I've been really interested in looking at is the community aspect of Polyvore.  I'm still getting into that and have only just begun to engage in a dialogue with other users but I'm realizing that there definitely is a community within the site in general as well as smaller communities that form around groups of users and relationships between individual users.  I'm slowly but surely beginning to get more involved with that.  My current stats include 37 followers, 700+ set views, 70 set likes, and 2 collection likes.  The Polyvore notification system is pretty good so I know when a set is liked, when I have a new follower, etc.  Something I've noticed as far as following is concerned is that if you follow someone they typically follow you back.  I've had a basic rule of following back anyone who follows me but I've noticed that when I follow someone (because I like their sets and their style) they 99% of the time follow me back.  Also, if you like a lot of sets on someone's page, that also tends to lead to being followed.  Of my 37 followers I'd say it's fairly evenly split between people I followed first and people who followed me first.

Another thing I've noticed is the idea of sharing "items".  So, for example. I added a still photo from the upcoming Bond film Skyfall to make a set for a Bond Girl look (final set is posted below).  Two separate users later used that image in sets of their own.  In my last post on this experiment I mentioned how you can import items to use in your sets.  When you do that you (if you're helpful) add tags so that if people do a search they can find that item.  But if you were the person who added it you'll get notified when someone uses it.  So far this has happened several times to a few of the items I've added, almost every time it's resulted in mutual following.  I mean, if you're using items that I'm importing we probably have somewhat similar tastes, right?

I have yet to join any groups or participate in any contests, but it's still be interesting watching my little circle get just a tad bit bigger as I get more involved in the site.  I've also been interested to see the profiles of the people I follow, some are students (undergrad and grad), others work in fashion in one capacity or another, some are military wives, some stay-at-home moms, all different ages and backgrounds.  It's been interesting to see the diversity of the Polyvore community.

2) Alternative uses

As I've gotten further into this project I've been curious to see how Polyvore users are using the site.  I wondered if they are using it beyond the basic premise of the site.  Well, seek and ye shall find.  And here's what I found:

a) Art work/clipped collages

A really cool concept.  Users are taking images and clipping/cropping them into certain shapes and arranging them in the collage to create completely different images.  The effect is a collage "painting" of sorts, with pictures of chocolate wrappers being used to create hair for an image of a woman.  Sometimes they will include an unaltered image of a necklace or other accessory to create a photo meets illustrated look.  The overall effect is really cool and very artistic.

In addition to the collage idea other users are also creating other artistic images using the various effects available combined with one or two images pulled from the database.  Much less fashion and much more art.

b) Costume Design

One thing I became interested in as I started to learn my way around building sets was how could I use it outside of just creating fun fashion collages.  I wondered, could I use this in my work as a costume designer?  I'm currently designing costumes for a local production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Paradise Valley Community College (beginning Nov 9th, shameless plug!)  I found myself in a position where the cast/crew meet and greet was less than 24 hours away and I had no research, no sketches, nothing to present.  Not good.  So I had the idea, since I'd be shopping most of the show anyway, to create sets for each of the characters and show that to the cast and director.  This is one of the results:

This is what I came up with for Rona Lisa Perretti, the character who organizes and runs the spelling bee.  By creating this collage I was able to show the director and actors the basic color scheme and silhouettes I would be looking for when designing this character.  It worked brilliantly!  And was so much faster than doing it the old fashioned way.  This wouldn't work for every show and I probably will go back to old fashioned research boards and sketches next semester when I do You Can't Take It With You but for a modern show that will be shopped and pulled this turned out to be an excellent method for creating character collages.  The full collection can be viewed here.

c) RPG character design

After posting my sets for Spelling Bee I logged on one day and found that a wallet chain I had used for one of my characters had been used in another set.  Curious to see how this particular item had been used, I clicked on the set to view it and found that the other user had created a set for one of their characters in a role playing game (RPG).  So I wasn't the only one using Polyvore for character purposes.  Cool!

3) Privacy 

In my class we've talked about issues of privacy, and in my last post about this project I addressed how I wasn't as concerned about privacy in the context of this project.  I wouldn't want to include anyone who didn't want to participate, so if I were to move forward and actually do the research project I would solicit people who wanted to be involved, and leave the rest alone.

So I was very happy to receive a comment from a user on one of my sets, who said she enjoyed the set and wished me luck on my project (having read the last blog post, which I link to from my Polyvore profile).  This was very encouraging and makes me think that if I did move forward on this project it wouldn't be too difficult to find people interested and intrigued by the project and willing to participate.

4) Convergence 

In class we were also reading Henry Jenkins' book Convergence Culture, which got me thinking about how Polyvore is an example of convergence.  Jenkins explains that convergence isn't just new technology taking over an old way of doing things (ie. e-readers aren't taking over books, they're just providing a new way of reading).  Polyvore demonstrates a certain amount of convergence as well.  It's not taking over the fashion industry, nor is it taking over even just the fashion publication industry.  Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Elle, etc are not going to be put out of business by Polyvore, but Polyvore is providing a different way to view and consume fashion.  It's providing a way of not only passively receiving fashion and trends but also a way of actively participating in the industry.

5) Copyright 

Today we were reading Remix by Lawrence Lessig.  I really love this book!  Anyway, the book focuses on issues of copyright and Lessig primarily looks at the film and music industries, many of his arguments apply to what I'm seeing on Polyvore.  First, the term "remix" fits perfectly with Polyvore as what the users are doing is taking a variety of images and "remixing" them to create these collages (a term that is also used by Lessig).  Users are combining these images and fashion items to create a new image, much the same way as a music remixer might take three different pop songs and combine them to create a new song (for some reason the new film Pitch Perfect comes to mind).  However this remixing has it's limits.  It's ok to mix images from the internet or from the sites database, but not to infringe on the work of other users.  Which leads to the second application of Lessig's book to Polyvore.

The site's users have created a campaign to "be original".  I also mentioned this in my last post.  I find it interesting in regards to Lessig's book that the site's users have noticed that copying is a problem/issue to be tackled and have found a way of addressing it.  Lessig worries that criminalizing copyright infringement will damage the creativity of our youth, however Polyvore users are actively asking and expecting each other to respect the work of others and to push themselves to find their own creativity.

6) Research Questions

Ok, so after playing around on the site for a little while now I'm noticing a few questions have risen to the surface.

- How are Polyvore users creating a unique fashion and style identity that is visible throughout their sets, collections, and likes?

- How/in what ways is Polyvore democratizing fashion and/or the fashion industry in a way that isn't as readily apparent in mainstream fashion publications?

- Using Lessig as a starting point, how does "copyright"/copying effect the Polyvore community?

- How does the sense of community effect the Polyvore users?  Is it a big part of the average user experience?  Also, what does the "average" user look like?  Where are they from, what do they do, how to they use the site for their own purposes?

I'll be looking at Polyvore from the perspective of these questions for the rest of the semester.

Time for the sets!

And now, for those of you less interested in the research, here are some of the sets I've created since my last update:

Another Bond Girl fantasy. :)

London and Ted Baker...what more could a girl want?

This, or something like it, just might be my travel outfit come December 26th.

Fall fashion obsession #1 . . . Oxfords

Oxfords as in the shoe style, not the town in England.  Though I'm definitely obsessed with Oxford the town as well. :)

There's something about this style of shoe that appeals to me.  Whether flat, low, wedge, or high heel, I can't help wanting to buy every pair I see.  There are definitely more than a few pinned to my "My Style" board on Pinterest.  I love that there's something practical and intelligent about them, while still seeming quirky and alternative.

Originally a men's style of shoe, initially from Ireland and Scotland, where they were also known as Balmorals after the royal residence in Scotland.  However, since they were a favored shoe of college students in the 19th century, the soon became known predominantly as "Oxfords," though they are also still sometimes called "brogues."

I think it's partly the academic history and partly the twist on men's fashion that makes this style of shoe so attractive.  Being typically a closed-toe shoe, it's not a style I can wear much in the summer, though I have found a couple pairs that I can wear in warmer weather.  Still, there's something about the Oxford that screams, "back to school!" and "it's fall!"  Yippee!!  If you saw my post on Fall Fashion you'll remember that shoes were one way I get around changing my wardrobe to reflect the new season, without dying from the never ending summer heat.  Oxfords are a great style of shoe for doing this, they are definitely an fall/winter style (with a few exceptions).

So, since I can't help sharing my obsessions, here are some of the pairs from my collection that I use to help me transition from summer to fall and winter.  Most were purchased at DSW or on (where I get nearly all my shoes!).

Not Rated


Not Rated

Not Rated

Mossimo from Target (I've had them for years!)

Crown Vintage (I love this pair, I wear them all the time during the fall and they're great for running around ASU campus between Noble Science Library, Hayden Library, and the Union.)


Ted Baker
And here are some that are on my dream/wish list.


Chiemihari (discovered on Pinterest)

Christian Dior

Seychelles (sadly they are sold out of my size in this color)
Ted Baker on ASOS

And of course I dream of one day wearing one of these pairs while wearing something like this:

And while walking around here:

Oxford, as seen from the top of St. Mary's Church

(Photo credits: 1-4, 6, 7, 5 Target, 8-9, 10-13 Pinterest, 14 ASOS, 15 Polyvore, 16 my own)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Experiment With Polyvore - Introduction/Field Notes #1

Polyvore Field Notes #1 - Introduction, set up, first impressions, and first sets

So, this semester once again, like Alice down the rabbit hole, I’ve managed to come up with a project idea that involves spending long hours on a seriously addictive fashion site.  This time, it’s partly my professor’s fault, I mean, she assigned the project and specifically told us that it needed to be something that we could spend at least an hour or so on every day and really get into.  Well, apparently I took that as a challenge and at the suggestion of Jen, one of my classmates, I looked into  

I had heard of the site and had seen things from it pinned to Pinterest (another big addiction of mine) but I had never really examined Polyvore in detail.  A quick glance around at the site and what exactly it is proved it to be something that I could definitely get addicted to.  I soon decided that this would be the “affinity space” (as we’re calling them in the class) that I would examine.  For this project we’re being required to share our findings on a website or blog, and since part of this blog is to share my research with all of you this seemed like a good place to post it.  Over the course of the semester I’ll be posting my “field notes” as well as my latest “sets.”  These posts will be part research (for class purposes) and part fashion fun (if you’re not interested in the research, feel free to scroll down straight to the pictures).

Alright, here we go.

Polyvore.  What is it?

According to the website Polyvore is, "a technology company pioneering a huge space--social commerc.  Over 17 million unique visitors come to out site every month to create, share, discover and shop." (About)  Another important element of the site is the way they are democratizing style.  As they explain, "Our business is exploding because our model turns traditional commerce on its head, allowing consumers to voice and discover what they like online.” (About)  The site allows users to mix and match their favorite items in a way that expresses their unique style.  Rather than receiving style dictations from on high (i.e. the glossy fashion magazines) users are able to make their own fashion choices and put them together in a way that looks similar to that of an editorial spread in a fashion magazine.

How do you use it?

Polyvore merges fashion with social networking.  You set up a profile (you can see mine here).  People can follow your profile and you can search through other profiles and follow ones that interest you or have style ideas similar to your own.  From what I’ve discovered so far, there are a few different ways you can use Polyvore:

1.) Create your own “sets” which are collages of images and fashion items, usually based around a theme.  Users can work from a blank canvas or use a template, similar to this:

Users then drag and drop items into the blank spaces to create a finished set:

2.) You can “like” other users’ sets.  “Likes” are tracked so that you know how many times a set has been liked.  When you like a set you see it as “48 likes + me”.  This is similar to other SNS (social networking sites) such as Facebook.  Likes of your own sets are tracked and displayed on your profile, along with other stats, like this: 

3.) You build a “collection” of items and sets.  I haven’t done one of those yet, so more details on that later.  
4.) You can participate in an “ask” section, where you or other users can post a picture of an item and ask other users how to style it or ask for ideas of what to wear to a certain event.  Users then answer with pictures of items they think would go or sets of ideas for what to wear to the event in question.
5.) You can also shop directly from the site.  You can search for products or shop by category.  Each item will feature details, price, and where it can be purchased from.
6.) There are also groups users can join and contests they can enter.  Plus Polyvore admins will choose “Top sets” from the Polyvore community.  These stats are also tracked on the user’s profile like this:

General Things I’ve Noticed So Far

In the few weeks that I’ve been using I’ve mostly been working on getting the “lay of the land” so to speak and figure out how things work.  I’ve started creating some of my own sets and adding things to my "My Items" folder, all of this has proven to be a completely addictive process!  The designer in me just gets carried away.  Here’s the first one I did combining my love of London with my love of Ted Baker:

So far I’ve made two early observations.  One is that it seems that there is a campaign going on within the community called, “Be Original”, where users are asked to include wording in their profiles stating that they support the campaign and discourage people from copying the work of other users.  I’ve also noticed In my own sets, and the sets and collections of others I’ve noticed that most of them have a common thread between them and a distinct overall “style” unique to the user.  This leads me to some of the research questions that I’m still working on developing.  The two main things I’m interested in are:

  1. How is Polyvore democratizing fashion?  They feature advertisements and promotions, as well as having site run contests, so the content is still be “judged” in a way.  Does this allow for a true fashion democracy or is content still being catered to a certain idea of what is expected?
  2. How are users creating and displaying their fashion identities?  How much of what is seen in their sets and collections representative of their offline style interests?

Over the course of the semester I’ll be exploring the community of Polyvore and trying to answer these questions, as well as discovering a few more along the way.  You can follow this blog to track my progress.  You can also follow me on Polyvore here or follow the blog on Facebook here, where I’ll post links to the blog when a new updated has been posted.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the semester will uncover.

One last note.  In class last week we were discussing privacy and research ethics.  On my profile I clearly state that I am using the site for research purposes.  If it turns out that this is a project that I would move forward on and actually write (at this moment I’m only required to submit a proposal for a larger work) I would reach out to individual Polyvore users and ask if they would like to participate.  I would also likely create a group that interested people could join.  At the moment I have linked my Polyvore profile with this blog so that anyone who wants to learn more can follow my blog and my progress as well.

And now, here are the sets that I’ve made so far.  As you’ll probably noticed most of mine display my obsession love of London, though the costume designer in me wasn’t able to resist playing with sets revolving around Doctor Who and James Bond.


Works Cited

“What Is Polyvore?” About. N.p., 2012. Web. 30 Sept. 2012. <>.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Busy Life!

Hello all,

Well, life has been very busy for me the past couple weeks.  I've been busy helping out at the Phoenix Art Museum, finishing up my show (which opened last night, yay!), trying to keep up with homework, plus a bunch of fun events and other developments.  Whew!

Details on all will come, most over the course of this weekend hopefully.  So, here's a quick run down of what you will be seeing on the blog in the next several days:

1. Behind the scenes of putting together the new fashion exhibition, "Modern Spirit: Fashion of the 1920s," no on view at the Phoenix Art Museum and coverage of the show and the opening night reception last Saturday.

2. Recap of designing and producing costumes for Bus Stop, now playing at Paradise Valley Community College.  One weekend only so go see it tonight, tomorrow (both at 7:30) or Sunday at 2pm.

3. My visit and new purchase from Just Jane Boutique.

4. The first of several posts tracking my new research project on Polyvore.  (More on this will be posted later today.)

5. Some fun fashion related posts.  The temps are finally the my obsession with fall fashion is kicking into high gear. :)

Ok, I think that's all, but now that my show is up I have a little bit of free time, so I may think of something else.  Or I may just sleep.  I haven't decided yet. ???

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Postman Brought a Parcel #2

I didn't used to be much of an online shopper.  I love the idea of taking home my purchases the same day.  The problem with online shopping is that I have to wait...and wait...and if the shipping is really slow, wait even longer.  With some stores I'm lucky, like DSW, I basically buy so many shoes there that I've hit the premier level of their rewards program so I can get free 2-day shipping.  Awesome, and dangerous.

With other online stores I'm not so lucky and have to wait longer, unless I want to pay through the nose for expedited shipping, which as a poor graduate student that is a luxury I can't afford.  So whenever possible I try to just go to the store.  Like the Kate Spade bangle I blogged about here, I knew I could get to the mall quicker than it would be shipped so I just waited until the weekend.  But some online sites don't have a physical store that I can go to, in that case I just place my order and impatiently stalk my doorstep until it arrives.

Case in point...ASOS.  I LOVE this site.  I got into it through my friend Elisa (of Comme ci, Comme Ça).  She shops through them a lot and was always posting pictures of the amazing things she was finding.  When I finally checked them out I realized they sell a lot of my favorite UK brands.  Needless to say I was immediately hooked.  I don't order often (the salary of an adjunct instructor paying her own health insurance doesn't go that far) but it's always exciting when I do.  Seriously, just watching the tracking is nearly nail-biting.  I live in Phoenix but apparently my "local" post office is all the way up in New River, go figure!  So packages come in to Phoenix, then get sent up to New River, then (finally!) come down to my house.  They're basically in town for 3 days before finally getting to me.

So in a little bit of show and tell, because shopping is more fun when you share and after all that waiting I just can't resist, here's what the postman delivered.

River Island "Perfume Bottle" necklace.  Super cute and about 2 1/2" large.

River Island stacking rings.  All together they're about 3/4" wide on my finger and when they catch the light very sparkly.  I got the Large because stacking rings usually need to be larger on my finger (my fingers aren't super thick but they're not that slender either) however, the Large is a little big so they fit my index and middle fingers better than my ring finger.  They were only about $14 so I might order another set in Medium.

Warehouse Padlock Shopper.  I am in LOVE with this bag.  Perfect size for my usual handbag items, plus my iPad, a magazine and (if needed) a water bottle.  It's fabulous. 

Here's a closer picture of the brown version (I got the black like in the above pic, sadly I forgot to get a pic off the site when I got the bag and when I went back all they had was the brown).  I adore the padlock detail, including key that unlocks the padlock.  I don't know why that excites me so much, but it does. :)  The material feels like real leather and the bag is so spacious without feeling too big.  It's now the front runner to be the bag I take to London with me this winter.