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.

Friday, September 14, 2012

2nd Wednesday Kickoff Recap!

So this past Wednesday, September 12th, the Arizona Costume Institute kicked off their 2nd Wednesday Lunch & Lecture series that I talked about last week here.  As one of the Programming Committee members these lunches are my responsibility and we've been working on them all summer, so it was great to finally get them started and the first one was a huge success!  Yippee!

Starting at about 11:15 members and guests began to arrive and we had 80 people in attendance for the lunch, with another 15 or so coming in at noon to sit and listen to the lecture.  It was a fantastic turnout for September, which usually is still pretty quiet.  We were thrilled to see so many lovely people come out!

This month was a little different in that, instead of just planning the lunch and coordinating with speaker, this time I was one of the presenters.  Not used to that!  But it was so much fun.  I was joined by Hannah Hayes over at Heroine Chic and together with Art Research Librarian Lindsey Powers the three of us shared all the wonderful resources available in the Library and on the Vogue Archive (which I blogged about here) and then gave a brief history of the September Issue of Vogue Magazine as seen through the covers over the magazine's history.  After the presentation we all moved into the Library where Lindsey had been kind enough to lay out nearly all of the September Issues in the Library's Special Collection.  It was amazing to see them covering the tables, it was Vogue everywhere you looked!

If you came to the event, thank you so much!  It was so nice to have so many people come out.  But I know not everyone could make it, so for those stuck elsewhere that day the following are some pictures taken at the event plus some of my favorite covers that we featured in the presentation.

The lunch tables before all our lovely guests arrived.  It was fun to be in Singer Hall, normally we're in the Great Hall in the museum with the presentation in Whiteman Hall.  We'll be back to our normal location next month.

The ladies LOVED looking at the Vogues!  These ladies are crowded around the 1950s table.

Very old Vogues!  These ones are from the 1900s and 1910s.
1940s and 1950s

There's some 60s, 70s, and 80s awesomeness happening on this table!

Hannah talking about the issues with Lindsey.

Hannah and I in front of the 1990s-2011 table, there were so many that Lady Gaga got bumped to a separate table! (Her cover issue I mean, not Gaga herself, though that would have been interesting...)

Hannah looking at some of the more recent September Issues.

The 1st "September Issue" September 1st, 1893!  Back then Vogue was published weekly, can you imagine?!

September 1st, 1926, starting in the 1920's Vogue would be published bi-monthly.

September 1st, 1933

September 1st, 1943, I love this cover!  It was interesting to see how Vogue would reflect the war in the 40s.

September 1st, 1958

1992 Featuring Claudia Schiffer

2003 Featuring Nicole Kidman, photo by Annie Leibowitz
Hannah and I in front of a large Vogue cover.  What a fun day!  (And since this is part fashion blog, I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that my top is Ted Baker, skirt JCPenny, shoes Guess, and you can't see it but I also wore the Kate Spade/Garance Dore bangle that I blogged about here.  Hannah is in a stunning BCBG dress.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Save the date and mark your calendars!...

...You won't want to miss these upcoming events!

Ok, so this post involves a little bit of shameless promotion, but when it comes to supporting the Arizona Costume Institute I have no problem being shameless.  September is going to be an awesome month and a great kick start to the 2012-2013 season.  So mark your calendars and make sure you come out to at least one or two of these events.

First up, on Wednesday, September 12th is the first 2nd Wednesday lunch and lecture.  My friend and co-presenter, Hannah Hayes, and I will be joined by Lemon Art Research Librarian Lindsey Powers, to discuss the library, the fashion collection within the library, the new Vogue Online Archive, and a brief history of Vogue magazine and the September Issue.  After the presentation we will adjourn to the library where Lindsey will have nearly all of the September Issue hardcopies on display and computers available for people to test drive the Vogue Archive.  Don't miss this incredible opportunity to explore, first hand, the history of Vogue.  While it's too late to purchase tickets to the lunch, the lecture is free and open to the public.  To learn more about the library and the Archive, take a look at the post I did about it here.

Next up, on Saturday, September 22 from 6-8:30pm is the opening reception of Modern Spirit: Fashion of the 1920s.  The exhibition will be up through February 10th, 2013, but you don't want to miss the opening.  These receptions are always a blast.  Put on your most fabulous 1920s inspire outfit and come join us for a night of fun and fashion.  The highlight of these openings is always getting to hear curator Dennita Sewell talk about putting the exhibition together, plus you'll be among the first to see the new show.  The opening is free, just RSVP to

Join us on Saturday, September 29th at 7pm for the annual ACI Nouveau Fundraiser.  Nouveau is the 35 and under division and their annual fundraisers are always a ton of fun.  This years film is no exception.  This special screening of this new documentary features the epic battle between the French haute couture establishment against the innovative American ready-to-wear fashion designers in a runway rumble for industry dominance. There will be a reception with hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.  $30 per person. Seating is limited, so get your ticket now.  You can purchase your ticket here.

I really hope to see you at one of these events.  I'll be sure to post a full review of all the fun that occurred after each one and will keep you posted on future events coming up.

For more information on the ACI, ACI Nouveau, how to RSVP, purchase tickets, become a member, etc, etc, check out the ACI website here or just leave me a question in the comments or on Research and Ramblings' Facebook page here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

New semester!

It's the start of a new semester!  As Dickens would say, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  Ok, so Dickens wasn't talking about starting a new semester of school, and maybe I'm not yet to the "worst" of times yet, but that is coming, just you wait and see.

I probably shouldn't say that, I should be positive right?  Maybe this semester I'll be able to keep my positive attitude.  Maybe?  I've basically been in school more almost as many years as I've been alive, save the first five before kindergarten, the year I took before undergrad (though I was still a part time student during this time) and my first graduate program, and the three between my first Masters and the one I'm working on now.  So if we combine the 1/2 time of kindergarten and the 1/2 time of between undergrad and Masters #1, that's basically 24 years (out of 31) that I've been in school.  8 1/2 of which has been devoted specifically to one college degree or another.  Those numbers would lead a person to believe that I'm either ridiculously smart (wrong answer!) or that I love to torture myself (ding, ding, ding!!!! give yourself a prize).

Actually, truth be told, the undergraduate degree was done as a formality (you have to have a Bachelor's before you can get a Masters) and the first Masters was a necessity to be able to teach at the college level, which is what I really want to do.  Masters #2?  Yeah, that was a fluke.  I wasn't expecting to do this, I really wasn't.  But since I switched my focus from film to English, getting some extra background before going on to get a PhD seemed like the smart thing to do.  Of course that means one more year of this program and then at least 5 years for the doctoral program.  

Come on, you know you're jealous.

Ok, maybe not.  I know for some people school is like prison.  Fortunately I actually really love it.  Well, when I'm not inundated with reading, papers, deadlines, meetings with professors, keeping up with physical in-person classes and online classes, juggling a thesis project........

I'm tired already and I'm only two weeks in.  Every semester I look at my master to-do list and think, "This is it, this is the semester where I finally crack and they put me in a padded room where I bounce around the walls, muttering to myself incoherently."

Then the end of the semester comes around, I wearily submit my final papers, thinking this is the time when I finally get that failing grade (which in grad school means I get a B instead of an A).  Well, technically that day did come this summer, when I earned the crushing grade of a B- in my foreign language requirement course, but since that wasn't part of my core English classes I'm going to live in denial and claim a core GPA of 3.98.  (Can you believe ASU counts +'s and -'s?!  Me neither.)

Anyway, my point is, that as a grad student, I (like everyone else) am remarkably insecure about my academic work.  I always have been.  We all are.  It's the grad school curse.  I'm slowly learning to live with it, but I am starting to think that we need some sort of support therapy group where we have to take turns saying out loud, "I am good enough, I am smart enough, and by George, I WILL finish this degree! 

Ok, maybe not, but we should at least meet regularly in a quiet, non-school environment, and remind each other that we're smart, rational people, who were chosen for this program for a reason so we must be at least moderately special or we wouldn't have been accepted.  Is that too much to ask?

Another thing I try to do each semester is start off with buying myself something fun/pretty/positive that will keep me going throughout the 16 weeks.  Last semester (Spring of 2012) it was my Zatchels satchel (click here if you missed it).  It was sort of a start of semester/birthday present and I carried it to nearly every class, as both student and teacher.

This semester I went smaller.  I'm not usually a bracelet person, but when I saw this bracelet from Kate Spade, I knew I had to have it. 

On the outside it reads, "joie de vivre a keen enjoyment of living." I knew this would be an important concept to keep in mind this semester.  All last year my motto was "Keep Calm and Carry On," just like the old WWII morale campaign in Britain.  My day planner had the red and white image on it's cover and it was a daily reminder to just stay calm and get on with things.  This year I wanted something to remind me to not only keep calm, but to also enjoy life!  This bracelet seemed like the perfect little reminder.

Part of a collection designed by blogger and illustrator Garance Doré for Kate Spade, it's simple enough to wear on a daily basis but the message is strong enough to have an impact.  It's also a wonderful representation of the feeling I get when I read Garance's blog.  If you haven't discovered her yet, click here.  
Don't worry, I'll wait.  
Seriously!  Go check her out!
Ok, are you back?  Isn't her blog amazing?!  I love it.  Reading her blog is like taking a vacation or chatting with an old friend.  It's not just a fashion blog, it's so much more!  She definitely seems to live with "joie de vivre" and when you read her blog it becomes infectious.  Which is what I love about this bracelet.  It allows me to carry that idea around with me all day and helps me to remember to enjoy things and not get too crazy about life.

Enjoying life is so important but it's something that we easily let slip by the wayside as we get distracted by all of our daily responsibilities and obligations.  I think it's important for us to find something that can serve as a reminder to slow down, enjoy life, to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.  For me that's what this bracelet represents.  For you it might be something else, but I think you owe it to yourself to find what it is and keep it close.

And now, it's time to get back to reading, lesson planning, grading, etc.  New season of the Arizona Costume Institute is about to start, more information on that coming soon.  

2 weeks down, 14 more to go.  Wish me luck!