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 Polyvore.com.
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:
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:
- 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?
- 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.
“What Is Polyvore?” About. N.p., 2012. Web. 30 Sept. 2012. <http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/about>.