Democratizing fashion

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I'm one of those people who are, well, fashion challenged. I never seem to get it right. I show up to events dressed casual when everyone else is formal, or formal when everyone else is casual. You name the event, I will inevitably get the wardrobe wrong.

So I was intrigued when American Public Media's Marketplace brought Polyvore to my attention. I like the idea of open sourcing my wardrobe decisions. Polyvore is a website that allows visitors to

"get style advice instantly from the web's largest community of fashionistas." And they claim the average response time is only about six minutes.

I decided to try it out. A friend of mine is getting married on the beach this May so I posted a brief question: "What should I wear to a beach wedding?"

Within three minutes I had my first ensemble--or set--prepared for me by a 22-year-old polywhore--that's what the site's fashionistas call themselves. She goes by the user name Metalheavy. She suggested I wear "something light and flowy" and since it's on the beach I should wear flat shoes.

Her ensemble suggestion included a flowing Fluid Dynamics blue dress, flat silver strappy sandals and a matching silver sequence tri-fold clutch. It certainly all looked right for a beach wedding. Within another 15 minutes I had six more recommendations, all of which were infinitely more beach appropriate than what I would put together myself.

The website currently has 6.5 million monthly unique visitors, many of whom are dedicated creators: the amateur stylists who put together wardrobe sets for fashion-challenged people like me.

Polyvore's mission is to democratize fashion, “To empower people on the street to think about their sense of style and share it with the world.” says Jess Lee, Polyvore’s vice president of product management.

The site bucks the age old trend of fashion driving the market. In Polyvore's world, the market is driving fashion. In the past, Vogue has famously been considered a voice on high that says, "Here’s what we think fashion is." But Polyvore’s user-generated content model is changing the status quo, abandoning the industry's long-time queenly paradigm.

Maybe open sourcing more of my wardrobe decisions will save me from those endless uncomfortable wardrobe faux pas moments. It's certainly seemed to work for these upcoming nuptials—four months left and I've already found the perfect outfit.

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Lori Mehen is an Account Manager in Brand Communications + Design at Red Hat. She grew up in Los Angeles, CA and now resides in Durham, NC with her husband and three kids. Lori enjoys water skiing, cooking and car racing.


On behalf of all us other fashion challenged people, thanks for the tip! Great review – I can't wait to check it out.

My problem is that many of these "stylist" are young and NOT paid... If a Burger joint had young people assist their clients in this manner without pay, would be an Uproar... All Items on the site have a commercial value to the company. According to one stylist he has sold those item! Were they giving commissions or "rewards" I'd use it but this type of digital slavery is NOT open source!

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