In a Fashion Rut? Search Your Way to Better Style

They’re still a work in progress, but fashion search engines want to help you find a new look.

By Chandra Steele

It’s not uncommon to spot fashion genius (or roadkill) on the street, but unless you’re okay with accosting strangers like a red-carpet reporter, you’re likely left to wonder “What is she wearing?”

Naturally, Silicon Valley has tackled this very pressing issue in the form of fashion search engines, which help curb your need to identify and acquire street style. They’re still a work in progress; rather than producing those dangling earrings you desire, you could wind up with some hoop dreams. I tested a few of the most-touted outfit identifiers and found some standouts as well as a few that should stay in the back of the closet.

Fashion search comes in two styles: point-and-shoot apps and style search engines. The first is more for those who find their inspiration while they’re sprinting in heels on the street; the latter is for those who plod methodically through site after site until they track down that perfect item.

The Aptitude of Apps

The ultimate dream app, at least for me, would be one that lets you snap a photo of a desired look and get details on that exact outfit and how to buy it. Some apps strive for this but delivering the goods is another story.

I couldn’t get some apps, including Chic Engine and Looklist, to work, for example. And this category is littered with failed attempts at fashion photo recognition, from Trendabl and Pounce to the celeb-backed Style Thief. Your best bet is probably ASAP54, though Craves is passable in a pinch.


ASAP54

ASAP54, available on mobile (Android, iOS) and desktop, lets you take or upload a photo, crop it to highlight your desired items, and find similar styles from over 600 sites. I had high hopes for ASAP54’s retail partnerships, considering founder Daniela Cecílio — who started ASAP54 after failing to find a pair of sunglasses she loved — was once COO of megalith fashion marketplace Farfetch.

In practice, ASAP54 is not perfect, but it’s passable. No item I scanned or uploaded was identified correctly, but I did get some workable alternatives. A shot of a bold plaid Prada ensemble returned just one plaid result amid lots of other choices that were, at best, only in the same color family. But when I uploaded the strappy gingham Brigitte dress from Vetiver, the top item in the results was a very similar strappy gingham cold-shoulder dress from Miss Selfridge.

Playing with pattern yielded some close matches. I focused in on one of my own dresses and got a decent selection of other red-and-black floral dresses to purchase. The app did best with basic items like blocky boots; a photo of lilac, crushed-velvet ankle booties produced an inexpensive, near-perfect match.

Craves focus is following celeb style. When you open the iPhone app, you can scroll through paparazzi shots with a highlighted item of clothing or accessory for purchase. But you can upload or take a photo and find matches from retailers, too.

Crave

Uploading a shot of the Brigitte dress brought up a few off-the-shoulder gingham and plaid dresses that weren’t as close a match as those from ASAP54, but they were still evocative of the style.

Straight-Up Search

Tagwalk

Like their point-and-shoot counterparts, fashion search engines have been swallowed up like wispy models in Vetements coats recently. Google acquired and shut down Like.com, and Wantering was purchased by Who What Wear, which has decent search (for when you need a striped jumpsuit, perhaps).

Tagwalk is the model of the moment. Rather than relying on images, Tagwalk works with search terms. But while the site is well-versed in English, Italian, French, and Spanish, it does have a certain translation issue when it comes to speaking the language of fashion. The site touts floral as a trend of the week (groundbreaking), but though you can scroll through dozens of long floral dresses, type in “long floral dress,” and you’ll see just two results.

The fashion industry loves new blood, but perhaps it’s best to stick to classics.

Polyvore was the fashion girl’s Pinterest before there was Pinterest. It made its name in 2007 by letting users mock up mood boards of entire looks and share them with followers, but it’s expanded through links that let virtual window shoppers fill up online shopping carts. In addition to the site is an app for iOS and Android.

ShopStyle also launched in 2007, and is a vast and comprehensive fashion marketplace with a search engine and apps (iOS, Android) that satisfy the most obscure requests thanks to partnerships with over 25,000 brands and 1,500 retailers. If you doubt its sphere of influence, ShopStyle is the e-commerce engine behind thousands of Instagram stars and fashion bloggers. I’ve used it for years to fulfill fashion requirements of all kinds, and have found that trends come and go but ShopStyle never goes out of style.

Read more: “Fashion, Tech Finally Sync Up at NYFW


Originally published at www.pcmag.com.