What is ‘fashionable’? A question that is constantly being considered but to which there is no definitive answer. Kate Moss is considered fashionable, but then so is Kate Middleton and the two could not be more different in their approach to personal style; the Duchess of Cambridge in a pair of denim cut offs – I think not. So where does that leave us when knowing how to get dressed in the morning? Rather confused I’d say.
Fortunately a pair of computer scientists have come up with something to help us on our way. Raquel Urtasun and Sanja Fidler of the University of Toronto, Canada have developed an algorithm that analyses our look before telling us how fashionable (or not) we are. Hummm. The software also gives recommendations on how we can improve our outfits, a bit like a personal stylist, or say, your critical mother...
"Not everyone has access to an expert," says Urtasun. “Our aim here is to give a rich feedback to the user: not only whether the photograph is appealing or not, but also to make suggestions of what clothing or even the scenery the user could change in order to improve her/his look,”
Here’s how it works. You take a picture of yourself in an outfit before allowing the algorithm to analyse the following: what you’re wearing, the type of outfit (casual/smart), your general appearance (perky/knackered?), your setting, country and city. From there it gives you a rating out of 10 in ‘fashionability’ (yes, fashionability, apparently that’s a thing), based on ‘expert’ opinion.
So who are these experts? Super stylists Grace Coddington or Carine Roitfeld? Maybe even Alexa Chung or those natty Olsen twins? Ah no, the opinions that we are to base our entire daily outfit on come from the selfie posting community of chictopia.com. The the somewhat questionably named fashion forum is a platform where users get rated on their ‘lewks’. The more positive votes they receive the more fashionable they are – simple. Urtasun and Fidler have collated over 140,000 of these posts to determine what their algorithm considers a good outfit or not.
Now, call me crazy but if something is going to tell me how I look in the morning i’d quite like it to have a certain degree of true fashion expertise. Or maybe a real life back that I can stare daggers into if I don’t agree.
The rise of sites and apps giving out fashion advice has been a big one – earlier this year Net-a-Porter launched their style inspiration app The Net Set, and you need only type ‘personal styling’ into the App Store to see quite how many there are. But can technology really tell us how we should be getting dressed? Can something that is based on habit and suggestion be considered an authority on the intangible notion of being ‘fashionable'? Or should we be going by what we think with our own brains when we look in the mirror? I’m going for the latter.