Archiving My Wardrobe
So, as it turns out, sorting out my whole wardrobe is going to take a little longer than I had expected. Partially that’s because I just have more stuff than I was really thinking about, (in my head my wardrobe is down to 40 or so items I regularly deal with) partially because my closet is actually in the living room and my roommate was having a Chinese New Year party, and partially because I wanted to take the time to get some good data on all my clothes.
Long term this means that we’ll probably end up discussing whittling down my wardrobe in a series of posts rather than just one (expect to see a summary about all my sweaters in the next few days) but short term it means we’re going to talk a little bit about metrics.
Metrics get a justifiable bad reputation because most of us deal with metrics that get forced on us from above. Those tend to suck. They’re godawful boring and and take the fun out of everything and well there’s tons of info about what’s bad about that approach.
But I’m a big believer in metrics because they’ve been tremendously helpful to me in my life when dealing with long term projects. Metrics helped me lose weight and get a grad degree and find a job. That’s because good metrics help you take huge nebulous projects and turn them into bite sized actions.
You’re not trying to lose 40 pounds anymore you’re trying to figure out what you need to eat right now to stick to your diet. You’re not writing a whole master’s thesis you’re writing the 3 pages you need to get done today to stay on track.
Metrics are also a good fit for MVW because they’re a pretty nerdy way of dealing with problems. So I knew when I came up with MVW that I’d need to figure out a good way to archive my wardrobe so I could get some useful data out of it. The problem was I didn’t know what tools to use.
I thought about just keeping track of everything in a spreadsheet but the project seemed a little too visual for that approach. Plus, it seemed like there would be too many x-factors in my wardrobe to really make a traditional spreadsheet viable. So I started looking around the web for what tools other people use to organize their wardrobe. I found more than one link about the topic but all of the solutions I found were either defunct or not really useful for what I was looking to do (unsurprisingly a lot of these are built for organizing a woman’s wardrobe). Then I realized what I really wanted.
I wanted the character panel from World of Warcraft.
…Okay hear me out on this because I swear it’s actually relevant to fashion. WoW’s character panel organizes what you wear by equipment slots in a format that’s vaguely natural. You can only wear one pair of pants at a time, and one hat, one shirt, and so on.
That has some interesting implications for figuring out an outfit I suppose (the dream of the Clueless wardrobe computer lives on) but what’s really interesting to me is all the data that pops up when you mouse over each piece of equipment you have. At a quick glance you can figure out the advantages and disadvantages of each piece along with its general quality.
Of course actual fashion doesn’t have easily quantifiable stats the way the WoW items do. (Or if it does I am wholly unaware of how much agility my current outfits confer.) Still, there are enough parallels to make it a useful model. Imagine just being able to know at a glance approximately how much each item in your wardrobe would sell for on eBay. That one piece of data alone would make cleaning out your wardrobe way easier. So ideally I want something that will not just show me my clothes but tell me about them.
The main thing I want to take from WoW’s model though is once again that idea of breaking down a big project into actionable components. When you need to improve your equipment in WoW it isn’t a nebulous problem. You take a look at what you’re character has on them and determine what’s underperforming so you can replace it with something better.
"My outfits look the same every day" is a big problem with many possible solutions. "I’m wearing the same blazer every day" is a problem that can lead to actions like buying a second blazer and getting by with one less dress shirt. Thinking of my wardrobe in terms of "inventory slots" makes it easier to troubleshoot problems with my wardrobe on a piece by piece basis.
I was worried that replicating WoW’s character sheet was going to be a hard problem that took more programming that I’m actually capable of. Thankfully, I am not the first person to have this idea (not even close actually) and a little more digging found me Dress Assistant which, so far anyway, seems to do everything I need it to.
You store items as sweaters or pants or shirts or what have you. I can store photos of each item along with its name along with miscellaneous notes to keep track of any meta-data about the items. Then you can use those individual pieces to build up outfits. I could use some better features for doing some WiWT-style journaling but I may just figure out another tool for that.
As we go on I’ll discuss more of the specific metrics I’m using in Dress Assistant (which will almost certainly change over time, half of metrics is figuring out what you actually need to be measuring) and how it’s influencing what’s going into the MVW. For now though feel free to let me know if you know of any similar or better tools for keeping track of your closet.