It’s fair to say my wardrobe needs an intervention: it’s overflowing with clothes. And yet, I wear the same handful of familiar outfits on rotation - formless knitwear, dungarees tucked into slipper socks, the thermal rollneck that lives so reliably to the left of the laundry basket that I’ve started referring to it simply as “floor top” - which makes me feel bored. Which, in turn, makes me more likely to start buying stuff I don’t need.
Enter Save Your Wardrobe. The premise is simple: a ‘digital wardrobe management app’ which allows you to upload every garment you own, categorise by colour, style and mood, then plan and track your outfits from your phone. Beret collection notwithstanding, this is probably the closest I’m going to get to living the Clueless dream. But it goes deeper than simply playing dress-up. Inspired by Fashion Revolution’s motto that “the most sustainable garment is the one already in your wardrobe,” SYW aims not only to help us get more wear out of our clothes, but to look after them too – a noble goal considering that extending the active life of a garment by as little as nine months can reduce its carbon footprint by 20-30%. The Services section hooks up users with partner companies for eco-friendly dry cleaning, repairs and alterations and to donate unloved garms to charity.
So, can the app pull me out of my style rut? As Cher Horowitz would say – ooh, project!
picture courtesy of lauren bravo
First, the hard work: digitising my wardrobe. The app is about to release an update that scans your email inboxes for online shopping purchases, but for the time being I have to snap and tag each item manually. It takes me two hours to store around 50 pieces in the app; but while the process is a little laborious, half the power of Save Your Wardrobe is in forcing you to do a physical inventory.
I find a great jumpsuit hiding on an overloaded hanger, and it’s like bumping into an old friend. A black turtleneck materialises from the back of a drawer and I realise it might be the skeleton key that unlocks my whole wardrobe. Because my wardrobe is predominantly secondhand, I don’t benefit so much from the whizzy AI that can identify brands and pull in an ethical rating via Good On You – but inventing my own categories is fun. ‘Urban hiking realness.’ ‘Formal Zoom.’ ‘Period bloat’.
Instead of reaching for Floor Top as usual, this morning I’m excited to go to the app and find out what fanciful combination I chose for myself last night. The answer is high-waisted flared jeans, a pussy-bow blouse that I haven’t worn for years, and a cable-knit sweater vest; slightly ‘cosplay as a background extra from Mrs America’, but I’m not mad about it. In fact, without getting, like, way existential, I feel more like my pre-pandemic self than I have in months.
Spurred on to expand my options, I start uploading accessories. Belts, headbands. Shoes! Oh god, I miss shoes. Having spent the past year exclusively in Birkenstocks, hiking boots or slippers, adding the full breadth of my footwear collection feels like fantasy gaming (a nice pair of gauntlets?). But there’s a pleasure, too, in remembering that I don’t have to pull on the same pair of muddy Grensons for my daily walk. I could wear heels! I mean, I won’t. But I could.
This evening, instead of swiping mindlessly through shopping sites or having my self-esteem gently exfoliated by Instagram, I scroll my own wardrobe instead. It’s surprisingly fun. I compile looks (‘Off-duty Dynasty’; ‘Reclusive potter on Suffolk minibreak’), group them by different occasions, and share with my best friend the way we used to in high school. The location tag is fairly moot just now (‘Home’; ‘Home’; ‘Asda’; ‘Home’), but it’s nice to dream of a time when I can save myself stress by plotting ensembles for busy days (busy days!) in advance.
By my fourth day I’m on a roll, with 74 items uploaded and my outfits (meet ‘Bookish milkmaid’, a daring combo of puff-sleeved dirndl blouse and Fair Isle sweater vest) growing more adventurous by the day. Much like a Pizza Hut salad bar, the process has started to feel vaguely competitive: trying to get my money’s worth, layering up as many items as possible without accidentally creating something disgusting. Could this outfit take a groovy hair scarf? Dare I add a brooch? There isn’t currently a mechanism to ‘reward’ me for piling extras onto an outfit like bacon bits, but at least my boyfriend has started looking up when I enter a room again.
More than 100 pieces saved, and just seeing the number on my home screen is enough to silence the little voice that wails “I have nothing to weeeear” each morning. But in the process I’ve also discovered that up close, my wardrobe is a full-on Monet. So many things are creased or grubby or full of moth holes. My favourite shirt has a coffee stain down it, and a beloved leather skirt has a broken zip that goes up, but not, crucially, down. So I head to Save Your Wardrobe’s directory and request a quote from Clothes Doctor to fix it (£18, 7-10 days). Now I just need to take it off.
It’s hard to do Save Your Wardrobe justice right now, because it’s hard to do our wardrobes justice right now. But even in these Extreme Casual times, I’m surprised how much the app has shifted the way I feel about my clothes. By essentially gamifying the process of getting dressed in the morning, I’m compelled to clock up more wears on neglected items, and feel proud when I hit on a new way to style something.
SYW is also a lifesaver for those of us with limited space, allowing you to calmly browse through everything you own without a giant heap of clothes to deal with afterwards. And by providing cold, hard data on what you have already, it makes it so much easier to identify the gaps in your wardrobe when shopping.
There are improvements to be made (at times, the app is – and I swear this is my last Clueless reference – totally buggin’). An update at the end of this month promises new functionality, such as insights from resale and rental sites on how much your lesser-worn items might be worth. But sometimes the best ideas are the simple ones, and even without the bells and whistles (note to self: bells and whistles??), Save Your Wardrobe has the potential to help us all love our clothes a little more.